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Worldschooling: Homeschooling As We Travel

Reading Time: 12 minutes

Last Updated on January 24, 2022 by Leslie Stroud

Have you heard of the term worldschooling?  It was a new term for me when I first began research for our full-time travels. 

No matter how amazing full-time travel sounded, I often asked myself “What in the world will I do for school?!  What is worldschooling?

Figuring out school was perhaps the BIGGEST roadblock for me when thinking of leaving for our travels.  We already had the financial piece worked out, which you can read about here. We knew we were ready to take the leap, but this hurdle gave us pause.  

Never in my life did I think I would be a homeschool mom.  I have always admired those who chose it and I respect so many who embrace it, but honestly, it seems like way too much work for not enough payback. It’s seemed so much easier to send the kids off to school.

I grew up in the public school system and I am really happy with the way my life has turned out!  I was an honor student and graduated high school with a 4.0 and nearly a year of college credits from my AP classes.  I had a great pick of colleges to choose from and nearly went to medical school (perhaps one more semester before meeting Chris and I would have taken the plunge!  God has perfect timing though.)

I’ve never been dissatisfied with public school and we sort of fell into charter schools, which I loved! 

So when we were suddenly facing the realities of selling all of our belongings and leaving for an undetermined amount of time to travel the world, I was clueless about school.

I began my research by crowdsourcing friends I knew who home-schooled, or had homeschooled in the past.  What I found was somewhat surprising to me at first: home-school is incredibly personal.  What works for one family will not work for all.
Since we left for our travels from Utah and they do not regulate homeschooling in any way, it is customizable to be whatever you make it. Each state and country have very different requirements when it comes to homeschooling.  I even found out homeschooling is illegal in some countries, which  I can somewhat understand. It’s important to do your own research before diving in, as requirements will differ from place to place.

I actually dated a guy in college (before Chris) who was homeschooled.  What this meant for him was a complete lack of any education.  When we met, he was trying to hack his way through college and was having a hard time of it.  I remember trying to teach him the basic structure of an essay and realizing the huge gap in our backgrounds.  There were so many aspects of my education that I had taken for granted without realizing it.

Thankfully this relationship dissolved, although we were engaged. In our Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints culture, being engaged is a bit more fluid and it isn’t totally uncommon to be engaged more than once.  In fact, when I first met Chris, he had just broken off an engagement as well.

Having seen first hand the potential dark underbelly of homeschool and effects it had this young adult man, I was reluctant and not very warm to the idea.

As I researched more, I did find online programs that you can do full-time.  They have many mixed reviews, but they do exist.  However, I knew I did not want to go travel the world, just to be stuck at a computer for hours every day.  If I were homeschooling in one place, I would definitely lean towards this option.

What was important to me as a new homeschool mom?  How much did I want to homeschool?

The first website I found that defined “worldschooling” was this one. While I totally love and agree with so much of the concept, I wanted more structure in my life. I’m not quite as free-spirited as this, and feel more comfortable with some regulation (of my own making).

After some thought, prayers, and discussion, the solution that me and my family ultimately came to was to do three school days a week, year-round. This would offer both structure and flexibility for our unique lifestyle. I knew the most important subjects to me were math, reading and writing.

Our rough yearly schedule:

  • Tuesdays, Wednesday and Fridays we homeschool from about 9 am – 1 pm (sometimes until 3 pm if they are working extra slow or I find it necessary). We picked these days because they correspond with the days Chris worked at night and slept into the afternoon.
  • Breaks. While we did choose to homeschool year-round, we took some “regular breaks” such as Christmas break (about 1.5 weeks off) and spring break (a week off). If family came to visit us on our travels, we usually adjusted school days around this so we could be off for most of the time they visit.
  • If we found ourselves in a travel situation where we didn’t have much time, like when we visited China for only 17 days, I only do structured math and spelling. We then try to squeeze in reading and writing as we drive around.
  • Some subjects I have decided to do every day (not just our appointed 3x per week). Math lessons are now in this category (mostly because I can see we aren’t keeping up enough to finish a book in a year), spelling, and reading. For toddlers, this can be reading stories for 20 minutes.

Our typical homeschool routine:

