The one question absolutely guaranteed to be be asked when you say you are traveling around the world with your kids is “what about school?”.
You know what I discovered about homeschooling for a year? There is no better way to teach your teenage son to joyfully embrace academics then force him to be be with his parents 24/7. These days, he literally leaps out of bed to catch the school bus carrying him off to his personal sanctuary. I am also personally grateful that we took this trip last year since I am discovering 4th grade math might be above my grade level. I could handle multiplication and division but start to throw in ratios and I lose interest fast.
But in all seriousness, homeschooling in the states is a breeze. Many parents do not even have this option. If you live in Germany, Greece or Sweden, it is illegal to take your child out of school for a year. In Bulgaria you can homeschool only if you have a special needs child, in Ireland only if the parent is a certified teacher. So count your blessings. The United States allows homeschooling in whatever state you live in and 2.5 million people do it everyday. Find out what your state requirements are and know that your kid can fulfill them with one hand tied behind his or her back. Of course your child is not going to be doing exactly the same curriculum as their classmates but then why would you be doing this if you didn’t want something different?
Now, we were only gone for a year. If you are considering a full time travel lifestyle then obviously you will have to consider other options like “unschooling”, online curriculums or stints in local schools. But for one year? Don’t sweat it. What they were seeing and experiencing each day was worth its weight in theoretical academics.
The best thing we did was insist the kids keep a blog. They could write about whatever they wanted to, completely uncensored, but they did have to write. By the end of the year all three had not only become fluent in typing, uploading, photo editing and sharing, they were much better writers and could churn out copy on demand. I highly recommend this.
The one thing that surprised me was having to schedule reading. Since my oldest two are voracious readers I had expected this to be a no brainer, loading our kindles with novels relating to the countries we were visiting. But the youngest ones preferred to watch episodes of Glee and Friends on their Itouches, who would have thunk it? Finally I had to tell them their school had told me reading 25 books was a requirement for entering 4th grade. (Ok, not a requirement but a suggestion, never underestimate the value of lying to your children). They got it done. In all honesty, I didn’t get as much fiction reading done as I had expected either, what with the need to be constantly reading guidebooks and planning our next steps via the internet.
Whatever approach you take, just make sure it doesn’t interfere with your overall enjoyment of the trip. After all, you didn’t decide to spend your money and interrupt your career to nag junior to write an essay. Later when their 10th grade teacher brings up the Vietnam war they can remember handling unexploded ordinance dug out of farmers’ field in Laos or how it felt to float up through the jungle on the winding Mekong river. The maxim is, keep up with the math and everything else is enrichment.
Since we were moving from New York to Pennsylvania we had to follow PA’s homeschooling criteria. It turns out that New York is more stringent than PA, requiring quarterly updates from parents to the school district supervisor so this turned out to be an unexpected perk. PA only required us to draw up and register a study plan at the beginning of the school year and then in June send in a portfolio of work showing that we completed it. For our portfolio we copied some pages from their math, grammar and map reading books, a list of books read, some samples of their writing and it worked out fine. But what did they really do?
Road School Curriculum
Find a 3 million year old fossil, walk in TRex tracks
Taste insects, shoot blowdarts, cut down sugarcane with a machete
Forage in the jungle for wild pepper, cardamon and tea
Learn to knit and weave cloth on a loom
Make silver jewelry, dye batik, carve wooden geckos and make flowers out of watermelon
Wash clothes in a river, shower in a waterfall
Cook dinner in 10 world cuisines
Leap off a cliff on a Tarzan swing
Pray in a mosque, wat, temple and church
Balance eggs on a nail at the equator
Crawl through mine shafts
Scramble across church roofs
Tube down an ice mountain
Zorb in a department store basement
Play touch football on sand dunes in the desert
Zipline across a rain forest
Catch a fish with an empty water bottle and twine
Learn to scuba dive
Float between clouds of fireflies
Sleep in storage sheds, farmhouse barns, boats, trains, and under the desert stars
Hold sticks of dynamite, newborn turtles hatching from their eggs and real dinosaur bones
Meet a re-incarnated Llama
See the sun rise over the Golden Rock
See the sun set over Angkor Wat