Packing light was a brilliant idea before our trip. I reasoned that we needed very few physical materials and books; between our Kobos and the internet, we could access anything we needed online.
The friends with whom we shared our last accommodation are traveling for a year. They packed a ton of things we didn’t, including one suitcase full of books and school materials. Each of their children had a huge pencil case filled with markers, pencils, crayons, sharpeners, and erasers; our kids are sharing one pencil box with a bare-bones set of coloured pencils and fifteen pencils to share between six people.
When it comes to clothing, I’m glad we packed as we did. Wearing the same three outfits every day for weeks on end is no hardship (if I’m honest, we do pretty much the same thing at home.) Homeschooling, however, feels like the wrong place to economize on packing. There are quite a few things I wish we had brought, especially now that our internet is slow and unreliable.
You may laugh, but fifteen pencils were with us at the beginning of our trip; a search this morning turned up a grand total of five. Sure, pencils are cheap and plentiful almost everywhere in the world, but they don’t grow on trees in the jungle outside our house. With no car and no plans to go into town, I find myself feeling just the tiniest bit agitated when N mindlessly sharpens his pencil for several minutes. We don’t have enough pencils to sharpen them into oblivion, I want to say, but don’t. An extra pack of pencils in our suitcase would have solved the problem.
(Mr. December just read the last paragraph and scoffed, “We’re not even close to running out.” That’s only because he’s not currently looking for a pencil. Tomorrow it’ll be, “Why didn’t we pack more pencils?”)
A Map and a Timeline
Every time we see or learn about something new, I get the urge to show the kids the relevant location on a world map or to place an event on our timeline. There’s a ton of information coming at the kids almost daily when we tour; a map and a timeline would really help them relate the new information to things they’ve already learned. It’s super easy to whip up a map on Google Maps… if you have adequate internet, which we don’t. Given that a map— even a large one—and a fold-out timeline would have taken up almost no space, they really should have made my packing list this time around.
In the name of packing light, I chose not to bring E’s writing workbook. Instead, I brought a ruled notebook so that she could use it for anything. What I’ve found since then is that she’s much more amenable to doing three full pages of writing practice in the workbook than one single page that I’ve written out for her. Same work, different source; somehow it makes a huge difference.
Books for E to Read
Our Kobos have been misbehaving lately; each morning I open mine to discover that books I was reading yesterday need to be downloaded again today. Given that I’d borrowed the only copy of some of those e-books—a Spanish book I was using to teach the kids, for example—I was unable to borrow them again and had to put them on hold instead. So much for our Spanish lessons. Kids’ books are a problem too: OverDrive doesn’t have a good way to browse Children’s Early Readers, for example, so if I don’t have a specific title in mind (spoiler: I don’t,) I’m out of luck.
Unlike pencils and a map, books would have added a lot of weight and bulk to our baggage. We would have needed another bag—a situation we were trying to avoid—but it would have been worth it.
Speaking of Bags…
The biggest lesson for me has been about packing in general. You all know that I pride myself on being able to pack things as if they were Tetris blocks, with no wasted space. I’m always very proud of myself when I manage to do it; still, there’s no great achievement in spending two hours packing everything tightly into a suitcase when I could have just brought larger suitcases and thrown everything in willy-nilly.
(And yes, Mr. December told me this multiple times before we left on our trip. I hate it when he’s right—which is 99% of the time. Engineers—ugh.)
Granted, I was working with the bags we own: two medium-smallish suitcases we got as a wedding present. Maybe now that there are six of us instead of just two, it’s time to upgrade to something bigger, like a wheeled duffel bag or maybe a used shipping container.