Almost Fearless

Taking the Classroom on the Road: Day 12 of 30w30d

This post is part of 30 Ways in 30 days to Redesign Your Life and Travel the World. This series seeks to give you the practical, real world steps you need to take to get from wherever you are, to exactly where you want to be– traveling the world and living the lifestyle you want.


30 ways in 30 days, homeschooling, parenting, education, trip around the world

Is there anyway to talk about homeschooling your kids, without inadvertently dismissing teachers as insufficient?  I definitely don’t want to do that.  Let’s be clear: the teachers of the world do something very amazing and important.  They dedicate their lives to improving those of other people’s children.  This isn’t about what teachers aren’t doing, but the options when being in a classroom just isn’t an option.

The question of homeschooling often comes up around travel, because if you want to take more than 3 months off a year, you’ll have to find some way to educate your children.

The first worry parents have is about quality. It’s not fair, but a teacher has a major disadvantage.  While they teach 30 students in the classroom, at home it’s all one-on-one.  Even if you have the best teacher in the world, they just can’t compete.  These micro-classrooms automatically outpace even private education, as far as student-teacher ratio.  Who wouldn’t want that for their kid?

But are you qualified? Let’s look at a teacher’s education.  They will typically study education in college and earn a four year degree (and later get a masters, but that’s not required at first).  If you look at their required coursework, many of these classes are about child development and child psychology.  Do you need a psychology class for your own kids?  Probably not.  You don’t need them to be their parents, and you’re not trying to teach kids you don’t know, right?  Ok skip those.  Other classes are about developing curriculum.  For a school district, it’s important to have teachers who know how to write a lesson plan.  But you’re just teaching your kids, surely you can just buy those materials (schools have budgets, but on your scale it’s affordable).  So you can skip those.  You’ll have some teaching assistant time to learn how to handle a classroom– for you, doesn’t apply.  So what are we left with?  About 2 years of liberal arts classes.  In other words, the requirements of a college degree in general, not specific to the education major.

Teachers are trained to teach in classrooms.  They have the education and experience to wrangle a classroom full of young folk while simultaneously educating their little minds.  It’s a hard job and not just anyone can do it.  But you’re not trying to teach a roomful of kids.  Just yours.  Your job is about 1/30th easier than theirs.  Besides, your kids will be doing all the heavy lifting (we’ll get to that next).

But what if I don’t remember the math?  or science?  or what a gerund is?

That’s not your job.  Your job is to teach your kids how to self-teach.  When they reach the college level, they will be expected to have this skill and it’s one of the greatest gifts you can give a young person.  You’ll teach them how to find answers, either using their glossary or the index or in a dictionary or an encyclopedia or on the internet or asking questions through a website or watching educational videos.

Your time as a parent teacher will likely be spent talking through issues and making sure that you’re kids are making progress.  You might ask them questions to help them clarify their own thinking.  Or you might suggest a resource where they could look it up.  “Hey Mom, what’s a trachea?”  Your answer, “Let’s go look it up!”

Next question, will my kids fall behind?

This mostly comes down to jumping through the right hoops when you return home.  It won’t be about how much your kids have learned (they’ll have cut out all the distractions, have a supportive environment and one-on-one support– why would they learn less?)  However, you’ll want to make sure that you’re covering your bases if you plan to return back to school after the trip.  I was homeschooled for my ninth grade year, and when I returned I was able to receive credit for all of my coursework (including gym class, which I used my time riding horses to count as credit).  I went on to take honors and advanced placement classes through the rest of high school and it was a non-issue when applying to college (I was accepted to my preferred and back-up colleges).  Some states have testing requirements, or specific course work, so be sure to research that before you leave.

If you’re planning on traveling longer than a year, you might feel comfortable with teaching your kids at first, but a little worried about high school.

I suspect this fear is from the idea that you’re child will be relying on your to explain materials– how will they take a Spanish class, if I don’t speak Spanish?  The good news is that there are resources online that can connect your child with native speakers and the kind of video and audio resources needed to learn those tougher subjects.

What about the “social” issue?

Long term relationships are important and constantly traveling will mean that you’ll have to spend more time and effort to keep in contact with folks back home.  It’s certainly possible to arrange your travels so you find your way back to the same place every year or make it a point to spend summers with family (or some variation).  As far as being isolated while on the road, this doesn’t seem to be a problem.    You’ll be learning how to make friends quickly, just as they will.  After a while, it won’t seem strange to strike up a conversation with a stranger and your kids will adapt too.

