Homeschool High School and World Travel

July 19, 2013

homeschool high school and world travel- perusing books at an International school library abroad

Can you homeschool high school and go onto a top university and/or a fabulous career? How will world travel and being a multilingual, multicultural  American white girl affect my child's future? What is success and is college needed today?

These are some of the things we are pondering and why we will homeschool high school and middle school while doing slow travel around the world.

Carry a vision of heaven in your hearts, and you shall make your home, your school, your world correspond to that vision. ~ Helen Keller

Reading a classic book while chomping on an organic carrot

"Classics are gifted books, by gifted writers, and are right for gifted kids." Michael Thompson


We have been worldschooling or eclectic homeschooling our gifted global kid these last almost 8 years on our world trip, but now that she has turned 12, we have been thinking a lot about these issues and reading lots to get informed.

She is already doing some college level work, and many bright and gifted kids in the USA are doing dual immersion college classes, community college and AP classes at her age.

I don't have all the answers about homeschool,  but I do know her heart is what is most important to us and giving her an educational foundation that nutures her spiritual, emotional, physical, psychological and multicultural aspects so she can become a contributing member of society and a happy global citizen.

For us, homeschooling/worldschooling is a way of life, a way of looking at the world, a way of being a family, being free and self directed... always learning, growing, loving and expanding.

Homeschool and travel, making friends around the world like this girl in Bhutan

"Don't tell me how educated you are, tell me how much you traveled." Mohammed


One of the many advantages to homeschooling is the average expenditure to educate a homeschooled child, per year, is $500 to $600, compared to an average expenditure of $10,000 per child, per year, for public school students. As retired travelers, doing perpetual travel,  (while living on a budget of $23/day pp, as we travel the world), wise spending and sustainable practices matters to us.

There are many very expensive programs to give kids short international experience, but our extended travel lifestyle and language learning has all the best benefits without the high costs. We don't believe in debt, for college, high school or anything else as it creates entrapment.

Our primary goal for our travels have been to educate her and we are proud that she has become fluent in Mandarin and Spanish thanks to our travel and dips into local foreign schools. I can't imagine anyone having a better primary school education for the 21st century than what this digital nomad global kid has gotten as you can tell by her curriculum vitae.

But how should we handle the teen years and school?

"Aut Viam Inveniam Aut Faciam" or
“I will either find a way or make one ”

homeschool and travel makes a global citizen

"I decided that adventure was the best way to learn..." Lloyd Alexander


Swimming with sharks in in Bora Bora, doing a camel overnight trek deep in the Sahara at 6 and riding a camel at Petra in Jordan at 10, then one at the Great Wall in China at 12,  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, munching dumplings in Kradow, 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, cheap private tutors and violin and piano lessons etc via skype, BFF best friends in 3 languages etc,etc etc...the educational opportunities have been phenomenal.

homeschooling in Asia with her Chinese tutor


We never pay attention to grade level with Mozart because she is usually working on several different grade levels and has always been academically advanced.

She skipped 3 grades in USA schools by extreme early entrance and she skipped 3 grades when we went from a 4th grade level at a Spanish school to 7th grade level for Chinese in Asia. Sounds strange I know, but she is a very normal kid and that is just what worked best for her at the time.

homeschooling and love of creating - here a house of toothpicks and new windows made with glue


We decided to do first grade over again when we arrived in Spain for school immersion ( and she was still the youngest in the class) so she could get the full Spanish reading and writing curriculum from 1st grade in her second language ( she was tested as reading at a 10 grade level in English at that point).

Dictato, writing and reading Spanish so deeply at six implanted it forever ( and actually helped her English writing as well as she didn't really enjoy handwriting until that daily "dictato" cursive writing in Spanish first grade. She has had to be very flexible to meet both Spanish and Chinese writing standards, which are very different than American and even numbers are written differently.


She was in 8th grade at her Chinese school this year doing physics and biology in Mandarin. She is now doing a senior high school level class with Johns Hopkins CTY and some college level work, yet she still enjoys playing/creating with playmobiles.

