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Long Term Family Travel = Homeschool Roadschool World School

March 30, 2010

 girl apple store iphone digital nomad world traveler education mac
London Apple Store Oxford Circus


Long term travel, digital nomad, location independent, lifestyle design, 4-Hour Workweek, round-the-world trip, extended travel, perpetual travelers, mini-retirement, sabbatical, permanent vacation, year off ...no matter the term, if you do it as a family, education will be of primary importance. More so if you do it with children in the primary years, tweens or teens.

Even if you do not have children yet, if you live or plan an ultra mobile lifestyle, you should think in these terms because it is one of the best ways to educate and prepare children to be global citizens of the 21st century. Our world and education is going through a huge change  today.


"Travel and change of place impart new vigor to the mind." Seneca

"Experience, travel - these are as education in themselves" Euripedes

"An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest" Benjamin Franklin

"I never let schooling get in the way of my education" Mark Twain

"We are educating children to have safe secure jobs in 1950.” Kiyosaki


young girl doing homeschool on ferry between Greece and Turkey backpacker RTW Family travel
Pink fairy doing math and Greek Myth roadschool on pink ferry between Turkey and Greece.


World travel in itself can't help but enrich and educate, but as a parent, one wants to think of the big picture and how to meet all the needs of a child, while living a free, adventurous life. We are monolinguals raising a trilingual from birth and non-musicians raising a child who plays violin and piano as we roam the world, so we have learned a few things along the way that we want to share.

I'm a life longer learner who has always had great passion for, and iconoclastic ideas about education. The lead photo may be misleading because we do not own an iphone, ipod, Nintendo DS, ipad, Kindle or Wii, and we believe in strongly monitoring and limiting  our child's time online and screen time, making sure most of her time is in nature, playing and unplugged. Meanwhile, she is still years ahead of age peers in academic learning, partly because she is allowed to go at her own pace.

Family travel italy doing homeschool digital nomad family
Writing seven chapter books at a farm stay in Verona, Italy  as self led passion


It is a fine line today because of the amazing technology and 60% of all schools will be virtual by the end of the decade, so being tech savvy should be a part of the curriculum for these digital natives, but one must also educate about the addictive nature and harms. We're apple fans and love their slogan "Think Differently" thus we own two Mac laptops & one PC (and may own some of the others down the line) but we like how that gives us some boundaries to our time online as we do not want to be virtually connected 24/7 even though we live a digital nomadic life with that as our lifeline to the world in many ways.

family travel girl on laptop reading books from Library e-books education
Mozart reading books from our local library in California while on the road in Spain


I've promised you a series about education on the road, so this is the first and I plan to make an e-book with even more details (as well as one on raising a bilingual or trilingual child from birth even if you are monolingual parents). I am also working on putting all my posts on homeschooling, going to a local school in foreign country, online options. worldschooling and roadschooling under the heading of "education", so that they will be easier to find.

I'm going to start with an interview that I did for Nunomad (with a few changes) so I have that basic information on this site. We repeatedly get asked these kinds of questions so good to have them all together and easier to find. 

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Doing an art project in Kilkenny, Ireland with a Russian/Korean bilingual friend from North Korea


What was your initial goal for your children and family when you chose to take on a traveling/nomadic lifestyle?

Our primary goal for our opened ended world tour that began in 2006 was to educate our child and have more time together as we explored the world slowly.

This is how we answered the why question on our website before we left in 2006:

“To see the world and know it more deeply, connect deeper with ourselves as individuals, as a family and with others and experience freedom, bliss and peace in new and profound ways with time to bask in it and breathe it all in and serve the Lord with every step.”

It still remains just as true today!

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Meeting some of the disadvantaged school kids in Harlem that world toured with us virtually 


Do you feel you have achieved or that you are in the process of achieving your goal?

