Roadschooling: Education while traveling – An introduction in Homeschooling, Worldschooling, and Unschooling

For a digital nomad family, a form of roadschooling (or schooling on the road) is inevitable. The transition to roadschooling might have some hurdles. But don’t despair, lots of families preceded you and they are doing fine.

If you don’t have any homeschooling experience, you might found it daunting to start. You are probably wondering where and how to start in the first place. I’m with you there! Our kids are very young, but I already started reading about educating while traveling just to be prepared. During my research, I found lots of useful articles and websites that I love to share with you!

Different schooling types

There is no such thing as THE method for roadschooling. All traveling families take a different perspective on their education, and you should find a way of schooling that suits you and your family best. To give you an idea of the possibilities; there are school options along a spectrum: on the one end you have ‘traditional’ teaching taken to the home situation and on the other end you find what’s also called ‘unschooling’.

First, let’s cover these different types of schooling. After that, you can start thinking about what type fits with your perspective of education (more about this in Homeschooling Philosophy).

Traditional homeschooling

With traditional homeschooling, you keep the school system of regular classes but transition this into your home/RV/AirBnB/etc. (wherever that is). You follow a curriculum and a year plan, and you probably have teachers back home who support you and your family with schoolwork. Like Cassandra Vore (see also the paragraph about Unschooling) mentions: ‘if you have no objection to the current educational system, just go with [traditional] homeschooling’.

Choosing a curriculum for homeschooling

You can find lots of information about (traditional) homeschooling on homeschool.com. If it’s all new to you, start with their ‘Getting started’ section. You will notice that they don’t have any particular information about families being on the road. Their perspective is families who live in a brick and mortar home, but still, the website offers a great deal of valuable info, especially if you (partly) want to use a curriculum.

Homeschool.com also provides:

  • Helpful links to (free) online learning games.
  • An extensive list of resource guides. For example, if you want to know more about how to teach your young kids to read, go to their reading guides. You will find links to several providers of learning material. Take a look and see how you feel about the different offers.
  • Lots of information about online courses.

When you decide to homeschool, you need to select school curricula. It is also possible to select several and do bits and pieces of them just as you please. Homeschool.com calls this an eclectic approach to homeschooling.

Registered homeschooler approval

In some states and countries, you need to get the approval of your curriculum if you’re registered there. It means you have to submit a curriculum every year. At the end of the year, you’re obliged to make a report about the educational progress of your kids, complete with work samples. If you are a registered homeschooler, please check carefully what your obligations are.

Need some help with setting up a plan? Emily from The Vetetoe Family gives a 5 step method to making your homeschool plan.

Costs of homeschooling

As Homeschool.com describes: ‘Generally, you can assume that homeschooling costs more than a public school education and less than a private school’. Your cost depends on your choice to buy complete boxed curriculum or if you use more public resources like libraries, museums and free resources on the internet.

Second-hand material

To lower your cost, you can buy books second-hand. I found these online, but there are much more:

Non-English native language

The most homeschooling curriculum is in English. If you want to teach your kids (also) in another language, you should explore the possibilities of that language. For example, we are Dutch, so we plan to use some resources in Dutch. Although there are fewer options available, there are some ways to give lessons in Dutch (e.g. through the so-called Wereldschool). We plan to combine this with English curriculum from a certain age. If the kids are interested in learning other languages, of course, we will include these as well.

Worldschooling

I don’t know for sure if roadschooling and worldschooling are two different things, but after reading tons of articles and blogs about these topics, I get the idea it is used interchangeable. Just to have something clear: I will use the term ‘roadschooling’ when I talk about schooling on the road in general (which entails all sorts of schooling like homeschooling, worldschooling, and unschooling).

What is worldschooling?

Alyson – mother of two kids who travel the world since 2013 – writes on her blog World Travel Family: ‘[our worldschooling] education has absolutely zero involvement with school’. She emphasizes that worldschooling is a whole life commitment, and not something you do on the side when going on a holiday. All the learning happens outside in the world, the whole year long. Taking your kids on a trip is not enough to worldschool. Alyson gives the following definition of worldschooling: ‘To me, worldschooling is home education of any sort ( i.e.,. no school at all) with a good measure of travel and active learning through travel thrown in. The partners in the process, the educational facilitator ( parent) and the student have to seek out the learning in the location; it is by no means a passive absorption process.’ She adds: ‘I want them to learn at source when they are ready or interested’. For this, you don’t necessarily need to travel, but ‘it would be a very limited form of worldschooling not to see the world’.