Along with making creative fashion and homemade clothes from throw aways  for her few dolls we bought here for her at 10 as there were no playmobiles and little choice that first Christmas for a kid who loves imaginative play.  Asynchronous development or just a creative kid who is very good at making something out of nothing?

Mozart and a friend from Scotland playing

" A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play; his labor and his leisure; his mind and his body; his education and his recreation. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence through whatever he is doing, and leaves others to determine whether is working or playing. To himself, he always appears to be doing both." Chateaubriand

homeschool play - I think this kid can make anything!

( Her bedroom is actually filled with an entire, large and detailed world that she mostly makes out of paper, or thin air,  so playmobiles as travel toys and creativity has been a strength for her from the beginning as you see her doing this in Spain at 6, in Dubrovnik, Barcelona, Portugal,  Asia etc etc.

I sometimes wonder if this means she will be a city planner, architect, designer or if it is helping with her imaginative creative writing skills. Since we prefer to be unplugged and do slow travel, we prefer doing real things rather than doing this kind of play with an addictive video game, (although she did enjoy Zoo Tycoon some as a little one, so has the skills).

kid's play and learning...I love the detail in all the tiny things she makes


We don't really care what grade she is in, only that she is learning optimally and enjoying it, but to track her, we always just use the grade she would be in if she was a typical kid her age in California. That would be 6th grade now so we consider her just finishing 6th grade. Despite her abilities, we want her to fully enjoy her childhood and our time together.

"There is no separation between living and learning. Life is just the curriculum. Learning is our path through it." Joyce Reed

One of the best things about homeschooling high school or middle school is the freedom one gets with it and TIME. A teenager can pursue their own interests and figure out what they love to do and what their gifts are because they have the time to do it, even when doing advanced course work.

Homeschool - learning volleyball at an International school after school class

She is not a high school kid yet, but things shift at this point and we are starting to look differently at our homeschooling goals as she dreams about going to Harvard or other top university. We are also open to the fact that her dreams may change as she ages and she could take a non-college route, but we think it is best to keep all options open.

Homeschool almost teen - lazing in bed reading classics

Unplanned, unconscious unschooling will likely NOT get a homeschooler in a top university today, but smartly planned, child-directed, motivated learning likely can. We have friends and relatives who have done it.  Rigorous academics can benefit children even if they are not planning for higher education.

homeschool life skills like cooking,nutrition,  laundry, dishes, keeping a budget etc

She has other dreams we also want to support her getting and even supporting her skills on how to manifest big dreams. Following her lead and mentoring her growth and abilities to its potential is what we see as our parental duty.

We think learning entrepreneurship, finance and life skills are an important part of teen learning and easy to do as we travel.

She already has her first job..teaching kids Spanish here as well as English to young adults in China online and is writing a series of books about her travels for younger kids as well as a novel.

homeschool kid doing chemistry online and drinking raw milk

Some think travel and education only works for the primary years before middle school and high school obligations, but we think the opposite. As much as we are pleased with her grade school years of superior education and travel, we think the upcoming teen years will be even more exciting by adding world travel and I don't think we will do any more brick and motar type schooling except college classes.

homeschool and traveling the world with a violin and piano means daily practice

We are thankful to the Chinese school here, but we are really grateful to be back to homeschooling as it really suits our family.  We love the freedom, bonding and being able to make much faster progress in many areas in less time...which leaves us more time for fun.

Homeschooling in Asia...hanging out with local friends

Yessiree, just like the song says..."girls just wanna have fun" and local friends, sleep overs, pool parties, karaoke and mall shopping are all easier to fit into a homeschool schedule. What a relief too not to have to get up at 5 or 6 am and going to school 6 days a week. We can let the sun wake us between 7 and 8 which feels more natural.

We adults get more interruptions and likely less done with a high energy kid around all day and taking her places like piano lessons, but we love the spontaneous joy she adds to our daily lives as it was much too quiet in our home when she was in school.