Absolutely! We had very high expectations, but the reality has far surpassed anything we could have dreamed about. My daughter was 5 when we started (but reading well at a Harry Potter level and doing school work many years ahead of age peers in every area) and just turned 9 and we feel she has gotten the best possible education through our travel, homeschooling, web connections and deep immersion in her second language, literature and culture by attending a local school in Spain for five months every winter since 2006. It became clear before she was 5 that even great public or private schools would not meet her needs, so our journey was/is an out of the box way to handle that challenge.

The incredible family bonding and such rich shared experiences through the travel has been a priceless blessing beyond words. We have been to 4 continents, 32 countries, traveled over 175,000 miles (most overland) and used every mode of transportation from cargo ships to camels, stayed in a Berber tent in the Sahara, 5000 year old cave in Cappadocia, Turkey as well as luxury hotels in Provence and Salzburg etc.  One can not experience so much together without it affecting you deeply.

We have found it such a rewarding and life-enriching family lifestyle that we have no plans on stopping and know that it will continue to awe us and enhance her education like nothing else could. We are really honored that we have been chosen as a featured case study for the new edition of the 4Hour Work Week and hope we can encourage others to find there own way to do family extended travel!

girl doing homeschool roadschool world school in RV motorhome Europe family travel
Roadschooling at it's finest as we RV between countries in Europe


How did you deal with educating your children while you were traveling?

Books are and always have been the mainstay of our homeschool. Raise a reader and life becomes easy because they learn so much on their own just having fun! We bring more books on our travels than anything else and  many are geared to our travel. We are bookaholics and started reading to her in two languages daily starting in the womb!

Recently we toured Melk Abbey and the tour guide was astounded that our 8 year old knew so much about Austrian history. When we were touring ancient ruins in Greece and Turkey, an American  teacher that sailed with us aboard the gulet sailboat along Turkey’s Turquoise Coast, said our then 6 year old knew more about Greek Myths than he did! The secret? Just feeding great books before, during and after travel!

Our basics for on the road homeschool is Singapore Math (our 8 yo is doing 6/7th grade math), books geared to the travel like historical fiction, Core Knowlege series (our 8yo is doing 5th grade), Brain pop, Educational CD’s like Zoombini’s, Mathra, Zoo Tycoon,Storybook Weaver plus journal-ing every day, book reports, lots of discussion, games, violin & piano practice, story of the world at bedtime…plus legos & snap circuit!

We homeschool all year and almost every day in English, so do not have to put much time into formal schooling. We usually get it done quickly after breakfast. Most of the school work is self directed and my child doesn’t even think of it as school, yet when she recently took an achievement test before turning eight, she scored well above grade level with some areas at high school level (which confirmed that our homeschool method was working).

We also do some online things like John Hopkin’s University’s CTY program and Teddybears around the world , MIT’s scratch, e-libraries etc. She takes violin and piano over Skype webcam's from two amazing teachers from another continent and they use email or google wave to send us material.  We will start wintering in Asia so that she can become very fluent in Mandarin Chinese starting this fall, so she has been working online with teachers over Skype to support her reading, writing, talking and numbers in that, her third language. (Funnily, while she is going to school entirely in her second language in Spain).

We also have done many service projects like the disadvantaged school kids from Harlem, south bronx etc that come with us virtually. I think teaching service is important!

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One of our many long stops at libraries and bookstores as we roam, this library is in Finland


Do you have an opinion about the age of children and doing extended travel?  In other words, do you think there is a particular age group that benefits most from experiencing the world?

I think that a child that is reading well is most important …more so than age. We did lots of traveling with our child since she was 2 weeks old, but we wanted to have a very stable environment for her first five years so that she had a real sense of home. She still remembers that home well and keeps in regular touch with family and friends there.

Because we tend to spend a long time in each area that we visit, we have been delighted that our child has very clear and sharp memories of all the places that we have been, Most of the places are not just places for a fleeting vacation, but places that she has actually lived, grocery shopped, befriended locals etc. We love laughing, talking about the places we have been together and going down memory lane looking at all our photos (75K) and videos (over 200 hours so far!!) I am grateful that they will be past on for generations, especially when I read that some will no longer exist in the future!

