Homeschooling and Travel. How’s it Going?

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This is an old post, I wrote it when we’d been on the road just months, I wanted to touch base with followers and let them know that we were finding time to do some “school” as we travelled around the world. We travelled like this for over 6 years. I wanted to share that the kids were making progress and that, simultaneously, they were learning from their environments. These little boys are now bigger than their mum, and it all worked out fine. If you’re looking for our definitive guide to homeschooling while travelling you need to click the link, otherwise go to this post on worldschooling. Both open in a new tab so you can carry on reading this page. If you want tops on worldschooling teenagers, go here.

Yes, they can do algebra. Yes, they can read and comprehend to a high level. Yes, their general knowledge is good and their understanding of various topics deep. Yes, they are acceptable socially.

I watched my elder son last night chat animatedly for hours to a professional photographer in his 30s (he was also offered a job last night, no exams required).

I must admit, I have worried, doubted and stressed over the years but it’s all come good. Throughout the process I’ve kept records in photos and spreadsheets, they have been learning every step of the way.

Back then I wrote:

Homeschooling and Travelling How's It Going

Homeschooling and Travel

“Travel as education is working out well, the homeschooling is going great.  The boys are mostly verging on unschooled (you may need to find out what unschooling is, it is not an absence of education), we couldn’t travel like this if we didn’t believe in the effectiveness of unschooling at appropriate times, nor if we didn’t believe that homeschooling and travel, not only go hand in hand, but are mutually beneficial.

Homeschooling is different for everybody, some people have programmes that they follow, we don’t, mostly.  When we were back in Australia I was a registered homeschooler, I submitted a curriculum, written by me, every year and we covered everything I put on it in our own way.

Homeschooling has never involved me standing at a whiteboard and teaching, why would it? The very idea is absurd. Our curriculum was acceptable to the government and our reports a year later, likewise state-approved.

I have written and submitted a curriculum for this year, but it’s no big deal if we totally deviate from it and do something else. Homeschooling and travel, together, is never going to be school-at-home.

Even if we don’t do anything that you would recognise as school for a while, older children will catch up quickly if they ever have to return to mainstream education, that’s not our plan, but that scenario may worry some people.

What we have found over the last few years of homeschooling is that children are more than capable of educating themselves, naturally, through occurrences and experiences, from counting money to cultural and historic encounters.

If you haven’t seen it first hand you may not believe me, but I’ve been observing and mentally crossing off huge chucks of the school curriculum. History is particularly easy to cover in this way.

How Much School Work are We Doing as We Travel?

There is some school work going on around here. Once we get settled into a town and have done everything that we are in a hurry to do (the educational tours and visits), we usually find ourselves with plenty of free time.

That is when I think of getting the books and computer programmes out.

If we have a lazy day, as we are having today, just hanging in a restaurant in Vang Vieng, I do some written or online work with each child. That is enough.

What Homeschool Resources do We Have With Us as We Travel?

Other than the world, the best homeschool resource there is, I have a few books in my backpack.

Excel English and Mathematics Year 6  for D, who would actually be in year 4 if he were in school, I picked this book based on his current abilities, some of the maths is too hard for now, but the English is a great level for him.

Learn Together Phonics, age 5+  for Boo, bought because it’s a very small book, he hates it, so we don’t use it much, but I haven’t the heart to bin it just yet.

A lovely book called Explore. The Most Dangerous Journeys of All Time for all of us, about explorers. Vasco da Gama, Marco Polo,  Scott and Amundsen, they’re all in there. I read it to them and we use it as a reference book. It was a gift from a lovely friend just before we left Port Douglas, so it had to come.

Two Kindles loaded with classic children’s literature for D (9) and easy picture books for Boo (6). Boo still refuses to read for pleasure, but I have a feeling he’ll be using it soon.

D cut his reading teeth on Roald Dahl, after being bored and infuriated by the endless graded reading books he was expected to read in school. We have the Roald Dahls loaded, Boo won’t read them, he says he wants to read Star Wars, so we’ll help him with that.

A subscription to Study Ladder ($80/year) an online learning programme tied to the Australian curriculum. It’s nice to dip into that occasionally, sometimes the boys will do it for fun, or for a bit of one on one mum-time. Study Ladder lessons are graded by year level, so I can see where the boys would be if they were in school in Australia, both are years ahead in most subjects.

