We get a lot of questions about home schooling.
It seems to be one of the biggies that holds people back from taking the leap and living the travel lifestyle they’ve always wanted.
As a home schooled child myself, and now a home schooling parent, I’ve got a pretty unique insight into what home schooling is really like.
So if you’re considering home schooling or even just interested to see how the other half live, then this post is for you.
Is it legal?
Great question. The answer will depend on where you are resident. In my home country (England) homeschooling is totally legal and very easy to do. You don’t have to register with the local authority and there are no mandatory checks.
But this isn’t the case everywhere. In some countries, such as Germany, homeschooling is illegal. In others, like Spain, it’s a bit of a grey area. In the USA the law depends on which state you live in. It’s legal in all 50, however, there are different rules to comply with depending on your state.
What about socialisation?
This is often a biggie for people. They worry that because a child is not at school that they’ll miss out on the opportunity to socialise.
But in reality, home schooled kids have a broader social experience and more opportunity to learn how to handle social situations.
Home schooled children actually spend very little time at home.
They go to clubs and classes, they meet up with other home schoolers and they interact with people of all ages and backgrounds as they go through daily life. They have play dates, go to birthday parties and make friends just like everyone else 🙂
I often say that the best way to explain a home ed kid’s social life is that it’s a bit like an adult’s. As an adult, you don’t see your friends all day every day in a classroom. You don’t rely on your work colleagues for all your social interaction.
Instead, you make plans to see your friends. You might meet up with one for coffee on a one to one basis, or you might make plans as a group. You might have some friends that you see each week at yoga/body pump? It’s the same for home ed kids.
How do you socialise while you travel?
Life’s a little different for us because we travel.
We’re often out and about exploring places when we’re on the road. We meet people of all ages, backgrounds and cultures. We spend time with the locals getting to know their way of life and learning all about them.
When we’re on the road we use Facebook groups to find other travelling families who are in the same area as us, and we meet up. Some of our best long-term friends we’re strangers that we met on a beach on our travels!
Do you follow a curriculum?
Not really. I’m not a big fan of the National Curriculum in the UK. I think it’s out of date and doesn’t prepare our kids for the reality of the world they will be living in as adults. I much prefer to work on developing their skills and talents.
Every family home school differently. Some follow a curriculum, others unschool. The way we do it is a funny kind of mix.
We try to stay as child-led as possible. We expose them to as many different topics, subjects and experiences as we can, and then we delve deeper into the ones that interest them at that time. My role is to get them in front of as many subjects as possible and then to provide the resources for them to develop their knowledge on the topics they are interested in or skilled at.
That said, we’re not strict unschoolers and we do have some “non-negotiable” subjects/skills which they do have to cover whether they like them or not. Maths, spellings and writing are the key ones for me. My kids hate writing and spelling. There’s no way they’d do it if it they weren’t “made” to.
When they get to exam age like Josh, we follow the syllabus to ensure they learn what they need to know to pass the exam.
Do you have a time table?
Not like a school time table. One of the skills I want my kids to learn is time management so we do things a little differently. I make sure they have a list of the structured tasks they need to complete and they know when they need to complete them by.
Then I leave them alone to schedule it themselves.
I might give the younger ones a little nudge if I notice that time is running out, but I don’t hassle them or make them do it. I also make sure they know when I have the time to help them, so they can decide whether to get it done then or leave it and do it alone.
I know what you’re thinking… My kids would just never do the work!
Well, there is a catch.
I want them to learn that we get our work done, then we can relax and do whatever we want. For my kids right now, that means tv/gaming.
So the rule is pretty simple. If you have missed the deadline for your work then there is no tv/gaming until you’re caught up.
How do you work at the same time?
As you know I work as a freelance writer and I run courses teaching others how to do it too.
Running a business like this takes time. So is it possible to work while home schooling the kids?
Absolutely. In some ways, it’s easier than when they were at school because I can be flexible with their schedule and mine.
But I do have to plan ahead and be quite strict with my time. I don’t waste it watching Love Island or doing mindless Facebook scrolling.
I get up early and work for 2 or 3 hours before everyone else gets up.
When we’re travelling I work evenings so that we have the days free to explore and enjoy the country we’re in.
When we’re in the UK I arrange play dates and the kids spend time with family so I can work. In the summer holidays, I book them into holiday clubs sometimes too.
We’re a two-parent family, and both of us work for ourselves, so that makes it a little easier too. Sometimes Alan takes the kids for the day and sometimes I do.
Sometimes they’re happy to chill out for the day at home too. They just want to hang out, play with their toys and watch tv. They don’t need me for that so I can work then if I need to.
There are plenty of hours in the week, it’s how you choose to use them that matters.
How many hours a day do you spend on school work & do you just do worksheets?
When I talk about homeschooling people tend to imagine that we have to do full school hours, from 9am-3pm.
But that’s not the case.
Because we’re working 121 and at our individual kid’s levels we can get stuff done much faster than in a group/classroom environment. At a guess, I’d say Jake does around an hour of structured learning a day, and Josh maybe 1-3 because he is studying for exams.