We wanted to do our serious, extended educational travel at an age when our child would consciously remember it forever…where it would always be a vivid part of her. Our extended travel is focused primarily on her education, like life as a world field trip, so for our purposes, it did not make sense to do extended travel if she did not remember it and learn/experience in very concrete/deep ways.

Thus the ideal age depends on your reasons for doing the extended travel. For some folks it is parent led, but ours is definitely child’s education led. I do think that kid’s that are reading well will benefit the most from extended travel and be able to participate much more in the whole experience from reading menus, to reading in museums and helping out with subway maps, guide books etc (besides books).

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Lost in a book about Poland on the long train ride to Krakow, Poland


What are the most difficult aspects of extended travel with kids?

The biggest challenge for us has been books and music lessons. Our child is a voracious reader who also plays both violin and piano. We use to  bring bag fulls home from the library every week, had a huge home library and spent many hours every week since birth in book shops reading and buying more books, We were also spoiled by a fantastic musical community with superb teachers,

We have found ways around that and still spend considerable time in book stores and libraries where ever we roam, but the opportunities are quite different with this lifestyle. I am a big believer in “if there is a will there is a way” so we do our best to make the most of what we do have and stay open to out of the box solutions. Now that we have found a great violin teacher online, that has helped a lot and there are no shortages of free books online or great libraries online like our home libraries in Santa Cruz & San Jose.

Perhaps one of the most important skills needed for the future 21st century global citizens is adaptibility, flexibility and creativity and one learns that in spades on an extended world tour as a family!

girl in library family travel 

Enjoying time in a bookstore in the UK & opportunities to find books popular in other cultures


What have been the greatest joys?

All of it! Just seeing & experiencing this beautiful planet together as a family and meeting amazing people is incredibly life affirming! Having the time that we have together just having fun in awe inspiring places is perhaps the greatest dream come true.

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Finding five frogs in a pond with a new friend in Vienna

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Taking tennis lessons from a great pro at bargain prices in Portugal

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Making art and crafts at a kid's club with friends from many nations

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Making a fun club house in Spain out of a found cardboard box

Family travel, girl learning up close & swimming with dolphins portugal
Learning up close and swimming with dolphins in Portugal

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Watching live performances like two operas in a Roman coliseum in Verona, Italy


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Ameya

Thank you so much for this! We will be starting our international life this summer (beginning in China!) and while our son is only a baby right now, I'm already starting to gather ideas for homeschooling, and trying to find others who are dealing with the same thing. :)

waitinginthedark

Amazing post! And so interesting. I admire you because you prove an immense creativity in finding the best tools to educate your child and meantime you're donating your lovely girls the most wonderful present a parent can give: making of her a true citizen of the world. I wish there were more families as yours. If more people felt that the world is their home, then the world would be much better...

soultravelers3

Ameya- So glad that is is useful for you! Do expose your baby to as much Mandarin as possible while there & he will soon be bilingual in a very important language for his future. Happy travels!

waitinginthedark Thanks so much, I appreciate the kind, supportive words! I think more and more parents will be doing a version of what we are doing as it is a fast growing trend and WILL be useful for the whole planet as well as the individuals.

Sandy Salle

How wonderful to be able to expose your children to the many cultures of the world! Experiencing worldwide cultures is by far one of the most rewarding experiences to be had--especially when you're experiencing them as a family. Have you traveled to Africa? If not, you must go! An African family safari is a life-changing event. Not only do you experience a new aspect of nature, you also learn from locals about their culture and its connection to the environment. Great post!

Elaine

Great post! I can realte to moving away form the PC's and using MACs. I too purchased my firstd MAC and will never go back to a PC! My kids absolutely love is. Tons of great applications for homeschooling too.

soultravelers3

Sandy- Thanks & so true! We HAVE been to Africa, but just to Morocco so far. More of Africa & a safari is definitely in our plan! We were suppose to be doing a long stay in Africa this year, but changed our plans because we realized that we had to get to Asia so Mozart could deeply immerse in her Chinese while still young enough to have the benefit of age as it's easier to learn pre-puberty and will take several winters.