  1. Regular chores. Making beds, getting dressed, and brushing teeth are all part of our daily routine. I’ve learned that being physically prepared and ready for school is an important step in setting the tone. It helps the kids take school more seriously than if they were wearing pajamas all day long.
  2. Daily devotional. Some scripture reading, singing and inspirational videos come next. This sometimes leads to longer conversations, which I always love and are welcomed. I love using this bluetooth speaker to play calming music during school hours.
  3. Book work. I tried not to bring books in our luggage where I could avoid it, but quickly felt my kids weren’t physically writing enough. So I added a few as we’ve gone:
    1. Handwriting Without Tears. I make my kids write 2-3 pages a day. We also just completed the “beginning cursive” workbook by the same company.
      1. Lincoln’s books
      2. Grant’s Books
      3. Lucy’s Books
    2. Spelling. Lucy and Grant use the same book and I just have one of them write on a regular piece of paper. I use the teacher’s book and the student book, which have a sheet for each day.
    3. Math facts. We use Rod and Staff math fact books. They go with other books and programs, but I like to use the quick math fact sheets and just adapt when I need to.
    4. Zearn. My older kids were learning Eureka Math when we moved. I was recommended to a great math program for Eureka Math called Zearn.com. They have online video lessons and “games” for each lesson. It’s great! They also sell workbooks that correspond with the lessons. My kids will watch the lesson, do the activities, complete a lesson sheet as they go, and then do an “exit ticket” which I usually help them with. This program is a little bit of a learning curve to get used to as the parent/teacher, but is a great program.
    5. Travel journals. We keep travel journals as a family and aim to complete one entry per week. These entries either include a postcard or drawing representing where we were at. For Lucy and Grant, I make them follow the “finger pattern” format of an intro, three supporting paragraphs and a conclusion. This gets the most whining from Grant, although it is MUCH better than when we started! For Lincoln, I clearly write an entry and leave space for him to copy what I wrote.
    6. Postcards. We try to purchase 20-30 postcards in each location (every 2-4 weeks) and send them to our community friends. Each child writes on the postcards, which is great practice in writing, and our community loves it. *If you want to join our texting community for special travel updates, postcards, etc. be sure to sign up here and text me your address*
  4. Computer Work: I found a company in Utah called Kid’s Online Academy. They basically get a school subscription to a lot of the apps and programs my kids were already using at public school each day. You can select your “tuition” hours and programs. I love it; it’s like picking classes for my kids. For Lucy, there is even a writing program that is checked by a teacher. All of the programs listed below are included, except Zearn. I wanted to stick to the same program my kids were already doing for math.
    1. Zearn. They have to do their math lesson and the workbook.
    2. Wordly Wise
    3. RAZ Kids/ Reading A-Z
    4. Writing Online
    5. Typing Lessons
    6. Happy Scientist
    7. Big Brainz (math facts)
    8. Reading Eggs (Grant and Lincoln)
    9. Math Seeds (Lincoln)You can register for the FALL semester here! Waive the student application fee with discount code SWORLD. (put this code in the comments on STEP 4 (Request Courses)
  5. Other apps we like. We use these when I need to extend learning time for someone or during downtime.
    1. Stack the States/ Stack the Countries
    2. Amazon Free Time App for TONS of books to read
    3. Dr. Seuss online books
    4. ABC Mouse for younger kids during school time
    5. Prodigy Math. This feels to the kids like a fantasy game, but has math challenges. It’s great for a needed downtime and isn’t parking them in front of a TV show.
    6. Kahn Academy. This even has some Eureka Math practice, but we usually don’t have time to get to it.
    7. YouTube! One of my favorite things is to just veer off on a subject and go watch a video on it. In a perfect world, I’m doing this before we go somewhere! For example, we watched a video on how money is made and then tried to visit the Mint in Denver! We didn’t actually make it, but the lesson was already learned.
  6. Other gear we use:
    1. Story of the World. A history lesson in 15 minutes. In the beginning of our travels, we were in the car a lot and played these stories are we drove. It was perfect!
    2. Maps. I love this little map and also this scratchable map. We carry both with us and I try to pull them out often to show the kids where we are and where we are going. (Not necessary, but just something I love.)
    3. Chromebooks. We’ve used these for years in our business and know what good workhorse computers they are. We created a gmail account for our family, which is password protected. These have been awesome for us!
    4. Headphones. A must when you are homeschooling three kids at one table.
    5. Pencils/Pens/Paper. Although we do a lot of work online, we still need these essentials, so we carry some. Getting out and re-buying these in each new place is a hassle, but you could easily do this instead of packing them! I also love these bags for organization.

The rest of my children’s education, at least for now, consists of the broad term “worldschooling.”  I firmly believe they are gaining more from our experiences traveling, that will serve them for the rest of their life, than anything they are missing in a classroom.  I even believe if that was ALL they were getting, they would still excell.  

Let’s take today for example:  I’m writing this post on my cell phone, while I sit in a car in Bangkok traffic.  The two toddlers are sleeping after a long, fabulous day of exploring. The three older kids are doing educational games on their Kindle Fires. It is not traditional, but it works for us!

We started the day at a coconut sugar plantation where we watched as the locals husk the coconuts, burn them to heat the coconut water, and make a boiling hot mixture that cools into coconut sugar.  We also saw another woman making coconut oil in a wok, shredded some coconuts ourselves, and taste tested a lot of items.  Add to this experience a cooking class, taken in Bangkok with my oldest two children two days ago. In this class we learned how to take shredded coconut and made coconut cream and milk by hand.  Woah!  Talk about a full circle, tree to plate.

After this, we visited the oldest floating market in Bangkok.  This market is super touristy now and supported mainly by tourists.  This doesn’t bother us- it’s incredible to see! We floated around as a family with our awesome guide, Kat, and saw the local women selling fruit, Pad Thai, satay, souvenirs, and coconut ice cream served in coconuts!