Homeschooling leaves lots of time for socializing with this American friend who has lived here most of her life

Schools have an extraordinary amount of wasted time built into the day since it is one-size-fits-all program, endless bureaucracy and crowd control. Time is wasted traveling to and from school, transition between classes, and waiting for the slower students to finish work. Homeschooling is immensely more efficient and tailored exactly to the child and the family, so most homeschoolers tend to be ahead of public and private school students.

Lunch time at her Chinese school

Many recent studies applaud homeschoolers’ academic success, showing homeschoolers get significantly higher SAT and  ACT scores, earn merit scholarships. and have higher grade point averages as college students. Most homeschooled teens rack up massive amounts of college credits before high school gradution and some do the entire college degree before 18.

We are super proud of my homeschooled niece who graduated early from a top university this way as a chemical engineer, offered a 6 figure income job before she graduated and bought a home!

worldschooling at a Chinese school and being different

Some things are always maddening and illogical with schools.... like both the school in Penang and Spain insisted that she take what we call "baby English", ( good for the 2nd language learner) but insane for a child that is a native speaker and was already reading English at a 10th grade level at 7. She was more advanced than the teachers teaching the class, so a total waste of her time.

That said, I think she has had many more advantages by our dipping into local schools in 4 countries on 3 continents than if we just homeschooled. It has allowed her to connect deeply with the cultures, attain deep life long friendships around the world, as well as deep language fluency and literacy. Most monolingual travelers and expats miss these opportunities and we are glad we did not as you can't really know a culture with out knowing the language well.

She has gotten first hand experience through schools on what various bureaucracy environments are like world wide ( which helps her understand the corporate or government style and mentality) as well as what a more entrepreneurial/freelance environment is like when one is self directed and in more control/more responsible for one's life and learning which  homeschool teaches.

A lifetime of only "unschooling" can make it hard to embrace structured institutions like top universities or some top career postitions, but her worldschooling has trained her in ultra flexibility and multiculturism that is so needed for her generation in our fast changing world.

Growing up in California as just another blue eyed blond would give her a very different perspective as would traveling without knowing the languages so well. I am glad she also missed the "bubble" of international schools that most expats do, although she is really enjoying some of that now as a homeschooler who gets a taste via their library and after school extra curric things like choir and volleyball she participates in and the friends she meets there.

She has never met so many Americans on our travels (although most have lived here most of their lives and there are lots from many other countries as well), so that has been a new experience and exciting for her. Living outside their home country and culture, the kids have things in common and she enjoys the classes and library.

homeschooling piano practice

Most of her work is self directed, but we guide her,  plan as a family and when we need a tutor we get one. We love her Mandarin tutor who comes to our home 4 times a week and she is already far ahead of where she would be if she had stayed in school. Her old class is still plodding through the 3rd grade primary Chinese curriculum and she is now almost finished with 4th grade well on her way to complete her goal of mastering all the primary grade curriculum ( year 1 through 6 ) reading and writing Chinese.

Her language learning in childhood, leaves her far ahead of most college courses in Chinese and Spanish, so her hard work in many areas will pay off in her high school and college years via CLEP/DSST/AP Examinations.

Homeshooling violin lessons at Cat Studio in Penang

Due to her deep fluency in Spanish and trilingual training from birth,  she should be able to pretty easily master French, Portuguese, Italian and Latin as well, but we will look into/decide that more when we return to Europe via the Trans-Siberian Railway when she is 13.

We will start with French in Provence and Paris and see how that goes as she has wanted to learn French for a long time. She can make up her mind then if she wants to add more now or not.

Doing a group project with Chinese school friends

I don't think she could have done as well with only a Chinese tutor in the beginning ( we tried) as the extended  Chinese immersion is important, but at this point in fluency, she can zip through it much faster than the Chinese school AND we can plow ahead faster on her other areas of interest like her classic books,science, music, writing, Spanish and advanced math from Singapore.