Ultimately, should you travel with your kids and homeschool them?

I think it’s a very important decision that you should make as a family.  I would never presume to give a pat answer for everyone.  But to me, there are several benefits that might make it a smart choice for you:

1.  An opportunity for your child to pursue subjects they are interested in more depth. In a traditional school, it’s not possible to create a custom curriculum for every student.  Would it be better?  Yes.  An engaged, interested student will learn so much more than one that’s bored.  For instance, you can purchase a well-rounded base curriculum, but then allot more time for their favorite subjects– like reading science fiction books (and writing reports about them) or categorizing the bugs they see on your travels or learning more about each city you visit.

2. A chance for your kids to be around adults and children of different ages. Some people argue that the age-level grouping of children slows their development.  It’s necessary in schools because they are forced to become more efficient and to streamline education.  But kids learn from the people they’re around.  At home, exposure to to older kids or adults is a positive message in expectations.  Their world-view isn’t limited to their current age level.

3.  Character!  Confidence!  Courage! The only way to gain these positive traits is to have the opportunity to test yourself.  Buying something with foreign money.  Making friends with people who don’t speak your language.  Being stumped on a academic problem, but with hard work, figuring it out for yourself.  Being afraid of a new food, but trying it anyways (oh, and it’s pretty good).  Everyday is an object lesson.

4.  Time to think. In this over-scheduled world, kids don’t have time anymore to just absorb the world.  This constant stimuli bounces them from one activity to the next, but they don’t have time to reflect.  I’d argue that these little one-day adults need to start practicing thinking for themselves and figuring out how they feel about the world, well before they actually reach adulthood.

Parents who are considering homeschooling have a lot going for them.  Even if you feel the school system would do a better job, your kid’s teacher is out numbered 30-1.  The materials available to parents are as good or better than you’d find in the school system (especially with budget cuts and outdated textbooks).  You’re able to provide your kids with a state of the art learning experience: a laptop, access to audio/video materials, world class online resources and the time and flexibility to learn how to use these materials independently (something you’d never see in a public school).  Also, it’s more accepted than ever as people are dropping out of public education— not because of religious reasons or because they’re “crunchy” but because they feel they it’s possible to get a better education inside of the home.

So if you want to travel, take the family.

Coming soon… part II:  Where are all these wonderful resources?

But first, homeschooling parents, I need your help.  I need as many variations on “what works” for your family (and the links to those resources) so we can provide a well-rounded resource list.  I’ve been homeschooled, but don’t have kids yet, so I need your help!  Shoot me an email or leave a comment (I will be sure to credit your links).

Pic: Jakesmome

Christine Gilbert

I’ve been dragging my husband around the world since 2008 always with the promise that, “Yes, Drew there will definitely be hammocks there.”



  • I use a cyber charter school at the present time to homeschool my 3 children…I know this is available in PA, AZ, FL as well as Ohio free provided by the state
    There is also an online international virtual academy as well for K-12 (for a fee) one can google this

    Our cyber charter school provides teaching via the internet, Lincoln Learning or Calvert studies which are completely independent using textbooks and other materials

    I met someone who homeschools using the Horizon text book system…..She loves it and suggests visiting a homeschool show in your area. there is one available in every state…..I looked through the Horizon system and was quite impressed.

    While children are in the classroom my children attend dance lessons, martial arts, trips to NYC museums, art galleries, Broadway plays, hikes as well as any other desires they want to explore….they are free and independent learners….they are explorers…

    They socialize with other children in their neighborhood, family, people who they meet in various independent classes, parks etc……

    I find my 3 children have become closer to each other at ages 15, 11 and 5….they are independent……they are able to cook, clean and take care of each other….they have a bond…….they are looking forward to us hitting the road in a year….we will be doing either the US or nomading thru Europe….the possibilities are endless!!!!!

  • Excellent Chrstine!

    We are into our 4th year of homeschooling as we travel the world as a family and one of our primary motivations was/is to educate our child in the best possible way. Our child was 5 when we began and is now 9. We will be featured as a case study soon in Tim Ferriss’s 4 Hour Work Week because I think we have more experience on this roadschooling topic than anyone else and it’s long been a passion of mine.