One Laptop and two cheap Tablets. The laptop is a pain to carry but I couldn’t live without it, the tablets belong to the kids. They aren’t allowed to use them on buses and trains, that’s when all the reading happens for D. He’s a great reader, but if he had the option of computer games, that’s what he’d choose.

Both are loaded with worthy TV shows and movies, the sort I consider educational, like Doctor Who and Yellow Submarine. They are also loaded with silly games and apps, which drive me insane, but the kids need some downtime, I suppose.

They’re picking up a lot of computer-savyness by fiddling around with those things. We used to use online programmes for computer programming and animation when we were at home, but we haven’t been doing any of that lately, they’re too busy playing pool, a useful skill to have in social situations!

A box of pens and pencils and some notebooks. The plan was to get them writing travel diaries, that hasn’t happened. D made one voluntary diary entry and that was it, if I try to force him it will turn him right off the whole idea.

We sometimes practice writing letters in cursive script, or maybe spelling a few words. We’ve just finished the Year 6 Direction and Coordinates section in his book so we’ve been practicing writing north, south, east and west in beautiful handwriting.

I keep it simple and within his abilities, he hates writing, the less he has to do, the more he’s starting to enjoy it, if that makes sense.

Travel as Education, Where is the Other Learning Happening?

They learn all day, every day, any child will, given freedom and variety. They learn from reading menus, working out costs and calculating change, Boo loves to count money, each new currency presents new mathematical challenges. The Laos Kip comes in thousands, $1 is 7,000 Kip, there is some great maths in Laos!

They learn from meeting and talking to people, languages, manners and customs, along with how to behave and not to behave. Not everyone we meet is a great role model.

They ask questions, yesterday Bob Marley came up, we discussed music, history, geography and religion, all because we saw yet another Bob Marley bar.

They learn about agriculture, climates, wildlife, science, medicine, compassion and empathy. They learn about everything.

Homeschooling and Travel Opens Their Eyes, Makes Them Ask Questions.

Why does that guy build his house there, where it floods? Because he can’t afford to live anywhere else and he looks pretty happy, doesn’t he?

Can I become a Buddhist monk? If you like, but you can’t become a Hindu.

What are all these pictures in this temple? Buddha’s life story. Lets read it through pictures.

Why did so many people die building this bridge? Malaria, cholera, starvation and ill-treatment as prisoners in the Second World War. Shall we find out more about the war?

How do vaccinations work and what is a white cell count? After a trip to the hospital.

How come this kayak doesn’t sink when it’s got water in it? So much science!

This is how the learning happens.

I don’t know everything, nobody does (teachers certainly don’t), but if a question comes up that I can’t answer, we have Google. Google is the biggest, most sensational educator ever invented and it’s making education outside school easier every day.

I taught myself to create websites, SEO, coding, image manipulation, social media management and a million other skills using the internet. I flipped from professional scientist to writer and webmaster. Why can’t any kid do the same?

I think one of the biggest problems we have in our society is that people feel helpless to do things for themselves. They are fearful and have a can’t-do mentality that makes them look for a professional to do things for them.

If we all got rid of that fearfulness and accepted that 3rd party educators are often unnecessary. If we grasped that learning happens internally through want or need, and isn’t something that is done to you. With these changes in understanding the population as a whole would reach new educational heights. But still, we are told that classrooms are best, it keeps things tidy.

So, homeschooling and travel, I’m a big fan, I think it’s a better way to get an education than being confined to a room and a limited syllabus. What do you think? ” You may want to read our full guide to homeschooling while travelling.

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About the author
Alyson Long
Alyson Long is a British medical scientist who jumped ship to chase dreams. A former Chief Biomedical Scientist at London's West Middlesex Hospital she started in website creation and travel writing in 2011. Alyson is a full-time blogger and travel writer, a published author, and owns several websites. World Travel Family is the biggest. A lifetime of wanderlust and over 6 years of full-time travel, plus a separate 12 month gap year, has given Alyson and the family some travel expert smarts to share with you on this world travel site. Today Alyson still travels extensively to update this site and continue her mission to visit every country, but she's often at home on her farm in Australia.

