I had a feeling I would be homeschooling my kids some day. Of course this never occurred to me before they were born. But once they were a few years old, the thought entered my mind.
This had nothing to do with many of the conventional reasons people homeschool though. For many years, I’ve dreamed of taking a year off and traveling the world with my family. I even went so far as to make a rough itinerary one day when I was bored at work a long, long time ago. So I knew if I was ever going to make that a reality, I was going to have to man up and homeschool.
I’m not like others that homeschool in that I was a teacher or worked with children. And anyone that knows me knows that my level of patience could.. uh.. use some improvements. However, if we were really going to go to Thailand for 6-9 months, I was going to have to homeschool.
I had no idea where to begin. Thankfully my friend Wendy was homeschooling and told me about the book “101 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum” which helped me sift through the gazillions of homeschool curriculums. I was able to rule many of them out and felt much better about my direction after reading this book.
I also scanned the internet and the many traveling family blogs out there to see what they were doing. Unfortunately I didn’t come up with many specifics but did hear about this great website called Time4Learning that parents and kids seemed to love. So my plan is to homeschool them then sign up for the website so they can do worksheets and reinforce the information.
My criteria for a curriculum wasn’t extensive. Basically I was looking for:
- Something that laid out what kids should learn in each grade pretty easily
- Nothing with too many books/worksheets/etc as I had limited packing space
- Something secular (many of the homeschool curriculums are religious-based but I wanted something without a religious bent)
- Something that would make the transition back to public school the following year as smooth as possible
My plan was to only homeschool for the year we’re traveling and then the kids would return to public school. My biggest fear is they’d show up the next year and not have learned the base skills to be successful and struggle at the beginning.
Of course Chuck didn’t share in those concerns. Both kids were doing well above their peers in all basic skills so Chuck joked that if they didn’t learn a single thing this year, they’d still go into the following grade prepared.
Plus the kids are 6 and 8 and I’d be teaching 2nd and 3rd grade so its not exactly rocket science. As long as they get the fundamentals, they should be fine.
I’d been hearing about the Common Core curriculum and that many states were starting to adopt it. I figured if I followed the Common Core curriculum for each of their grades, and their next school also followed the Common Core curriculum, then they would know what their peers knew and wouldn’t be behind. For example, maybe they should know multiplication and next year they learn division. Or they need to know certain English grammar but some of the more complicated stuff comes later.
So at the end of the day, I settled on the “What Your … Grader Needs to Know (Core Knowledge)” books. As best as I could tell, these books set the precedent for the Common Core standards and are closely aligned with what is currently being rolled out around the country.
These books cover the basics for English (including some poems and short stories), History, Geography, Visual Arts, Music, Math and Science. Basically it covered every topic I needed to teach, gave me enough information to get started teaching the material and wrapped it all up in a book of around 350 pages. And that’s it. All I needed to buy and take with me were the 2 books – 1 for 2nd grade and 1 for 3rd grade. All the worksheets, spelling tests, homework, etc I could make or print out once we were abroad. So for about $30, my homeschool supplies were procured and I was set.
One of the other major things I needed to figure out was what legal requirement I needed to fulfill to homeschool. Some states have strict rules about who can homeschool and they want proof of all sorts of things. Other states don’t care and you just have to tell them that you’re homeschooling and that’s it. This is where my next problem began. We currently lived in Hawaii but were leaving there permanently. Once our travel was over, we had no idea where we were going to move. California was our best guess, but really, we didn’t know. Since we were leaving Hawaii, we were giving up our address there as well and getting an address for our mail in North Carolina through the Traveling Mailbox company.
So who exactly do I ask when I’m living abroad and have no home or home state or even a state I intend to move to?
Well, I’m one to follow the rules so I figured I would start with talking to the Hawaii school my children currently attended. I told them our plans to move to Thailand and to homeschool and had all my paperwork filled out. However, upon hearing that we weren’t planning to return to Hawaii after our trip, they had no idea what to do with me. They needed to figure it out and finally 2 days later I was told that they weren’t interested in “knowing” I was homeschooling as I was leaving Hawaii and not their responsibility. So they asked that I withdraw the kids and that was that.
So where does this leave us? I guess I’m going rogue. My current home state doesn’t want to know as I don’t live there anymore. And I don’t live anywhere else in the USA so no one else wants to know either. And I’m not officially moving to Thailand either as I’m there on tourist visas.
Sure that stresses a rule follower like myself out that somehow I’m going to get in trouble for not legally having my kids registered at a school in the US. But I’m keeping records and keeping samples of their work and tracking the time spent homeschooling. And I’ll tell the next school what Hawaii told me and cross my fingers and hope for the best that there isn’t an issue. Only time will tell on that one.
So I’m heading to Thailand with my curriculum and base materials in place. And with the knowledge that I tried to register in Hawaii and they said no. I’m not sure what I’ll do about the patience part but as with everything else with this adventure, I’ll figure it all out.
Wish me luck!