School or Homeschool? – Nearly every person I know, family, friends, acquaintances, they all say the same thing to me. “You’re going to have to knock travelling on the head when Esme goes to school”. Initially I respond with a vacant, ‘yeah,’ whilst racking my brain about what I can do.

I never questioned if our kids would go to school or not. I always thought I would look for an establishment with alternative attitudes to teaching and learning. Having researched, a lot, I came to the conclusion such schools don’t exist without it costing a significant amount in private fees, or, we would have to live in an area that may not be so appealing for the sake of said school.



I had NEVER considered homeschooling for a number of reasons. Needing my own time, continuing with my career, not actually wanting to teach kids, lack of confidence in my abilities, the list goes on. Reflecting on my reasoning, it sounds really selfish, right? It’s all about what I want for myself.

School or homeschool

Learning how to make a fire and basic living skills

That takes me to my own school experience, as well as my husband’s. Hubby says he wasn’t massively motivated in school and the only real thing he got from it was a solid group of friends in secondary. For me, I hated every minute of it. Ok, I went to school in Ireland in the early 90’s in an all girls establishment. It was a catholic school and was run by the sort that thought I was possessed by the devil because I was left handed. The sort that humiliated me by asking me to stand in front of a class and read, even though they knew I couldn’t. I have never forgotten those days.


I know how much that has impacted on my own mental state, lacking confidence in my abilities for years. As a child that was kept back a class because I wasn’t smart enough to keep up with the other kids, I HATED school, every minute of it. I felt like I was no good at anything and came away from school with nothing other than a battered confidence that ran deep into my bones.

Learning the role of a vet at a children’s museum

As for the all girls thing, what the hell is that all about? That is NOT a reflection of society. Don’t even get me started on gender identity. I luckily changed to a mixed school aged 14. Whilst it was much better, it was too late. Friendship groups were well established and I was an outsider. I didn’t fit in and subsequently finished school with one long term friend. I was glad to have been in a mixed school for the chance to mix with boys. It was hard to adjust, but I’m glad I didn’t leave school having never spoken to one.

I developed academically later. If you’ve read my blogs before, you’ll know I found out I was dyslexic when I was 22. Having realised how I can best help myself, I began to enjoy studying and learning and went onto ‘up’ my nursing qualifications and did a Masters in Education. I became very passionate about making learning for students in my profession a positive experience.

Learning about how an airport runs at the museum of flight

So as you can see, I have some major hang ups with mainstream school. Ok, we are in the 21st century and not everyones experience is the same. I am sure things are much better these days than my experience.


Then there is the issue of taking kids out of school during term time. It can come with the risk of a hefty fine in the UK. Yes, that actually happens! Parents get fined for taking their kids on a trip during term time. The alternative? To pay an arm and a leg to take a family holiday during the planned school break. Airlines, hotels, tour operators, everyone, they take the piss and hike the prices up when they know desperate families want to travel.

I can’t understand the rationale for the fine. We all know holidays have multi-factorial benefits to the entire family. Whether it helps parents de-stress, or a fun and educational tour for the kids, it’s all beneficial and contributes to happiness, positive mental wellbeing and family relations.


I have been reading a few articles by the inspiring Hannah from Adventure Travel Family. She and husband Patrick have always homeschooled their kids and have recently taken off on an indefinite world trip. Luckily for me, they don’t only write about travel, they also cover personal experiences of ‘unschooling’ their children.

I asked Hannah for a list of reasons why she doesn’t send her kids to school and this is what she came up with:

  • Developmental sciences show that children learn better through free play.
  • It also shows that testing in the way UK schools operate is damaging to mental health.
  • Home education provides more time for children to focus on activities they are interested in.
  • Provides a better ratio of adults to children to facilitate learning or help academically.
  • It allows children to socialise with kids of all ages, not just those their age the majority of the time.
  • It allows a more flexible lifestyle where travel and experiencing the real world can be a bigger part of their childhood.

This resonates with me and I agree with all of the points. That said, I want to take the lead from my kids. Would they enjoy mainstream school? I already know from Esme’s personality that she would want a solid group of friends. For that, we will need to settle somewhere and have a community that we can dip in and out of. That’s something we don’t have at the moment but I feel we still have time to build it.


