How to Homeschool While Traveling

How to Homeschool While Traveling

Do you know what Worldschooling is? I bet you may have heard the term, but are wondering how you can effectively homeschool while traveling.  Homeschool, unschool, roadschool, and/or Worldschool, it can all be done while your family travels for extended periods of time. The first step is what you are doing now, reading more and looking for specific ways in which other families homeschool while traveling.

This post will outline for you the specific ways that families around the world, and the United States, homeschool while traveling.  Whether you are pulling your children out of school for the first time or already homeschooling, and especially if you are already unschooling, this article will give you all the information you might need to homeschool while traveling.

How to Homeschool While Traveling

If You’re Pulling Your Kids From Traditional School to Homeschool While Traveling

If you have never homeschooled before, and you have chosen to take your family on a Family Gap Year or Full Time Travels this is for you.  I am thrilled for you and your family! You will never regret this huge decision!  If you are on the fence and unsure about pulling your children from school, you MUST read this post.

Once you have worked your way through our Guide to Planning Your Travels, you are ready to begin thinking about how to continue your child’s education while you are on the road. Homeschooling while traveling is easy, especially if you start with our post about how to choose a curriculum for traveling kids.

Many families who are homeschooling for the very first time are worried about making sure their children can jump right back into their original school system when they are done traveling.  Whether you plan to travel for a short period, 6-12 months, or indefinitely, pulling your child from school can be scary!

Keep in mind, I have been working as a pediatric speech pathologist for 15+ years now.  I understand children’s development and educational needs. I completely understand, as a parent, the need to ensure that your children are educated.

Start by asking yourself these three questions:

  1. What does it mean to be “educated”? I will elaborate more on this question next.
  2. Will my child be re-entering a traditional school when we return in X many months?
  3. Will we be traveling long-term or indefinitely?

Question 1: What Does It Mean To Be Educated?

My definition of an educated person has changed tremendously over the years, and through our journey from traditional schooling to homeschooling to worldschooling. At the moment, my working definition of an “educated” person and my ultimate goal for my children is: “A person who understands who they are, the world around them, how to interact and communicate effectively with all types of humans in all parts of the word.  A person who knows how to learn what they are interested in learning, seeks to continue learning throughout their lifetime, and strives to be a contributing member of society at all levels (personal, family, community and world wide). “

To me, being “educated” does not mean getting all A’s, getting into an Ivy League school, competing for grades, acing test and then forgetting all the information on that test, and shredding apart your mental health to keep up with society’s standards, whatever they may be at the moment.  Not every person needs to learn every “subject” to have a successful life.  And thus, “school” in the traditional sense, actually has very little to do with being “educated.” Homeschooling while traveling is an opportunity to truly educate your children.

Question 2: Making Sure Your Child Can Re-Enter a Traditional School Back Home after Homeschooling while Traveling

If you know you are planning to re-enter a traditional school at some point in the near future, and homeschooling while traveling is temporary for your family, I strongly recommend that you DO keep your child in some sort of “school” or accredited curriculum.  It took me many years to feel comfortable not following a set curriculum, so I understand your fear.

Here are a few suggestions on how you can make a set curriculum work, while still enjoying the freedom and benefits of traveling with your children:

  1. Sign up for your local school district’s online learning option. Many districts have this option, and your child will be learning the same subjects and content that their peers are covering. The downside: you might be tied to your computers for 5-7 hours per day, on the same schedule as their peers with accompanying homework and projects to turn in.  This will definitely take away from your travel experience and flexibility. Not the ideal way to homeschool while traveling, but it is possible and checks the boxes you might need for school.
  2. Purchase a “boxed” curriculum from a large homeschooling company, where you can choose your grade and skill level in each subject. Sometimes these can be completely online, like Power Homeschool, or workbook/printable pen and paper options (which I don’t recommend unless you are an RV family and have some storage space for these materials). This is a common way to homeschool, but a less common way to homeschool while traveling.
  3. Join an online learning community, such as Kubrio, Cicero Learning, Prisma or similar. These online learning communities each offer a slightly different style of curriculum, but your child will be learning with live teachers and peers across a variety of subjects. Some of these online schools allow you to choose classes and clubs a-la-carte while others require a full subject load.  This is a fantastic option for keeping your child on “grade level” if you plan to return to traditional school, while also needing the flexibility to travel.
  4. If your child is in Elementary or early Middle School, you may not be too concerned about the higher level subjects, like physics, history or literature. Here is what I recommend if you want to be sure they are “staying on grade level.”  Choose a daily math program that is either online or in a workbook. For everything else, use the world around you to learn; history at museums, writing in a daily journal about your day or what you did/saw/learned, science at science museums across the world or through excellent videos and documentaries while traveling.  We love Mystery Science, a variety of youtube science teachers, and the Curiosity Stream app.

