“Now that you’ve stopped full-time travel, what are you doing about school? Are you going to send the girls to traditional school? Are you still going to homeschool?”
These are the questions we’re most asked about our travel lifestyle – whether we are traveling or not.
I get it. It’s complicated, and a good cause for worry.
This is a long post, because getting the schooling right for your kids and your lifestyle is important.
These decisions are not easy, the researching is complicated and there are many factors to consider.
I hope I have laid out our approach carefully enough for you so you can see how it lead us to a happy solution. It’s proving to be successful for all the important reasons we believe school should be about.
Bookmark this and return to it. Ask us questions in the comments so we can clarify anything for you. We can also create more content (blog or video) on other related topics.
As I mentioned in last week’s post, change takes time and brings with it chaos.
Resettling back into normal life in Raleigh, North Carolina after full-time travel across the USA had its challenges and stresses for us, one of the biggest ones was
“what are we going to do about school?”
We knew changes were needed, we just couldn’t find the perfect solution. Well there is none, but the one that best suited our lifestyle, and life plans moving forward.
You Know Best
I’m not going to back up our thought processes and decisions with a lot of stats and case studies for you.
I’m not saying they aren’t helpful, but you can find a bunch of stats and reports to validate any opinion you have. What I want to give you more are insights and experiences.
They may be a little more educated in the sense that I was an elementary school teacher for 15 years and taught in five countries (USA, England, Irleand, Australia, and Thailand).
I’ve also been a global traveler for 22 years AND I’ve homeschooled / unschooled our girls for 6 years.
My belief is you know best. Tune into your gut. Notice how you feel and question everything.
When everyone took great delight in telling me our travels were over once I fell pregnant, my response was “Why?”
“Why can’t I still travel with my kids?”
It may have been true, but how was I to know that unless I tested that myself and figured it out?
Same too with our decision to travel with our kids rather than send them to school. Oh boy, did people think we were crazy because … kids. HAVE. to. go. to. school.
Why? Have you tested something different?
I am not going to blindly follow the herd. I’m going to first figure out if the herd is right or not. And that is not the sky-is-blue right, but right as resonating with our values, goals and lifestyle.
I figure it out through my curious questions and tuning into the greater picture and the immediate needs of my family and children.
We’re all different. Trying to fit each person into the same box is ridiculous.
Figure out what works best for you. Test it. Keep tuned into it, so you know if something is not working anymore and you need to change it.
Listen to the advice of others but you make the final decision.
I know for sure that I ultimately know all the answers.
While Craig and I make these decisions for our children, we don’t make them without involving them – finding out what they want, knowing what works best for them and their personalities and their needs – but we ultimately decide what’s best because they need us to do that right now.
They need us to be their guides until they are old enough to have the confidence and wisdom to do it themselves, which is what we are ultimately training them for and empowering them to do.
How travel helps in the evolutionary growth of the child
I say evolutionary growth as that is the process we all go through.
Why did we exclude kids from this when they go to school by focusing on preparing them for a career and academic growth?
They need more than this.
Schools touch on it, and do help in many ways, but not to the extent the evolutionary growth of humans need.
Our travels have helped our girls become thoughtful and curious about the world they live in.
They have learned much about themselves and important issues. They have quite a holistic and accepting attitude about life. They are quite independent, empowered and creative.
They’ve had so much time to spend playing and exploring interests and curiosities, it has given them good inner guidance and helped them adjust to their new schooling world.
While my girls are naturally shy, they still have been able to interact with a diverse range of people throughout our travels.
I like how this diversity exposure has helped them feel more comfortable interacting with strangers.
We still have MANY problems because we’re meant to.
I feel like we fail as parents OFTEN – as I’m sure you do – but ultimately we’re all doing the best we can and probably better than we think.
Our homeschooling approach to this point has been valuable.
How our homeschooling approach has evolved
We started as nervous homeschoolers in 2013, when Kalyra (6 ) was in her third term of Kindergarten and I was not long out of the classroom.
She was reading by this stage and doing quite well. I was unsure about homeschooling so we enrolled her in distance education.
She was enrolled in a school and her teacher sent her work out. I implemented the lessons with her and sent the work back.
It was challenging to do traveling around Australia, and I felt given her age, much of it was irrelevant.
