Many people ask us how we handle school while travelling.
The answer is: Home schooling on the road!
Fortunately we only have one kid in formal school age so far (Dave). That’s one of the reasons why we decided to do this trip now, and not wait. Home schooling one child is managable – if we had waited, we’d have to home school 2, 3, or even 4 kids while on the road
We brought both physical and electronic course material, so any environment can become a classroom. Here are some examples of “class rooms” that we’ve had while on the road:
So how do we stay in sync with Dave’s class back home?
We talked to the teachers and obtained a list of learning objectives for the whole school year, and the most important course material (such as math workbooks). We turned this into a system of “school points”, listing each learning objective and each workbook, and assigning a number of points to each depending on the rough amount of effort. For example one chapter in the math book is one point, learning to count to 10 in English is one point, etc. We also added a system of “country points”, where David has to research 10 questions in each country (what is the population of the country, where is it in the world, what language to people speak there, etc, here is an example). Each question worth one point. And so on.
The total is 211 points, and the length of the trip is 165 days. So we have 165 days to finish 211 points! That’s very concrete. We use that to measure progress and decide if we are behind or ahead of schedule.
The two bars at the bottom of the page illustrate our progress visually. The first bar is how many travel days have elapsed (in %), the second bar is how many points have been completed (in %). In this example (from Feb 15) we had done 89% of the school points, and had finished only 84% of our travel days, so we were ahead. We also get weekly class letters from Dave’s teacher in Sweden, which tells us what is going on so that we can update our schedule accordingly.
In Thailand (2 months) Dave and Jenny actually attended a school, so I didn’t need to home school. But here’s how it worked for the rest of the trip:
Every morning, typically after breakfast, we do 1-2 hours of school. Just me and Dave, sometimes with Jenny (when she is interested). Jenny is not in formal school yet, so for her school-on-the-road is not as important.
The locations vary a lot, could be anything from the hotel room, a park bench, or a local café. As long as we get away from the smaller kids for a while (it’s really hard to focus on intellectual stuff with a 3 yr and 1 yr old kid nearby).
The length of the “school day” varies depending on if we are ahead of the plan or behind. Usually 1-2 hours per day (including weekends) is enough to stay in sync. Not long time, but very focused and effective. Sometimes we do as little as 0 hours or as much as 4 hours.
In addition to the predefined school points, Dave reads stories and writes in his travel diary every night. And there’s also plenty of opportunity for on-the-fly schooling for all kids through the School of Real Life, here is an example from Beijing. In fact, I’m surprised at how much learning opportunities there are when travelling, such as:
- Writing on this blog
- Converting between different currencies and figuring out what stuff really costs (“what is my weekly allowance in Peruvian Soles?”)
- Conversational English, and some basic words from many other languages such as Spanish, Chinese, and Japanese.
- Communicating and negotiating with people that don’t speak your language, using sign language and body language.
- Time zone conversions (“I want to call Grandma on Skype, what time is it in Sweden right now?”)
- Geography and politics – learning where countries and continents are on the globe, and comparing political systems (capitalism vs communism, censorship in china, european imperialism, etc).
- History – for example while in Peru we discussed how the Spanish invaded South America and looted Inca gold, and while in the West Indies we discussed how the pirates in that area would attack the Spanish ships transporting the gold back to Europe. While walking on the great wall of china we discussed the mongol invasions and the Qin dynasty.
- Culture and religion – seeing how each country and their people differ from each other, learning that Swedish culture is just one of many cultures in the world. Visiting temples, monestaries, and churches of different religions.
- Entrepreneurship – seeing how people make their livings in all kinds of imaginative ways.
I’m sure Dave won’t be perfectly in sync with his class when we get home. There are probably some things that his class has learned that Dave hasn’t, and vice versa – things that Dave has learned that haven’t been covered in his class. But I think the gap will be manageable.
All in all I’m pretty sure that travelling for 6 months and visiting 8 countries is a richer educational experience than any school can provide, even a really good school like Skå Skola :)