Question 3: What Will School Look Like When Homeschooling While Traveling Long Term?

Just as you will plan out your travels, you will also need to logistically plan for how you want to “do school” if you are trying to keep your child on grade level to return to school.  Do you want to be committed to logging into a class or school community during certain hours daily or do you want to be able to choose when and how long to work on schooling? Homeschooling while traveling has so many options.

Will you devote time each morning to sit-down school work, or will you work it in as you go? Most families who know their children will return to traditional school after traveling will usually devote half of their day to schooling. For example, they will complete school work in the morning and use the afternoon for family exploration.  Some do a more block-type schedule, and school 4 days per week, while taking the other 3 days to explore.

I recommend that you consider the personality and needs of your specific children, before committing yourself to a picturesque vision of what your daily rhythm will be.  For example, I have one child who sleeps later and one who is up and ready to roll by 6am.  My eldest child, once she wakes up, has the most brain power in the mornings, and quickly fades in the late afternoon, as her sensory system needs some quiet time to reset and rest.  I would never have her do heavy school work in the late afternoon after a morning out exploring! It would only lead to meltdowns and fights!

In addition, the logistics of scheduling your day may also overlap with the work schedule of the adults in your family. Some Worldschooling families prefer to complete school work while the adults are also working, and some prefer to get it done right away and explore with the one free adult who is available.

The incredible thing about homeschooling while traveling and being in charge of your children’s education, is the FREEDOM you now have. You can decide the type of learning, schedule of learning, and content that works best for your family. Remember, Worldschooling is an education in itself. Learning how to navigate new cities, communicate with people of different languages and cultures, learning flexibility, patience, and perseverance are the soft skills that every real world employer seeks. Your children will learn so much from just being out in the wide world.

Read below for details on how I use the world to implement our learning goals!

Are You Already Homeschooling and now Traveling?

If you are a family who already homeschools, this leap to Worldschooling or Full Time Traveling will be a bit smaller for you than for some.  Homeschooling while traveling will be a breeze with a little bit of prep. You already probably know what type of learning works for your child.  You are already immersed in the homeschooling world, the lingo, the philosophies and more. If you are like me, you have a system already (one you may change every month, but still, a system!)

First, I want to commend you for already taking the leap into homeschooling, in whatever way you do it. Going against the grain is never easy, and can often be lonely and scary. I am with you. I’ve been there and am there still. Now that you have decided to take your family traveling and to homeschool while traveling, you are in an even smaller minority.  But rest assured, you are not alone. You are amazing, and brave and you will never, ever regret giving your children this opportunity to be global citizens.

If you are a family who homeschools via curriculum, go ahead and take that curriculum on your travels. If it works for you, keep it. Try to segue into a more digital approach so you don’t need to carry many workbooks and books. If online learning doesn’t work for your children, at least you will have your resources online that you can print or show your children when needed. Here are some tips and tools I have used:

