Whether you're on a two-week vacation in the middle of the school year or embarking on a six-month sabbatical, if you have kids in tow, chances are you need a plan to keep up with their education. If you can survive traveling with your kids, you can survive schooling them, as well. Here are nine tips to keep in mind when homeschooling your kids away from home.
1. Don't depend solely on the Internet.
No matter how thoroughly you've sussed out your digital capabilities, something will go wrong at some point. Your education plan for your child should not be based entirely on programs accessed via Internet. Even if your child is enrolled in an online school and you're not embracing the role of teacher, make sure you supplement with workbooks or other hard-copy materials. Diversification will make it more interesting and, as an added bonus, cut down on screen time.
2. Don't depend solely on materials you brought with you.
Workbooks alone won't cut the mustard, either, unless you're trying to get by with a little learning for a short trip. (But in that case, why not skip all work/school activities and embrace the sloth and gluttony of a true vacation?) If slogging through pages of a workbook day after day sounds like your personal version of hell, don't expect your child to feel differently. Go for the trifecta: a balance of pen-to-paper assignments, digital learning, and hands-on projects.
3. Implement a schedule.
This one will likely hurt you more than it hurts your kids, but the benefit is worth it. Dedicate yourself fully to homeschooling for a set schedule. "Fully" means no email or Facebook while trying to answer the occasional question from your student. With a schedule in place, your child will be more focused and engaged than if you try to throw random assignments at them willy-nilly (also known as: when it best suits you).
4. Don't tolerate what a teacher wouldn't.
It's true, your child will behave far differently with you leading the lesson than if they were in a classroom watching Mrs. M at the SMARTboard. But both scenarios have their positives. When things turn negative, remember that if your child was in a public school classroom, unacceptable behavior would merit a trip to the principal's office. Figure out ahead of time what your equivalent to that will be, and make sure you follow through. Many kids are motivated (and frightened) by the prospect of losing their screen time. Save your digital learning or screen playtime for last, and take it away when necessary.
5. Remind your children that they have an amazing opportunity.
When your children complain about their situation, hear them out. Respect their point of view, but follow up with a reminder of all of the wonderful aspects of their temporary displacement. If they miss their friends and usual surroundings, encourage them to write down exciting points of the trip to share with classmates when they return home. Also let them know how envious their friends will be if they send back regular photos of their adventures. The exercise will stir an interest in photography, keep them regularly engaged with their social circles at home, and engender an appreciation for the gift of travel.
6. Expect more than the minimum.
If you're basing your child's studies from a set curriculum, don't shy away from going beyond it. In a one-on-one teaching scenario, you may find that you complete a full day's studies in just a few hours. If circumstances allow, that's a great time to widen your child's horizons by getting out and about in your host country. On a rainy day, use the time to tackle a future lesson. If you get ahead of schedule, you can bank a few free days for play and adventure to end your trip on a memorable note.
7. Use your environment.
This is easy to do if your family is in a culture different from your own. Special projects, depending on the age of your child, can be as simple as a conversation or as complex as illustrated reports and analyses. Focus on likenesses and differences between your home and new environments regarding currency, geography, climate, population, education, and wildlife. If you have a budding artist on your hands, have them draw the flag of your host country and learn about its origins in the process. As another example, enterprising journalists enjoy interviewing local business owners about their typical workday.
8. Have fun.
If the lesson plan feels stale, let it go. Your child will learn more from a field trip to the local market than a math worksheet. You also need to use fun to curb burnout. No matter how much you love your child and your child loves you, embracing homeschooling will add a new dynamic to your relationship. So as much as schedule and expectations are important, keep the element of fun part of the equation so that the added element isn't a toxic one.
9. Teach more than you know.
One of the easiest ways to make sure that you have fun along with your child is for you to learn something yourself. Don't be afraid to learn right along with them. Figure things out together. You may find that you begin learning from your child, an unexpected perk of the situation that will not only make the experience more rewarding for you as the teacher and parent, but also empower your child and pave the road for positive learning in the future, no matter where in the world that learning may occur.
A.K. Turner is currently traveling in Australia with her husband and two daughters, whom she is homeschooling with occasional success. Learn more at AKTurner.com.