BUT we will soon find Africa & a safari in our future, perhaps next year!

Elaine- Welcome & glad you liked it! We love our Macs but the PC comes in handy too, so we're glad we have both kinds of laptops for our lifestyle. That was a hard choice to make.

Shangrila

So inspired... we are parents to two beautiful girls who we adopted from China. We are in the process of following in your footsteps... selling everything we have to begin our travel adventure. First stop: Asia !! Hope our paths cross in the not too distant future !!

Placemix

Definitely, your family is an inspiration to ours! Well done!

lara dunston

Couldn't agree with you more! My parents took my little sister and I on the road in the mid-70s in a colossal caravan and 4WD when I was 10 years old. We spent 5 years travelling around Australia and it was that period of my life that really shaped who I am today.

We learned by correspondence school - no computers then - packages were sent from the school to post offices ahead of us, and the materials were booklets and cassette tapes, and occasionally CB radio, and I spent hours on end in libraries.

But the real learning happened on the road. I gained invaluable life skills, everything from tolerance and understanding to flexibility, a willingness to adapt, and a love of change. It was a spectacular experience for which I'll always thank my parents.

Soultravelers3

Shangrila - Good for you! Thanks,we are always grateful to be an inspiration for others. We will be spending the next several winters in Asia so our child can become very fluent in Mandarin Chinese, so hopefully we CAN connect in person. Always a really fun thing to do with these international kids!

Good luck to you, the hardest part is the prep, but once you take off it will be easy & you probably already know China some from your adoption process.

Placemix- Thanks for your supportive words!

Lara - Cool! Thanks so much for your input. I didn't know that about you & it is always fantastic to hear these kinds of stories from adults who had a similar non-conventional childhood.

Wow, your parents were ahead of their time! Love it! Look how well it has served you.

I understand the gratitude as I also had an unconventional childhood that included lots of travel & moving. It has served me so well in life & I think this generation needs more freedom, flexibility, tolerance & creativity than ever before.

Happy travels!

Dayna Palmer

I have just come across your blog through the "long-term-family-travel" group on lonely planet :-)

My family is just in the beginning stages of planning a round the world trip that may be 6 months, 1 year or longer...and I am so excited about the prospects!!

I have 2 questions for you - my children are 4, 6 and 8 right now...so, road schooling will be something that we will be doing. Do you use a specific program/cirriculum with your daughter or is it less structured?

How on God's green earth do you live on $23 a day per person?? Does that include your accomodations (I saw that you bought an RV)? The money part scares me half to death!! I worry that what it costs to eat, move around, see sites and sleep will be more than we can do for as long as I would like to do it.

I love the life you have chosen for your family...and hope to follow in those footsteps very soon :-) I will look forward to being in touch again soon.

Dayna

soultravelers3

Dayna- Welcome to our blog & happy planning! I list our basics about for homeschooling & we do not use one specific method, but a combo...most of it is self led learning...but I did put work into finding only good choices for her to pick! ;)

We live on 25K a year & I just broke that figure down for the 23 dollars a day, some days it is actually much less. Slow is the key to traveling large on little, less planes, packing light, eating smart & cooking most of your own. See our posts under FAQ for ideas. We also watch currencies closely & got out of the dollar so not hurt when the dollar crashes.We mostly walk, bike, use mass transit. We work at doing more for less by planning & sacrificing.

Take your time and plan well & prepare to live a different life, a more simple life. If you live like a native & not a vacation ( what I call the 2 week millionaire complex) you can travel on very little and really enjoy life!! Good luck!

Carmen

Great post! I always love seeing the pictures of your girl and her friends. Certainly educating our kids out in the world gives us so many options for being creative and inspiring in the way they learn. Thanks for the link back to the interview. Your interview was the first in a series of 4 families. I invite anyone who enjoyed your interview with us to also see how 3 other families answered these questions in the same series. Go to http://su.pr/6VXJW1 to see the second interview with the Atkins family. At the bottom of the post you will see links to the 3rd and 4th interviews of the series with the Frost and Vogel families.

soultravelers3

@Carmen Thanks! We have so many homeschool pics and not enough time to get them up, but sometimes it helps with a post like this to get a feel for a "day in the life". This just seems like normal life to us!! It's a great way to live and learn.

