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I’m going to share a little known fact about our family. We homeschool. And we homeschool teenagers at that. We are have done middle school and high school as homeschoolers. At times, yes, it might be a little tricky, but all in all, it’s worked out well for our family. We do get to travel more with our kids because we homeschool. In this comprehensive guide, I’ll walk you through the types of homeschooling, why you can homeschool and travel at the same time, how to not lose your sanity, what you can see, and what counts as homeschool, and various homeschool resources you can use that are travel related.
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Types of Homeschooling
Before we can talk homeschool and travel at the same time, I’m going to point out the different types of homeschooling options. If you’re new to homeschool, it may be overwhelming what to choose. I’ll cover a few short pros and cons of each as well. Note: homeschooling is an incredibly personal decision based on what’s right for your child, your family, and you as an educator or administrator. There is no one right way. But if you want to travel and homeschool, it’s important to know what you’ll need to make that happen.
Right now in 2020, virtual school is probably the most popular option amongst homeschoolers. It could be distance or virtual learning through your regular in-person school, or it could be an online learning option. For example, my kids do a little virtual school through FLVS (Florida Virtual School). You can check out Outschool, Time4Learning, or Khan Academy for alternative virtual options as well.
- You’re not doing the teaching. Curriculum and teachers are pre-determined.
- If it’s a school your child knows, the transition may be easier, with familiar faces and teachers.
- Cost: Generally free, unless you’re paying for an online option other than in person or state-run/funded virtual schooling.
- May not be as flexible. If you’re doing distance learning with your normal school, you may need to be online at a certain time every day.
- Need a good WiFi, especially if you’re traveling.
Curriculum or Unit Based Homeschool
According to Time4Learning, unit studies are time-specific overviews of a defined topic or theme that incorporate multiple subject areas. For example, want to travel to Philadelphia? You can do a unit study that includes American History, English through the study of the Declaration of Independence, math by determining the difference in years it took to get our government going, government, currency with a visit to the US Mint. The list goes on.
- Flexible. You decide what units and topics you want to study.
- Timing: You work on your schedule. Often if you’re traveling, imagine what you can learn along the way.
- Creativity: Allows for you as the parent to get creative with how your children learn.
- Focus: If you have a child that’s very interested in one topic, this is a great way to introduce other concepts that correlate.
- May take some upfront work to find topics and units to work into your theme.
- Creativity: If you don’t feel or aren’t comfortable with creativity, this may feel overwhelming.
- Cost: It may cost more to purchase a pre-made curriculum or unit study plan.
Dual Enrollment or Hybrid Enrollment
Dual enrollment is when kids in high school can dual enroll at the community level college. Hybrid allows kids who homeschool take a class or sport at the local school. My kids have done both. My son is on track to get his AA when he graduates high school, and he participates on the soccer team at the local high school. I’ve also known kids who may homeschool but take art or math at the local school. This offers the best of all worlds.
- Best of both worlds. Get in-person and at-home education.
- College credits or degrees
- Still need to follow school schedules for time off.
- May need to be in person for sports or arts activities.
Unschooling doesn’t mean you don’t school. It means that you let the child lead the way. For example, if you have a child that’s studying the bugs in the backyard, you wouldn’t pull him away to do math worksheets inside. It’s a follow the child method of finding what they’re interested in and encouraging the learning in that direction.
- Flexible. Let the kids help you plan a vacation where their interests lead them.
- Encourages a love of learning and creativity.
- May be hard for the parent who is used to adhering to guidelines. (trust me, you can still record all this as homeschooling and on transcripts)
- The cost is uncertain.
Roadschooling or Worldschooling
This is where homeschool and travel go hand in hand. Roadschooling and world schooling is homeschooling in the environment you’re in. For full-time travel families, this is similar to unit studies, where you might build a unit based around the destination. What I do love about this approach is the hands-on, first-hand knowledge you get of a culture, a time in history, a cuisine, and more. Even if you’re not a full-time traveler, you can still do road schooling or world schooling. when you do travel, look for educational opportunities that you can use as part of your homeschool education.
- Flexible and travel related.
- Take any part of the real-world experience and turn it into home education.
- The cost is uncertain if you use museum visits, living history, and supplemental materials.
- Also for full-timers, need to designate a home state to stay compliant.
All or None of the Above
The key thing about homeschooling is that you do what works best for you and your child. And, what works best for one child may not work for another. But also, don’t sweat it if you work full time and can’t be as hands-on with your homeschool kids as you’d like. Use what works for your family.
Homeschool Advice Books
Need some help and inspiration? Take a look at these books.
Why Homeschool and Travel
As we indicated in some of the styles of homeschool above, travel provides a unique educational opportunity. Even if you can’t travel full time, I would say the following reasons are why you want to homeschool and travel at the same time.
Getting out of your hometown and somewhere new exposes your entire family to an entirely different culture, even if it is in another state. While we all may live in America, each state is almost like culture and country unto its own. Travel to discover different histories, accents, language, architecture, and of course, food. Walk the Freedom Trail in Boston, discover Spanish influences in Florida, eat in a dozen different countries all in New York City.