She is a math whiz like her Dad and they enjoy that daily time together as well as swimming, sports, games, gardening, art, design, music and discussing finances or word problems etc from our life. I guide her on subjects I am strong in like literature, writing, drama, science, history, meditation, cooking, nutrition with lots of deep family discussions, debates and analysis on every possible topic.

Homeschooling algebra and geometry with Dad

Two parents one kid, makes guiding this self-directed child fairly easy, although I am always researching more ideas to support her. More so now as I am teaching myself how to best homeschool high school and as usual, we are making it up as we go. It is a fascinating topic I could read about all day.

We think of everything as homeschooling so consciously pick daily choices that support her from playing chess, doing jig saw puzzles, art projects, daily fun jumping rope contests ( that support bone health), exploring the cultures here, science projects, games, reading Shakespeare or poems aloud, watching good movies, Tedtalks and home movies in our leisure time etc etc etc.

Homeschooling in Asia means exploring the environment

These things and our travel lifestyle, help her learn how to communicate with others, research, think, analyze, write, create, make good decisions, and problem-solve. We think in terms of preparing her, but also educating her for generations to come by passing on the life long learning passion and going for excellence and optimal with ease and grace.

homeschooling jump rope family champ..daily competitions!

Stanford, Northwestern, U. Miami, and U. Nebraska all have accredited online high schools, so we could possibly dip into them if needed. Some say to skip high school and even college, so we are looking at it all and still forming our high school plan.

"The applications [from homeschoolers] I've come across are outstanding. Homeschoolers have a distinct advantage because of the individualized instruction they have received."- Dartmouth College admissions officer

Homeschooling tropical style means pool, book and vitamin D

Luckily, homeschoolers are actively recruited by schools like Harvard University, Stanford, MIT,  Duke and Dartmouth, but the competition for everyone today ( especially as we prefer a top Uni and full scholarship) is extremely challenging and it pays off to stand out. 

"Homeschoolers who are accepted to highly selective colleges typically have worked exceptionally hard at developing their talents and have very strong academic and extracurricular profiles Successful homeschool applicants usually have performed well in challenging courses, have very high test scores, and have well developed extracurricular talents." Barbara Hettle

This has turned into an epic post, so I can see, I will have to write a whole series on this topic for those of you interested. What would you like to know about homeschooling high school with world travel?

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Our travel has not been as extensive as yours, but it is good to see that you are back to homeschooling. We homeschool for the same reasons.

My oldest daughter completed a year at Nanjing University in China last year... she was 15 when she started. We are now back in the US, but she has been accepted to a good university (one that requires an ACT of 28+ and a GPA of 3.7+ for its regular students.) She hasn't taken the ACT and had a 4.0 from NJU, but NJU's credits don't transfer. She has loads of travel and volunteer work under her belt and they loved her!

I think that universities are looking for more kids who were not raised in the traditional way. These kids bring a fresh perspective and new ideas to the class room!

Jeanne @soultravelers3

Thanks so much Anne for sharing your perspective and experience and congrats to your daughter!!

I agree with you, but it is always nice to hear stories from kids and families who have had success going this route. ;)

I am all for unschooling and homeschooling, but I do think one needs to put some deep thought into it if one plans to go to a top university.

Just letting a kid play video games endlessly, eat junk food or watch TV all day etc ( some silly folks call that homeschool) will not likely lead to much good IMHO.

But thoughtful homeschool has endless opportunity and we are so grateful for that.

Melanie Murrish

Hi all; long time no speak! We are currently unschooling and, like everything else in my life, I am debating whether it's right for the family. I know many great unschooling families, but I'm just not sure it's the right fit for us. My dream is for us all to slow travel as I believe this would be the best education, however, until that happens I am struggling and feeling a bit isolated here in the north east of England; homeschooling is pretty unusual here, let alone unschooling.

