I rather ambitiously titled my last post Living and Learning in Peru, when in fact, at the time of writing, most of our focus was on the living part (survival, to be precise). Here I hope to talk more specifically about how and what we’re learning.

Not that there isn’t a good deal of value in learning basic life skills necessary to survival, of course. Finding our way around a strange city, figuring out the prevailing exchange rate and reasonable prices for goods and services, creating new recipes from available ingredients, and learning the names of everything at the market are incredibly educational things to do.

Why didn’t the chicken cross the road?

When we came to this country, we packed light. Each suitcase cost an additional upcharge, so schoolbooks were not on the manifest, and libraries don’t seem to be very common here. So how are we keeping up on our studies without books?

Well, we do have a few books, of course. We brought I Spy and puzzle books with us for the plane ride, and we have our Bibles. As someone who greatly appreciates the stories of Laura Ingalls Wilder—who learned to read from the Bible and the novel Millbank—and admires Nathaniel Bowditch—who taught himself French, Spanish, and Italian using only his Bible for translation—I’m confident that we could learn pretty well just muddling through a Spanish Bible, if nothing else.

One of my first excursions, in fact, was to find a bilingual Bible, so we can read without struggle. Reading through the parallel passages helps to cement the words in our minds. And when my parents come to visit in a few weeks, we hope they’ll bring us a few more books. But it won’t be anything like the dozens upon dozens of shelves we had in our home in the States.

Now there’s a word we recognize!

But fortunately we have a few other resources at our disposal. How do we keep up with our studies sans books?

Fun with numbers! 

We rely heavily on oral instruction. Recitations, songs, memorization, and verbal quizzes are all timeless learning tools that I’m happy to employ in the absence of other options. Even back home, when I had a shelf full of homeschool texts at my fingertips, I taught basic math and spelling in the car by repetition and rote memory.

Building blocks of learning

We do employ screens. Generally I’m cautious with multimedia and I tend to limit screen time scrupulously, but now I let the kids watch a few episodes of their favorite shows in Spanish (hearing the words in Spanish while reading the Spanish sub-titles seems to help a great deal). We play crossword and number games on my cell phone, and I let the kids roam through my Duolingo app.

We write things down. Fortunately I was able to purchase a bunch of lined notebooks at a back-to-school sale (school starts in March here), so we’ve been practicing handwriting, spelling, and other writing assignments. (This is actually a step up for us in some ways—we had a few proper notebooks in the States, but mostly we relied on scratch paper. If I couldn’t get notebooks here, we’d scrounge up scratch paper and use that).

“Smile each day. Live each instant. Love each hour. Enjoy each second.”

These are just a few ideas we’ve found that have worked for us so far. I’m sure we’ll discover new opportunities for learning in the weeks and months ahead. Like the pioneers crossing the wilderness and slowly accumulating resources by dint of perseverance, creativity, and hard work—a homemade rocking chair here, a carved shelf there, a slate purchased in this town, a slate pencil purchased in that town—we’ll amass a collection of books, teaching tools, and other useful objects to assist us in our journey.


Photo Credit: iStock. Following images courtesy of author.