Experiencing culture first hand is one of the most amazing educations you can hand your children.
If you’re not sure about the culture of an area, be sure to check out their Visitor’s Bureau site. It’s one of the best ways to learn what makes an area special. I also use Viator for dozens of experiences in an area. Search Viator for your city and along the top, choose Arts & Culture or Food & Drink for unique experiences. And finally, use Airbnb‘s experiences tabs to discover new things to do.
We mentioned history a bit in the culture section, by learning the history of a people. However, your kids will remember the history of a place much better when they get to experience it themselves.
History can be found anywhere too, not just the big places. Though those are great too. You can’t beat learning about the Revolutionary War in the rooms where it happened.
History is also found in places such as the Historic Hotels of America. I stayed in one hotel that spotted German U Boats off the coast of Georgia. I had never known they were that close to the US. And it’s certainly in museums and artifacts of a certain area. Each summer we return to my hometown of Muskegon and I get to learn even more about the area I grew up in by visiting their museums.
Biology, Ecology, and Science, oh my!
It is one thing to read about sediment, erosion, and the effects of weather on a landscape. It’s another entirely to see it all displayed in the Grand Canyon.
Bring your children unique places to stay such as farms and dude ranches to learn about different animals. Explore the woods in regions different from your own. Experience the change of temperature by driving north to south or vice versa.
The possibilities to incorporate homeschool and travel are endless. It truly is how look at it and what opportunities exist to talk about and educate your kids.
Yep, time management happens all over the place when you homeschool and travel. One, you can teach the kids how long it takes to get to a place based on how far away it is. Demonstrate the difference by car or plane.
However, more importantly, it may help your homeschooler manage their time when there is something fun to do or see. Want to see Mount Rushmore, finish your math work. Have a lot of homework, don’t procrastinate so we can get outside and hike or explore. Sometimes as homeschoolers we may be more lax in deadlines. But when that deadline looms ahead on the road, it may motivate your homeschooler to get her work done.
What Counts as Homeschool and How to Track it?
Depending on what type of homeschool you choose above, especially if you choose unit studies or unschooling, you can make any of your experiences fit into homeschool. Count hiking as physical education and ecology. Historical sites count as history and possibly English. Budgeting for travel or groceries counts as math. The possibilities with some creativity are unlimited.
Tracking, record keeping, and recording homeschool may seem like a never-ending chore. Of course, if you are using a virtual or in-person school, it’s a done-for-you option. However, submitting homeschool documents and record-keeping does vary by state. Even if you’re opting for full-time travel, you’ll have to designate a home state for tax purposes, and that will be your homeschool state as well. I use Homeschool Legal Defense Association to keep up with the rules and regulations of our state. The website is chock full of free resources, such as record-keeping options. Finally, they have a membership option if you need one-on-one help or legal guidance.
My friend Christina over at Moms in the Trenches uses Schoolhouse Teachers to plan curriculum and track each kid in the house. You can read her review here.
Finally, if you require a good organizer or planner, get one that is homeschool specific. These are a few of the best-rated planners I’ve found.
Alternatively, you could use a Day Planner specifically for moms to incorporate your homeschool. I like the Home Office Edition by MomAgenda. This gives you a little bit of everything you need to run your day-to-day life and you can include homeschool lessons.
How Not to Lose Your Mind
It’s going to happen when you homeschool. You will doubt and question every decision you make. Your kids will try your patience. You may try their patience as well. These are a few things to do or remember when you embark on the homeschool and travel journey.
- Find a tribe – you need other moms and dads who are on this journey with you. They are your support and advice network. Start by searching local homeschool groups on Facebook, or within your already established activity community. You may find soccer moms or dance dads who are homeschooling.
- You will forget something. It’s okay. The reason we do this is flexibility. Go into this knowing something may fall through the cracks. Just pick it up and move on. You are not failing.
- Your kids will forget something. Same as above. We all make mistakes in life. Teach them the grace to pick up and move on.
- You need time alone. This is key to recharging your batteries and gain perspective. I even wrote about why moms need solo travel here.
- The kids need breaks too. It will be easy to try to make everything a homeschool opportunity. Remember boredom and exploration provide unstructured learning too.
Travel Related Homeschool Resources
There are a lot of homeschool resources. I mean a lot. And free homeschool resources too. If you visit Pinterest and type in Homeschool Resources, you might be overwhelmed. With that said, I wanted to showcase my favorite homeschool resources as it pertains to travel.
Resources for Homeschool while Traveling
A lot of the resources you’ll use for your homeschool life will likely travel with you when you hit the road. The following are a couple of resources we’ve used in the past that round out our homeschool resources.
If you’re not familiar with Postcrossing, it’s a platform where you can send and receive postcards from around the world. Unlike a pen pal program, here you send to randomly selected people and receive from different randomly selected people. While traveling, we like to pick up postcards that we can use to send via Postcrossing. As a homeschool resource, this helps with handwriting, grammar, geography, and social studies.
