How to Homeschool Through Travel With a Gifted Child

September 12, 2012

Homeschooling around the world- our American kid doing  Mandarin homework in Wadi Rum Jordan

Can combining travel and homeschool enhance education for a gifted kid? We think world travel is the best possible education for all children in our shrinking world and particularly beneficial for asynchronous development, advanced learners and gifted, creative families. How do you homeschool a gifted child through travel?

Roadschool? Worldschool? Virtual? We do a hybrid homeschool method using many approaches to education and suited to our family and trilingual child who also plays two instruments as we roam the world. There are endless ways to use travel to educate, but books geared to the travel , lots of first hand experiences, keeping a journal and lots of time for family discussion are all keys.


We've been traveling the world as a family non-stop for seven years now and it's been the best decision of our lives and has far surpassed our wildest dreams as far as benefits and enrichment. We travel the world  primarily to educate our daughter, raise her as a global citizen and have much more quality and quantity time together since kids grow up so fast. Home education ( as the Brits call it) suits all of us as  we are out-of-the-box, divergent thinkers. We've just decided that the world is our home and maximum freedom our calling.

"Traveling in the company of those we love is home in motion" - Hunt


Swimming with sharks in in Bora Bora, doing a camel overnight trek deep in the Sahara at 6 and riding a camel in Jordan at 10, learning to surf in Hawaii, learning archaeology in Pompeii, Ephesus, Troy, Mycenae, Delphi, Petra, Palace of Knossos  etc ( amazing for a kid with a passion for Greek Myths and archeology), swimming with dolphins in Portugal and Florida Keys with marine biologists, seeing a ballet in Sydney's Opera House or Shakespeare at the Globe in London, celebrating Chinese New Year at temples in Asia or participating in Semana Santa in Spain, eating reindeer meat in a kota in Sweden, climbing the Tiger's Nest in Bhutan, playing violin on a Vienna stage or ending up in a Japanese film in Croatia, seeing world class operas in Verona in an ancient amphitheater, dissecting squid in California at a Johns Hopkins CTY science workshop,  sailing the Turquoise coast in Turkey, cruising the Fjords of Norway, etc,etc etc...the educational opportunities have been mind-blowing.

We would never have been able to give her so much on our small budget without world travel. It is a dream life available to almost any ordinary family today because you don't have to be rich to live a rich life. You also don't have to wait until they are teens or in college to study abroad as there are so many advantages for younger school age children.

homeschool and travel in Europe ...exploring history

Our daughter was five when we began our family world trip and she will soon be twelve, so we have extensive experience in this realm having been to 44 countries on 5 continents so far and doing it all on a low budget of $23/day per person.

Many of these countries have been deeply and thoroughly explored repeatedly over many years, so we've seen much more of Europe than most Europeans.  There is hardly a book she reads or film she sees that she doesn't have first hand experience with the places mentioned and we've lost count of all the UNESCO World Heritage sites we've explored. The advanced reading skills of a gifted child helps them be a big part of the planning phase of travel even at a young age.

We're monolingual parents raising her as a fluent-as-a-native trilingual/triliterate from birth thanks to slow travel and  our ultimate family adventure that also gives her profound, long term friendships around the world. Meeting all her needs are important to us as well as giving her a solid foundation.

With fluent Mandarin, Spanish and English, she can communicate with 75% of the people on the planet and read thier best literature, plus she wants to add French next ,so that percentage will increase. Just her experience of knowing her way around subways/mass transit in NYC, Singapore, Paris, Sydney, London, San Francisco, Budapest, Stockholm etc  as well as cargo ships, trains, planes, buses, distant biking etc has been a valuable education. She had never even even ridden on a bus before we left.

It is easier than ever today to do extended long-term travel thanks to tech, so most anyone can school or work ANY where if that is your priority (fulltime or part time), thus more and more families are doing just that. The world as your classroom...literally!