    There truly is no better way to educate our future global citizens of the 21st century!

    One could do another 30 post just on homeschooling while traveling plus endless links. Perhaps I will use your series as an inspiration after my broken arm heals and I get freed from this agonizingly slow lefty peck typing!

    Homeshooling different ages will be a little different & I like how ours have expanded while getting even easier as our daughter gets older. We like homeschooling every day, all year because one can do less on a daily bases and becomes easy habit.

    Here is a link to a discussion on bootsnall where i left lots of links:

    Books are KEY to roadschool & can be geared to the travel. Here is a list of books related to travel that i started to gather at the beginning og our trip but need to update:

    There are a ton more, but my injured arm is hurting & its time 4 bed here. I hope that helps. Also check out our soultravelers3 youtube vids as I have many about different aspects of roadschooling from our piano teacher who teaches her online live via skype webcam from another continent to her reading from her book from her school in Spain ( where she deeply immerses in her 2nd language) to swimming with dolphins in portugal or doing a violin concert for 60 Berber kids in the Sahara etc.

    So much to say on this topic, not enough time.

    Our basics for on the road homeschool is Singapore Math (our 8 yo is doing 6/7th grade math), books geared to the travel like historical fiction, Core Knowlege series ( our 8yo is doing 5th grade), Brain pop, Educational CD’s like Zoombini’s, Mathra, Zoo Tycoon,Storybook Weaver plus journal-ing every day, book reports, violin & piano practice, story of the world at bedtime…plus legos & snap circuit!

    Sounds like a lot, but most of this is considered fun play, self directed & takes very little formal school time!

  • wonderful list, and ideas.

    unschooling is what we do – sometimes we call it worldschooling (eli gerzon coined the term, for using the world as your path to learning) – he’s got a website about it.

    maya frost also has a fantastic book about these exact things, called the new global student. it is incredibly inspiring – we interviewed her about it, here

    i think that teaching kids about the world is SO MUCH more important than sitting in a classroom, working on homework sheets. they can learn to count in a market, read train signs, all the while learning to be intercultural beings that can interact well with anyone. socialization? these traveling kids have it in spades.

    fun article! thanks!
    .-= jessiev´s last blog ..J.A. Mestenhauser Lecture Series on Internationalizing Higher Education =-.

  • Jessie–

    Oh man, I should have interviewed you for the follow up on this post. I knew I was leaving someone out. Thank you so much for sharing your links! Good stuff. 🙂

  • Hi – what a treat to discover your site. I’m a mom of two, ages 11 and 8, and we’re a quarter of the way through a year-long RTW journey. A few more considerations to add to this thread, and options: We’re doing a hybrid of sorts between traditional and true homeschooling as we travel, since we have independent study contracts with the kids’ school.
    My 11-y.-o. daughter describes it well in her own blog, (and BTW having your child produce a travel blog is a great “roadschooling” tool for learning!).
    Our homeschooling arrangement has pros and cons (read my post about it at; some advantages: kids have a 6th and 3rd grade curriculum to follow and a relationship with teachers and their peers back home, which should ease the transition when they return to regular school next year. Main disadvantage: getting assignments and feeling compelled to “keep up” with what their peers are doing in the classroom can limit our flexibility and creativity to learn less from school and more from the world around us (though we try not to let it limit us in this way; who wants to travel halfway around the world to sit inside and do homework assignments from back home?). Bottom line, it’s a balancing act, but this is one option your readers may not have considered.
    Another point to make: consider the kids’ ages/stages. This sound obvious but really it makes a difference what grade(s) you decide to “roadschool” during, if/when you travel for a year or more and then want your kids to return to regular school. We decided this was the ideal year for our family to do it mainly b/c 6th grade (our daughter’s) seemed the ideal year — she is old enough to really benefit from it, and she is missing the drama of transitioning to middle school. But we didn’t want her to skip the academic prep of 7th and 8th. Meanwhile, her little brother is in 3rd grade — old enough to remember the trip and do homeschooling as we go. I personally wouldn’t want to do this trip if my kids were much younger (6 or under) or much older (high school).
    Hope this helps!
    .-= Sarah Lavender Smith´s last blog ..Branching Out on Lago Nahuel Huapi =-.

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