How Does Homeschooling Work On The Road?

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Since we worldschool and homeschool while we travel, 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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Learning about sea turtles in Mexico (January 2019)

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
Practicing writing letters in DC (September 2018)

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.

Making chocolate in Costa Rica (March 2019)

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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.

Visiting the African American museum in DC (September 2018)

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.

How does homeschooling work on the road
Walking through Guanajuato, Mexico (December 2018)

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.

Learning history at Canada de la Virgen (November 2018)

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.

Experiencing the hot springs in Costa Rica (March 2019)

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 on the road
Using our phones as homeschooling tools (November 2018)

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.

Itching to take your homeschooling lessons on the road? Use my ebook, Hey Kids, Let’s Go Travel! as a resource for tools, advice, and action steps for planning your trip.

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4 Responses

  1. Hello Astrid –

    I just discovered your story by chance, and absolutely love what you are doing! It brings up fond memories of a journey I took with my four homeschooled kids in 2003-04, 13 fabulous months on the road. I imagine you hear from lots of people, so maybe none of this is of interest to you, but I thought I’d share a little of what followed for us. We crossed paths with very, very few people doing what we set out to do when we were on the road. Instead, I heard lots of negativity and fear about what it might mean for the kids’ futures.

    One thing that was very different is that we went just pre-cell phone time, and internet wasn’t as widely available, so we mostly just “unschooled” our way without a set itinerary. Like you, we definitely visited all the museums and of course the zoos (and playgrounds) along the way, and many, many national parks. Do you know about Servas, the international peace organization? Between WWOOFing and Servas, we were hosted a full third of our time on the road which was a great way to get a break and also to share local people’s real lives and experiences instead of just being tourists all the time.

    I do have to warn you: you may find that you reap what you sow! Teach your kids that the world is a warm, welcoming, wonderful place and they may end up going very far away from home. All four of my kids skipped through schooling after our year on the road (yes, travel absolutely is the BEST education!!) and then went on to take gap years as teenagers in far-flung places with the one-year Rotary International Youth Exchange program. One went to Turkey, one to Brazil, one to India, and my youngest son went to Thailand (he is now living in Ukraine working with the Peace Corps). They came back from the trip able to function well in Spanish and are now also fluent in the language of their exchange host families. They have all graduated from college, and my oldest has just completed her PhD – she has officially spent as much time in university as she would have been in school if she’d been in k-12 so we joke that she made up for that missed time!

    I was confident that travel would be invaluable to them later in life, but the amazing thing for me is that they all were able to articulate even before we finished our journey that what we had experienced together was extraordinary, life-changing, and a tremendous gift to them. It was really something to see them reading National Geographic for many years after we returned and recalling seeing many of those places up close and in person – and it was awesome to see how much they retained through their first-hand experiences with the world. We had a much shorter trip than you have planned (I envy you there!); we spent 4 months in Australia, 3 months in NZ, and 5 months in Chile, Argentina, Bolivia and Peru. Asa turned 8 in Perth, Zevi had his 11th birthday at Isla del Sol, Annette celebrated becoming an official teenager in Buenos Aires, and Clara turned 15 on the headwaters of the Amazon.

    Go for it!! Be well, enjoy every moment – even the hard ones! – and know what you are giving your kids is the gift of a lifetime. I look forward to following your journey…

    1. Miriam, thank you for your words! I hope our journey is as rich and memorable as yours sounded like.

      1. Astrid, there is no way your journey won’t be even more memorable since it is filling a longer period of your kids’ childhoods! Another thing that makes your trip invaluable is the way you are sharing what you are doing to inspire and give practical insights to other families, encouraging more people to take the plunge. It’s the best way to be raising kids who will naturally become true world citizens and earth stewards. Thank you for that!

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