Family Gap Year

How To Start Homeschooling

If you are wondering how to start homeschooling, you first need to decide which home school path you wish to follow.

You will need to spend time researching the different home school options to ensure that you choose a style to suit both you and your children. 

Whether you are embarking on family travel or not, there will be a home school option to suit the needs, interests and lifestyle of your family.

 

 

How to start homeschooling

 

Our backstory

We decided to home school our three children during our year long family gap year.

Questions about missing school seemed to be the one topic everyone asked us about when we announced we were planning a family round the world trip.

We were not asked ‘’Where are you going?’ or ‘What will you be doing?’

Instead, we were mostly asked ‘But what about school? Aren’t you worried the children will fall behind? What did the school say?’ 

Was I worried?

The simple answer is no.

In fact, I relished the opportunity. I have always wanted to home school but my children have always said no – and sadly continue to say no!

Plus, I am a big advocate of outdoor learning and believe that learning is best done in context. Learning should not be confined to the four walls of a classroom or limited to pen and paper.

I knew that between myself, my husband and the World Wide Web we would cope!

As an ex teacher, I may have approached homeschooling with less trepidation than others.  However, only one of my children was of an age I had had experience teaching in a classroom so it was a new experience for all of us.

Homeschooling while travelling was a steep learning curve for our family; it wasn’t always easy or stress free but it was more fun than not! Our children left mainstream school and returned to school when we came home.

 

how to start homeschooling
Making and painting marzipan animals, Tallinn, Estonia

 

 

 

What are the home school options for families?

 

There are several home school options that families can choose between.

I am not advocating one style over another and what worked for us may not work for you. 

Each family – and each child – is different, with different needs and learning styles. Plus, each path has its homeschooling pros and cons.

 

 

Flexible, non scheduled homeschooling

 

This was the option we chose by default as we felt it suited our needs, our personalities, our children’s personalities and our travel style!

We wanted a flexible, non rigid home school schedule that would cover the basics of the children’s individual age appropriate curriculum. 

We did not want to work to a daily timetable, thereby missing out on valuable sight seeing time in a new location. 

Plus, part of the reason we wanted to do a family round the world trip was to leave schedules, timetables and deadlines behind! 

We hoped that we could incorporate elements of world schooling into our home school. We want to provide contextual, cultural experiences that the children would learn from.

 

hiking path in the middle of trees in Mossman Gorge
Learning about rain forests at Mossman Gorge, Queensland Australia

We wanted the children to have some one on one time with us for structured learning but also the chance to work with their siblings to produce collaborative or independent pieces of work.

As we were travelling hand luggage only, space was at a premium. We could not carry lots of books or resources.

Also, we did not want to follow an online homeschool curriculum that would inevitably mean lots of screen time on our shared devices. 

No one in our family wanted to register in a school abroad. We had embarked on our family gap year to be together so did not entertain the idea of sending the children to school during the trip.

But we also felt that the children may need some structured school work to do as there would be down days, siesta times and long journeys that would inevitably need filling! 

And, as we planned to return to school after our family trip, we did not want the children to fall behind in the core subjects. 

 

This option is ideal for – families who want some structured learning and who are prepared to put some work and patience into it! 

Families who want to incorporate a child’s individual interests and passions into their learning whilst maintaining a flexible schedule. 

 

Flexible home school tips – research the core curriculum subjects (math and English) before you leave home.

Get your children involved in their home school planning – is there anything in particular they would like to learn about? Could they choose a country or indigenous animal to research, learn some language to teach to the rest of the family? 

You can read more of our tips on homeschooling while travelling here. 

 

Scheduled schooling

 

Some families choose a more rigid, timetabled home school curriculum or adopt a fee paying, online home school program.  

Lessons are held daily, often at set times, from courses designed by education professionals thereby ensuring a consistent standard of teaching and learning.

Work is independently completed at an age appropriate level with independent assignments for homework – though adult input is occasionally needed. 

Older children who are accustomed to being in school with a fixed timetable and daily structure may respond well to scheduled homeschooling. Younger children who are more used to learning through play will find scheduled schooling challenging. 

 

This option is ideal for – Adults who need time to focus on their own work  and for children who respond well to structure and routine. 

Scheduled schooling may work for your family if your child will be sitting formal exams in the near future.

 

Scheduled schooling tips – An internet search for online home school courses or home school books to purchase and complete at home will throw up hundreds of companies to choose from.

Consider joining home school forums on social media groups to ask for personal recommendations and tips.

 

homeschooling on the road, children learning about plants
Learning about how plants are used in medicine, La Fortuna, Costa Rica

 

 

Worldschooling

 

Worldschooling involves no structured school work at all but it does not mean no learning at all. There is a significant difference! 

Learning through ‘worldschool’ doesn’t happen by accident or by ‘going with the flow.’ You will need to dedicate time, effort and focus in order to world school properly and for it be of benefit to your children.

This option is more a way of life than a ‘schooling’ choice and you do not necessarily have to be a travelling family to adopt worldschooling. 

Worldschooling means exactly what the name suggests. It is learning from the world and people around you whether it is in your garden, in a city, a forest or on a beach.

For travelling families, worldschooling means visiting more than just the ‘must do’ attractions. You will need to add markets, schools, museums, temples, churches, art galleries and many more to your sightseeing list. 

Worldschooling entails getting children involved in destination research, reading timetables, budgeting for the trip, shopping for new foods on the road, cooking etc. It also means allowing your children the freedom to engage with local people.  

Immersive worldschooling requires planning your travels to develop your child’s interests, education and experiential learning opportunities. For example, if your child shows an interest in marine animals visit a coral reef or go whale watching. 