"I can't think of anything that excites a greater since of childlike wonder than to be in a country where you are ignorant of almost everything. Suddenly you are five years old again." Bryson


Our daughter showed exceptionally gifted signs early: taught herself to read at two, crawled all over at 4 months, walked and talked in two languages at 6 months with 5 syllable words in each, was a puzzle master before a year old, started violin at 23 months and piano at 3 and much more. Like many gifted kids she also had sensory processing issues and had a severe feeding problem, (so was never on the weight chart) and we spent a lot of time with occupational therapy and doctor visits.

One doctor told us she was developmentally like a 10 month old at 5 months and another M.D Pediatrician told us she was developmentally like an 18 month old at 9 months ( none of the doctors, even at Stanford Hospital, had ever seen a child like this which shocked me). Best advice I was given was to treat her like her developmental age instead of actual age, so even in babyhood and preschool years  we had many exceptions based on her advanced abilities.

Thus, we had lots of warnings that we would have challenges trying to fit this square peg in the round-hole limitations of most schools. I must admit it was quite frightening and overwhelming at first, until we decided to travel the world together. It's been the perfect choice for us!

Most people don't realize that meeting the needs of a very gifted child can be as challenging as any special needs case. I don't like labels, so don't usually use the G word. She was tested as reading at a 3rd grade level when she was 3 ( her teacher wanted to do that as she had never seen it before and was incredulous).

I sat in on a 1st grade class at a gifted school that year she was 3 and my heart sank when I saw how far ahead she was of those bright 6 and 7 year olds. We tried long established  Montessori and Waldorf schools, did a private kindegarten and one of the top rated public schools in California three years early, ( neither school had ever taken one so young and she has always been very tiny for her age), but we just couldn't find a good fit, until we decided to homeschool ...and do it around the world.

Full time travel might not be the solution for everyone, but I know many gifted families that thrive on using travel as part of their homeschooling agenda. I encourage folks to think bigger, more exotic and longer ( extended travel saves money and the slower pace is more enriching) and to know that it is easier and cheaper today than ever before and needed in our fast changing global world.


* Homeschooling abroad or world schooling

* Why Learn Mandarin in Tropical Asia

* How we Learn as we Travel

* Learning Mandarin at Home and Abroad

* Learning Vacations

* Advantages of the global student

* Travel and Organic Gardening Homeschool

* How and why to raise a global kid

* How to raise a multilingual child

* Books and World Travel

* Writing in Spanish


Like many advanced learners, our daughter is globally gifted, extremely energetic, creative, a voracious book reader and likes to initiate her own learning, so we do mostly child-led activities and unschool, but have done some classical and eclectic educational things as well as virtual classes for piano, violin ( via Skype with teachers on other continents) and  gifted classes like Johns Hopkins University  CTY  online and in person ( next summer we'll do some in Hong Kong). She has been to many of the best museums in the world..which we all love.

We've also dipped into local schools for language immersion in Spain and Penang for Chinese and will do this soon in China. You can't get a language this deep without this kind of committment to immersion and time. I am not really crazy about schools usually,( too many rules, restrictions and one-size-fits-all) but this method of hybrid learning combining homeschool with schools on three continents has added so much for us on many levels.

Since she is only in the school for language, long-term friends and cultural immersion and we do it for short time periods ( returning over years), I don't have to worry  if they are meeting all of her gifted needs. Right now she is learning physics and Algebra in Mandarin with her gifted class in Asia, but this is after 10 straight months of unschooling in Europe and the USA. Besides long-term friends, things like elocution contests, choir, tea ceremony and participating in local festivals etc.. enrich.

  Fully experiencing local schools on 3 continents gives her a global perspective that very few get ( quite different than an international school bubble and I think more enriching than homeschooling travel  alone where it would be almost impossible to master the written language well or have long term friends in foreign lands. )

"Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be aquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime."  Mark Twain"

It took us a while to wrap our brain around this idea of a travel lifestyle  at first, but with research and planning, then adjusting as we go, we think we've found the best possible education for our child. Interestingly, by giving her this extraordinary life, in many ways we have allowed her to have a very normal life with lots of time with family and friends.