Now, when I say structured learning I mean worksheets/online programmes that involve sitting down and deliberately working. But this is just a tiny part of their education.
The rest of the day they learn much more organically. They read books, watch documentaries, research things online, ask questions…lots and lots of questions. We have discussions, go to museums, sign up to classes and do a lot of interactive learning just through daily travelling and life.
My kids often astound me with their knowledge of history, and yet we’ve never done a formal history lesson. It’s fantastic. When they’re engaged they learn. You don’t have to sit them down and teach them.
What do you do when they don’t want to work?
Now, I know it sounds all rosy and wonderful but you’re right, sometimes it’s not. They’re kids after all. Sometimes they don’t want to do their school work.
When they kick off about their learning, I look for the cause. Are they tired? Have we done too much recently? Is this particular task too hard or too boring? Once I know what the problem is then we problem-solve together to find a solution.
If they’re tired or overworked we take a break. We don’t follow the school calendar so we don’t take breaks when the schools do. Instead, we take breaks when we need them.
If the work is too boring we find a way to make it more interesting. If it’s too hard we find a way to make it easier.
Sometimes we leave a topic altogether for a few weeks or months and then come back to it when they are ready.
When the pressure is off, it’s amazing how willing they are to learn.
Don’t your kids drive you nuts?
So we have a big age gap. Six years. This means that I still have a child who gets up early in the morning and a teenager who goes to bed late at night. So I have a child with me pretty much all of the day.
Yes. Sometimes I find it hard to be with them all day, every day. But only in the way that I would anyone. I wouldn’t want to spend all day, every day with an adult either.
The one thing people don’t seem to understand is that when your child is home schooled, it’s a lot more laid back and relaxed than school life.
When my kids were at school they were just like other kids. They’d come home and go nuts. They’d want to run and fight and play really loud and boisterous games. And they’d want my attention and interaction every minute of the day that they were around me.
It was exhausting.
When people think of home schooling they think that’s what it will be like all day every day. But it’s not.
My kids don’t need my unending attention because we have plenty of time together. They don’t need to run and shout all day because they haven’t got all that pent up energy from sitting still at a desk.
Sure, sometimes they whinge and whine and fight and bicker. But it’s not the same. It’s a small percentage of the time so it’s fine.
Do you collaborate with other home school parents?
In short yes. In our home town in the UK, there are a lot of home ed families and more home ed meetups/classes than we could possibly attend. When we’re in the UK the kids see friends regularly and we go to lots of the events.
Is there any help if your child is struggling?
Again, this will vary depending on where you are resident. In the UK the Local Authorities are supposed to offer support to home educating families, but in reality, what they can offer is often limited to a list of libraries and the contact details of another home ed family.
Families can still access the NHS’s Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) but I think this is done through the GP instead of a school.
If your child is “behind” then it’s no big drama. You can tailor their education to suit their ability instead of trying to make them fit into the government defined tick boxes for each year group.
Just because your child is 6 doesn’t mean they have to be able to read yet. Some kids learn to read better when they’re 8 or 9. What’s the rush?
When you can tailor your child’s education to their own, individual needs and talents then the idea of “struggling” tends to disappear.
What about exams & college?
Firstly, GCSEs are optional. They don’t have to take them and they can attend college or university without them.
But if you want them to take them they can, you just have to pay for it yourself. Some LAs will give some funding towards exams, but not many so the chances are you need to go it alone.
You can sign them up to online courses, hire in a tutor or self-study using the syllabus for the exam you’ve chosen. Or like us, do all three!
Josh is currently using an online course to study Biology, Chemistry and Physics is working from the syllabus book for Maths and has a tutor for English. We just do whatever works for him.
You also have the option to spread the exams out over several years – So take one or two exams when they are 14, then more at 15 or 16. We’ve not done this because it would have meant staying in the UK through May/June for several years running and we didn’t want to do that.
Josh is planning to go to college to complete an Outdoor Adventure Instructor course. He is more than capable of passing GCSEs so he is taking 5 which will get him on the course. But he is also doing lots of activities that will give him a killer portfolio to go with his application.
What if you’re not good enough to teach them?
Then we learn together.
If there is a topic or subject that they need help with and I don’t understand it, then I learn too, or I hire in help.
For example, Jake will often ask me science-based questions that I don’t know the answer to. So we google it, get some books and find the answers together.
On the other hand, Josh is studying for GCSE English and despite being a professional writer, I have zero interest in learning what they want for the exam to a high enough standard to be able to help him. So I hired a tutor for one session every two weeks to answer his questions and keep him on track.
It’s no different from what most parents do with extracurricular activities. You want your child to learn to swim? Sign them up to swimming lessons. You want them to learn an instrument? Find a tutor.
What will you do if they ask to go to school?
I’m pretty sure they won’t. Both my kids have been to school before so they know what it is like.
Jake is offended at the concept of school and Josh only has one more year until he’s off to college.
But in theory, if they asked then I’d discuss it with them, show them the reality of it and let them try it. They’re both old enough to be able to make choices for themselves and I am confident that they’d make the right one for them, whatever that turned out to be.