We started homeschooling our kids to travel. We've bonded as a family, and they're learning throu... - 7 minutes read

If you’d have asked the younger mom version of me, rushing kids out the door for school while stressing over my to-do list for the day, if I’d ever homeschool my kids, I’d have laughed all the way through the drop-off line. It was never on my agenda, especially as a busy, work-from-home journalist, but four years ago, my husband and I decided to switch from public school to homeschooling.

Our choice wasn’t completely about the way the school handled a bullying issue or the excessive amount of homework my kids were coming home with (although those were part of it). One of the biggest motivators for the change was our desire to teach our kids through travel. 

After two consecutive school years of battling with my kids’ elementary school over the time they’d missed taking trips to places like the island of Grand Cayman and the Blue Ridge Mountains of Greenville, South Carolina, I found myself sitting at home with my husband one evening saying, “There has to be a better way for our family.”

Turns out, there was. My family started homeschooling during the pandemic, and we haven’t looked back. Currently in our fourth year, my kids are learning about their world through a mix of standard middle and high school curricula and our family travels. Here’s what I’ve learned along the way about homeschooling kids to free up more time for travel.

Homeschooling provides the freedom to focus on schoolwork during times that work for us Terri Peters' daughter enjoyed traveling to Seattle while being homeschooled. Courtesy of Terri Peters.

I’ll never forget a Disney cruise we took as a family in 2019. Despite alerting the school in advance and having my kids’ teachers send work for them along on the trip, I returned home to threats of having to go before the school board regarding my kids’ attendance if they missed more time that year, despite the fact that the only days they had missed that year were travel-related and they had excellent grades. Realizing I couldn’t travel the world with my then-third and -fifth graders without a lot of hassle was frustrating.

As homeschoolers, we have way more freedom and can choose to take school on the go with us, complete any school work that falls behind during our travels at a better time, or work the trip into our curriculum to make it count as school.

My kids learn lessons during travel they can’t learn at home Terri Peters' two kids learn about nature and science while on their trips, including on this trip to Alaska. Courtesy Terri Peters

As homeschoolers, we follow the same curriculum requirements as the kids in our local public schools, clock the same number of days attended, and check off the same subject matter. We also complete a yearly evaluation with a certified teacher and file it to the state to show we’re keeping up.

Still, my favorite lessons to watch my kids learn aren’t algebra or chemistry. One of the things I love most about traveling with my kids is seeing them learn about other cultures and world issues firsthand. Whether we’re dropping off a food donation to an animal shelter in Aruba or whale-watching alongside National Geographic naturalists, I love letting the world be my kids’ classroom.

Traveling with my kids has given me a unique chance to watch them grow The family started homeschooling when the kids were in fourth and sixth grades. Courtesy Terri Peters

When we first started homeschooling, my kids were in the middle of fourth and sixth grades. Today, I have a middle schooler and a high school sophomore in my home. Yes, I’ve watched them grow physically and learn new things, but homeschooling has also allowed me to watch my kids grow into seasoned travelers.

Watching my kids navigate an airport without help from my husband and me, having thoughtful conversations with people we meet in foreign countries, and knowing my son and daughter are experiencing things they’d never get to do if we stayed in our zip code is incredibly rewarding.

Each trip we take together feels like a family-sized classroom Through travel, the kids are able to have experiences they wouldn't be able to have in their hometown, like interacting with animals in the Dominican Republic. Courtesy Terri Peters

There are no limits to what we can consider as homeschooling when we travel with our kids. In our travels since becoming a homeschool family, they’ve visited museums, interacted with animals, and talked to cruise ship captains about how they drive the giant vessels. Since we’re with them during our trips, my husband and I often find ourselves learning right along with them, making each trip a learning experience for all four of us. 

My kids’ interests and studies often influence our itineraries They take their kids on trips that are tailored to their interests, including to the Chinese Theater in Los Angeles. Courtesy Terri Peters

As my kids move closer to graduation, they’ve focused on interests that are meaningful to them. My daughter, 13, loves performing in live theater, so we often see a show while we travel. On a recent trip to Los Angeles, California, we took my son, who has opted into several film study courses since starting high school, to see the iconic TCL Chinese Theater in Hollywood and drove to a few spots where some of his favorite movie scenes were filmed.

Traveling with my homeschooled kids opens up opportunities for us to plan our itineraries around the things they’re most interested in studying, and I love creating an interactive classroom for them as we plan our trips.

Whether it’s a day trip or a far-flung destination, there’s an opportunity to learn Through homeschooling, the kids get to travel and include things in their curriculum that they wouldn't get to do by attending public school. Courtesy Terri Peters

While we’ve taken our kids everywhere from Alaska to the Bahamas since becoming a homeschool family, we’ve also fully embraced the day trip. When my kids were in public school, they took an occasional field trip to a museum or attraction in our area, but as homeschoolers, we can target day trips that help them learn about everything from acting on-stage to the wildlife in our home state of Florida.

When we did a marine biology unit in science, we visited the Florida Oceanographic Society to close out the course. When my son wrote a report for his film studies course on the making of the Harry Potter films, we could plan a day trip to Universal Orlando to become fully immersed in the Wizarding World. I’ve learned that not every trip together has to involve a long flight and a few nights away from home for it to be part of their education.

Homeschooling and traveling together have brought us closer as a family Terri Peters and her family went on an eight-day whale-watching expedition cruise. Courtesy Terri Peters

As parents, there’s not much we can control as our kids move into their teen years and begin to grow up. It’s a truth that can be tough to accept, but homeschooling has allowed me to be more involved in my kids’ daily lives, a perk for which I’m grateful. While I can’t control who their friends are or what they’re influenced by, I can be a constant presence in their lives that they know they can rely on, and homeschooling, as well as spending so much time traveling together, has helped me to be just that.

My husband and I often say we thought we’d be sad to see our babies grow older, but now, we’re so thrilled with the people they’re becoming. My teenagers are two of my favorite humans to spend time with, and traveling the world with them as both their mom and their teacher has been an unexpected gift. Young-mom-me may have laughed her way through the Starbucks drive-through, saying she’d never have the patience to homeschool her kids, but 40-something-mom-me is glad she finally stopped doubting herself and gave it a try.

Source: Business Insider

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