24 thoughts on “Homeschooling and Travel. How’s it Going?”

  1. Hi Alyson, absolutely love your page! such an inspiration! We set off travelling 4 weeks ago around Europe. We love it and can’t imagine going home now after the freedom we feel! I have a boy aged 8, he loves it too!
    We are currently in Spain, Gandia. My boy is not so keen to do any ‘school work’ he’s done bits of the Carol Vorderman books while were travelling or on rainy days, he also keeps a diary almost daily. We’ve done lots of exploring through the orange groves and through the towns, its amazing! I do worry that I’m not doing enough with him.
    look forward to reading more blogs
    Sam

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  2. My husband is desperate for us to pack up our jobs and go travelling with our 2 girls aged 3 & 5. Whilst I love the idea the reality of the situation makes me really nervous – packing up our jobs, handing our business over to the in laws and taking the girls out of the security of home and family. From reading your blog you make it sound like fun all the way – but is it really? My biggest worry is uprooting the kids!

    I would love to hear more on your thoughts and experiences.

    Reply
    • Hi Amy, Is having kids ever a bed of roses? Some days they try my patience to breaking point, but I’ve never, ever regretted leaving and I certainly don’t want to go home and neither do they. If you have real worries, and it sounds like you do. Shoot me an email contact@worldtravelfamily.com. Happy to talk and help if I can.

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  3. Hi- we are an Aus. unschooling family and i came across you blog by chance whilst researching our upcoming SE Asia adventure. It’s inspiring to read about what you’re adventures. Kirsten

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  4. When I was 9, my parents took me and my two younger sisters to live in Mexico for a year. They couldn’t afford to send us to the American school in town, so we went to Mexican schools. We didn’t learn standard curriculum, but as you point out, we learned an enormous amount through osmosis. When we returned to the US after the year, we entered the grades we would have been in if we hadn’t left (i.e. we each essentially skipped a grade). The world did not stop spinning on its axis. We all have university degrees and at least one of us (moi!) inherited a serious case of wanderlust. Interestingly, we didn’t leave Mexico fluent in Spanish (we hung out with too many expats), but the seeds were planted and through study in Colombia when I was in university, I finally mastered the language. Thanks to our year in Mexico when my young brain could still absorb foreign sounds, I retained a native speaker accent even though I had to relearn vocabulary and grammar.

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  5. Hi Alyson, Penang was great- we were only there for 3 days so not too long. Any longer and I think we would have been ready to move on. We loved loved loved the food scene- I am sure your husband was sad to miss it. I am as chef as well from the U.S. and would have been terribly jealous had my husband went without me!

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    • Yes, the food in Georgetown was good, but up in Batu Ferringhi, where we were, it was pretty average. Chef is hanging for some decent Indian, he wants us to to to India for 3 months over Christmas.

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      • We just stayed in Georgetown and didn’t venture out any further into the island. We will be in Chiang Mai for the lantern festival in November until Feb 1st. If your travel plans change and you happen to be up that way I would love to meet up. It is always refreshing to talk to another “traveling mom” and I never turn down the opportunity to “talk shop” with another Chef!

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  6. Hello, I just wanted to tell you how much I am enjoying your website. My family is on an extended travel journey as well. We are in Penang right now doing a Visa run then it is back to Thailand for us. Please keep up the great posting and perhaps I will get my but in gear and do the same!
    Autumn

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  7. Alyson- Would love to give you a shout if your around next year to meet up that would be great, your be travel veterans by then lol, thanks again for sharing your amazing life and to show that kids and travel mix extremely well.

    sheralyn- We did dither about taking Oliver out of school to H/E, not because we didn’t think it is the right way to educate our child, but more the constant negativity we received, we really started to question our abilities, but at the end of the day we are his parents and we know what is best for him, I think sometimes people are negative about H/E because it almost questions their choice to send their children to school, we are not anti-school by the way, school has a place, its just there are other ways to educate and we feel that H/E is more a lifestyle choice that suits our family and plans.
    PS Have you set a travel date yet, we are looking to book flights nov this year….roll on 2014 lol.

