An Introduction to Travel as Education

 When it comes to the topic of traveling with children, there’s a general air of misconception and misunderstanding surrounding education and schooling on the road. Long-term traveling families are undoubtedly familiar with the looks that cycle from confused, to concerned, to disapproving from people who simply don’t get it.

In this article, I will go over different methods of learning on the go, the merits of combining travel with education, and some of my thoughts on the questions that alternatively minded parents have grown accustomed to hearing over the years.

An Introduction to Travel as Education:


The Methodologies
There are plenty of different ways that traveling parents choose to educate or support their children abroad, and all of them are valid. Some families take comfort in having more structure, while others are fine with flexibility and spontaneity in regards to learning opportunities. Below are 3 main styles that I have identified, however, it’s important to note that there are as many unique educational styles in the world as there are individual families.

Homeschooling
Homeschoolers are those that choose to follow a curriculum whilst traveling. That being said, there are a few different types of homeschoolers, including Traditional Homeschoolers who tend to follow state or school-district approved curricula, and Eclectic Homeschoolers who mix and match their schooling materials, often incorporating their travel destinations as part of their study content. Families with children that strive with clear direction, discipline and structure tend to find some type of Homeschooling to be the best fit while traveling.

Self-Directed Learning
Also known as autodidactism and sometimes associated with ‘Unschooling’, proponents of Self-Directed Learning operate on the principle that learners should be empowered to seek out their own education and supported in their choices as a student. This method synergizes beautifully with travel, as exposure to new experiences and immersion in different cultures can spark interest in subjects such as history, science, economics, biology, language, and many, many others. This style of education is for those who thrive with a sense of freedom and can allow ambitious and eager learners to excel in their own learning process.

Traditionalism
Traditionalists believe in the merits of a structured, brick and mortar school setting, and will often seek out schools, classes, and courses in their host countries. Though in some senses this approach can be restrictive whilst traveling, there’s something to be said about it facilitating connections between your family and the local community, and is often viewed as a short-cut to meeting locals and forming bonds and friendships with them. Other benefits include a strong sense of cultural understanding (ie: doing what the locals do) and one of the best approaches to immersive language learning.

The Merits
Travel and education go hand in hand, with the union of the two making way for more integrated learning, personal growth, soft-skill development and shifting perspectives. When having a conversation about travel as education, It’s important to remember that not every classroom has four walls. Here are a few of the many notable merits that pertain to this rich and complex topic.

Relevancy
The proximity to subject matter when traveling tends to make the opportunity for learning more personal, ultimately resulting in a deeper and more gratifying experience. Students and learners who can see themselves and their relationship to the subject in perspective are able to recall information and knowledge with greater ease than those who may have simply studied the same topic from a static source. Travel tends to make things personal, and a student who has visited, experienced and related to a topic is more likely to understand it than someone who has only witnessed it second hand.

Experiential Learning
Something similar can be said for experiential learning as well (or, to put it simply, ‘learning by doing’). Experiential learning is the oldest and most familiar method to mankind for knowledge and skill acquisition, predating the modern-day understanding of ‘schooling’ for thousands of years. This is something that is accessed commonly when traveling abroad. Some key examples of this are: doing volunteer work with local projects, budgeting, and planning and language learning through conversation.

Worldview and Cultural Awareness
Though the other merits listed above are also significant, in my opinion, this element is the most important one of all. By immersing ourselves in a new environment, travel allows us to change, adapt and adjust our perspectives and worldviews, (the way that we perceive the world) and by doing so allows us to better understand people from different backgrounds. This is one of the most important soft skills that one can learn, and there is no better way to pick it up than by the power of cultural immersion.

The Dreaded Questions
These are the questions that every traveling parent knows you’re going to ask before the words even leave your mouth. They have all heard them a million times and will likely continue to hear them until there’s a better, general understanding of travel and education. Though there are many of these questions, these are the 3 most common:

“But what about math?”
For some reason, many people cannot conceive of how people ever learned math before the existence of textbooks. Math is all around us, and I’m inclined to argue that this is even truer when traveling. Concepts such as foreign currency conversion, budgeting, and time zones become commonplace everyday occurrences, providing a more relevant and real approach than the abstracted ‘math problems’ we’ve grown accustomed to.

“How will your child get into college?”
This is a loaded topic with many resources already defined and developed so I won’t get too deep with this one, but alternatively educated learners can easily get into college or university (and they have), provided they’re motivated enough. At least in the United States, many respected schools are starting to favor experience and autodidactism over credentials, and students from a less conventional background can easily test in if they so choose.

There are plenty of digital resources for traveling families aimed at helping alternative learners get to where they need to be, including online test preps and materials. One of the best of these online resources is Study.com, which helps location-independent students remotely earn college credits and improve their grades while providing a fun and relaxed way to study on your own time. We highly recommend Study.com's CLEP prep products, or Study.com's DSST prep products instead if you are part of a military family.

The great people over at Study have offered a 20% off coupon to our readers only! So, if you're interested in trying either of these resources, be sure to use the promo code: "Bohemian-Travelers".

“How will your child be socialized?”
And lastly, the question of socialization. While it is true that a traveling lifestyle may not provide the same social environment as a school setting, it makes for a truly unique social aspect. Well-traveled children and adolescents are less predisposed to only interacting with people within their own age group, and as a result, are much more socially adaptable and versatile than their schooled counterparts. They’re also less likely to engage in ‘bully-ish’ behavior, as they view differences as something to be celebrated rather than mocked.

This was only a cursory glance into the nuanced and intriguing world of travel and education, and I invite you to do your own research as well. Happy trails!

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