Since we travel and homeschool, people sometimes ask me, “how does homeschooling work while you’re on the road?”
To this, I often reply, “it depends on the day!”
Sometimes we have great days, and other times it ends in meltdowns. Part of being a homeschooling family, I am learning, is being able to gauge what your child is feeling. And then, adjust accordingly.
What I’m also coming to realize is that I shouldn’t beat myself up if a day goes by and we don’t do any kind of schoolwork. Everyone deserves a break from time to time.
This post was updated on May 22, 2020.
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How does homeschooling work if you’ve never done it before?
Before I started homeschooling, I often contemplated the virtues of homeschool vs public school. I have always been an avid supporter of public schools. Having spent elementary school and middle school at a public school, I really didn’t have any issues with public school as a student.
In my opinion, many public schools are under-rated. And I also think having your kids attend public schools helps them connect with their peers. My daughter was a public school girl before we left, and she loved it.
But now that I’m traveling, and looking at the homeschool vs public school debate from a different angle, I am realizing there are some benefits to homeschooling as well.
For one, homeschooling offers more flexibility in learning styles. I am seeing this in my youngest son. At five years old, he struggles to stay focused on the task at hand, but is brilliant when it comes to solving addition and subtraction problems. In public school, he would most likely be called to the principal’s office for being too disruptive in class.
As a traveling family, homeshooling is really our most practical option for educating our kids. Enrolling them in schools in each place we visit would be too disruptive for the kids. So instead, we choose to teach them ourselves, using a hodgepodge of lessons and curriculum.
How does homeschooling work on the road?
So then it goes back to the question, how does homeschooling work on the road? Well, after almost two years of homeschooling, we’ve found a groove that works for us. Since we don’t follow a specific curriculum, it’s really about being flexible, and using our travel experiences to guide our kids’ learning. For our daughter, we use the book, What Your Third Grader Needs To Know as a reference for what age appropriate topics we need to cover. And for my son, I use the book, What Your Kindergartener Needs To Know.
Being a bit of a record-keeping freak, I like to keep a homeschool tracker to keep track of the lessons I do with my kids each day. Looking back on our homeschool tracker for these past two years, I am realizing that the themes of each day or week vary, depending on where we are traveling.
When we were road-tripping across the United States, we focused a lot on science. We were visiting a lot of national parks, learning about nature, as well as science and kids’ museums. In Mexico, we did a lot more reading and social studies. When we were in Costa Rica, we focused again on science, as the country has so many nature-based activities to do. I’m sure that when we continue on to Europe, our focus will be more on history.
For our style of homeschooling, we’re really focused on the experiential learning. It’s helped make homeschooling less stressful for me, because I don’t have to think too hard about how to make learning applicable to our kids.
Our homeschooling tips during travel
Even if you’re not traveling full-time like us, there are still ways to incorporate learning into your travels. And even if you’re not a homeschooling family, you can still make your family vacations more educational and beneficial for your kids.
If you’re thinking to yourself, how does homeschooling work for my family, have no fear. I’ve been there and can honestly say that you’ll figure out something that will work for you. But just in case, here are some of my homeschooling tips for taking your kids’ education on the road.
Tip #1: Don’t be afraid to use YouTube
When it comes to education, we tend to think that all technology and screen time is a bad thing. But technology can actually be quite educational. One of the best homeschooling tips I have is to make YouTube your friend. We like watching videos together, and then discussing what we learn from those videos.
When we go to a new city, we watch YouTube videos about that city. There are a lot of vloggers out there, and sometimes their videos are really good and informative! Of course, you have to sift through some of them ahead of time. For science and geography types of videos, SciShow Kids and Geography Now! have some fun videos. We also really enjoy Crash Course.
Tip #2: Turn sight-seeing into a field trip
Another one of my homeschooling tips is to take advantage of field trips. Science and children’s museums are great for field trips, as are zoos and aquariums. And, it’s a great way to put in a full day of homeschooling without much work on your end! If you’re in the United States, and you have a membership to a museum in the city, research whether it’s part of a reciprocal program. That will give you free admission to museums in other cities.
Before or after we go on field trips, we like to have a short discussion about the kinds of things that are at the museum. For example, when we went to the Regional Museum in Costa Rica, we watched a few videos about the Mayan civilization in Central America. Then, when we were at the museum, the kids pointed out some of the artifacts that they recognized from the videos.
Tip #3: Build your lessons around sight-seeing
Related to the previous tip, I also suggest building your lessons around the sight-seeing activities that you’re planning on doing during your travels. Even if you’re planning on doing things that don’t involve museums, you can always make the experience more educational for the kids.
When we were in Costa Rica, we did a zip-lining canopy tour. So that afternoon, we learned about the different layers of the rainforest, and what animals live in those layers. We also visited a hot springs water park near Arenal volcano. So the day before, we learned about where hot springs come from and how they are formed. It’s not too difficult to put together a quick lesson related to an activity that you and your family are planning to do.
Tip #4: Keep a homeschool tracker on your phone
As I mentioned earlier, I am a record-keeping freak! So when I started homeschooling, I put together a homeschool tracker on Google sheets so that I can keep track of the lessons that we do with our kids. Part of the reason I do this is because our home state’s homeschool regulations require us to cover eleven different subjects when we teach our kids. My homeschool tracker helps me know what subjects I’ve covered in my lessons.
Another reason for keeping a homeschool tracker is to be able to see how much time you spend on homeschooling. On average, we spend about 2-3 hours a day on homeschooling. This doesn’t seem like much, but if you ask most homeschooling families, you’ll find that it’s pretty average for young kids. You really don’t need to invest too much time teaching your kids!
If you’re savvy with Excel or Google sheets, it’s easy to make your own homeschool tracker like I did. But if you want one that’s already created, you can find free or pay ones online.
How does homeschooling work for your family?
Before I became I homeschooling parent, I had some preconceived ideas of how to answer the question, “how does homeschooling work on the road.” Now, I am realizing that it all really depends on the family. And it also involves looking beyond the standard definition of homeschooling.
These days, homeschooling doesn’t have to mean that you stay at home! If your schedule is flexible, you can go pretty much anywhere and teach your kids. And being flexible with the curriculum you use is also a key.
Are you a homeschooling family? How does homeschooling work for you and your kids? Share them with me in the comments.
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