Homeschool and Travel. How to Educate, On the Road
Homeschool and travel, two wonderful freedoms in life. Homeschool probably doesn’t mean what you think it does. It is not “school at home” we don’t do lessons or distance education. We don’t fill the kids up with the same stuff the schools try to teach. We just learn, in total freedom. This is how we educate as we travel. We’ve been educating outside school for a long time now, my two are 11 and 9, it’s working out great.
What’s in a Name? Homeschool, Unschool, Worldschool?
Homeschool is the preferred term in our home state, Queensland, it incorporates unschooling. In other parts of the world Home Education is more commonly used, to separate our style of learning from that employed in schools. Worldschooling is a way of describing any education provided by, or enhanced by, travel and the world. Unschooling is a complete rejection of the school system, but does not imply un-educating, good unschooling is very proactive.
Find out what is worldschooling here.
Find out what is unschooling here.
We’ve tried them all and found what works for us. I really don’t care what you call it, they just learn, without school.
As the boys get older I find myself updating these old posts. What worked when they were 7 and 5 isn’t what works today. Home education is fluid and adaptable, that’s one of the beauties of it.
I have an academic background, I went to a good school, did well, got my degree and worked as a scientist. Education and knowledge are important to me and I’m fanatical about giving the boys a good one. I make no apologies for the fact that I insist on them getting a proper education, but that doesn’t necessarily include exams. It’s about them having the tools they need to make life choices, to know what they want to do and be able to go for it.
We Were Homeschooling Long Before We Started Travelling.
Homeschool and travel go together, they have to, but we’d already chosen that path before we even thought of returning to the travel we loved.
After 2 years of homeschool before we left on this trip, I wasn’t at all worried about the kids’ education. I’d been through the de-schooling process. This is the term used for forgetting everything you’ve been conditioned to think about acquiring knowledge. Learning happens all day, every day, it doesn’t come from teachers, text books, tests and exams. But that said, it doesn’t just happen by chance, the parent has to be pro-active in seeking inspiring learning opportunities.
The Legality of Homeschooling on The Road
You need to check this out for yourself, but I can tell you what I know.
I was a registered homeschooler in Queensland Australia, this meant I had to submit my curriculum for approval every year and put a report together 12 months later, complete with work samples. We were approved each year. Once we left Australia this was no longer allowed, nor required, if we return we’ll need to re-register.
If you’d like to see examples of Queensland applications, reports and homeschool curriculums, they are on our other website, Homeschool Group Hug. Regulations vary enormously between Australian states. Your decision to homeschool or withdraw your child from school is nothing to do with the school, they cannot stop you and you do not need to ask permission, you will need to register in some way with your state’s homeschooling body.
I’m British, so are the boys, one of the wonderful things about the UK is that no homeschool registration, reports or checks are required. We’re legally free to educate our way. ( visit this site to find out about home education in the UK)
You’ll need to check regulations in your home country or state, but it’s important to remember that if your kids are un-enrolled from school, they cannot be truant.
In a handful of countries, homeschooling is illegal, you can find that list here. My understanding is that these laws only apply to residents and citizens, but check for yourself.
Travel is a Great Way to Enhance an Education.
See THIS POST, if you want to know what we picked up in our first year of travel.
Obviously, travel does amazing things for children, helping them along with their self-confidence, resourcefulness, social skills and ability to empathise. Alongside this there is the more concrete learning in geography, history and languages that comes naturally from visiting every country. I say naturally, but there is a lot of parental input in getting this “natural” learning to happen.
Our travels put us in the amazingly fortunate position of being able to take the kids TO the learning. So if they want to learn about the Mayans, we take them to Tikal.
For art, we take them to world renowned galleries or to see local artists at work, maybe they can join in or take a class.
For music we watch diverse performances, use internet resources and try our hands at different instruments from around the world.
History is all around us, you can touch it. My elder child has just been studying the Seven Ancient Wonders through an online course, so he was keen to see the remains of the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus at the British Museum and we’re taking him to Turkey for Ephesus. Imagine finding out about Pol Pot and the Vietnam war through being there, on the spot. Don’t you think that’s better than a book?
For religion, we visit as many temples, mosques, churches and museums as we can, talk to the locals and see first hand the realities of their faiths. We observe their practices, respect them and sometimes join in. This style of learning is so much more fun than books!
What about science? I was a scientist in my life before kids and we have done a lot of hands on, fun, homeschool science. This will be hard on the road, but I am pretty good at talking about the science in a situation, from frying an egg to the zoological classification of every animal we see.
We crammed in a lot of practical science before we left, got ahead of the game. I can’t pack the chemistry sets but opportunities will present themselves while we are away. Recently we’ve got a lot out of London’s fabulous and free museums, including the kids science shows at the Science Museum and the incredible Natural History Museum.
