Balkan Reflections

This blog has been set up to assist in communicating with friends and family while we are in Bosnia-Herzegovina

Location: Ontario, Canada

Striving to a better day.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Home-schooling in Europe.

When we were in Europe, we decided on homeschooling.

We had already home-schooled our second eldest daughter for one year, so home-schooling now really seemed the most sensible thing to do. So our youngest daughter was also taken out of school for the year. The girls are 14 and 10 respectively. Also joining us in this adventure was our baby who was 21 months old.

I had made the decision that we would do home-schooling ‘light’ in the interest reducing the number of books we were hauling to Europe. I selected Math (Saxon), Grammar (Adventures in English and Loyola Grammar Practice Books), Religion (Baltimore Catechism #2 and Novalis Confirmation workbook…the latter not being my choice but required by our parish), plus a few books for reading. Our girls and I were also supposed to keep a journal of our days. Mine took the form of this weblog or ‘blog, and the girls each kept a journal in a hardcovered lined book. Our 14 year old was actually quite prolific. She ended up putting hers into the computer.

This would be supplemented, I figured, by hands on history lessons as we traveled. We also planned to take Serbian Lessons.

The history ended up being a bit lighter than I’d hoped, as funds for travel dried up as the Euro, in which my husband was paid, fell dramatically while we were there. Even so, we took advantage of what was there. We visited the Kastel (Castle) in Banja Luka, parts of which date from Roman times. We also took a landmine awareness course offered to us by the Eufor Base in Banja Luka. As we lived in Banja Luka itself (“on the economy”, as the phrase goes) we had quite a bit of interaction with Serbian people, and learned a lot about how they live.

Our Serbian Lessons were fairly intense. We generally had one or two two hour lessons a week. These consisted of both oral and written work and homework. They were given by a young woman who is soon to be a doctor.

We did our lessons on days when my husband was at work. Initially, he worked 4 days on and 4 off, but by the end of our 10 week stay, he was working 5 days on and 2 off. I generally had the girls up by 8am and lessons would usually last until lunchtime or shortly thereafter.

On Sunday, we attended Mass at a local parish. Mass was said in Croatian (very nearly identical to Serbian, but for complex reasons the Catholics spoke Croatian). The priest did speak English, so we could talk to him outside of Mass and learn some of what had happened in the area.

The other days, we explored the city or nearby areas. We did take a trip into Croatia and along the Adriatic Coast. It was very interesting seeing how different the flora was in this area compared to our Eastern Ontario home!

It was an eye-opener for the girls to see some of the differences in cultures. There were no Thanksgiving or Halloween observances. And although the very small Catholic population of the area would celebrate Christmas in December as we do at home, the general population, which is Serbian Orthodox, celebrates Christmas in January. One little treat though, is St. Nicholas Day, which is celebrated by Catholics in Europe, but generally not in North America. This is early in December (the 6th, although for practical reasons our parish recognized it on December 4th this year). The children receive toys and candy from St. Nicholas. Black Peter was also present. His presence surprised our Serbian friends, when we recounted the day. They’d never heard of Black Peter. In my very limited experience with St. Nicholas (one St. Nick Party thrown by German friends many years ago) Black Peter was always present. I assumed they always went together. I guess there are some cultural variations in this practice.

Shortly after our arrival in Banja Luka, we attended a football (soccer) game between two teams of ex-pats, mainly British, German and Canadian. There was also one Slovenian and one Dutch fellow present.

We were talking after the game and I was asked what our children would be doing for education while we were in Europe. When I said I would be teaching them, they assumed I was a teacher by profession.

It would seem that home-schooling just isn’t done in these countries. All were aghast that I could do it and that it was permitted…mind you, some relatives give me the same reaction and they’re Canadian!

As we talked more, it became clear that these men had many of the same problems with their children’s education as parents do elsewhere…parents who often go on to teach their own children. None of the people we were talking with seemed to entertain the possibility of home-schooling for their children. I think the idea was just too outlandish.

I do not know what the regulations are for schooling in BiH itself. As foreign nationals, those rules didn’t apply to us anyway. What I do know is that the education system there is scrutinized rather closely by outside observers to ensure that old prejudices, the kind that cause wars, are not being perpetuated, at least not through the school system.

We found quickly that we did not bring enough reading material. Sadly, just two weeks before we were to leave Europe we discovered that the local library had a section for English books. I hadn’t thought to ask! We did find an English bookstore. It was mostly textbooks, but had some classics as well.

I think the only thing I would do differently is to research a bit a.head what would be available to us so I could plan some lessons for history or science. Mind you, when I tried to do more research on the Kastel in Banja Luka I was dismayed to find almost nothing online…in English anyway. I do not know what is available in writing in English as I have not had time to research it.

Knowing that there is an English section in the library, I would have regular trips there, too. I have also been told that an American library opened up just days before we left the area. That would, I’m sure, be a great resource.


Post a Comment

<< Home