We didn’t feel it was best, and decided to change things when we returned to full time travel in 2016 and moved to the US in 2017.
Kalyra went back to school for 18-months in Burleigh Heads, Australia before we moved back to the USA. It was a great school and she did really well. However, a few social issues were present, normal school stuff but an issue about school I’m not comfortable with.
Savannah has never been to traditional school.
In 2016, we decided to take care of the homeschooling ourselves. You can read more about that new road schooling approach here.
For the RV road trip we took for the past 12 months, we turned to more of an unschooling approach, although they still had school text books they worked from.
At this point, after six years of homeschooling and observing, I saw how much the girls learned and grew just from having the space to play, imagine, create and learn from life.
They both took standardized tests each year as part of their schooling requirements in the state of North Carolina and passed on or above grade level.
Was all they learned at school completely necessary? I’m not entirely sure, but they were thriving without the brain stuffing.
I did continue to focus on specific skill based instruction like reading and math. Savannah somehow basically taught herself to read, and Kalyra wrote posts like this Universal Studios one without much input from us or specific writing instruction.
It completely suited our style of travel, and we feel worked well.
But, we knew it was not ideal for moving forward once we returned to Raleigh.
Why homeschooling needed to change
An unschooling approach worked ok while on the road as every day was filled with life learning and travel experiences.
Every moment presented an opportunity for evolutionary growth.
Part of returning back to Raleigh was to stop doing that as it was exhausting and we wanted to slow down.
With that slow down comes a lot of empty spaces to fill.
A full time job I no longer wanted
We already manage far too much as parents and business owners and, as my last post told you, we were completely exhausted. It wasn’t best for me, but more importantly, not best for the girls.
If I’m not monitoring their every move, they are straight on their devices getting heavily influenced by YouTube and Tik Tok and goodness knows what.
And no, it is not as simple as giving them something else to do. That’s a full-time job, and I want them to have the capacity to make better decisions – that comes with structure and other options!
Craig and I could not give that to them.
It’s important you know your strengths, capabilities and limits.
Loss of Future Potential
One night, I was watching Madam Secretary and once again impressed with the intelligence, drive and service of Elizabeth McCord, because yes, she’s real in my world.
I started thinking about my girls growing up to be a powerful force and maybe one day holding a leadership role that changes the world.
And then I thought, hang on… I don’t think I’m equipping them enough to do that.
Yes. There are so many benefits to benefits to homeschooling, unschooling, and road schooling but there was a lot from an academic aspect we weren’t giving and so creating a potential loss of future opportunities and dreams for them.
I believe the school system needs a revamp, but in some ways it does prepare our future Elizabeth McCords!
The girls haven’t yet expressed an interest in college or a particular career beyond acting and, perhaps sports for Savannah.
But, what if they change their minds?
I didn’t want my choices to impact their future. Realistically. I knew I could not give them what they needed for that possible future. (psst, nor did I want to!!!)
I think our approach to homeschooling thus far was perfect as I don’t think it matters too much when they are younger. A lot does depend on the child: their personalities, learning styles and curiosities, but you can really get by.
Savannah could continue unschooling for a few more years. But I do think the older they get, the more they need something that goes a little deeper and more structured and specific, and them taking instructions and directions from other adults – not just their parents.
Kalyra is also a person who loves learning and excelling. She is the perfect student and I could see she was very disadvantaged in not having this opportunity to become more.
Discipline and Structure
While the flexibility and freedom we had because of our travels was wonderful and offered many great benefits for open mindedness, curiosities, adventures and explorations, we still felt that there was a certain amount of disciple and structure missing.
It was more the discipline I was concerned of. I don’t mean this from a toe-the-line stand point, but discipline in terms of commitment and perseverance.
The girls are fantastic at adapting to change.
But growth and long-term change can’t occur without the discipline to see it through.
Discipline helps you organize your time and actions around something that is meaningful and serves a purpose. Otherwise you’re just endlessly playing and aimlessly wandering and forming bad sleeping in habits!
It’s one often big reasons we no longer wanted to travel full time. We felt we were aimlessly wandering and indulging so much that we no longer had discipline, nor the capacity, to do meaningful work.