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Curriculum and What We Do Now.
I wrote our curriculum back in Australia, because I had to, based on the progression of learning, the government curriculum from a few countries and our own interests and needs. I had to get it approved each year. I facilitated learning from this curriculum by bring up topics in conversation, showing them books, toys and films about the topics we need to cover and taking them to places where they could learn at source. We also followed the boys’ interests as they cropped up, we didn’t have to follow that curriculum to the letter, we did more.
I would class myself as maybe a partial unschooler, certainly an eclectic homeschooler. I’ve always employed some work books for maths and English, but in a very casual way. That is more to do with me reassuring myself rather than any real need. Lately I’ve been using more work books as a response to their needs, I find they are a great way to get the boys writing, and mixing it up with some online courses.
Children outside mainstream education can forget about sitting particular exams at particular times. They are free to progress at their own pace, according to their own needs. Should my boys wish to go on to any further study or university, there are multiple ways they can do this without the standard school certificates. It’s a long established process, generations of kids have gone before.
I think it’s important to keep records in the form of a journal, photographs, spread sheets or work samples. You need to be able to see and show that a quality education is actually happening. Keeping records will help you reassure yourself.
Educational Resources We Use as We Travel.
We use the internet and a few books on the road. We can’t be weighed down with a travelling library so once a book has served its purpose we give it away. If it is a work book I date and photograph every page.
It’s easy to pick up work books around the world, we saw some brilliant ones in Sri Lanka and stocked up in the UK.
After much trial and error, we’ve discovered that we prefer the Carol Vorderman series of work books for English (English Made Easy ), Maths (Maths Made Easy) and Science (Science Made Easy) along with the Letts Enchanted English and Mythical Maths series and (Smelly Spelling) books. They come in age appropriate levels and can be found on Amazon UK (click through). For Amazon.com, the US site, you’ll find Carol Vorderman’s books here.
Quite often we simply have nothing to do, work books fill the time nicely and done right, they’re fun. Don’t forget that puzzle books, crosswords and word searches can also count as “school”, they’re all improving reading, spelling and vocabulary.
Online Learning. Reading
When the boys were tiny, just learning letters and starting to read, they both used Reading Eggs, The Online Phonics Program That Kids Love. They used them for fun, simple, brightly coloured games were their first steps in letters and phonics. You could, of course, use this online course in a much more structured way. Reading Eggs now works for children right through to 11 years old, there have been big changes on the site allowing it to be used for more advanced reading and comprehension.
Online Learning. General, Reading, Maths and More
We have a subscription to an Australian online learning site, Studyladder (paid), this covers English and Maths and gives us a good idea of where they would be if they were in school. It also has a useful science, music and art section, although these are in no way complete enough to be used in isolation.
Online Learning. Computer Coding
For computer coding we use Scratch and Code Academy, both are free. We supplement this with this book Computer Coding for Kids which is tied to the UK coding curriculum. Scratch is loads of fun, the kids do this without realising they’re doing “school” and the book gives them ideas for projects. This book also covers Python and has earned a place in our backpacks. Code Academy introduces HTML, but I found it easier to teach myself this coding language from a book (HTML for Dummies). I use this skill on the websites all the time.
Online Learning. Typing
My 11 year old recently decided to learn to touch type. He’s doing brilliantly on BBC Dance Mat and loves doing it. This is pure self-directed learning. Love that! He’s found some other online typing games and practice sites, I’ll have to ask him what they are.
Online Learning. Art
I find that both boys CAN draw, but don’t know WHAT to draw, so online drawing and art classes are great fun for them and they’re always proud of their creations. We use a variety of free online art and drawing classes.
Thrive Art has 1 good free lesson, but we don’t think the full course is worth the money.
Art Hub For Kids has great Free drawing and painting lessons ( including Minecraft).
Art Venture has a few free art lessons, mostly using the wax resist method.
This series of famous artist Coloring and drawing books finds its way into our packs sometimes too. This one is Van Gough, the kids’ favourite because of Doctor Who. We always have coloured pencils and sketch books with us.
Online Learning. Languages
You will find many, many apps that will help you learn languages, our favourite is Duolingo which we use for Spanish along with the excellent BBC Languages website. Here you’ll find FREE languages courses.
Online Learning. Geography
Seterra is an online geography game, you can download it to your computer and have endless fun beating the kids at identifying countries against the clock. It’s great when they start to beat the grown ups.
Online Learning. History
Our particular favourite learning resource on the road is the Crash Course in World History by John Green on Khan. Lots of fun!
Other Homeschool Resources for Travel
You Tube gives us plenty of documentaries and movies to tie in with whatever they’re learning about, along with some great online lessons for kids.
As the boys are getting older we’re using Khan Academy (FREE) more and more. That includes me, I’m studying art history on Khan, something I never did in school.
