Noi6 means "the 6 of us" in Romanian.

We are five, you are the sixth one.

We thank you for joining us in our trip around the world...

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Temples and School

As a parent who homeschools her children in New York State, I have to report four times a school year for each child about what they are learning. This is the law. How does a visit to the Angkor Wat Complex qualify as school? In my report I always start with Language Arts. For Reading they read the signs about the place,

 plus whatever their mom makes them read from a book. Add to this the stories of Ramayana and Mahabharata because these are sculpted in bas reliefs around Angkor Wat Temple. For Writing they have to describe their experience in a blog post or a personal journal. Vocabulary is improved when they find words like apsara (that means dancer)
 or baray (large reservoir of water). Speech is tackled when they answer to their grandparents over Skype, or to total strangers when asked what they did today.
Moving on to Social Studies. This I have usually split in History and Geography. Well, the first one has a total boon here. If we’re talking just about the temples from the complex, we have to start with Jayavarman II (varman means shield in Sanskrit -Vocabulary) who was a Khmer prince returning from Java (Geography) around 800 AD. He conquered some quarreling states, declared himself King-God of Kambuja and established himself around Roluos area. As history demonstrates to us in many cultures, there are people who fight for peace, and their sons who build magnificent monuments for their era (David and Solomon; the kings of Hampi). In our case is a nephew who started building to honor his grandfather, and because in the Hindu and Buddhist mythology Mount Meru is the center of all things in the universe, that’s how he build those temples, like a tiered pyramid (Art). He build in Roluos, but also in Angkor.

At some point the capital was moved to Angkor and every king in his turn built some more temples. In a way they are all the same, but different in their details, size, significance (Art).
Then it’s time for Mathematics. How many people do you need to build something this big? If one man works for 10 days to make a face of a Buddha, for 8 hours a day, how many days would 250 workers would need to make 700 Buddhas? How many stones do you think are in this gopura (the roof—see Hampi). Really, you can turn a temple into simple math, algebra, probability... anything if you put your mind to it!
We arrive at Science. Why do they all look so black and green (lichen, Biology)? 

Why does the moss still grow inside the temples (humidity and indirect light—those are links for branches like Atmosphere and Physics)? How can roots tear a building apart? (Physics—Mechanics) Why does the tree grow on top of the building (that’s where it found a fertile spot)? 

Why are some bas-reliefs faded (erosion, acid rain—Chemistry)? 

Or some are really shiny, like they are from obsidian (Earth science)? Because people touched them for luck (Chemistry, Social Studies).
Foreign languages are practiced. There are so many French visiting Cambodia! OK, our children will not talk yet, willingly, but they understand French. This sparked a renewed interest in the French language in our daughters, and now they are reading on their own  either books or touristic brochures. And they also recognize Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, German. They will ask any Caucasian figure where is it from and respond proudly to the return question, “From Romania!”
Art, besides recognizing it all around, and compared with what we saw in other countries, is practiced in the form of photo taking, shooting video, drawing (and now animating!).
Framed art!

You would say that stones don’t make music, and you would be right. Still we found music. We had our personal teacher for an instrument that we bought from him, but we don’t know it’s name in Khmer, only in Romanian, “drâmbă”. It is made from bamboo (reminds me of a potato peeler) and you hold it with your lips, transforming your mouth into a resonating chamber, while you make the instrument vibrate with your fingers. We had lots of fun trying to play it.

Around the temples there were small groups of 4-8 people playing traditional Khmer music, who were injured by land-mines. Their instruments are variations of drum, xylophone and flute, and the rhythms are quick. Why are there so many people, even children, maimed? Because the Khmer Rouge sought and gained power, killed almost half of their country’s population. When Western countries found out, it started a multinational political battle, some helping them and some against them, following their own interests, of political influence and economic growth. So that’s how it came that the Khmer Rouge planted mines, US Air Force dropped bombs, the Chinese, the Vietnamese and other countries all were using Cambodia as a battlefield. There is no evidence where to look for those bombs. You just see the results.
Health is also a subject that can be taught. There are bats living in some of the gopuras.  Around you can find some pigeons and monkeys. Sometimes you find them dead. Don’t touch them as they could carry diseases.
 How do you recognize there are bats? By the smell of their droppings and the high pitched sounds (Biology). Drink lots of water because it’s hot, you don’t want to become dehydrated, wear your hat so you will not have sunstroke, stay in the shade.
Physical Education is covered by the many steps and climbs, and by the long distances that you have to walk to get there.
So there you have it. It doesn’t follow a textbook, but is integrated and most of the time is fun.
I am required to sign and date my report: 
We have covered at least 80% of the planned material.

Ileana Ruxandra Dascalu Feb, 3rd 2012

P.S. This is not a real report. The children are following real textbooks for Math and Science, and Ioan has also Logic. They worked very hard over three summer vacations to move ahead in their schoolwork and finished before the trip the other subjects. 


  1. bravo Ileana.
    faci cariera in homeschool!!!
    bravo copiilor care inteleg efortul necesar si util.

  2. Really inspirational to hear someone pursuing their dreams and becoming successful instead of following the traditional path. I have read your article about This topic. I think it's good and impressed to know your service. Thanks for share this Information.
    a level


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