On our family gap year, we knew our nature mad daughter was going to miss a Rainforest topic at school so we included Costa Rica into our itinerary.

Furthermore, some of our best travel memories have come from seeking out learning experiences for the children which led us ‘off the beaten path’ – touring a mosque in Bosnia, herding cashmere goats in Mongolia or releasing baby turtles into the sea at a locally run turtle sanctuary in Costa Rica.

 

girl and a cashmere goat, homeschooling while travelling
Helping to herd cashmere goats, Mongolia

 

But you don’t have to travel the world to follow worldschooling. At home in the U.K we have visited niche interest museums, met scientists and engineers and joined environmental projects.

It can be an engaging, awe inspiring way of teaching and learning allowing the child to steer their own educational path. Though you will need to ‘oversee’ their education to ensure broad and balanced experiences!

For large families with mixed age children, worldschooling allows everyone to do the same activity but to learn at their own level of understanding. 

If your child will be returning to formal education later in their education you may need to catch them on some knowledge areas. However, your child will undoubtedly benefit in other, non traditional schooling ways. 

From our experience of incorporating aspects of world schooling into our homeschooling, it can also be an eye opening and educative experience for adults too. For travelling families, world schooling can lead to experiences of people and places you might not otherwise have encountered. 

And as a parent, I felt we got to know our children a little better, what has shaped them and where their future may lie. 

 

This option is good for – Families who are already homeschooling before leaving home. 

Families who do not want to be restricted by timetables or rigid structure, families with children of mixed ages and for adults and children who love being outdoors.

 

Worldschooling tips – Talk to your children. What are their interests? Which would they like explore further? Can they tell you a new topic they would like to learn about?

They may surprise you!

 

how to start homeschooling
Observational art, National Museum of Art, Sydney, Australia

 

 

Unschooling

 

What is unschooling?

Unschooling is a complete rejection of the concept of school work, teaching and the school curriculum.

This means no phonics teaching, no handwriting, math and often child teaching themselves to read. 

It is absolute, child led learning at a child’s own pace involving their own interests – free to learn whatever they want and free to not learn things they are not interested in.

The unschooling philosophy is based on trust and respect.  Some unschoolers allow their children a choice over every aspect of their life – meal choices, what to wear, bed times etc. (This is not an easy concept to use when travelling long term in unfamiliar surroundings).   

Children who are used to structure and routine may struggle with complete unschooling – you may need to adapt gradually. 

Plus, if you plan to attend formal education later in life, your children may struggle adapting to school rules and routine. 

 

This is a good option for – families who already home school but are looking for a freer form of education.

Unschooling tips – Leave time to ‘deschool’ if you are leaving formal education. We were surprised – and a little dismayed – how institutionalised our children were when we embarked on our family gap year.  It took our children a while to stop putting their hands up to answer a question and to stop asking permission to go to the toilet!

 

 

Enrolling in a school abroad

 

This option for travelling families entails children attending a school abroad much like they would go to school at home.

The children will experience traditional lessons from a different educational and cultural perspective. 

All aspects of the curriculum will be covered so your child will not miss out on subjects which are harder to cover whilst travelling such as physical education, art and music. 

If you are enrolling in a school that uses a different language to your home language, then full immersion is possible which could result in a bi-lingual child. 

Enrolling in a school can be a great way for travelling families to engage with the local community.

Adults and children alike can make new friends but consider the turmoil of emotions for your child when it is time to travel again. It is always hard to leave friends behind.

It is essential to do your research to choose a school that will best fit your child and make sure you check if there is a minimum length of attendance.

Visit the school with your child before deciding which school to attend. Empower your child by involving them in the decision process.

Investigate whether you will need to pack relevant documentation for enrolling in a school overseas – will you need a birth certificate or proof of vaccinations?

Finally, should you choose this option, don’t forget to allocate money in your travelling budget  as you child may require a uniform, school bag, books etc. 

 

This option is ideal for – ‘slow travel’ families who spend several weeks or months in each location. 

It may also benefit families who need to work on the road or who are traveling with one child who may be missing social interaction with their peers.  

 

Enrolling in a school abroad tips – if you cannot commit to long term schooling abroad but need time to work and want social interaction for your kids, then consider kids camps.

For example, the renowned Green School in Bali runs Green Camps for families who cannot commit to the minimum one year requirement for Green School. 

Plus, many countries run activity camps for kids during school holidays which your children would be able to join. Check out PGL in the U.K.

If you are considering kids camps, make sure you check references, reviews, safety qualifications etc. 

 

reading a book new Zeland road trip in a campervan
Home school stop, on route to Milford Sound, South Island

 

 

How To Start Homeschooling – the practicalities

 

Talk to your children. Make sure this is a step they wish to take and are fully aware of it’s implications.

If your child is already in formal education, talk you your child’s teacher and school about your plans.

Check with your local education authority regarding home school regulations. We had to officially de register from school but as we were going travelling as a family, we did not have to register as homeschooling.

Collate a contact list of your child’s friends before you leave school.

Research local support groups for home schoolers and any activity programs on for homeschooling families in your area.

If you are a travelling family who hope to return to school in the same area, find out how to reapply for a school place. You may need to arrange for documentation to be sent to you whilst travelling or sent to the education authority on your behalf. (We could only apply 30 days before we needed our school place and had to provide proof of address within the catchment area).

Take some time to de-school and unwind before embarking on your home school adventure.

Reflect and evaluate your learning and enjoyment of home school as you journey together- if something is not working, try something else!

 

 

Whichever form of homeschooling you choose for your family, your child will greatly benefit from the greatest educators of all – their parents and the big, wide world.

 

We would love to hear your personal experiences of homeschooling while travelling (or not!) and any tips you would like to share!

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