Lucy, a mom of two kids traveling the world with her family, asks herself what kind of person does this worldschooling thing? In a blog post on Parent.co, she answers: ‘This is a generation of parents who see the whole world as our home. We are open minded, trusting, we believe that we have something to learn from ancient traditions, different cultures.’ She adds that using a child’s interests is an incredible way to plan a trip. ‘Children are naturally curious, and as long as they feel safe and supported, can use every circumstance to learn.’ She concludes her story by stating that worldschooling is the new homeschooling.

Jen from Our Family Travel Adventures mentions on her blog a definition of worldschooling formulated by other worldschooling moms: ‘Essentially worldschooling uses traveling as a platform for education and favors the idea that mental knowledge is just one aspect of learning. Development of personal and global awareness, practicing mindfulness, patience, communication skills and language immersion are valuable qualities often overlooked in traditional models. One family calls it, “Homeschooling on a global field trip”. Families who identify with being “worldschoolers” employ different learning styles. Some are unschoolers, some are traditional homeschoolers, some enroll their children in schools in foreign countries and others go to correspondence schools. There is no one right way to worldschool and as worldschoolers, we embrace our differences.’ It is a quite lengthy definition, but I think it covers it all!

Worldschooling in practice

To give you an idea of how a typical day of worldschooling looks like, Alyson says: ‘It involves visiting temples, museums, markets, hotels, railway stations and playgrounds. It involves me, the facilitator, doing research and having knowledge and ideas to share with the kids. I won’t have every answer, no, nor would the average teacher, but we always have Google.’

Steve and Renee (the co-founders of Hubud in Ubud, Bali) worldschool their two sons while traveling the world. In an article on Momentum, they tell about their worldschooling experience: ‘[we] create a curriculum that’s based on projects and places. In every place, we used the medium that teachers throughout time have used faithfully: we told stories.’ In the meantime, they also pull off reading, writing, and arithmetic, with plenty of time left over for the boys’ interests, like coding, drawing, cooking, sightseeing or whatever else the day brings us. They select their next destination based on their boy’s interest. For example: ‘When they were obsessed with Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, we traveled to Greece. When they wanted to learn how America got so powerful, we traveled to DC and learned about American history.’

Jen and Rich from Our Family Travel Adventures wrote a blog post about their favorite online resources for worldschooling. Examples are:

Their list is a great way to get an idea of how easy it is to learn online nowadays. We are so lucky to live in such a digital world!

Unschooling

To be honest, when I first heard the word ‘unschooling’, I was a bit skeptical. I pictured wild families, living in the bush bush with all messy hear. Of course, after reading some more, I altered my opinion. Although, the messy hear sticks 😉

Explaining what unschooling is rather difficult, but I came across a very interesting NomadTogether podcast about this topic. NomadTogether has a very popular podcast for traveling families. One of their episodes is about radical unschooling (or unschooling which is found radical by many people). Becky Kortman interviews Cassandra Vore about unschooling and she has some interesting insights about this topic in which she has lots of experience. I will give you a summary of the interview.

NomadTogether interview with unschooling mom Cassandra Vore

What is unschooling to you, compared to homeschooling, road schooling, world schooling? Everybody has their own definition about world schooling, road schooling, and unschooling. This is OK. You have to find a way of schooling that fits you and your kids. You have to believe in your education ideas and don’t struggle with things where you don’t believe in.

Unschooling is about life learning. Lots of people think you just let your kids run wild. That’s not true. There is a curriculum, but it’s not top down, it has to be originated from the learner (in this case the kids).

How do kids read and write? Lots of unschoolers don’t think in terms of subjects. When a kid wants to learn something, they will learn it. By then they have already seen it beside you. They see you read and write, so when they are interested in these subjects, they will pick it up very quickly. It’s the same for math: when they are interested in, say, for example, setting up your own business. They will learn math along the way when dealing with money.

How to deal with the pressure and anxiety? When the kids feel anxiety, they will come up and initiate learning that particular thing. When kids feel they can’t do something that other kids can do, they feel pressure to learn it as well. But only when they are ready.

Kids have very different learning styles and levels of motivation. This can be frustrating. There are kids that ask constantly for learning moments and instructions. Other kids don’t. You have to trust that the latter will come around eventually and find something they are interested in. F

How about screen time and getting them energized to go outside? You can talk to your kids about screen time. Ask why your kids want to keep playing games. Talk about it, to get their perspective. As a parent, try to be open to new developments. Even though it didn’t exist when we were young, it isn’t necessarily bad. Suggest a screen free period and evaluate how they experience this. Some kids will acknowledge that less (or no) screen is better. Some won’t, however. It is important that kids realize things for themselves.