National Parks Junior Rangers Programs
If you’re visiting any national park or national monument, take part in the Junior Ranger programs. These programs teach kids about the park, history, nature, biology, and more through a series of activities. The best part? It’s free! Plus, the kids can earn badges making it a collection they’ll want to grow and do more programs. It is generally geared towards ages 5-13. If you have older kids, consider doing one of the many talks, demonstrations, or guided activities throughout the parks. Remember, this includes monuments and historic structures under the National Parks Service. Imagine what you can collect!
Learn all about the Junior Rangers Programs from NPS here. Be sure to click through to their online program for NPS Junior Rangers actives that you can do at home.
Guide books have not gone the way of the past. I love taking guide books along on our adventures to help me discover new things to do. The following are a few of my favorites.
From the National Geographic Store
If you prefer, shop the National Parks books list on Amazon.
Load up your phone with some audiobooks to listen to in the car or on the plane. These can be books on their reading list. Check out some of my recommendations here.
Car Games and Other Activities
Remember above when I said you can turn any adventure into a learning activity. That goes for being in the car or traveling to your destination. These don’t have to be centered on a place, but just a way to do some education on the road. Check out the below book for loads of ideas.
Lined, unlined, guided, open, whatever type of journal you choose, it’s an essential item to have on the road with you. Encourage kids to write or draw about what they’ve seen. Here are some of our favorites, both with activities and prompts, and some with just nice personalized pretty colors.
I’m sure there are more resources to add. If you have a suggestion, don’t hesitate to comment below and let me know.
Resources for Traveling while at Home
I know that most of us are not full-time travelers. But that doesn’t mean we have to stop traveling just because we’re not going anywhere. Wait, what do I mean? I mean that we can do armchair and virtual travel-related activities from home. Here are a few of my favorite homeschooling resources for that. Truthfully, however, you don’t have to be a homeschooler to enjoy or use these resources.
Little Passports is a monthly subscription box filled with exploration activities with world themes. Combine homeschool and travel and choose the World Edition for ages 6-10 and discover a new country each month, or go for my favorite the USA edition. Get 2 new states each month with activity-packed State Journals. This one is for ages 7-12. Plus, these start at $15.95 a month.
And speaking of subscription boxes, I have an entire list of my favorite boxes for travelers here. Out of those, my favorites are Universal Yums where we get a box full of treats from another country each month.
Outschool is an incredible online resource filled with classes by subject area. Want to learn a language? They offer Spanish, French, Japanese, German, Chinese, Greek, Italian, Mandarin, and American Sign Language to start. Taking any of these languages introduces your child to world cultures as well.
And speaking of world culture, Outschool offers an incredible array of social studies classes. My favorite is “Can You Survive: The Oregon Trail.” I bet this would spark some wanderlust in the kids!
Outschool does both fixed time and flexible online classes. Depending on the duration, the cost varies. And there’s no commitment. Do one class or a whole semester of classes. Remember, it all counts towards something!
Virtual Camps & Field Trips
One of the best things that came out of the 2020 pandemic is the amount of online learning and offerings from museums, national parks, theaters, and more. There are too many to list here. Head on over to Pinterest and search virtual field trip, or virtual ____ camp, or virtual travel and you’ll come up with hundreds of ideas.
One of my favorite things we did during lockdown was Imagineering in a Box from Khan Academy. Even better, this course is FREE! If you’re not familiar with the term Imagineering, it is Disney’s name for engineers that tell stories. This is a creative storytelling class that walks you through how to build an area of a theme park. It involves art, writing, engineering, and probably more skills than I can think of. How is this travel related? Well, it’s from Disney, and they show you examples of theme parks from all over the world. I enjoyed getting a behind the scenes look at what goes into designing a theme park.
Building off of the Khan Academy, Disney Plus is more than just animated movies. Because of their partnership with National Geographic, they offer incredible shows focused on areas around the world. Not to mention, Disney has its own Disney Nature Series.
Some favorites include:
- America’s National Parks by National Geographic
- Rogue Trip with Mack and Bob Woodruff
- Magic of Disney’s Animal Kingdom
- One Day at Disney Shorts
- Great Migrations
- NatGeo Kids Weird but True
This is just a small sampling of things to watch.
Homeschooling Pro Tip – There will be days where none of you are “feeling it.” I set up educational profiles on Netflix and Disney+ to let my kids have some downtime yet still learn. I’ve filled the profiles with documentaries, science programs, history shows, and of course, travel-related shows. Remember that learning doesn’t always have to take place at a desk in front of a computer.
Cooking around the World
One thing we started doing was having a theme day at home. We choose recipes from a particular country and learn about cooking them. We try to watch a documentary or a YouTube video about that area. Then we listen to traditional music during dinner. It’s been a lot of fun traveling through food. We’ve even done regions of the US. (Think Florida Keys, New Orleans, Maine.)
If you need help, Eat2Explore is a fun box that gives you recipes, trivia, special ingredients, and more. This has helped us add to our cooking repertoire.
And just like above, if you have homeschool and travel resources that you use when you’re home, drop me a comment and let me know.