What to do with the kid’s education when you set off for full-time travel is a matter of great consideration. I think of worldschooling as one of the big hurdles to climb along with finances, relationships and medical issues.
The decision to homeschool is a big one no matter where you are doing it. What program will you use? Does your school district mandate a certain curriculum? Will you join with other homeschoolers to do groups or classes together? What about going to a school part time for extras?
I had always been fascinated with homeschool. I think it can be a wonderful experience when treated correctly. I also know it can be detrimental when not taken seriously.
When we decided to full-time travel, this was my biggest hurdle. Because of our online business, the financial piece was already answered. That didn’t mean it wasn’t scary, it was! But we already knew what we would do for that part of the equation.
If you talk to many travel families, you’ll find homeschool is a pain. I think the idea of worldschooling in general is awesome, albeit a ton of work, but it’s a bit different on the road.
After some requests form followers on our IG stories, I wanted to give an update on our homeschooling or worldschooling at this point. If you haven’t already, see my other post about worldschooling here.
First, I’ll Start Off by Saying We Are All a Bit Burnt Out
We are burnt out in many areas of our life and that includes homeschool/ worldschooling. The kids are always resistant to school (probably less so than going to a brick and mortar school for many hours a day) since they only want to play. I wouldn’t say they are more resistant than they used to be. In fact, it’s probably gotten a little easier to get them to do school.
There is still always a battle to do school, however, and when you are the teacher and the parent you have two battles to fight. You have to be encouraging yet strict. You have to be patient and also move them along. You also have to be mom, who is cleaning, doing the laundry, making the meals, taking care of toddlers, paying with younger kids and trying to get your own chores done while trying to teach. It’s a handful!
We’ve had many days of tears and frustration over school. Usually from one child (who rotates around based on their emotional status at the time). I also, as mom, have had a few breakdowns myself! I’ll hit a wall and just not be able to go any further. After lots of tears and TLC, I usually come back after a few hours.
Our rule is you don’t get to go explore if you totally bail out of your worldschooling. So guess what? We’ve left kids at home! They are old enough to stay alone for a few hours and we take the littles for a bit of an exploring break. Or I will take kids out that are done while Chris stays with anyone who need to finish.
Some families I talk to don’t want to fight over it and I get it. I’ve let up a lot from where I used to be in my expectations and hopes. They really ARE learning a ton from world experiences. Whether this translates to a college admission letter, however, is starting to wear on me.
What Are the Challenges of Worldschool/ Homeschooling While Traveling?
No classroom. The lack of a “classroom” or dedicated area to homeschool in can be tough. We’ve done school on trains, planes and almost everywhere in between. My kids have two main parts: their book work (math skills, handwriting, spelling and journals) and their computer work (online programs that require decent internet). Having both gives some flexibility in that we can keep it simple with one or the other when waiting at an airport for example.
The downsides to always being on the go include always trying to keep track of all these items for the kids, having to connect to new wifi and bad wifi in many different places constantly, a lack of stability overall and a challenge of what to do with the little kids. Honestly, toddlers have to take a backseat during homeschool time, which means they are either playing with toys or on a tablet or some other kind of “babysitter”.
Lack of resources. Many homeschoolings can benefit from community or local schools. I know parents that enroll their homeschoolers for art or PE or music at the school. This would be awesome! You gain socialization and extra learning you don’t have to lead. We definitely lack on the socialization piece with worldschooling. We’ve been in foreign speaking countries for over a year, so even a park playtime isn’t going to bring a lot of socialization.
How I also miss a printer 🙂 . I actually looked at taking a portable travel printer, but it didn’t make the list and I agree after many months it would be unwise. Homeschooling without a printer is difficult, but not impossible. There are just time I would love to print off a worksheet or coloring page.
The deeper challenges. Specific to our full-time travel life, one of the bigger challenges is underestimating how much work it is for us parents to plan travel.. It’s intense! This is where we are most burnt out and where we have slacked the most. We aren’t booking flights in advance much anymore. We aren’t doing research on a location until we are sometimes half-way through our stay.
We are also pursuing many other fun projects, like this blog and videos. Overall, we are just burning out. This, of course, spills over into homeschool. We don’t have as much patience as we want to at times. We don’t have the creative energy to get excited about the subjects. I imagine this happens to teachers also, but it’s hard and makes us sad overall. Thankfully, we can do lots of tour with the kids, which is a wonderful lessons from a trained teacher!
Materials. If you’re not in an English speaking country, which we rarely are, getting materials usually requires a visitor to bring it to us. Thankfully, we have visitors fairly often, but they are usually bringing along an extra piece of luggage with them.