And we wanted them to have the opportunity to persue their interests and have a permanent base in a community; Kalyra is now doing acting and tennis lessons. Savannah is also doing tennis lessons and hip hop dance classes, and is interested in playing soccer this spring – none of that is possible when you’re constanlty moving location every week or even month.
You have to find places to direct your energy to create in a way that makes a difference.
Sometimes that involves doing things you don’t want to do or don’t make sense. You show up and do them because it’s leading you to somewhere else.
So while Kalyra likes to complain about the point of algebra and things she probably never will use, I try to tell her, it’s not the specifics of algebra and its direct application that it’s teaching you.
It’s teaching you how to problem solve, how to think outside the box, how to follow a process and format to arrive at an answer.
It’s teaching you to show up and do the uncomfortable so you can grow into a better human.
Of course, with us, everything is a test. We are always open to change if we discover something is not suiting us in the best way.
All of this is our opinion based upon our values and experiences and beliefs AND what I knew I was capable of doing for them.
Yours may be different and that’s okay. It’s important you form your own opinion as to what is best for your values, goals, and beliefs, and work to find something that fits that.
The perfect solutions for your family are there.
Get clear on what you believe, and what you want and the perfect solution will arrive.
Read on to see how ours did, right at the last minute when I was about to give up.
Researching Schooling options
Traditional School vs Homeschool
The first thing we had to do was evaluate the pros and cons of putting the girls into traditional schooling or remain homeschooling.
We thought traditional schooling was best for:
- deeper dive into learning
- structure and discipline
- clubs and extracurricular activities
So bad for travel
It was really not good for us in terms of flexibility. Travel will never stop for us. It’s our passion, our lifestyle, but also our business.
We all still want to be able to live and travel to our own schedule. We just couldn’t see traditional school as a valuable option for us. It’s not fair to take the girls in and out AND it’s not allowed anyway.
What about socialization?
We were on the fence as to whether traditional school was the best solution for socialization.
I’m pretty sure they would form friendships, and find awesome people to hang out with. But, we were very concerned with the negative social effects of school.
Bullying is REAL.
I’ve seen it first hand from teaching in my own classrooms and monitoring playtime in school playgrounds, and now from a parenting perspective – school can be a dog-eat-dog world.
Did I really want my girls to be thrown into that world, where you feel like you’re on the defensive and always having to watch your back?
After the life they have lived would they get swallowed up by it?
I had very mixed experiences with my own schooling from a social perspective. It really wasn’t until grade 11 and 12 that I felt much more secure and safe in my relationships, and they were the two best schooling years of my life.
I adored my friends … however, I rarely see or keep in touch with anyone of them now. Grades 7-10 weren’t as positive. Ugh, it was awful actually.
Kalyra and Savannah were very concerned about bullying in school and was one of the reasons they said “No way!”
And the guns?
The other concern was guns. In fact, Kalyra burst into tears when we were discussing it and screamed, “I don’t want to get shot.”
I know that may seem very over dramatic, and the odds are slim, but there ARE odds, which is distressing, particularly to a young child who hears the stories of those odds, and to people who have not been raised in a world where this is a problem.
I was also terrified of the gun issue and will not deny I am glad it is not something I have to worry about.
Just the drills I used to do as a teacher here in North carolina were enough to traumatize me!
We knew we’d get that sense of safety homeschooling and we knew that homeschooling would give us the greatest flexibility for our travel lifestyle.
I spent a long time researching schools in Raleigh, looking for any kind of alternative school that had more open learning environments with greater flexibility.
We found one where the kids went only 4-days a week and each day they had foreign language lessons, musical instrument lessons, and spent a lot of time engaging with the outside world.
It was a private school, and I put it on my list of possibles, but it also cost big $$$.
If that was a no go, then the best solution was something we could do from home that operated more like a traditional school
Which lead us to research …
Homeschooling: Online schools
I had many people recommend online schools to me, so down the rabbit hole I went to find the right online school.
And I couldn’t. Many of them just provided curriculum so I’d still have to be responsible for teaching and managing.
This can be a good option if you want to take care of the homeschooling yourself, but don’t have a good knowledge or starting point for curriculum.
Public Online School
If you want more of a hands off approach, public online school is a great idea. It depends on your reasons for homeschooling and what you feel confident about in terms of managing the education yourself.
