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How To Travel Long Term With Kids - Schooling Your Children On the Road
These Folks Did It - You Can Too!
School on the Road
I am a single parent with three children who receive schooling on the road and I live to travel. Notice that I didn't say I travel for a living. There is a real distinction in that. In the living to travel mode, the children learn all the things their traditionally-based friends do - and more!
Before I started a family, I traveled. When I started a family, I still traveled because my husband traveled and relocated often for work and I wanted to go. After the marriage ended, I just kept traveling. So, my kids just grew up on the road. I can confidently say that I know how to travel the world with kids.
When some people say, "Aren't you worried about the children?" I wonder to myself if they've ever taken an extended vacation because, if they had, they would not ask me that question. Remember what it feels like on a long trip? There are no worries - just enjoyment, relaxation and fun. Children, as we all know, are like sponges. They take in more than we adults do and the stimulation of new environments actually fosters more brain firing than the traditional predictable and non-changing upbringing would. The result of traveling this much has allowed my children to see, experience, and eat things they would otherwise only have heard of, watched on television or seen in books.
Having lunch on the edge of the Grand Canyon, cracking jokes with new Australian friends over "Bear Grylls" (from the popular Man Versus Wild shows) and accidentally coming upon four endangered California Condors in the wild (that we were able to identify due to a recent lecture from a forest ranger) is not something you can forget, as you might by reading a paragraph about them in a hardback nature book. How many people can watch a movie or attend a lecture and then go see the real thing? Answer: anyone who wants to!
People sometimes ask me if I'm concerned about my kids not making friends. But this tells me only that they do not know my children well for my children make friends everywhere they go... and they stay in touch with them. We recently stayed at a new location for four months. My girls have two new BFFs and my teen son has a handful of young men his age that he has seen often. So, I see the true benefit of travel as allowing the children to learn how to make friends fast and how to stay friends long-term. The best part is that, because I continue to travel, they will continue to see those friends, again and again. The flip side of this coin is that whenever we are not traveling, we do return to the same small town that we like to call our home town. So, there is a sense of home base, where family and friends welcome our return, and we are comforted by loved ones.
In our new century, I see the world as a smaller and smaller place. It's critical that our children stay relevant and have the means to traverse this smaller community, as any place we choose to go or do business with is either a Skype call or a day's flight away. If I can be on the other side of the globe by the end of the day (granted time does move backward, if you're going in a certain direction), than why wouldn't I want my children to learn (read: be educated) how to be global citizens and international peers?
What of traditional learning then, one may ask? Yes, I am not an "unschooler" and I do believe that the three 'R's, science, sports and the arts have a place in our lives, in forming our identities, and in making us contributors to society - as well rounded people need a well rounded education. Each of my children has learned the fundamentals and more than the fundamentals. My teenage son now studies part time, in online classes, in college courses. My junior high daughter is completing her Algebra 1 with an online program, her critical reading and writing on the Kindle, and her science coursework with a workbook and our science equipment that we have a special travel bag for. My second grader recently completed third grade studies, almost exclusively online. I don't think it's an accident that my college-attending teenager is an A student, that my eleven year old completes ninth-grade math, or that my second grade daughter understands how to read the constellations and can identify them to me easily. It's precisely because of the fact that they experience in the real world the very things they are exposed to academically, that it "sticks" with them, they become passionate about what they have learned, and they share it or teach it to others. My children are not "gifted" children. They are simply children who were allowed to be exposed to the world instead of being restrained from it. The education they received in exchange for participating in that world has been priceless.
Online Home School - On The Road
Mine is an isolated story but what if more and more children had the opportunity of a lifetime to travel and learn as my children do? How would their education be possible, for you, as the parent, to generate? Even if your travel time is of the limited variety, if you were able to take an extended trip, wouldn't you want to give your child that opportunity as well? Ask yourself, will your child be a better contributor to society (someone who is better adept at relating to, empathizing with, and assisting others) because of a multicultural upbringing or a homogeneous one?
Here are some of the many exciting choices that are available on the internet for children who learn on the road and even a great selection for those who need a little more of a topic outside of their traditional school day.
Khan Academy - a website for anyone, of any age, on many subjects, where lessons are taught incrementally and in order by video and with online practice work available in some subjects
Reading Upgrade - reading and math website with fun games that only allow the player to progress when the desired learning is achieved
Brainpop - a website covering reading, math, science, social studies, health, and the arts
You can teach your children, you can subscribe to online courses of study (like in the above links) and you can enroll your kids in virtual schools. Most states now have virtual, online schools, where the entire public school curriculum is accessible online and that includes teacher-time, when needed. Just contact your local school district if you are interested in that option or use a search engine to look up your school district or neighboring districts. Many times, nearby or next-door counties will happily accept inter-district transfers of online students enrolling in their virtual school, so don't feel limited if your particular school district doesn't have an offering. There are even cases where some online public schools enroll any child in a particular region of the state (such as the entire northern portion of the state, for example). Well-known and established private schools, like the Calvert School, also offer home school options for learning. Add more links or referrals in the comments if you want to.
Finding 'School' Time While Traveling
School time is anytime there is down time. Have an eight hour drive? You can fit almost three day's worth of school work into that time frame. Have a six hour flight? Let's make that school time. Finding school time is not hard when traveling because, when traveling, there is always some down time. This is the time spent waiting for the bus that's late, taking that next flight, driving to the next state. As with all things, when something is more fun than work, kids will gravitate towards them. It's a matter of making it an appealing choice when the child is already going to be stuck in one place for a while. And when you land, arrive, or disembark, then you can do the funnest learning of all... the real world learning of doing (instead of watching or reading).
So, if your company wants to send you to China, why let someone else have that assignment? Why not advance your career and allow your family a fantastic journey to the other side of the world? Just take your family with you and feel confident in knowing that your child can continue their academic education as you travel while simultaneously completing a whole chapter of new studies from the exciting school of life.
If this type of lifestyle appeals to you and you would like to learn about career choices you may qualify for in travel, please see my article "New Ways to Finance Travel" below.
Explore homeschooling at this link below.