By AK Turner
How to handle a child’s education while traveling is commonly cited by parents as an impediment to long-term travel. It doesn’t need to be. Don’t let education options intimidate you; if you can survive traveling with your kids, you can survive schooling them, as well. The first step is knowing what’s possible. Once you investigate, you may be surprised about how many options you have.
If you’ll be in one location for three months or more, consider enrolling your children in a local school. Research area public schools, international schools, and Montessori schools. Be wary of transferring your own apprehensions about a new school to your child. Kids are often more resilient and adventurous than we give them credit for.
Tutors are available worldwide and can be employed to keep your kids up to speed with general education topics or to give them a foundation in the native language of your host country. In addition, while parent/child teaching scenarios bring occasional roadblocks in the form of personality clashes, your children may respond well and behave better when receiving instruction from an outsider.
Unschooling is an educational method that goes against many of the customary practices associated with traditional education, like standard curricula, grading methods, and testing. Unschooling focuses instead on the child’s exploration of his or her own interests and curiosities, and is well-suited to travel.
If you already homeschool your kids, this is a no-brainer. However, if you never have, homeschooling is intimidating. The homeschooling method of education typically implies parent-led instruction, which may mirror the curricula of traditional education or originate from specific homeschooling programs. A brief online search of homeschooling will reveal an endless cache of free materials for every age and level.
If you’re open to the idea of your children learning with a greater degree of independence (and with their own laptop), you can explore free, online schools. Connections Academy and K12 are good places to start. They provide education through all levels.
The above options are not a menu from which you can pick only one. My husband and I have traveled long-term with our two daughters since they were three and five years of age. For every trip, we’ve tackled their education with a mix of schooling approaches. We’ve homeschooled our children, used online programs, materials provided by their teachers at the public school they attend when in the United States, and enrolled them in a bilingual Montessori school. A willingness to combine various methods has been the best recipe for success.
The true beauty of travel is in experiencing other cultures. Make sure this is not lost on your kids and that culture is a main component of their education. Have your child interview a local about the area. What do they love? What challenges do they face? Study the differences in flora and fauna between your host country and your home country. Learn about the origins of the flag of your host country and follow it up with an art project.
Successful traveling families understand that travel doesn’t prohibit education. Travel is education. Bring along the textbooks and worksheets if you have concerns about your child keeping up with their class at home, but recognize that the hands-on cultural experiences you’ll share with your kids are priceless.
AK Turner is the New York Times bestselling author of Vagabonding with Kids, Vagabonding with Kids: Australia, and a parenting humor series including This Little Piggy Went to the Liquor Store, Mommy Had a Little Flask, and Hair of the Corn Dog. She and her family travel four months of the year to live and work in countries around the world. Learn more at VagabondingwithKids.com.