If you didn’t want a traditional school for whatever reason, but didn’t want to take care of the homeschooling yourself, public online school is a great option. And it’s FREE.
It looked like the option for us until I discovered their strict attendance policies.
It was exactly like traditional school: 5 days a week from 9-4.
You had to attend school for the required 180 days a year and could not take any time off. If you wanted to you had to request the time off, with valid reasons, which is not an easy thing to do.
This made online public school for us totally useless.
I’d prefer to send the girls to traditional school so they’d get their extra curricular activities and, hopefully, have a better exposure to meeting kids their own age.
Back to the research.
Private Online Schools
I was not excited by any private online schools I found.
Most had confusing and unprofessional websites. I’m not going to feel confident handing over money to a private school that can’t even have a proper functioning website.
And many were so expensive.
It was looking like traditional school was going to be our only option and we were all feeling a little lackluster.
And then a random click lead me to Laurel Springs School.
Immediately I knew, we were at the right place.
Firstly, they had a well functioning website that clearly told me who they were, what they offered, their points of difference and what they stood for.
They had all the elements of the school I was looking for.
The only problem being it’s a private school, which means we pay tuition. I was terrified it was going to be hugely expensive and shatter our dreams.
Thankfully, it was an amount we could manage. I was very impressed with the registration and onbaording process and the many questions that were answered (by phone and email) before we agreed to enroll.
While I’m grateful we all have the option of public schooling, and I wish I could take advantage of it, since we have an unorthodox life, I’m happy to pay for something that will give us the best solution for that with a wonderful education and philosophy.
It’s our best option and a worthy investment. We can prioritize it and make sacrifices in other areas, like eating out and lattes.
Laurel Springs Online School
Okay, let’s look at why we love this school.
Laurel Springs is a school that caters to many students who need flexibility for an unorthodox life.
For example, many of their students are professional athletes or actors or accelerated learners or international stedents, or their parents are business owners like us who travel alot, and cannot do 9-5. YES! We’ve found our tribe. Check out this list of students they cater to.
There are no set hours, days or schedules with Laurel Springs. Basically, you have 10 months of the year to get your coursework done. You decide how and when that happens.
In keeping with the semi-homeschooling framework over the years, we work extra hours each day or week when we know travel is coming up so we can take time off.
Just like us, the girls can organize their school work around the other important things in our life. They could take time off when Aunty Jen came to stay and other friends as well.
Laurel Springs is an accredited online private school whose transcripts are recognized by colleges and universities worldwide.
Basically, if the girls want to go to college, they’ll be covered as they’ll meet all the requirements.
They even get guidance counsellors to help them with all of that confusing stuff!!
Independence and Structure
For me, this has been the best school approach I’ve encountered for helping kids become independent learners who can manage their own time and work.
Can you imagine trying to teach 30 kids in a classroom, each with their own learning style and personalities, a packed curriculum, and CONSTANT behavioral distractions?
This is the thing that gets me most excited about this school as I know how much it is helping my girls EVOLVE and EMPOWER!!!
The girls are completely in control of managing and organizing their learning.
They have a dashboard that houses all their coursework. It also has a calendar, an activity stream, and a to-do list. That tells them what is due for the coming week and what special classes and events are happening for the week.
The activity stream shows them what they have done, their grades, and when their teachers have left feedback.
Each course shows their running grade and progress throughout the course. It’s easy to monitor and motivates them to improve their grades.
They check in with their tasks each day, they know what they are learning and why, they can clearly see when they have tasks due, and are much more diligent at getting them done.
As you can imagine, you don’t get this when teaching your own child. Who experiences homework hell?
The girls coursework follows normal curriculum. They do Math, English, Social Studies, Science and PE & Health.
Their coursework is broken into units of work, which they receive per semester. Within the course work they have activities, projects, quizzes, module tests and end of semester tests.
I love how they have the option to retake their tests and they get to see where they went wrong in the first place, which offers another opportunity for learning.
They receive a suggested schedule with expected submission dates for each course to help guide them through the work.
They aren’t penalized if they don’t complete their work by the due date. The girls work hard to ensure they do, but sometimes they are a few days late. I love this extra flexibility that caters to alternative lifestyles.
