Many homeschoolers consider traveling while homeschooling, or emigration to another country for work, financial, family or other reasons. Obviously, this can bring about many questions such as how to maintain or create a new routine, requirements in another country, etc.
This isn’t something I’ve tried myself, but I’ve recently chatted with another homeschooling mom, Susan Whitehead, whose family left their home in the USA, and in between, they’ve also traveled to a couple of other countries for months at a time. I want to share with you what I’ve learned from her – I’m sure you’ll find it helpful!
Susan Whitehead is also a mom-blogger who shares more information, tips, and encouragement with other traveling homeschoolers on her blog, Wanderlust Families.
1. What were you and your family up to before moving to another country?
Before our family started traveling long-term, we lived a somewhat “out of the box” life. We had 5 children at the time and I had been homeschooling since our oldest was 5 years old. My husband and I ran an online business from home and had moderate success.
We didn’t believe in putting our children into the public or private school system because I really enjoyed spending time with them. I still do! Our country was in a recession and jobs were hard to find, so we turned to selling products on eBay and Amazon to provide for our family. I also had a small newsletter business that brought in some consistent income.
2. Why did you move?
The story behind our move is twofold. First, we had been living in a rental home and one day, our landlord asked to stop by the house. When I opened the door to let her in, she had a peach pie in her hands with a big red bow on top. This was highly unusual, so I knew something was up.
Within a few minutes, we sat down and she told us that we would need to move out of her house in about 3 months. We had originally talked about extending our lease, but that wasn’t an option anymore.
My husband and I had been dreaming of moving overseas to give our children a broader view of the world but didn’t think we had the financial means to do it. When our landlord gave us this news, my husband and I knew it was time to act. Within a few days, we began selling nearly everything we owned to move to Central America.
The second reason why we moved was financial. We were not making enough money to cover basic expenses in the USA. My husband was doing his best to grow our small business and I was babysitting 2 girls once a week to help pay for groceries. We even had gotten to the point of selling some of my jewelry to pay our bills.
We’d heard of other families who were living in Central America for 1/3 to 1/2 as much as they’d spent in the USA. We hoped that, with our little online businesses and cutting our living expenses, we could make it work. And we did.
3. How did you prepare the children in terms of homeschooling?
Honestly, I didn’t have time to give it much thought. The frenzy of trying to sell almost everything we owned and planning the move dominated my thoughts.
We are very loose homeschoolers. I don’t have a rigid schedule of bookwork for the children to do every day. My educational philosophy combines Charlotte Mason and unschooling. I packed some Charlotte Mason- style language arts books, a Charlotte Mason science book and math computer CDs and that’s about it. I knew we could keep those going very easily once we got to Costa Rica.
Once we arrived, my youngest daughter (she was 6 at the time) taught herself to read using a Spanish schoolbook we had. The children had lots of time outside to explore the area. The girls took ballet lessons at a local school. It was lots of hands-on learning and exploring.
4. How did the transition go and what did your routine look like during this time – did you take a break or just do less?
The transition was pretty seamless because it was easy to keep our normal routine once we were settled. We took a break for the first 3-4 days because it was a huge cultural transition, but my children get bored quickly when they’re not doing some schoolwork every day.
Generally, our school days consist of waking up and doing normal morning things (breakfast, getting dressed, etc.) and then having the children do schoolwork. Once our children are reading well and have basic math figured out, they pretty much learn on their own.
So, after the morning routine (which hasn’t changed in over 15 years), they would begin their schoolwork. Usually, they’re done by lunchtime. The older ones may take longer, but it isn’t an all-day affair.
5. What changed about your homeschooling in the next country while adjusting?
As we have traveled to other countries, very little has changed. The biggest difference is being deliberate about taking time to go outside and explore the new surroundings. It means we look for opportunities to visit historical sites, watch educational videos about the area, visit zoos or aquariums, and live like locals, as much as possible.
6. What tips would you give other homeschooling families who are emigrating or considering it?
Emigrating to another country is a bit different than what we have done. If you’re just traveling or staying in another country, but not necessarily applying for residency or citizenship, you (generally) are not subject to local schooling laws.
For example, homeschooling is illegal in Germany, but if you’re spending 3 months in Germany, you don’t have to put your children in school.
Traveling like our family has, living for 6 to 12 months in another country, means we can continue homeschooling like we always have.
If you do plan to stay semi-permanently in another country, including getting local government IDs and other legal statuses, you will need to find out what the local laws are regarding homeschooling. My favorite resource is the Homeschool Legal Defense Association or www.HSLDA.org. While they are a USA based organization, they are proactive in helping families around the globe exercise the right to school their children at home.
7. What was the hardest about the experience?
The hardest part of every big move we’ve done, whether to Costa Rica or Mexico or the United Arab Emirates or our 3-month road trip through Europe, has been the culture shock that followed.
We didn’t experience it too much in Europe because we were moving to a new location every week or less. In other countries, I hit a mental wall around the 6-8 week mark when everything felt miserable. We had gotten somewhat settled into everyday life, but the mental burden of a new culture became almost unbearable. It is mentally exhausting to be in a country where everything is different. It is a hurdle I’ve come to expect now, but it was hard to get through the first couple of times.
Thankfully, the children didn’t seem to get hit with it as much as I did. They have all been pretty flexible about these adventures.
8. What was the best part of the experience?
The best part of the experiences we have had is the connectedness and the memories we now share. It was through the hard times and trials that our family really grew closer.
I love seeing my children explore a new culture and learn bits and pieces of a new language. It has pushed them out of their comfort zones and made them more confident. It’s made ME more confident. It has shown them that there is a creative solution for nearly every hurdle we encounter in life…you just have to be willing to look for it.
9. Any final thoughts/comments?
If you ever have the opportunity to travel and live in another country with your family, make a way to make it happen.
It will take work.
It will be hard.
You will have doubts.
In the end, it will change you all for the better. Being a homeschooling family affords you the luxury of not being tied to a normal school year calendar.
Use that freedom to explore the world, create amazing memories together and raise children who are confident, compassionate and can make the world a better place.
Did you enjoy this interview? Which tip did you find most helpful? If you’re a world-traveling homeschooler, share your favourite tip below to help others out.
If the thought of emigration makes you anxious, you might want to start reading the coping tips for parents first!