Kids on a RTW



I'm not entirely sure what I was expecting when I wandered into the headmaster's office at my son's London primary and told him I planned to take my spawn travelling for a year.

But it certainly wasn't a big smile and the off-the-cuff observation, “That sounds like a great idea! He'll learn much more doing that than he would do staying here!”

One of the things that can leave families planning a RTW trip tied up in knots – yes, even more than the question of what to do with the house – is what to do about school.

The legalities are, in fact, remarkably uncomplicated. In the UK, it is legal to homeschool your children, and there is no compulsion to follow the National Curriculum.

All Local Education Authorities have homeschooling coordinators and most large primary schools will have a homeschooling coordinator on the staff.

The key thing that is required (not by law but by common practice) is that parents show their children will be getting a good, well-rounded education as they travel.

Which is, most of us find, easy enough to provide, at least for children who are not in the throes of exams.


A visit to a turtle sanctuary is a hands-on lesson in biology and ecology; rock-climbing and learning to surf make excellent PE; scrambling inside a pyramid is, of course, a history lesson; while activities from currency exchange to haggling to calculating a bill, including taxes, can make good practical maths.

One great panacea for nervous parents, or those with nervous grandparents to convince? Make a list of the school subjects your children learn at school and break down what they will learn on each subject as you travel. The answers will reassure.

The prospect of teaching is one thing that scares many parents silly, despite the fact that most of us have successfully helped our children learn to walk, talk, brush their teeth and use the toilet inter alia.

Most travelling families land up in one of four teaching – or learning -- styles, which I'll call School, Home School, World School and Unschool.


In a schooly approach, parents follow the children's curriculum schedule for the year and endeavour to replicate the school content and experience as they travel. At the opposite extreme, unschooling families allow the children to lead their own learning, following their own interests exclusively and writing and reading as much or as little as they'd like.

Most parents, in my experience, end up somewhere between these two extremes, whether that's building their own curriculum and following that at levels tailored to their different children, an approach I'll call Home School, or letting their children learn from what they discover as they travel but adding in consolidation activities or occasional compulsory elements, such as maths, an approach I'll call World School.

Best of all? With specialists in subjects from music to maths now teaching over Skype, and kids classes, from silver-smithing to yoga, available the world over, it doesn't even have to be parents who do the teaching all the time.

Which is all to the good. Since a RTW is supposed to be a holiday, after all.