With every situation there are pros and cons. I mean I am a committed mother, but, hubby and I are going to need time to ourselves, to progress our careers. I would like to think we can take a similar approach to how we manage things now. We take turns with everything.

I have no idea how things are going to pan out. At the moment I am just going through some serious thought processes. I feel a hybrid approach could work well? Maybe we enrol our kids in private schools wherever we are for a term here and there. I love the idea of forest school. I know parents with kids the same age as Esme are now going through the horrific school selection process. Will they get picked for the school they want? Or will they end up in the one no one likes because of a postcode lottery.

Being on this year long trip, without even trying, we are already homeschooling. Here is an example: Esme and I were doing a workbook and chatted about the lifecycle of a butterfly. Two weeks later we went to a butterfly farm and I was blown away at how she engaged in the tour. She remembered everything that I told her. I was so chuffed with myself and it was this tiny little situation that made me think I can do it! I can teach her in a fun non-pressurised way.


I really love the idea, if she doesn’t feel up to something, fine, let’s move on and come back to it later. As a kinaesthetic learner, I love doing things and so far Esme is showing similar learning preferences. I feel this will benefit her more than a class situation where there’s one method that has to fit all.I am so glad to realise there are more options and we DON’T have to send the kids to school. Most of all, I am very glad my hubby is onboard with these thought processes.

Iv’e wanted to get this onto paper for a long time. I am feeling a sense of relief! I would love to hear your thoughts. Have you found school or homeschool helpful? Please feel free to leave a comment.

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Five ways a child can enhance your travel experience

2019-06-17T09:16:12+00:0017 Comments


  1. Hannah November 3, 2017 at 2:24 am

    An amazing post, Karen. Whatever you decide, it’s so good to know that your decision will have been so carefully and lovingly thought through and that you’ll be choosing something because you genuinely think it is the best for Esmé, not just because everyone else is doing it! You would be an amazing “Home school mom” and you know I would LOVE it if you did (because yay term time trips together!!!) but I will always fully support your family in whatever processes you go through <3

  2. Sarah November 3, 2017 at 2:33 am

    I’m not a mum so can’t weigh in too much on this debate, but a few thoughts from someone who has friends and family that have taken various approaches. We’ve all ended up succeeding at university and in life (all university graduates working in various fields from law to healthcare) regardless of our parents approach to schooling. A good example are my cousins were taken out of school for a year long sabbatical, and did the NZ correspondence school while travelling the globe with their parents (they would have been maybe 6 and 10 years old). I fully agree with you on how enriching travel can be, particularly while young!

  3. Kyla November 3, 2017 at 4:54 am

    This is a great read, and something I think weighs heavily on the minds of many traveling moms. We’re currently taking the hybrid approach. Our kids are enrolled in a French-immersion school at home, but we take them out for long periods of travel (in Canada there’s no fine for this!) including our current year-long trip. I work 3 days a week, so when we’re home I plan to take them out one day every 2 weeks (alternating weeks) to do some self-directed homeschooling. Then, when they get a bit older, they’ll be able to choose which direction they’d like to go, traditional school or homeschool. I don’t have the patience to teach them all the time, so for us it’s really in their best interest if someone else is teaching them reading, writing & math!
    Good luck with your decision…at least it’s easy to change things around if/when it’s needed.

  4. Gillian Farrell November 3, 2017 at 6:56 am

    I feel the same although I have the added joy that my daughter Maeve was born in July and so much research shows that sending her too early to school, i.e. when she is 4, is going to disadvantage her. I genuinely don’t know what to do. We moved out of London so I could stay at home and look after her but now I do need to start thinking of going back to work (I’m an art teacher) A friend of mine does flexi schooling with her child – she only goes 3 days a week and her mum home schools her the rest of the time – maybe that’s an option?. I think what you’re doing is amazing and lots of what you said about your schooling resonated with me.