The kids sometimes use Minecraft Homeschool (click through to read more about this cool resource). They not only learn the finer points of redstone construction, they can study science, history, geograpy, all the usual subjects , in a Minecraft environment AND answer questions and submit work.
We take local classes whenever we can, including cooking and stone carving this year.
Both boys have their own blogs, they write posts, create images and are learning about the technical side of website creation, including HTML, and social media marketing. Find out how to start a free blog for them here. They’re learning a trade that could provide them with an income long before they leave school, my younger child is blog-mad and now has a professional self-hosted site.
Occasionally the boys join group classes (such as Forest School).
Obviously, the boys get to take part in all sorts of sports and activities, from kayaking to rock climbing, no worries about PE.
The Kindle Paperwhites are the single most important tool we carry, other than the laptops, we couldn’t travel without a never ending supply of books, in English, click the link above and buy the kids one each. Ours, the paperwhite, do not play games, they are purely for reading, we have a no computer game or phone rule when we’re outside the house, it applies to adults too, if we had the Kindle Fire they’d just play games. Without books to read, travel days would be long and hard.
Museums, historic sites, zoos, farms, rainforest and places of interest are my best friends, luckily the kids love them too.
The older they get, the more they are getting out of guided tours and audio guides, when they were tiny this was pointless, but now we seek them out. We had a fantastic day long tour in Assisi and recent big successes with the British Museum, Tate modern and National Gallery tours.
We do not travel lite, that’s not fair on the kids. Alongside the books, computers, pens and pencils, we’re always picking up new Lego sets, Nerf Guns, cuddly toys, frisbees and Harry Potter paraphernalia. We have two very full adult backpacks, we’ll never travel carry-on only. Kids need some “stuff” which is part of our decision to buy a house as a base. The house is bought, you can find out where here, we’ll still be travelling, don’t think we’re settling, if you travel with kids we’d love you to come and stay.
To help you get the ball rolling, a few classic books on education.
How Many Hours Does Homeschooling Take On The Road?
That’s up to you and your kids. This is what we do.
When we’re actively travelling, backpacking around, seeing new things and places, we do NOTHING!
They’re learning enough, why spoil it? ( for example during our month in India)
By nothing I mean no work books, online learning or reading other than what they would do for pleasure. They are, of course, learning enormous amounts every day, totally unschool.
When we’re settled, in one place for a few weeks or months, we do SOME.
A bit, a little, what we need to do or what they want to do. We never let “school work” get in the way of going out, seeing friends or having fun, it’s purely something for down time. ( for example during our breaks in London, month in Antigua or 6 weeks on Ko Phangan)
There are no term times, no holidays and no weekends. The education fits with us, not the other way round.
It’s working out just fine.
It’s important to remember that “school” isn’t just the dull stuff, it’s easy to focus just on maths, English and science and forget that drawing, making things, reading and computer studies are important too. Let them have fun with their interests and make sure they know it counts towards their education.
That’s just a quick overview of how we roll, how we cover all bases on the road. If you’re new to taking the responsibility of facilitating your kids’ education, I’d strongly suggest you find other homeschoolers online to talk to. Everybody does this thing differently, there are philosophies and routes that you probably haven’t heard of, it’s about picking the right one for your child and for you. I started blogging because of my involvement with the Australian homeschooling community. I met inspirational and knowledgeable people online and eventually became heavily involved in supporting and encouraging other new homeschoolers. There are plenty of us out there and our numbers are growing. Seek us out, we love to share.
You would be amazed how well young kids can learn to read, develop incredible grammar and improve their spelling, just through having what they think is fun. I’ve been through the early years of learning to read and primary school maths, they’re there, they did it, it worked. We were far more unschool in those days. My younger son took a long time to start reading, he was 8 before he really started reading books, but now he’s a voracious reader like his brother, the “catch-up” period was just a couple of months once he was ready. That’s the beauty of it, there’s no pressure, let the child go just as far and as fast as they like, it doesn’t matter. The elder one was totally put off reading by school, once he was out, he flew.
I don’t know where we’ll go from here, maybe they’ll want to try school and exams, maybe they won’t. We’re looking at the British iGCSE system, kids can take their GCSEs without ever going to school, we love this as the boys can pick whatever subjects they like. Nobody can predict the future, but I can tell you for sure that what we’ve done so far has been amazing and that they’re doing just fine.
If you would like to read more about how we roll educationally, have a look at the links below.
Homeschool and travel are inextricably linked, if I can help you, I will, gladly, just fire me an email.
World Travel Family now has a sister site Homeschool Group Hug, which deals exclusively with Homeschool related topics outside of travel, unfortunately I have very little time to put into it, but it will grow.
If you now need further information on the nuts and bolts of making this travelling lifestyle possible, you need these posts.