Adult chores. Another big challenge, travel or not, is finding time to get your own “adult” stuff done. We still want to work out, take showers, eat, shop, do chores, etc. and all of these have to be done while we also homeschool. This says nothing to trying to spend time together as a couple or problem solve on our own matters of business or personal matter. I’d be so sad to send my kids off to school, but it would relieve a lot of pressure and guilt while I do my regular job of keeping a house going!
How Are the Kids Progressing?
As I said in my last post on this, worldschooling feels a lot like breastfeeding to me in many ways. It can be, at its best, the highest quality of learning, but measuring progress is nearly impossible day by day. Progress can only be seen over time. It comes in random moments.
Suddenly it will it hit me how well Grant is now reading and how he couldn’t quite read when we left. Or I’ll catch Harrison recognizing letters as we drive. I barely do anything at all for Harrison as he is still early preschool, but we were able to use a program out of Utah, Waterford Upstart, that did wonders for Lincoln. Lucy will come to show me how she can multiply or divide fractions and I’ll be so proud. We will ask Lincoln to try to read some of our scriptures and all be shocked as he cruises through it.
Lucy has basically taken over her own homeschool and is motivated to now excel on her own. What a blessing that is! She is starting to think of college and beyond and wants to be all caught up when or if we finally head back to a traditional school.
I have yet to “officially” test the kids. One of my friends told me of a program to do so, but, honestly, I’m too nervous. Is that bad? We work really hard at homeschool (in fact, we do more than any other travel family i’ve met so far in the way of traditional homeschooling), so I shouldn’t be worried. I still am. Phew. I’ll work up my courage soon!
The kids are pretty much on par with their grade level programs or ahead. Grant started out a semester behind on math due to the program being new at his school. We are still about that much behind, so we’ve just kept it at part with traditional progress. Lincoln is ahead by a grade level on math and Lucy is right on track.
What’s In Our Future
For many reasons, we are probably going to settle into a traditional school this coming fall. Where the school will be is still in the works, but will likely be international. We plan to use a public school. I’d love for the kids to learn a foreign language and this is best done by living in a new place.
The older kids really could use the socialization piece as well for their overall growth. Having a lot of siblings is one thing, but they need to start to learn how to deal with those outside our family. While I dread it, dealing with cliques, bullies, new friends and more is important to development.
For these reasons and more, we plan to do at least one year of traditional school in one place. I know we will continue to travel extensively, so I hope to find somewhere that will be a bit flexible with us on attendance.
Will I Ever Homeschool Again?
As for homeschooling in the future, I absolutely would! It has its challenges, but the freedom it offers is intoxicating. I also love learning alongside my kids, One of our current programs and my personal favorite, ReadLive, teaches us a new cool thing everyday. We’e learned about glaciers, molasses floods, foods and more while learning to read. I get excited to hear what they are reading about and learn with them.
Museums are a big part of our worldschooling life and we all love them. It’s so much more fun to take my kids to museums around the world and learn with them there. We also do tons of tours in which we learn first-hand. History has come to life for us all around the world. Just today we learned for several hours about glaciers in New Zealand from two different tour guides. The day before we watched documentaries on Edmund Hillary, the first man to summit Everest. I absolutely LOVE doing these things with my kids.
What Would I Do Differently?
Use a program. While I would dread the commitment to an accredited, online program, I probably will use one if we ever homeschool again. I am constantly stressing about if we are doing enough and would personally benefit from more structure. When we set out, I thought we would homeschool less, to be honest! It takes us more time than we expected (4-7 hours per day), so we have enough time to dedicate to a structured program.
I also am dreading not having records to present to a school and fear the kids may be held back. Frankly, with a language barrier, they may be held back anyway. I’m trying to trust in the feelings I have from God to lead me on this and not get mired in fear and anxiety.
I would love more transparency on where they stand from a traditional level. Useless or not, test scores can be comforting in seeing progress!
Longer breaks. I also would give us longer breaks. The longest breaks we have every taken are 2 weeks for this last Christmas. I start to panic a little when we don’t do school even though I love the freedom as much as the kids. I should be able to take off a month so that we all can really recharge, but my fear gets in the way. The kids also function better overall with a little work. Just like adults, they have a hard time appreciating the benefits of our lifestyle without some work to balance it out. Finding the middle ground is tricky.
Be present. I’m always spreading myself too thin, no matter what the circumstance. I want to accomplish about 150% more each day than is even reasonable. I’m so lucky to have a spouse who supports me in all my goals. However, I always need to find better balance. This is true for worldschooling as well. It goes best when I’m sitting and teaching without any other agendas. I don’t do this enough. I’m often trying to do something else, like pack luggage, book travel, get through emails, etc. while homeschooling. I can be much better about being present during homeschool.
Are you worldschooling? Have you every wanted to? What resonates with you about my situation? I’d love to know!