Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Talkin' Bout My Education: Part 4 -- Tartans, Anyone?

This is Part 4 of Mary Vance's journey of homeschooling in Europe. If you're just joining this series, it would be helpful to go back to Part 1 and follow through the other 3 parts. 

There are countries in Europe that haven't outlawed homeschooling, but for those countries who have, it can be a very hostile place for those families who respectfully choose to go against the State and educate their children at home.              

It was the summer of 1992, and we were in Barcelona, Spain, during the Olympics. We were part of a team of adults from our YWAM Amsterdam base leading 43 children and teenagers (from 17 nations) on outreach as part of YWAM’s King’s Kids, first in Barcelona, then into Budapest, Hungary. While in Barcelona, Tim & I met a woman who was one of the founders and an international leader in the King’s Kids ministry. She spent some time with us, finally encouraging us to move to Scotland and attend the training for international leadership in King’s Kids. We spent much of the outreach that summer pondering, praying, talking with our Amsterdam leaders, informing our supporters, friends, and our families, and contacting our home church’s pastor and elders about this move and shift in ministry for their input and blessing. (Remember: this was before cell phones, faxes, computers, and email were widely used - we literally were placing overseas calls in phone boxes on street corners!). We grew more and more excited and realized the Lord was definitely setting our path clearly before us. And the “cherry” on top was that the UK allowed homeschooling!
We returned to Amsterdam early August after being in Budapest for over 2 months. Within two weeks, we had packed our entire three storey rowhouse into a storage unit in Rotterdam, purchased airline tickets to the USA, served notice to our housing agency, packed a small amount to be shipped to Scotland, and said goodbye to all our dear friends in Amsterdam! We took advantage of the Delta “Hops,” which allowed us to travel from airport to airport for $50 a piece for each hop. We literally jumped all over the USA to visit family, our home church, supporters, and friends before heading back on a flight to Scotland for the middle of September.
This was our second time to live in Scotland. Tim & I had first moved there in 1985 for my missions schooling, and it was really wonderful to return! We loved the moors, lochs, and crags, loved the architecture, and loved the Scots, and as an added bonus, the Scots loved Americans, which is not the norm in Euro! We arrived at the Stanely House, which was a huge, stately Manor, set atop a hill outside of Glasgow in the town of Paisley, ready to begin our new adventure as students once again in YWAM schooling.
The first encountered adventure we had was our housing. We were given one room for the three of us on the second floor! It was not a large room, but it had two beds, a desk, one small wardrobe (no closets!), and a floor-to-ceiling window with a lovely view of the front gardens. It was a challenge, but we made it work!
Because Tim & I were students in the Principles of Children’s and Youth Ministry (PCYM) school, we would receive the help of some of the full-time YWAM staff for homeschooling our son. All the children of parents in the PCYM were being homeschooled, and the YWAM base had received prior approval by the government officials for this to be in place. The reasoning was due to the nature of the school, which lasted a certain amount of months, followed by outreaches all over the world, and it was easier to keep the children on a homeschool schedule than to disrupt them in a government school; obviously, this was music to my heart!
We knew of this requirement, so while we were in the USA, I made use of a homeschooling convention where I determined to use Calvert to homeschool my son 1st - 3rd grades. I had used a mish-mash of materials for kindergarten; however, with this new ministry, we would be traveling extensively, and I wanted to be able to “prove” to border guards and national officials in every country that our son was indeed receiving instruction (Calvert provided a recording system that legally passed most all the countries’ raised objections. With this in place, we could literally show, and prove!, our son was being monitored by an accredited school in the USA).
Each morning, parents would take their children to the dining hall in Stanely House, and the children were divided into age groups. Depending on the numbers of children and teens, there would be one or two of the YWAM staff who would work with them. We as parents were to provide the materials and instructions, and each child was given a separate table to spread their school work out on to begin their day. They had instruction in this manner all morning, with a few short breaks for tea (sacred ritual in the British culture), while we parents were in our classes. Lunch signaled the end of the homeschooling day and a break in the adult classes. We enjoyed the lunch time in the dining hall, sitting with our children, and hearing about their morning, tweaking paper work, and just in general overseeing what our kids were learning. It was really interesting to hear the various nationalities discussing in their mother tongues their children’s progress, and I was so impressed with how YWAM had provided staff who were fluent in each language represented amongst the children.
The afternoon classes for the adults began after the lunch break, and that’s when the “magic” began for the children! Before heading back to the lecture halls, we parents would stand in the entrance hall to secure our children’s backpacks, and watch them load the base’s pool of Land Rovers and passenger Mercedes vans to head off on wonderful adventures! Sometimes the children were ice skating or swimming; sometimes they were “hill walking” on the moors or rock climbing on crags. They visited various Lochs and studied flowers and fauna native to Scotland. They explored ruins of famous sites and toured historic churches. They built shelters in the forests and learned about survival skills. They visited elderly folk, singing and performing short dramas for them to share their faith. They played and were happily active in the afternoons with the YWAM staff creatively leading them in many of the things we were learning as well. The staff timed their return to the base to coincide with the conclusion of our adult classes. It was truly a precious and wonderful few months.
Stay tuned next month for Part 5!