  5. Rachel November 3, 2017 at 8:57 am

    You hit the nail on the head with the friendships and community. You can get that without being in a mainstream school and from what I’ve seen of Esme she would definitely appreciate that group of friends, she’s such a social butterfly it seems. Go with what your heart wants. I agree on the hybrid approach that maybe some experience in a school environment could be as beneficial as purely learning through play and experiences. But ultimately do what’s best for you and your family x

  6. Emma November 3, 2017 at 9:24 am

    Thanks for posting this, it’s like you’ve spoken from inside my head! I’m surrounded by a community of home-schoolers where we live at the moment and I see how happy and centered their children seem to be. Just enjoying life at their own pace with none of the stress that comes with trying to get your child dressed and ready for school by 8am every day. I have a daughter who is a similar age to Esme and I have followed your journey since you started travelling with Esme on your maternity leave. I love your pictures. I watch in awe, admiring the adventures you go on with your beautiful girl and now your beautiful boy too. I would love to provide that life for my daughter. Unfortunately I am not in a position to at the moment, being a self employed single parent not confident her father would see things from the point of view that I do. That being said, I am also going to take things one step at a time as you are doing and follow my daughters lead on how and where she would like to learn. She’s enrolled in a Steiner school at the moment which has a much kinder ethos and seems to take into account the children’s emotions and capabilities – no SATs etc! and a real focus on imaginative play, particularly in Kindergarten. There is a fee for Steiner as the children reach 5 years and I’m not sure how they feel about taking children out of school for travel as they are keen on structure and routine. Nowhere is perfect though and this works for us, for now. Maybe worth looking into for Esme. It’s been reassuring to read your blog today and know I’m not the only one thinking and realising mainstream school isn’t the be-all and end-all to a kids life! Thanks Karen x

  7. Jen November 3, 2017 at 10:51 am

    I was homeschooled for 2 years and when I actually joined my class I was way ahead of the curve- and this was only through doing a couple of hours ‘formal’ schooling a day with my mum. Those 2 years allowed me to do more ‘fun’ learning/ be around my mum (I was horribly clingy with separation anxiety) which helped me to be more secure. The downside….. I desperately wanted to be at school. To wear a uniform, and have a class room and make friends. I wanted to be part of it. When I did join school I found it really hard to make friends – as you have said most groups were made and everyone had a ‘best friend’. I remember the social exclusion and still feel a bit burnt by it today…..

    Buuut! As a parent I guess it’s up to us to outweigh the pros and cons. Will esme get to develop the social skills/dynamics that kids pick up just by being with other kids (I’m sure you could facilitate this).

    My own personal view- homeschool is great for the early education years…. but at some point a formal education process may be the better option. England starts kids at school too young in my view- Scotland is 5 but some countries are 6 or 7 before the formal education begins….

    Good luck with your deliberations!!

  8. Sophie Ireland November 3, 2017 at 11:24 am

    Loved reading this. I can imagine if my children were younger and we did a trip like we are now, I would be asking the same questions. My girls are 11,9 & 6 and if you asked them what they are missing most on this trip they would say school. Not even their friends, but school ? I am surprised and not surprised. We live in a richmond and are fortunate to have amazing state education. Their school is wonderful with the most progressive teachers and teaching techniques. They do yoga and meditation, their teachers do cartwheels in the classroom and play jokes on each other. I know it’s not all about fun but this helps a lot! I can see how my girls are thriving on this trip. I am sat in our hotel lobby in San Pedro de Atacama in Chile about to go out to experience the desert and I know this is amazing for their education. At the same time, in my experience they are also gaining a lot from the education system these days as long as we don’t participate in the stupid focus or obsession with tests. We don’t! They do them but with zero pressure from us – in fact the only ‘preparation’ we did for my eldest’s SATS earlier this year was trying to make sure she had early nights. So – long ramble but I guess I’m an advocate of both. We have taken them all out for a year and maybe will do it again before they finish full time school and therefore I hope they will have the best of both. No right answer. Trust your instincts!

  9. Tashawna Advincula November 3, 2017 at 2:57 pm

    Freedom is priceless if you can swing it. My wife and I weren’t huge fans of traditional school either. Other than being involved in sports and enjoying making friends, those were our happiest moments. We are by no means “traditional”. We like to come and go and explore this amazing world. The fact that you will be fined to take a holiday during term time is pretty annoying to hear. Who’d want that looming over your head to deal with?

    I understand your husband and you need your time and also to grow your careers, but I’m pretty sure you can figure out how to work together as a team to build your careers and have date outings and fun still all while not giving up the type of life you ultimately want to live and show your children.

