It’s that time again mama. The long, lazy days of summer are coming to an end and a return to school looms on the horizon. Many of our Wandering Moms send their kids to traditional school while many others choose to homeschool their kids. The reasons behind these choices very widely, but one theme we see pop up often within our community is the desire to have some level of flexibility in education so families can travel more. Whether families want the freedom to travel during non-peak seasons or they want to make travel the main focus of their children’s education, there are a lot of ways homeschooling and travel can work together to enrich a child’s life! We’ll be discussing the many different types of homeschooling to help parents explore what might be a good fit for their families.
Types of Homeschooling
Traditional homeschooling looks the most like regular school, it just happens at home with a parent as the teacher. Many traditional homeschooling families follow a traditional school year and a traditional curriculum that closely follows grade levels and age-based progressions. Parents who choose this path have many reasons for wanting the structure of regular school but the freedom of doing so at home. Whatever their reasons for choosing to educate their kids at home, they want to stay somewhat aligned with what happens in a traditional school setting. A lot of, but not all, traditional homeschoolers use a all-in-one curriculum that comes with teachers guides or manuals. It’s also common for families to start with a traditional approach and then branch off in other directions as they get more comfortable with homeschooling and learn what works best for their family.
Eclectic homeschoolers see value in a wide variety of teaching and learning methods and do not want to . They tend to want something much more individualized than a traditional school can offer. Eclectic homeschoolers piece together a program that works for their children and families. They may approach each subject differently, for example- they may use a highly structured, traditional math program but a more hands-on, project-based science curriculum. They may use a pre-packaged curriculum for some subjects, develop their own curriculum for other subjects, or even unschool some subjects. Eclectic homeschooling offers incredible freedom in meeting the individual learning needs of each child. It can require a bit more effort on the front end, as parents will have to piece together their own full curriculum- but the plus side is that it will be a curriculum that meets your exact wants and needs!
Homeschool Co-Ops and Hybrid Programs
One of the things we hear often in our group of Wandering Moms is, “I can’t do this on my own!” The thought of being solely responsible for your child’s education can be scary, but the truth of the matter is that rarely do people homeschool alone. If you’re nervous about your ability to go at this solo, consider looking into local homeschool co-ops or hybrid programs.
Co-ops are groups of homeschoolers that get together for social gatherings or academic classes taught by other parents or people in the community. Social co-ops will often focus on group activities, picnics, play-dates and field trips that will enhance your child’s learning. Academic co-ops actually offer classes your child can take. Some only offer elective classes so kids can get together for fun lessons, while others will offer structured core classes as well. They often meet once or twice a week to give instruction, then you help your child with their homework the rest of the week.
Hybrid programs tend to be more structured academic programs- often with certified teachers who meet with students two or three days a week for instruction, then they send home additional work for the remaining days of the week.
Believe it or not, virtual schools existed well before the pandemic! Many virtual schools have gotten a bad reputation because of the pandemic, but it’s important to differentiate between a true, stand-alone virtual school and the virtual options school districts threw together when schools had to close for safety reasons. If you’re looking for a virtual school, you’ll want to find one that is well established. Real virtual schools are asynchronous platforms that offer a traditional school curriculum (all core subjects plus electives) following traditional grade levels. An online platform delivers daily lessons with projects, quizzes, and tests just like a regular classroom. A good virtual school will have a teacher available in each class to help students who need additional support in that subject. But instead of showing up in a classroom every day, families have the freedom to set their own learning schedules and work from anywhere. Because classes are asynchronous, students can log in at any time and work their way through lessons on a schedule that fits their needs.
Types of Curriculum
All-in-one curriculum are also called per-packaged or boxed curriculum and they are exactly what they sound like. You purchase an entire year’s worth of curriculum from one provider. For each grade level, it will come with math, science, language arts, social studies and elective classes. You’ll get the books and workbooks along with the teachers manuals to guide you through how to teach each lesson. These programs often come with set schedules, though you can certainly veer from the schedule, to keep you on track to finish all subjects within a normal school year. Many parents choose these types of curriculum when they first start homeschooling because it’s an easy introduction into teaching and learning at home!
Many companies offer single subject curriculum. With these programs, you’ll get a full year or grade level worth of lessons but just for one subject. There are all sorts of options here- from very traditionally structured programs that rely on books, notes and worksheets to project-based programs and everything in between. You can choose which way your student learns best in each subject and select a specific curriculum for each subject. This option is often the best of both worlds in that you still get a pre-packaged curriculum with teachers guides for each subject, but you can also individualize each subject to meet your child’s specific learning style.
If all-in-one and single subject curriculum closely align with traditional schooling, unschooling is the exact opposite! Unschoolers choose not to use any structured curriculum and instead let students lead their own learning! Like all of these options, there is a LOT of variability in unschooling. Some families choose to use no structured curriculum at all and let students learn from life. Other families will let students lead, then create individualized lessons around the child’s interests at that time. These families intentionally break away from traditional schooling. They may not follow grade levels or a traditional school year and they may not formally study all core subjects at once or in a sequential order. But that doesn’t mean they are not focused on learning. Many unschoolers are incredibly successful because they are allowed to maintain their inherent passion for learning and have parents who support their learning in truly unique ways.
Homeschooling for Travelers
World schooling isn’t necessarily a specific type of homeschooling or type of curriculum. It’s more of a mindset that is based on location based learning. World schoolers believe the world is their classroom and they homeschool their children while traveling the world and learning from the places they visit. Some world schoolers will take a more traditional curriculum with them while they travel and supplement that learning with local life lessons along the way. Others use each location as their curriculum- studying the history, culture, and language of an area as their main focus of study.
Road schooling is generally a term applied to families who live and school on the road, such as full time RV families. Therefore, this term tends to refer to travel families who are exploring their own country via road trip. As with world schooling, road schooling families may bring along a standard curriculum to teach or they may use the road as their guide. Many road schooling families build lessons around national parks state capitols, and important historic locations.
If you’re looking into one of these traveling homeschool options, it’s important to note that you can use any kind of program or curriculum while you travel! If you want a more hands off approach where you’re not in charge of designing or even teaching the lessons but you want the flexibility to travel whenever you want, whenever you want- find a virtual school option that your child can access from anywhere in the world! You can bring along an all-in-one curriculum or piece together your own program. Maybe you follow a structured math and science curriculum while using your travels to teach history and literature. The beauty of it all is in the FLEXIBILITY! You can do whatever works for you and your children!
Check Your Local Homeschooling Laws
Each state has different laws that govern homeschooling. Some states have very lax homeschooling laws with little oversight, while other states have very specific requirements. The laws may require you to report your intent to the state or your local school district, may require certain classes be taught, and may require that certain state wide assessments be completed. Depending on how specific the laws are, they may impact which type of homeschooling you are able to choose- or at the very least, may require you to be creative if you want to use certain approaches like unschooling. If you’re unsure of your state’s homeschool laws, you can find them here!
Pro Tip- Don’t Get Stuck!
Want to know a secret? If you decide to start homeschooling and pick one of these options- you are not tied to it forever. You aren’t even tied to it for a school year or a grade level. For most homeschooling families, their journeys are dynamic and constantly changing. You may try something thinking it’s a great fit for you only to realize days or weeks or months later that it isn’t. If something isn’t working for you or for your child, ditch it! Try something else! Homeschooling should be about meeting the individual needs of your child and your family, and if those needs aren’t being met by a specific approach, don’t be afraid to scrap it and go in a different direction.