Foreign Language classes
I didn’t even know foreign language classes was a requirement for college. I would have totally messed the girls up.
They can take elective foreign language classes! We decided to wait until next year for this. We wanted to give ourselves time to adjust to the school and do the minimum for now.
Next year we’ll look at foreign language courses.
There are loads of elective classes they will take and we’ll get more into that as they get older and progress into high school and have more clarity around specific interests.
The kids are not left to their own devices!!
Each week they receive a calendar of live online classes. They can jump on and interact with teachers and other students on particular topics as they apply to their classwork, or even other classes they want to join.
I step into help with this. I check over the schedule each week and register them for any particular classes I know will benefit them.
They also have open ended sessions like the Math and Writing lab where they can log into the virtual classroom and chat with a teacher for deeper instruction or specific feedback.
Their class teachers have specific times they are available online for the kids to ask questions either by email, in the chat room, or over video call.
They can even text or phone their teachers!
We’ve already had phone calls with the girls’ teachers. They reached out to organize them as a check in. It was fantastic.
They were very up to speed with the girls progress and had great feedback and suggestions to help them improve.
Kalyra’s math teacher explained to us the secondary and high school education in the US and how it was more course based math topics rather than grade level.
So even though it seems like she’s behind now as she’s doing sixth grade math, really she’s just focusing on pre-algebra and will start on algebra when she’s ready and at the right time.
I LOVE how they are encouraged to work through courses of study at their own pace and level so they can master it before layering something more difficult on top.
I am very impressed with the teacher accessibility and involvement.
Clubs & Extra- Curricular
The school has over 30 online interest clubs to choose from. They meet once a month online to hang out and enjoy their shared interests.
Savannah has joined the photography and read, write, share club.
Kalyra has joined the travel club. Unfortunately we missed the meetings last month!! We’re still getting used to this new way!
We take care of the extra curricular at home.
The girls are required to do X amount of exercise hours each week, which helps us stay focused on getting out and running around. (So much harder in the winter and so much easier when we were traveling. Miss those 15 mile hikes!!)
But it forces us to get out and kick the ball around, play some tennis or basketball, or go for a bike ride or walk around our lakes.
The girls are also in tennis lessons, dance lessons and acting classes for Kalyra.
Virtual Field Trips and Inspiring People
The school offers virtual field trips where they explore different topics with various experts. It’s interactive, so they can ask questions and participate in quizzes etc.
So far they have visited Asian elephants and learned how to survive on the surface of the moon.
I enjoy listening to them myself and was ecstatic to hear the environmental messages coming through, especially in regards to the elephants explaining how bad it is to ride them!!!
Did you know that elephants walk on their tiptoes? Pretty cool right?
Once a month, the school also has guest speakers for the Meetings with Remarkable Men and Women Symposia.
They’ve had people like Jane Goodall give inspiring presentations before!! This month was Indre Viskontas a female opera singer who also studies and teaches the effects of music on neuroscience.
I love these bright minds the girls are getting exposure to!
Face to face events
The school also offers opportunities throughout the year for in-person field trips and regional events.
They also have a graduation and prom each year in Anaheim, California. We’re looking forward to potentially experiencing these!
Social Events Online and Offline
Kalyra can join the Facebook online network when she turns 13. This is another avenue for her to connect with other students in the school.
Savannah has already connected with a couple of LSS kids over Messenger Kids where they chat every now and then.
And there is a parenting Facebook group for our region so we can meet and potentially hang out with other parents and their kids.
We wish there were more students in Raleigh we could see in real life, but there are some in Charlotte and Wilmington and other counties we may be able to connect with at some stage.
Our thoughts on Laurel Springs Homeschooling so far
It’s been three months attending Laurel Springs Online School and we all LOVE it.
There is probably not a week goes by that I don’t make the statement:
“You know I really love this school. It’s just brilliant with how it’s structured and helps kids be independent learners.”
Kalyra is super disciplined, focused and independent.
She’s in her room working and putting in an extraordinary effort. She has her own note taking system organized and even creates flashcards for key ideas.
She just figures it out and goes above and beyond what is required of her.
I even have to advise her that she may not need to write so many notes, and I can help her learn to condense them, but she’s happy doing it and she’ll soon figure out how to be more efficient.