I think more and more families will be doing this more and more in the future & I've gathered a lot of my favorite educational posts like this one on our FAQ page:

http://www.soultravelers3.com/faqs.html

Paz

I am always so inspired! I have so many questions...sorry. Is your e-book ready? I am itching to buy it. We are a family of 4 a 3 yr old daughter and a 6 month old son and we are moving to China for a year in February. I am so excited. We are putting our daughter into 3k this fall, but I have to say it isn't for the learning. They really don't do much in 3k here. It is more for the social aspect of it. She is a social butterfly and loves being with other kids. She is so smart or should I say hungry for knowledge. I am wondering where did you start with Mozart when she was 3? She sounds ahead of where our daughter is...but we want to incourage her hunger for knowledge and are having a hard time finding the resources to do so. What would you suggest? She loves being read to and we read every day and she loves the stories, but we also want to start teaching her on our own. The public school system is not what it should be and I don't want that to be her bar. We want to encourage her to set her own bar in all of the subjects and interests that she has. How did you recognize those natural abilities? How do you start to nurture them? I am sorry for the long comment and questions. Your family and Mozart's education system is a true inspiration and I look forward to reading more.

Thank you, Paz

soultravelers3

Thanks Paz, so glad that we inspire you & it is so hard to advise when each child is unique. I'd just trust your instincts.

I find it gets easier as they get older. We put Mozart into K when she was 3 ( soon 4) and a 1st/2nd grade combo when she was 4 ( almost 5) where she was doing mostly 2nd grade work but still not enough for her ( she was reading Harry Potter at that point).

The kids in both schools were all 3, 4 or more years older than her, which worked in some ways but not in others ( she is very small for her age).

She is also social, but if I had to do it again, i think I would skip schools entirely, accept maybe for language immersion. I find a greater family closeness & greater willingness towards authentic, individual expression outside of schools. Just by their nature, they breed conformity, which I do not think is a good thing.

Follow your child's lead & expose her to many things. There are so many opportunities for learning everywhere and often free or very low cost.

Enjoy your time in China and make sure she continues keeping up her Mandarin after you leave, to remain fluent. Also keep up with her English studies there as kids can lose languages ( even mother tongues) as quickly as they can gain them.

I'm writing several e-books, but they are so time consuming & I have little time as we travel. So they will have to come as I have time I'm afraid.

I may set up phone consults in the future as I get soooo many requests for info & talking is quicker than writing.

Good luck to you!

Rebecca

Great site!! I really enjoy reading you. I'm not sure about taking a year gap to make a RTW but I'm more than willing to travel with my family. Last year we all went to Mexico. It is a kid friendly country. My husband and my two sons went to some Mexico golf resorts where they usually spent the afternoon. My 17-year-old daughter and me spent great days in the most relaxing spa Mexico city has. Believe it or not the vacations didn't cost much because there are lots of packages Mexico offers that are quite attractive.
Hope my experience can be useful for you!!

soultravelers3

Thanks Rebecca! Glad to hear it, sounds like you had a lot of fun! We've spent a lot of time in Mexico over the years and have always enjoyed it.

Coco Lee

Hi,

Your lives are an inspiration. I wanted to ask about enrolling in local schools in Spain. I am Korean-American and my daughter was born in Korean. She has American citizenship and I would love for her to do what Mo did with the Spanish schools during the winter.

Any info and advice would be appreciated!

Coco

Nate Johnson

This post has truly been inspirational for us as we've planned for a year abroad. It's given us great insights as we envision the educational process as nomadic, global citizens. Thanks for allowing us to include this in today's round-up post. We wish you all the best.

Nate & Lindsay

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