  • Keep a google doc or spreadsheet with quick links to documentaries that will line up with your travels. Finding these in advance and watching them as a family before you arrive in a location will be helpful to you and will give your children a context for where they will be in the world next.
  • Get each child a Kindle Kids for their reading or download a free Epic account for your tablet. Do NOT carry books with you if possible.  As much as I love and prefer paper books, it is just not easy to world travel with heavy books. My oldest can go through a few novels a week, and as a family we are constantly ready a variety of historical and other read alouds. We could never travel with all these in paper format. I recommend the Kindle paperwhite edition, which feels more like real paper and less like a tablet screen. You can also read the paperwhite in bright sunshine or dark rooms!
  • Bring a small white board and dry erase markers (the ones with the erasers on the caps). This will cut down on the paper you need for spelling, math problems, and any other school related scrap paper you need.
  • Keep 1 writing/sketch journal for each child. When it fills up, start a fresh one. We like these thin, lightweight, paperback journals and using some fun colored pens. This can be used for any writing assignment (3rd grade and up based on the size of the lines), any diary entries, memories, notes etc.
  • Some websites we LOVE to use are: Pobble for writing prompts (these are super cool!), Brain_Pop for a variety of lessons in history, science and social studies (we practice taking notes, stopping the short videos, and taking the fun quizzes), and Art History Kids for short lessons on artists worldwide. Download our complete guide to the Websites we Love to Worldschool With.
  • Plan backwards. Homeschooling while traveling will place you in unique situations and learning opportunities. Rather than try to pre-plan every single learning experience, sit down at the end of each week and write down all the things you did, saw, learned, and discovered. You will find that it is so much more than you imagined!

Unschooling in a New Environment

Hello Unschoolers! I love you already and I also respect you tremendously! Whether you dabble in unschooling, or practice radical unschooling, you are awesome! I usually call our family’s approach relaxed unschooling. In my own mind, I haven’t yet truly let go of my “educational agenda.” However, I do strive to be non-coercive, interest led and fully supportive of all of my children’s varying rabbit holes. Right now it is the 3D pen phenomenon and building their own Lego pop-its, super cool. Homeschooling (or unschooling) while traveling is so easy!

If you do not already unschool, you can read more about Unschooling here. Unschooling is truly more than just an educational approach, and is closely tied to attachment parenting philosophies. While I called myself a traditional parent before homeschooling, the truth is, I was always swimming upstream.

My kids nursed for much longer than the American norm, we co-slept, they spent years in a sling or baby carrier, and I always tried to treat their needs with respect, rather than brushing them off. From the beginning, I was “weird.” (or normal, depending on how you look at it!).

Now as tweens, my kids are highly independent, self sufficient, still love snuggling, and trust us enough to initiate the hard conversations with ease.

For us, unschooling has become a lifestyle. What do I mean by that? Well, my approach to parenting has changed significantly. I put more trust in my children to know their needs and bodies and brains better than I do. Respecting my children’s feelings and needs, even when I may not agree or may think I “know better,” has become something I always try to catch myself on.

I act as a tour guide through life. I expose them to all kinds of experiences, opportunities, cultures, information sources, and more…but I don’t get upset (or at least I try not to!) when they are not ready to explore those.

So now that you have an idea of how my family unschooled before traveling, how do we unschool now and homeschool while traveling? Its SO EASY! Just do what you were doing before. Ta-Da! Success!

Here are some tips:

  • Work through our Guide to Preparing Your Children for Leaving (this will help to start the conversation about traveling, what your children can expect, how they are feeling, what they desire to see and do, and how the family will work together throughout your travels to ensure every individual’s bucket gets filled).
  • Do your research before heading to a new destination. Make a master list of ideas, activities, museums, festivals, etc. Bring these to your family meeting and let your children have an equal say in what the family will explore.
  • Allow your children to barter/haggle and communicate with others. Let them figure out the logistics of getting around a new city. They can help plan flights and travel needs, keep track of the daily or weekly budgeting, etc. Include your children in each aspect of “planning” and “deciding” so they feel a part of the process.
  • Use every moment that you are away to relax together. Mindfully ponder, wander, discuss, problem solve out loud, read interesting things, and laugh at the failures.

Ultimately, the relationship you cultivate with your children and as a family unit is what allows them to open their minds to learning new things.  It allows them to keep persevering when the going gets rough, and know they have soft spot to land without judgement or expectation.

Unschooling (or homeschooling) while traveling is the best of all worlds. Learning together, experiencing together, overcoming challenges together, and growing as a family and as humans.

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