Savannah is a very different style of learner and has always been a high-energy, can’t-stop-moving and-being-distracted kind of person.
She is growing a lot and learning to manage her own learning. The schedule helps her to stay on task, but we still have to mange her a little more – of course, she is younger so to be expected.
She’s also a very hands on learner, and is loving the projects she gets to do.
We’ve created the solar system, 3D maps of our area and built our own weather instruments to record local weather patterns. This week we’re building a volcano!!
This has been fun for me to do these projects with her and see how she thinks and listen to her creative ideas. It’s a great bonding time.
It was challenging to get her to read to begin with and even more so to write her thoughts in the journal about it, but thanks to Diary of a Wimpy Kid, she has now become an avid reader.
The journal part is still a work in progress, but she is taking her spare time to sit in her room with her guitar and write her own songs!!!
Considering she has never had any traditional school exposure (besides pre-school in Australia) she is doing extremely well.
She is learning to take notes and become an independent learner. She is seeing how she is improving and is developing a desire to do a little bit more to get the results she knows she’s capable of.
I LOVE seeing the girls take charge of their learning in this way without any outside pressure or looking sideways in comparison.
They are both very happy with our homeschooling style right now and are adamant they do not want to go to a traditional school.
Tell you the truth, I wouldn’t either!
The only downsides
Nothing is perfect. There are some downsides to our private online school.
Work done online
The majority of the work is done online. I don’t like this constant connection to their computers, particularly when they do have downtime and then want to jump on them again!!!
They are starting to look for other things to do that don’t involve electronics. It’s important to me they figure this out for themselves and not having me demand it.
Possibly constant being on their computers may help them turn more away from them. These are tiny steps at the moment, and a huge work in progress. I’ll keep you posted.
I wish the girls did have some textbooks they could read and learn from and take notes. Laurel Springs does have that option where you can purchase textbooks.
We didn’t really want the extra cost of that right now, but as they progress into high school, we may do it.
Working from Home
We love the flexibility that comes with working from home and the freedom it gives for us to travel.
But I don’t like how working from home keeps you within the same walls and environment all day long.
I don’t think it’s healthy. I have great focus so could literally sit at my desk for 12 hours a day blissfully.
I’m aware of how unhealthy this is so pull myself out. I mentioned in another post, I go to a co-working space two days a week so I can go to a different environment.
Craig is starting at another co-working space for two alternate days per-week tomorrow so we all have time to focus for 8 hours, and have much needed separation from each other, and our kids from us!
We also have to be very focused on getting the girls out of the house to do things,. They do complain about that quite a bit but we can’t let them become hermits.
By about March, we should be ready to dip our toes into travel again, so this will be less of a concern.
And we’re out exploring Raleigh and doing fun things like this Krispy Kreme Challenge we did on the weekend. 5 mile run with 12 donuts to consume at the halfway point. Would you? (We took the donuts home!!)
We are responsible for getting the materials for their projects, which is annoying as I’m hopeless at this kind of stuff and already so time strapped.
Thank goodness for Amazon to deliver it to me otherwise I’d just never get to the store!!
It’s just one small inconvenience.
As mentioned, this is our current biggest struggle and of most pressing concern.
With time, we’ll find the friends for the girls.
We haven’t put ourselves out there in the Raleigh community enough yet as we have been adjusting to new life and it’s winter – but I now get that from my co-working co-worker friends, and we have just joined the Raleigh Travel Massive group, and Craig’s new co-working space also has social events.
Their extra curricular activities (acting, dancing, and tennis classes) will possibly help.
Thankfully Kalyra is seeing some of the same people in her acting classes and performances, so this will grow. We haven’t found a homeschooling group yet that fits with us but we’re keeping our eyes and hearts open.
We do have friends in the area, and so catch up with them every now and then, which the girls love, but they don’t live that close by so it’s not a regular thing.
We have our travel friends visit, so they continue to get socialization experiences, but regular long-term, local friendships are still a work in progress.
Thank you for reading all the way to the end.
This has been a long time journey for us. We feel it has lead us to the right place and we are very excited about this next chapter and what it might bring to the girls.
We will keep you updated throughout the year.
What questions do you have about our new homeschooling style or any homeschooling style? Please leave any tips or feedback as well. And of course share it with another parent you know who needs this information.