How to keep motivated? Don’t you ever want to skip a learning moment? After a while, you get immersed in learning moments. That’s why it will never bore you or your family. When you listen carefully to your kids and jump right in when they take the initiative to learn something. Their excitement will give you energy.

What if you don’t know the answer? You don’t have to know the answer and you don’t have to answer all the questions. When you don’t know the answer, just say so and suggest to look it up (together). You will notice that at times they don’t want to investigate it. It was just curiosity and not a thirst for knowledge. If the subject interests them enough, they will bring it up again.

It’s sometimes frustrated that your kids are not interested in a subject where you are interested in. Don’t let it get to you. Just look into it for yourself.

Where is the fine line between doing something for yourself and do something for your kids? You are 24/7 available for your kids. It is something you need to learn. It’s different for everybody, but if you are honest with yourself, you probably know when your kids are ok without you for a while. They don’t need you 24/7.

It’s a life learning process and if you really believe in learning your whole life, being an adult is awesome. We learn kids that growing up sucks because you get lots of responsibilities and all the fun ends. So it’s not so strange that kids don’t want to grow up. But if you view your life as one complete learning experience, where you get to do all great stuff throughout your life, being an adult is awesome.

What’s the difference between homeschooling and unschooling? Ask yourself why you don’t want to put your children in school? Is it because you want your kids to be home with you, and not because you think there is something wrong with the educational system, then homeschooling (or schooling from home) is great. Just go for it! If you don’t believe that the current school system is the best way to learn, and you don’t believe it is the best way to copy it to your home situation, then unschooling is an alternative. Think about your perspective on learning.

Where do you get advice and support about unschooling? There is lots of information online. You can read websites and articles whenever you have questions. And there are lots of unschooling communities online where you can get support and advice. For example:

Is it possible to get kids out of a regular school and start unschooling? Yes, but it is daunting. You will find yourself in a period of deschooling, where you and your kids need to adjust to the idea of unschooling. There is a lot of fear and insecurity at this stage. For example, when in a traditional school you probably grant your kids one hour of tv time per day. Now when unschooling they can do whatever they want and they will probably be watching tv constantly for a period of time. You kids will want to see how far they can go and this is a very insecure and frustrated period for parents. But just remember about your idea of unschooling. Learn to trust them. Both parent and child need to get on an even ground and see where they will be heading after that.

How to start roadschooling once you’ve left?

There is no step by step guide on how to start roadschooling. And as you will notice, all traveling families approach their roadschooling journey differently. Now that you know the basics about homeschooling, worldschooling, and unschooling, you can, however, start with thinking about your roadschooling philosophy. In this chapter, I will give some examples of roadschooling (curriculums) and tell you more about de-schooling, the role of parents, and how you can know for sure your kids will be doing OK when being roadschooled.

Roadschooling Philosophy

The 101 on roadschooling from Wand’rly is by far the most extensive introduction to roadschooling I’ve encountered. It is a great article to start your journey into education on the road. They cover all age groups from primary grades to university. Of course, they start their 101 with breaking down the traditional idea of education, with kids sitting in school all day long. But since you’re about to turn your life upside down, you probably don’t need convincing anymore. After that, they recommend you to think about what your roadschooling philosophy is.

Now you know which types of schooling are possible along a spectrum ranging from traditional homeschooling to worldschooling, and unschooling. You need to decide what fits your family best. But, also be open for changes. Most traveling families discover on the road what their educational needs are. And these needs will evolve over time as you and your family experience how life on the road truly is.

Combination of homeschooling, worldschooling and unschooling

Most traveling families implement a combination of homeschooling, worldschooling, and unschooling. For example, Alyson from World Family Travel uses their next destination for teaching geography and history (worldschooling). But they also use workbooks and online education programs for math and English (homeschooling). And when the kids show an interest in a certain topic, e.g. something that involves science or nature, they will get deeper on this subject as well (unschooling).

Alyson from World Travel Family: Roadschooling with lots of online resources

You can use a curriculum as described in the paragraph about traditional homeschooling. However, these are massive amounts of books, which is not practical when you live in an RV/boat/trailer of travel with your suitcase. I found lots of families that wrote about how they combine the different types of schooling. Their experience gives you an idea of what books and methods work best. Of course, it is all very personal, so you need to decide what fits your family best. Also, keep in mind that it’s mostly trial and error. I’ve read that lots of families started their traveling with a big stock of books, but let them go after a couple of months because they didn’t use them.