I've just realised I've dumped my problems on you, which was not my intention LOL! What I wanted to say was congratulations on your lifestyle; you are a true inspiration to us!x


Hello! I will have 5 kids in college this coming school year! Two in Europe and three in California. I wish I could give you some advice but even after helping all five get into college I am still confused and overwhelmed by it all! My youngest had over a 4.0 GPA and was not accepted to UC Irvine. She was accepted to UC Santa Cruz but has decide that it not the school for her. I think one thing you may want to think of for your daughter the next few years is to do volunteer and community service work. Those two things are important for scholarships as well as college acceptance. I also think there is a lot of positive to be said for Community Colleges. They will certainly save you money and my children who have started out that way have said they really benefited from that education. The classes are generally smaller than big universities and the teachers want to be there as opposed to big universities where often the teachers want to be doing research and their T.A.'s do most of the work.
Just some thoughts!
I sure enjoy following your journey. Thank you for sharing it with us!

jeanne @soultravelers3

Glad to see you here Melanie and I don't feel like you dumped your problems but brought up a real concern that I think all homeschooling or unschooling parents go through. All the more when one is isolated like we both are.

I don't think any kind of homeschooling is for the feint of heart and my experience is that no matter how I am educating my, unschool, homeschool, ...I am always worried a bit if I am doing enough or if it is the right thing.

A travel education is amazing, but there are always trade offs no matter what one chooses..even this life. ie my daughter would have more experience with her instruments and better training had we stayed home.

Homeschooling in California has so many opportunities she misses out on and things like JHU=CTY summer programs and music camps and things.

I think we will actually have to spend some of her teen years in the USA to pick up some of these advantages and do some community college classes.

I am still pondering all of this so I appreciate the input and sharing.

Good for you for choosing a route different than what most are doing in your area...although I understand completely how that would be more challenging.

Mozarts whole education has been unconventional and out of sync with time will tell if this was the best choice for her or not.

Ahh, the joys of parenting! ;)

jeanne @soultravelers3

WOW, Becca...5 kids in college...that is amazing!! I am so impressed and gobsmacked, as I don't think I could ever do good on you super mom!!

I think you are right that it is a confusing and overwhelming process...and I am intimidated with just one kid.

I couldn't agree with you more about volunteering, community service and community college and they are all part of our plan at the moment.

As I just mentioned, we will probably have to do some time in the USA during her high school years as I think there are some awesome homeschool opportunities there ( and community colleges) as well as seeing more of her home country.

BTW...I think UCSC has one of the most beautiful campuses in the world! ;)

5 kids in college..double wow..I bow down to you!!


Jeanne, I love your posts and it's great to see you in a video! My girls are only 6 and 7 but I'm sure middle school and high school will be here before I know it!

I'm a widow so it's a bit tough for me on my own but I LOVE the idea of world schooling. We have just spent 6 months in Australia and are headed to Ireland in August.

I look forward to hearing more about Mozart's books for kids in the future!


Jeanne, that's a wonderful. inspiring and very well thought post. Today I have had one of those day where I get questioned about homeschooling from other people and if my daughter really wants that.

I admire how you bring up your daughter and I am sure I have said it before that you have inspired us to travel too. We start in the white villages too near Ronda last year for six weeks. Last week we just returned from France.

I live in England so we have started a little bit nearer to home. My dream is to do 6 months travelling next year. I would like to spend that time in Thailand, Cambodia and Bali.

Melanie you should come down here in Kent, there is a bit more going. Homeschooling here in England is nothing compared to America but there are a few of us. I also thought there are more un schoolers in England but perhaps that is just a perception I have.


Jeanne, just out of interest do you do any extra curriculum stuff like sport etc. If so how do you do that. I am assuming there aren't many home schoolers in Malaysia and how your daughter socializes.

jeanne @soultravelers3

Thanks so much Stephanie! Sounds like you are all on a great adventure!!

Trust me, these years pass by soooo quickly! ;)

We're juggling many things here and learning "How" to do the books...but we are excited about getting the first one out and starting this new process.