Is there anything more you would like to know? How do you use travel with your child's education?

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This just might be my favorite of all your posts. I've been following your blog for a while now and love it, but this topic really hits home with me. My boys were/are great students and always in the top of their class. Many people have commented on their academic abilities but it seems some people don't get the connection between their own actions and their children's achievements. Do they really except a child to complete their homework while the t.v. is on? Also, I've wondered how many brilliant minds have been wasted because no one bothered to notice?

I love how you are raising your daughter and if I had to do it over again I would definitely include more travel. In fact I'm trying to figure out how to work and travel...

Jeanne @soultravelers3

Aw, thanks so much Kathy for your kind words and for taking the time to comment.

I totally agree about supporting kids education ( ie your doing homework with TV on etc).

There really are travel education opportunities every much as we've done there is just so much more to see in this big world.

I wish you good luck in finding ways to work and travel ...thankfully there are lots of resources for this today online. Check out the Digital Nomad Academy and of course, the Four Hour Workweek for ideas and inspiration.


Your and your daughter's story is amazing. I also want to show my children as much of our world as possible although I wouldn't want to do it quite as extensively. I do like my home base. What I would like to know is - how do you think you and she will adjust when this time ends? Do you think she will simply always want to be on the go? And you - what will you do when she gets too old to travel with you? What will you work? Excuse the detailed questions - I'm just curious. Safe and happy travelling! Greetings from Cape Town. Melanie


Globally gifted...globally educated...and, I'm sure, universally loved by those near and dear to her.

Thanks for this insight into the background of the heart of Soul Travelers 3. Is there anything else I would like to know? Yes: Does Mozart continue to be light years ahead of her peers? By now she is probably quite capable of university work. Are you beginning to consider future universities for her? Finally, is she fully aware of how different she is from her age set?

So happy for each mention of French/France. Soon you will be Les Trois Voyageurs de l'Ame. :-)

Jessica Holt

I love to read your philosophy on your daughter and how you are making an extra effort to raise her as a global citizen. I am trying to follow your RSS feed but it doesn't work for some reason... Is anyone else having problems with this?

Jeanne @soultravelers3

Thanks so much Melanie and I am sure you are not the only one who wants to travel, but not as extensively as we have. ;) We didn't even know we would be doing it this long, but the world is big and we really love the freedom, experiences and time together. But it is not for everyone..even we do mostly part time travel in a way, as one does need a base to reflect from some and have some roots. We just don't think it has to be only one place.

Who knows what the future brings, but we do think about sometimes creating an off the grid part time home/homestead together where we would stay for part of the year. Not sure where though.

I think the flexibility of this lifestyle and having many homes around the world will make it quite easy what ever she or we decide to do in the future.

We travel slow and return to places which gives us all a sense of home in many places and not like we are always traveling.

We've known other kids who have been raised like this and they've done great, so I have no worries in that department. Our current president and much of his staff grew up in a similar way ( lots of time abroad during formative years) so good examples that anything is possible. Even easier today thanks to tech, so none of the disadvantages of doing this at an earlier time where one was much more isolated.

Friends of ours, the Frost family ( Maya Frost wrote a great book called the Global Student) raised 4 kids abroad and they did fabulous and are launched as adults now ( all finished college early without debt and have good jobs). They all live around the world in different places, but remain close..recently all went on vacation together...flying in from various countries. I think they are good examples on how we might be when Mozart finishes college or is on her own.

We will remain close no matter where we are and Mozart will find her place in the world. She has had both travel and a sense of home, so I don't know whether she will travel as an adult or not, but she does already have plans with her best friend in Spain to do their own RTW trip after they finish university. ;)

We will do this as long as it works for us, but we're always open to change or following our inner directive...not attached to any one way of doing life.