Alyson from World Travel Family gives many details about their curriculum on her blog about homeschool and travel. She advises not to stock up in your home country because you can find books and workbooks all over the world. Just buy them when you need them; you don’t have to hoar up for a year in advance. For example, they found some brilliant workbooks in Sri Lanka.

If you want to get some in advance, Alyson loves the Carol Vorderman series of workbooks for English (English Made Easy), Maths (Maths Made Easy) and Science (Science Made Easy) along with the Letts Enchanted English and Mythical Maths series and (Smelly Spelling) books.

She also uses a lot of online learning methods:

Other resources Alyson and her family use is reading Kindle books and listening to audio books.

Jeremy from Take that exit: Traditional curriculum on the road

Jeremy from Take that exit explains on is families blog that they didn’t feel comfortable with unschooling or a combination of worldschooling with unschooling. They intend to enroll their kids back into regular school eventually, so they follow a structured, predetermined curriculum. Preliminary they use BookShark, a literary-based curriculum. Though this requires 50 pounds of books (not very convenient when traveling), they are happy with the literary focus. When they finish books, they donate them to charity or other traveling families.

The BookShark method has a 36 weeks lessons plan. They do 3 hours of school every Saturday through Tuesday morning. Jeremy does all the schooling, while his wife works. On the non-schooling days, they do field trips, sightseeing, and traveling. They supplement homeschool with:

  • Lots of reading from books and an iPad app called K12 Timed Reading & Comprehension Practice
  • Outdoors activities like Junior Ranger programs, local library activities, science and history museums, and nature hikes.
  • For their toddler, they use Hooked on Phonic and sight words flashcards.
  • For handwriting, they use Handwriting without Tears Printing Power book.
  • Listening to audiobooks in the car between destinations with an Audible membership from Amazon.

Jen and Rich from Our Family Travel Adventures: Combining the best resources and experiences

Jen and Rich worldschool their 3 sons since the summer of 2013. When they started traveling, they first wanted to enroll their kids in a full-time online school. But once they were on the road, they changed their minds: ‘Our days were filled with visits to castles, historic towns, and museums. We spoke new languages and discussed science and nature. The kids seemed to be absorbing so much, so we kept pushing back starting online school.’

In practice, Jen and Rich use a combination of online resources and their travels to worldschool their kids: ‘We use websites like Khan Academy and Udemy. We take language classes in countries that we visit. We watch movies and read books about the history and cultures that we are immersing ourselves in. We visit historical sites, learn new currencies and try to immerse ourselves in local culture. Sometimes, when we are in a place for several months the boys attend the local school. We let them decide.’

De-schooling

When you and your family have just started traveling, take it slow the first weeks. The transition to being on the road full-time, living in unfamiliar places and getting into a new routine are challenging enough without worrying about roadschooling. The education of your children won’t be messed up with a few weeks without ‘traditional’ homeschooling. So just let it go. They will learn tons on the road either way!

As Steve and Renee explain: ‘It took a while to groove into a new rhythm. They had to binge on electronics and lassitude before they saw the sense in making a schedule for themselves. As parents, we had to learn how to empower, instead of dictate, that schedule and how they filled it. We had to encourage rather than contrive learning moments (the lessons stick better that way).’ This is a very difficult process, especially for you as a parent.

Role of the parents

As a parent, roadschooling is a tremendous responsibility. Alyson from World Travel Family describes it as: ‘The parents have to educate or facilitate education and totally shoulder the responsibility of their child’s education, not be part time play-educators. It’s a big responsibility that we home-educating parents take on, and we need to be 100% committed to it, it’s not something to mess about with.’

Every form of schooling, even the unschooling, involves hard work from the parent. Like Alyson says: ‘I read a lot about our destinations and about their history, culture, beliefs and traditions, and I try to take kids to places that will introduce those ideas and spark an interest.’

Maybe you think you are not fit to be a teacher. With roadschooling, you don’t have to be a teacher; you are a facilitator. Jenny was terrified of roadschooling the kids; she writes on Medium. But after six months of schooling on the road, she writes on Medium: ‘what has been such a pleasant surprise is how much fun roadschooling our kids has been, and how much they have enjoyed it.’ They use a combination of a traditional curriculum and worldschooling. In her article, she tells you everything about their focus areas and topics, and what supplies they use.