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  8. Hello:

    Now with open educational resources there are so many easy solutions to the traditional curriculum. One of my favorite ones is Khan Academy with their concept mapping of objectives. Our youngest one is using it to prep for Algebra while the oldest is using it for AP Calculus. My favorite reading resource is Book Gorilla . Every morning I receive an email (set with my preference) for books under $3.00. There are many classics and new books. Thanks for sharing!

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  9. Loving this post!! I think I may print it and use it as a reference EVERY TIME I am questioned about my reason for wanting to travel and homeschool. It is easy to relate to your children’s questions. Isn’t it Awesome watching them grow!! Thank you for sharing your view point. Rock On Momma!!

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  10. Yay you! We camped and travelled about for 5 years (around Australia and NZ – not as adventurous as you) however we took about the same supplies for Homeschooling and the rest was what we stumbled upon. Museums, Zoos, Factory Tours, Libraries, Farms, Science Centres etc. Life skills, camping, cooking, booking places, directions, shopping, spending, making friends, bush, beach, climate, weather, road rules, boats, planes, dealing with emergencies, hospital trips, mechanics, reading, writing, spelling, car games, swimming, mountain climbs, knitting, drawing, singing, dancing, making fire, building huts… The list of learning just goes on and on and on and on. And travelling the world comes with soooooooo much more. Customs, Cultures, Festivals, Languages, Food, Temples, Diseases… It’s just all too exciting for the small time we are here on this earth. Enjoy every little moment. I’m just so happy for you all and despite the bumps along the way, be as safe and well as you can and keep sending those photos and write-ups. Because we are travelling and learning with you here until we can get out there again. xox

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  11. I have 3 girls and a boy. My son could be one of yours! ๐Ÿ™‚ The best type of learning is the one done naturally like breathing. ๐Ÿ™‚

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  12. Love this blog. I am homeschooling my two children whilst traveling OZ. Some days we do lots of book work and others none. Unfortunately hubby and the rest of his family think it is soooo important to keep up. I am more of a believer in learning through practical application then sitting in front of books. Keep writing blogs please.

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  13. Hey there! We are homeschoolers, as well, with a dream of traveling long-term with the kids…roadschooling. =) I have found your blog to be so inspirational for that. I also have a fascination with India, so am really looking forward to your postings from there. Happy travels!

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  14. yipppeeeee I couldn’t have put it better myself.
    Ive been following you guys for a while now and just want to say what a great job your doing with your blog it’s fab…
    We are just starting out homeschooling for our 6 year old son Oliver here in the UK and love reading about families that are actually doing it, We’ve received so much negative criticism from close family and friends on our choice to homeschool Oliver, even though most people have no idea what homeschooling is about yet it seems to conjure up quite strong, negative opinion’s from people so I love stumbling across articles that show homeschooling for what it is …thank you I shall print this page out and leave it on my fridge for all to see . We are also travelling next june/july to SE Asia for as long as financially possible( hopefully 12-18 months) so love reading about your travels and the amazing education you are giving your children…. what a wonderful gift……. we cannot wait to be off and start our adventure.
    thanks again for such an inspiring, informative and honest blog/post.
    safe travels
    bev and the Eyre family

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    • Bev, you have no idea how happy that makes me! I first started blogging because I wanted to promote homeschooling, dispel myths and show the world what an excellent choice it is for children and for families. The travel came later. To know that I’ve helped just one family break out of conventional school is enough, my work is done, I’ve made a difference! Homeschooling rocks, my boys are so much happier and far better off educationally ( D went to school briefly, so yes, I can compare!) homeschooling and travel are the perfect combination, a never ending field trip. I wish you all the very best of luck, maybe run into you somewhere! A x

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    • Bev, this is so exciting that you’re doing this too. We have a 6 year old and a 4 year old, and we’re leaving next summer for SE Asia too – 12 mo away from home minimun – we’ll also be homeschooling, although I’m not as brave as you to start it now, when we’re still home. Our trip is the “excuse” to do it, and it seems to be accepted since everyone assumes that no way could our children possibly be educated any other way in Thailand and Malaysia hehe

      Alyson, thanks so much for posting this – since we hope to travel for years, and homeschool the entire time, it’s always great to see another success story!

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