**This post was written by Eva Gill from Gill Adventures**
As I began this journey of planning for living location independent as a family, I found many bloggers who had left a breadcrumb trail I’ve been able to follow. For many questions, this made answers magically appear with little effort on my part, and I am extremely grateful. One path that was not so clearly marked as I set off was choosing home school curriculum for our teenager…
Many of the families I found who had home schooled on the road had younger children. Others with older children had no intention of stepping back into the life they left behind, or returning to a public school system at the end of their travels.What we needed was a curriculum that would allow our children to learn independently throughout our travels, before transitioning back into traditional education when we return.
Researching Our Options
Our first step was to look at any state provision of off-campus education. Oregon, like many states, offers an online public school. Although I understand that some states will allow a child to enroll if they have been attending school in that state and plan to return at the end of travels. Oregon does not. The requirement here is that the materials be used physically in the house to which they are sent; domicile and tax status notwithstanding.
I would suggest that any parent from the USA planning a limited time, location independent experience look into the availability and requirements in their state.
After surfing around unsuccessfully online, I turned to my sister-in-law, who had home schooled her children while living in Japan for seven years. Her experience looked much different than ours would, as she had a permanent home where the boys could keep stacks of textbooks and desktop computers were set up at three stations in the living room.
From her came the first and probably most important piece of advice: start with the school your child will be returning to. Contact the counselor there and find out exactly what they will accept.
From the counselor at our local high school, we found that the best way to assure that Hannah could step back into class with her peers was to choose an accredited program that will issue transcripts. This is not so important for elementary and middle school, as they have more flexibility.
Refining the Search
An online search for home school curriculum and private online schools produces a flood of results, which I found overwhelming. Comparing programs based on company websites was sort of like buying a car by looking at it through a keyhole. Hannah and I made a list of our priorities:
- No books - As we will be living from one suitcase and one carry-on per person, we won’t have room to lug books around. The girls must be able to access what they need electronically, via computer or Kindle.
- Teacher support - If Hannah does not understand something, there needs to be someone available who can help. We understand that this may not be 24 hour availability. After all, we’ll be in a different time zone, and sleeping during “school hours” back home. But, at least, someone available that we can e-mail or chat with through a forum.
- Accredited – To be able to return without worrying about testing or the need to repeat anything.
- Mid-year start – We are leaving in February, so will need to start for the second semester. As Hannah is currently in the 8th grade taking both high school Spanish and Algebra 1, we will need to enroll her in these two courses to finish the school year, and full time as a freshman in the fall.
We found a couple of online private schools that look like great programs. In Ojai, California, is a private prep school called Laurel Springs which specializes in expatriates and families who are traveling extensively. They can offer a lot of support and even customize curriculum to learn about places we would be visiting.
We could enroll at any time, classes are on the schedule of the student. This is a very attractive program, and, sadly, expensive. Not by private school standards, but for those of us accustomed to free public schooling. It would be a great fit for a family with a bigger budget.
Another private online school is offered by k12.com, with either a complete package or individual classes. This program seems to have a little less support and is not as customizable as Laurel Springs. I understand that this company is actually the service provider for several of the public online school programs.
They also offer their program via private school for those of us who do not qualify for online public school. This also translates to private school tuition, albeit a bit less than Lauren Springs.
So, we added another priority to our list:
- Cost – We need to be able to afford the schooling without choking. Although keeping up with schoolwork and not falling behind is a priority, much of the learning over the next two years will come through the experience, not the curriculum. We don’t have to pay for “the best,” we just don’t want to lose any ground.
Even with the list, sifting through websites was a huge undertaking. I turned to an association I am a member of, which has a special interest group for home schooling families. I posted the question on their forum, explaining our plans and what we needed. Connecting with people who have been homeschooling and know some of the programs available was very helpful.
There are several very good curriculum options out there, some of the non-accredited are even offered by accredited schools, such as Aleks Math and Thinkwell. For families who don’t mind going through the process of home school testing, these are outstanding. For us, we want the simplicity of transcripts from an accredited school.
Finally, we settled on Compuhigh, which is an online division of an accredited high school. It is fully portable, and teacher support is available as we need it. They will provide transcripts in the end, so returning to public school will be simple. Enrollment and completion dates are flexible. And, comparatively, it was a decent value for the price.
There are great improvements on their way that will change the face of schooling on the road. Current programs are one-way. Interactivity with instructors through the programs themselves is working its way into online college curriculum, and will trickle down into high school and younger. Huge libraries are being digitized to be made available online. Between Google, Gutenberg, Kindle, and Nook, we will have access to much more information from anywhere.
Yet, even today there is so much more available than a couple of years ago. So, as we head out, I’m casting a few of my own breadcrumbs, hoping that they’ll make the trail a little easier to find for the next family.