Do you have to be a sole teacher to roadschool?

As mentioned, you have to be a facilitator rather than a teacher. And you can outsource some of the learning as well. Steve and Renee state that there have been plenty of questions they couldn’t even guess the answer to. They add: ‘these are the moments when we can prove to our kids that everyone, literally everyone, is a teacher—your uncle, that tour guide, the online tutor, a neighbor, a family friend, the author of the book you’re reading, and of course, Google. What a relief it was for us to realize that we did not have to do all the teaching ourselves.’

How do you know your kids are doing OK?

It is the biggest worry of most traveling parents: what if my kids don’t learn as much as they would in school? This insecurity can be a huge stress factor. If you are in need of some reassurance, there are a few ways to get some certainty about the development of your children.

Trust your kids

As I’ve read in so many articles and blogs about traveling families, it is important to trust the curiosity of your kids. They will evolve in self-motivated learners when time is ready. If a child doesn’t show any interest in reading when it is 6 years old, it’s OK. In a traditional school environment, they learn to write at 6, but that doesn’t mean all children are ready for this. Like Cassandra states in the NomadTogether podcast: until their oldest was 9, she had absolutely no interest in reading, but when she wanted to read Harry Potter, she suddenly started reading. Without any trouble, she could read the book in no time. So have faith and trust in the natural ability and development of your kids!

For more reassurance about this, read the blog from Homeschool Group Hug. This mother has been homeschooling her sons for years. Her oldest is now 12 years old, and she describes this as an exciting process: ‘It’s been a fascinating journey and one that at times stressed me out, gave me sleepless nights and tied me in knots. So now I want to tell you that it gets better. I want to tell you to chill!’ She describes the first period as a new homeschooler as de-schooling. It is a time where you as a parent need to start to unlearn what you think education has to look like. You are not the teacher; you are a facilitator.

It might scare you when your kids are not the self-motivated learners you hope they will be. But this will change when they get older. Around 12 years they put away their computer games and become interested in history, language, mythology and other topics.

Keep records

Instead of examing your kids, you can keep track of what you learn your children. As Alyson from World Family Travel explains: ‘I think it’s important to keep records in the form of a journal, photographs, spreadsheets or work samples. You need to be able to see and show that a quality education is actually happening. Keeping records will help you reassure yourself.’

Use workbooks

Alyson writes on her blog: ‘I’m using a science workbook as a sort of checklist to see if my 10-year-old does know what he would be expected to know if he were in school in the UK. He does, he has the same knowledge base as any child leaving a UK junior school should have. These workbooks are needed reassurance for me and a sneaky way to get him writing and spelling; he enjoys science like his mom and writing not so much. He’s cool with it; we make it fun.’

Can roadschool-kids go to college/university?

Yes, absolutely. Being roadschooled (homeschooled, worldschooled or unschooled) doesn’t prevent a child from entering university. Jennifer from Wand’rly writes about her 16 yo who is pursuing her college coursework as they travel. She writes: ‘There are a wealth of resources on the internet, from fully accredited distance high school programs that a traveling child can be enrolled in, to a myriad of excellent, outside the box options for creating your course work for your child.’ Her eldest daughter is involved in so many activities; ‘she’s enrolled in university courses online, in the third level of a teen travel blogging mentorship program, mentoring other young teens, she is establishing her freelance writing career online, and has her first book in the publication process, with a contract on the table for a second book to follow. She’s going to Peru for two months this spring, by invitation, to work on producing a month-long learning experience for unschooling teens from all over the world.’

Steve and Renee get a lot of questions from people asking if they are worried about their boy’s future. Their answer: ‘We’re trying to educate them for the future. By ‘future,’ the person asking usually means exams, university, and career, and they’re sometimes surprised to learn that even the most reputable universities now offer alternative entrance tracks if you have a detailed learning portfolio. In fact, many universities prefer applicants who have authored their own learning, because they make more interested, engaged and self-directed students.’

All resources for this article lined up

I’ve put tons of links to websites, articles and blog posts in this piece about roadschooling. For your convenience, you find a list with all these links down here:

Digital nomad with kids: lots of information!

On this website, I’ve gathered lots of helpful information on how to become a digital nomad with kids. Want to know more? You can go to my ‘Start here‘ page, click on one of the related posts below or explore the categories with practical info and info about getting a digital nomad income.


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