I think kids will really enjoy getting the info from a kid's perspective!

jeanne @soultravelers3

Good question Sharon! We find different ways to do sports and extra curric things and socialization....depending on where we are.

Luckily, most places have international schools and for a small fee one can use their library and participate in after school classes.

That is what we are doing now in Penang. It is only $100 for 6 months to do this and Mozart has really enjoyed it and has made lots of new friends that way as well.

That is a photo of her in the library and also taking a volley ball class. She also joined the choir, including a performance, an environmental club, and is looking forward to a drama class there.

She has taken various classes where ever we are in the she took a drama class here, violin, singing, piano, plus rope climbing,dance, book/writing club, science club,art etc elsewhere and has interest in doing sailing,knitting, art classes and possibly some AP classes here.

We have never been to a place that doesn't have some things available for kids, so we usually check out something that will work for us or make up our own.

She is great at sports, but it has never been a passion for we often find soccer/football etc and such things available, but she hasn't been interested.

Her dad was a world class swimmer and star athlete ,so he personally coaches her a lot in those on one baseball, soccer, swimming etc. She enjoys that. Right now they have a competition going on with jump roping and chess. ;)

There is a fun ropes climbing course here that they will do together soon too.

I think there are homeschoolers in Malaysia, but we haven't had a need to connect with them she tends to have more friends and activities than we have time for as it is.

jeanne @soultravelers3

Good for you Sharon and thanks for your kind words! I think it is a fab idea to start nearer to home...that is what we did our first year as we prepared for world travel take off.

I think it is hard for people who don't do it, to understand people who don't school the standard way.

LOTS of people don't "get" what we are doing and even think it is harmful.

BUT we are doing it and see the tremendous value, so I don't pay any attention to those voices.

If one listens to brilliant educators like Ken Robinson or Gatto etc etc, you will find others who "get" the value of educating differently and how much it is needed today.

Parenting always is a doubt filled we must all learn as we go...but the longer I do this, the more I know we have gone in the best direction for her and our family.

Keep following your heart and their lead and you will do fine!


Well, I dunno about world travel, world schooling, and homeshcooling ever preparing one for corporate America, but I kind of like it that way. The world today needs people who stand out. With your daughter being multi-lingual, she has so many career opportunities from corporate jobs to individual contract companies who translate webpages for other companies (which can be location independent), to translators. Funny - more Americans hang out in Asia than Europe.


This is a very informative post, even though lengthy. Would love to hear more as you go along. Have homeschooled my youngest from birth. 3 older for part of middle/high school. 2 did their assoc. In community colleges and went on to get bachelors from California Universities, completely on scholarships and grants. No loans.One is now working on her Masters.
We are embarking on world schooling this year, so love to hear about your experiences. My son is 10.

Renee Fouche

I must say that I absolutely enjoy reading your blog. It is truly phenomenal. We are returning to homeschooling after switching over to public school purely from pressure from family. I am planning to start us back off with a cross country trip across the US and have the kiddos see some new things. During that journey we will decide how far we would like to go with world traveling or if they would prefer to have a home base and travel from there. I currently have a 5 year old and a 13 yr old. My sister will be joining us as well on the journey. She has 5 kids aged 3-16 so it should be an interesting adventure to say the least!

Jeanne @soultravelers3

Thanks Robyn! Great to hear about your experiences. I will be writing much more on this topic.

We have been traveling quite intensely ( fast) lately and that and my health issues have slowed me down...but more in coming!

Jeanne @soultravelers3

So happy to hear you enjoy reading our blog Renee! Sounds like you have a great adventure ahead of you!!

We are really enjoying our current USA roadtrip focused on the southwest and plan to do more around the US in the next few years ( as well as Europe, Africa, South America and other parts of North America).

So much to see in this world!

Jamie Herda

I'll ask the obvious....what kind of job do you have that allows so much travel and are they hiring??!!

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