The adults I know who grew up with lots of travel have all done very well ( myself included) so I think this will support Mozart's life no matter what she chooses.

Jeanne @soultravelers3

Thanks HullsEdge and oh yes, like most parents we are deeply in love with our child. ;)

She does indeed remain far ahead of her age peers. There is a big difference between a hot housed child and a gifted child. Also the gifted gap at two is more obvious than 11 in some ways, so it gets easier in some ways and less obvious.

You can not teach a child to walk or talk at 6 months or read at a 3rd grade level at 3 etc and that type of innate ability does not change with age. She never lost those abilities to grasp things quickly and easily or the inner drive that comes with high giftedness.

I have video of her at nearly 2 where she asked about the alphabet sounds as she had just found out from her Montessori teacher that letters have sounds. She was passionate and insistent on wanting to know all the sounds ( thus, thinking this was odd I filmed it). She learned all the sounds of the alphabet in 20 minutes that day and never forgot them and that was the beginning of her learning to read at 2.

I was interested in more laid back Waldorf thinking about reading and didn't care if she waited until 8 etc to read, but she had a passion to learn and basically taught herself as she was driven in that direction ( just as she was driven in other areas that we supported like puzzles, movement, music etc).

We pretty much follow her lead. She is very gifted in math, but she is not passionate about it...yet. She is gifted athletically, but has little interest in it, so doesn't even realize it. At the moment she is very driven in the music realm. She had a HUGE passion for opera starting at 1, ( we knew nothing about it) but that waned over time and now she is into pop.

Funny, related story:

She went from 4th grade in Spain to 7th grade in Asia and still remained at the top of her class..despite the language challenges.

She has always tested extremely far above peers in both language and math ( like in Johns Hopkins University center for talented Youth above grade tests) and when she takes classes with other top gifted students like JHCTY she always is at the top of the class as well. Many of these kids are in top private or gifted schools, so that's always been reassuring about our odd educational ways.

She is capable of some University work at this point, and we are pondering Universities at this point for the future, but not plans on doing things formally now.I want her to have a childhood full of play, love and nature with lots of free time.

I think this lifestyle has helped her ( and the languages slowing her down in school) live a more normal life. Being with older kids here has also helped.

There are some great things and not so great things about acceleration and I really wanted her life to be not all about gifted issues. She is also extremely tiny which impacts things.

Gifted is just part of her package like blond hair...sometimes an advantage , sometimes not.

She is just a normal, loving, happy kid who just happens to learn quickly and grasp concepts easier than most and loves to read and is a bit more creative and driven than some. I don't want that as her whole identity any more than being a blond or female.

Her age peers at home are in 5th grade and yet she has been skipped ahead even when she is at a disadvantage due to language. I think that and our homeschooling has helped her feel more normal and not as aware that her gifts are unusual. She has had lots of exposure to adults on our travels too which helps since she has enjoyed adult conversation even as a baby.

She is reading far above age peers ( not counting how much better she reads Mandarin and Spanish than her American age peers) and is doing math ( algebra, physics) far above age peers, but it seems quite normal to her.

We are happy that we can give her a life where she has to struggle a bit and learn the value of a work ethic as gifted kids need that since they learn easily, so can get lazy.

Mozart actually has more passion about learning French than Mandarin, so we hold that out as a carrot. ;) She is excited about going to China soon though.

Jeanne @soultravelers3

Thanks so much Jessica and I am so sorry you are having problems with our RSS feed.

Maybe keep trying? Hopefully, someone else can chime in if they've found the way around this.

Recently someone had this same problem, but they kept trying and then it worked fine.

I am on Typepad because I am an ungeek, so don't know how to help, but I can write to Typepad.

Thanks for letting me know!

Jeanne @soultravelers3

I also wanted to post this about the myths around giftedness:

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