After, we went to the “Tree Temple”, which is a building being overtaken by sea figs.  Inside is a golden Buddha.  We purchased a worship packet with four small pieces of gold leaf, incense and a candle.  I watched my children reverently (after some scolding from me) approach this Buddha with Thai locals and add the gold leaf to the Buddha.  It is covered in coins and gold leaves and is quite stunning.  They also lit the incense and placed it into the ashes to burn.

Next: the train market.  An open-air market, literally on train tracks. The stalls have shade awnings to help with the blistering heat.  These shades have to be taken down twice a day as the train passes because it is that tight!  We explored the local fish, fruits, meats, housewares, watched the local women selling, saw live snake fish and so much more.  We had smoothies and then stood in the stall as a train passed so close, we ran our hands along the side.  

So what did my children learn from their worldschooling today?  Although it wasn’t a “school day” for us, they learned a lot nonetheless. 

  1. So much culture. We are IN the lives of so many people here. They touch, interact with, and help the kids all day long. The kids listen to the language, watch the body language, learn customs (usually by doing the wrong thing first), and understand how different people live and provide for their families.
  2. Currency conversion. Math at it’s finest! When my big kids want to buy something, I make them figure the conversion out themselves. For example, one US dollar is about 30 Baht, so we are dividing and adding by 30 all day long. Luckily for their math skills, they want to buy things all day.
  3. Social interaction. They deal with each other and strangers all day long. Often, the kids will meet other children and play with them for a few minutes. They are learning to navigate a different “playground” all the time.
  4. Respect. We watched devout worship of the golden Buddha and how much it means to those there. We learn to hold our hands together and bow. We learn to respect others, and their unique beliefs, all day long.
  5. Reading. We use kindle fires on our long drives to different destinations. I typically have them read for about 45 minutes before playing any other educational games. Score!
  6. Writing. Since we were out all day, they didn’t write today, but tomorrow they will do an entry in their journal about today. I bought postcards that they can add to their journals. They will also write on postcards to send to our community as well.

What a gorgeous school day, don’t you think?

Other things I’ve learned through homeschooling:

  1. It was difficult for the kids to ask me for help at first, especially Lucy. It was a learning curve to adjust to being mom and also being a safe teacher. Let’s be honest, homeschooling often frustrates me! I have to work extra hard to be patient and understanding with them.
  2. I love that we can move at our own pace. Each child has unique needs and we are able to customize learning specifically for them. I’ve learned Lincoln loves school! Although he is only supposed to be nearly done with Kindergarten, he is actually nearly done with first grade in some subjects. How cool! Grant required some extra time in reading, so we were patient and went as slow as he needed. He made amazing progress in our first 10 months.
  3. Kids will complain about school, no matter what. My kids have already forgotten about the long hours of public school and homework. They think they do more school now than they ever did. LOL. Poor kids! Perspective is everything.
  4. It’s a ton of work on mom (or dad’s) part and can be very frustrating at times. This job is very challenging, especially with two toddlers running around. I have to have toys for the little kids to keep me sane; I want to get out and play as much as they do. Many worldschooling families may argue that I just should leave all of the above behind and get outside instead! However, although difficult, the structure is important for us.
  5. Playing music can help. Soft music goes a long way in keeping the kids,and me, calm and focused.
  6. Toddlers can be the hardest part of homeschooling! As FT Travelers, we aren’t in a situation where we have tons of toys or a yard to go play in. The toddlers get bored a lot and cause mischief constantly! I usually try to get Harry to play with Grace for an hour or two before doing a preschool app.
  7. It’s similar to breastfeeding. You don’t always know how much they are getting out of each session. Growth can only be measured over time. Suddenly division becomes easy or they begin reading street signs without a problem. Trying to measure progress each day will make you crazy.

I hope this helps someone who is considering homeschool while traveling! Find out what works for you and make it your own.

You can read about our homeschool update at 20 months here. Initially, I did not know if we would make it more than one year, and our process evolved over time.

We considered continuing to homeschool after we settled, and into high school. The idea of not being able to travel due to being tied to a school scared us all. Although we opted to enroll in public schooling again after our move to Portugal, we are still grateful to live in a day and age where so much is online.

Ultimately, my role is to make sure my kids are happy and learning. I’m not teaching lessons each day, at least not from a teacher manual, but lessons are always being learned.

I’ll continue showing them the world and all its wonders when I can! I hope you can do the same!

XOXO,

Leslie

8 Comments

  1. Thanks for linking to our worldschooling post. Very best of luck on your journey. My kids are older teens now. One has never been to school the other went briefly before we saw how bad it was. ” Worldschooling” just kind of followed from there. It’s been an incredible success and the results are fabulous. Happy kids, well educated, curious, with a more worldly, broad education than any kid that spent their childhoods in classrooms. They’re actually doing online school now because of lockdown. We needed something to do as we can’t leave the house. Cheers!

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