Growing Academic Skills while Traveling with Kids

A parent’s guide to the various options for academic learning while worldschooling.

4/8/20244 min read

What could beat learning about the Roman Empire while visiting ruined coliseums throughout the Mediterranean, or studying biodiversity while visiting rainforests or between snorkeling on coral reefs? Worldschooling families are united by their belief in the value of using world travel to deliver an experiential education for their child(ren). But, many parents differ on how to best satisfy their child(ren)’s development of the core academic skills – things like math, reading, and writing – that typically only come with ‘seated learning’.

There are many ways worldschooling families seek to accomplish this, ranging widely in rigor and structure, and offering varying degrees of flexibility for your travels. Let’s take a look at some options (organized, generally, by structure/rigor)!

‘Unschooling’ (or, 'child-led schooling')

Let's get this one out of the way.... At one extreme, some parents opt for a model of almost total ‘unschooling’. More-popular with parents of younger kids, this model of learning is entirely driven by the child's interests, creating little resistance and pairing great with travel experiences. However, critics have concerns about some unschooling students missing developmental milestones, particularly in math and literacy skills.

Pros: Ultimate travel flexibility. Fosters self-directed learning and creativity. It’s free!

Cons: Lack of structured education and academic benchmarks. Dependent on the child(ren)’s motivation. Can make reintegrating into traditional schools particularly difficult if ever desired.

Homeschooling (or, 'parent-led schooling')

Homeschooling (whether officially registered with an educational jurisdiction or not) is among the most popular choices for worldschooling families. Many who never would’ve otherwise considered this option identify it as the best fit for balancing the logistics of their travel desires and their students’ academic growth. With homeschooling, parents have the freedom to determine things like the degree of rigor and curriculum. Not long ago, families might’ve carried textbooks or worksheets while traveling, but that has quickly fallen to favoring the use of online educational tools instead (check out our article on the perfect travel tech setup). Of course, this option necessitates parents assuming the full responsibility for their child(ren)’s education and often implies handling some bureaucracy. For these reasons, some parents choose our next option….

Pros: Ultimate travel flexibility. Parents can choose exactly what the student(s) learn and connect that to their travels. Costs are low; typically just for purchasing curriculums/applications.

Cons: Requires a potentially-significant amount of work for the parents. Can be a struggle with some students to maintain boundaries and educational structure.

Supported Homeschooling / Academic Mentorship

You don’t necessarily have to do it all yourself! Supported homeschooling (particularly online), has recently emerged as an ideal way to retain all the benefits of homeschooling’s flexibility, without the responsibility falling solely on the parent to take the role of ‘the teacher’. There are numerous benefits, including the unquantifiable value of having a ‘3rd party’ who functions as the point-person for the student’s education so that assignments aren’t just coming from ‘mom and dad’. Supported homeschooling providers might also offer assistance with handling homeschooling bureaucracy (filing affidavits, academic record-keeping, etc…) and can provide things like academic evaluations and letters of recommendation. The Travelers Learning Collective’s academic mentorship program most-closely resembles this option.

Pros: Substantial travel freedom. Curated, personalized learning experience. Many of the advantages of homeschooling, but without the burden on the parents.

Cons: A little less travel freedom than homeschooling. Requires more coordinating/planning and access to reliable internet. Costs range depending on services, but can be comparable to full-time online school.

Online School

Online schooling is a popular choice for parents who can expect to plan around a reliable internet connection, want their kids interacting with a consistent group of kids, and have kids who can handle it. Some online schools function as virtual replicas of traditional schools with a highly-structured, teacher-led experience with fixed curriculum and scheduled live classes. Most of these require a commitment for an entire school year, and some can be quite expensive. This model could be well-suited for slow-traveling digital-nomad families, but may pose challenges for many other worldschooling families due to navigating rigid schedules across timezones and less flexibility in curriculum customization. That said, some online schools involve more flexibility, while still providing an educational environment with a consistent group of peers. The Travelers Learning Collective, while not technically a school, aims to take the best aspects of online classes and package them into live virtual small-group sessions focused on creating social connection and exploring ‘the story of our planet and humankind’ in a flexible, explorative, engaging, and fun way.

Pros: Greater educational structure, consistent peers, and moderate travel flexibility.

Cons: Requires planning around set schedules and good internet. Depending on the school, costs can be significant.

In-Person Schooling (Longer term)

Some worldschoolers also choose from a number of different in-person educational options, including international schools, local schools, and language-immersion schools. Of course this option necessitates planning travel around the destination and school-year calendar. Also, this option typically requires remaining in one place for a semester or year.

Pros: In-person education/connection with the potential for deep cultural immersion and more-structured learning.

Cons: Language barriers might exist, and educational rigor/standards might vary widely. Some schools have high costs.

Worldschooling Hubs

Finally, there is an ever-growing collection of international ‘worldschooling hubs’ at popular travel destinations that offer short-term educational programs. These can offer a great opportunity for kids (and parents!) to connect and make new friends at various destinations. Though, many families find the worldschooling hubs to be more valuable for social connection than for growing core academic skills like math and literacy.

Pros: In-person social interaction, opportunity to connect with interesting world travelers.

Cons: Not typically focused on academic growth, and rarely focused on core academic skills.

With any big trip, there are countless considerations to weigh before making a decisions. Selecting which of the various educational options is right for your family is a highly-personal choice, and one that needs to account for everything from your child’s learning needs/desires, to your own bandwidth as a parent, to your financial circumstance, to striking a balancing with your travel desires. At the Travelers Learning Collective, we’ve attempted to design a program that is the ‘right fit’ for a certain profile of student and travel style. We balance core academic growth through mentorship and personalized independent learning plans, with cultivating a social-learning community centered on our travel experiences in our Collective Sessions.

Our families tend to prefer greater travel freedom and the ability to be more spontaneous with their plans. Our students tend to be enthusiastic about learning about science, history, geography, and/or languages - especially as they connect to the places they visit. And, our most-successful students take pride and joy in the ‘travel projects’ they undertake and share with their group, and can tackle their assigned math/literacy skills work with at least some degree of independence.

Does this perhaps sound like your family or your student(s)? If so, let’s talk!

Subscribe to our newsletter!