When going travelling for more than a couple of months the ‘education’ or ‘what about school?’ question always comes up.
Whether you home school, free school, or traditional school, I’m going to share a few tips and tricks from my experience – which should ease your mind on this question.
1. After many years and having three kids in and out of various schools in Germany, France, Spain, Austria, Costa Rica, England, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand I can only say – my first point is to not worry about taking them out of school and ‘getting behind’ – they won’t (see 3). In all honesty, my kids have missed literally years of school between them and that has not affected their ability to jump in wherever they are, or to pass exams and go to uni if they want to. Which leads me to the next point...
2. Your kids will learn more on the road than in school about life, people, plants, animals, history, languages, communication, how to deal with unexpected situations, that there is a huge variety of people and cultures out there, that their normal is not someone else’s normal, that being flexible can lead to wonderful new things, that things don’t always go to plan but it doesn’t matter, that most people in this world are good, and so on. Even if not on the road - my youngest spent a semester with a family in Spain when she was 14 (keeping her Spanish fluent) and didn’t go to school at that time, but she lived the daily life with a family there and what that entailed, and, she picked up an unexpected new skill – she learnt to play poker in Spanish (although she hasn’t got the English lingo on that one yet)!
3. Kids do not learn in a linear way and school teaches the set syllabus each year because, well, that the system. If your kid misses division while they are away you can guarantee they will pick it up as soon as it comes around again the next year – they will just be better equipped to pick something up that they have never seen before than they were before they went travelling. My daughters have missed division and plenty else, but when it comes up again they simply tell the teacher they haven’t learnt that yet; teacher shows them how to do it, and off they go. The only exception is probably in high school during final exam years – more on that in no 5.
4. With all the schools / countries we have learnt in, we have found some are strong in some things and not so in others. Example - my eldest was doing math in Germany at 10 that she didn’t do again at that level until she was 15 in UK. She did graphics and design at 13 in New Zealand that she didn’t do again at that level until she was at University. I’m making this point just to reinforce what I said above – that they can and do pick up whenever they drop in and out of school – and different places have different expectations of kids which they tend to rise to – so don’t think your kids will ‘get behind.’ They are already ‘behind’ kids their age in some subjects in some countries and ahead of the same kids in other subjects. Don’t worry – enjoy the time you have and if you really think you need it, get some extra help for them when they return to schooling.
5. If your child is in their later teens and takes a year out – they can always just drop back a year – there’s no rush! Alternatively correspondence school or home-school can work depending on the system of the country you are aiming to complete your child’s schooling in. Alternatively consider living in one place for a year and enrol them in a local school if you can, or if you have the money, enrol them in an international type school. Poke around - they are not always going to be easy to find on the internet.
Send me a question if you want to know more about our experience – I hope I have encouraged you to take the education offered on the road as the great opportunity it is.