    We gave up a huge home for our freedom. There are so many things we think we need but don’t. Just live and enjoy and go for what your gut tells you to do. You are the parents and your way is the right way for your family whichever path you choose.

    For those people who are super one-sided then maybe they aren’t as free spirited or have never just traveled and felt what that life is. All I can say is don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.

    Cheers to your best life yet!!!

  10. Maggie November 3, 2017 at 5:18 pm

    I’m not a mom but I was home schooled for 10 years of my life so wanted to add my perspective. I think it really depends on the parents dedication as well as strongly depending on the child’s personality. I was always very driven and did work on my sister on the other hand would have just slept all day and done other things besides school work if I wasnt there to encourage her. My mom was pretty hands off, but since I pushed myself that didn’t matter as much (my mom however years later questions her choices on homeschooling us for her own mental health). The things where I saw negatives were things like math that I didn’t understand and couldn’t teach myself. When I did go to school for the last year of high school I was behind a year in math and way ahead in other subjects (the ones I liked). We grew up in a very small town and went to church so that was my social life, but as I got older I really did feel like I missed out on the friends group that you get from school. I also missed learning sports and being part of a team. Besides these things I feel that homeschooling made me a very independent person and able to learn on my own. I did notice however as I went through to university that sometimes that didn’t play in my favor (learning how to work in groups and not seeing teachers as a valuable source of knowledge). So as with anything in life there are always positives and negatives. I loved my childhood, and from what I see all the experiences you are giving Esme are also so amazing and valuable. I went on to get two master degrees and have moved to another country for the past 11 years so my upbringing didn’t hold me back in any way, it’s just different! I’m sure you will make the best decision for your family and I love following your adventures, you’re a great inspiration xx

    • janeopenshaw November 3, 2017 at 9:23 pm

      So nice to hear from a “home schooled” adult – I take on everything you say. We recently took our 3 children long term travelling & so homeschooled for 10 months – we are now back in the UK & the eldest 2 are back in school. The time out has been of massive benefit to my 9 yr old he’s gone back in so much more confident BUT he is happy to be back with his friends, sports matches etc. My 6 year old wants to be homeschooled – so much to think about & a great discussion to be had!

  11. placespicsandnotes November 4, 2017 at 12:57 am

    Your kids are already learning so much about the world! There’s no way they will learn as nearly as much about it from books sitting in a classroom. Keep traveling! You are giving them the best education by introducing them to different cultures, nature and people. Whatever you decide, they are very lucky and I’m totally jealous ?

  12. Brooke November 4, 2017 at 4:34 am

    Hey guys,
    I was homeschooled in Aus till year 6 and although I didn’t always appreciate it then (we were still a very ‘involved’ and social in the community) it did work wonders for my creativity and time management.

    I knew that if I chose to take ages with my work and muck around that I would be there till 3pm like a normal school kid? However I usually finished by 11am & could take time in my own hobbies. When I did go to school and finished my high schooling in the mainstream system I was far ahead of my peers.

    I also think (and most importantly) it allowed my folks to instill values into me that helped me to navigate teenage hood better had I gone to school from day dot. The first time I heard swearing was when i went to late primary school!

    Now im married and have two little ones and we’re leaning towards home schooling for us as well. Good Luck :)
    Love your blog too!! ??

    • Sam November 4, 2017 at 8:17 am

      Gosh reading this is so refreshing. As a society we are so tuned into following the ‘norms’. Got to school, get a career, get married, have kids and so the cycle repeats…. I have discovered a passion for travelling be it later in life and truly believe that’s the World is a real learning tool. I too hated school but would have never dreamt of homeschooling my own or having the confidence to do so. Where did you get the confidence to think outside the box Karen ? I salute you

  13. Katrina November 4, 2017 at 9:05 pm

    I’m pro-homeschooling all the way! I was homeschooled all the way until university, and my parents were able to take us on so many wonderful trips and vacations due to the freedom of not being shackled by term calendars. And I received a great education; I was accepted into and attended one of the top universities here in the U.S. Socially, you have to make more of an effort so that your kids have peer interaction and play time, but in the US, we have a lot of homeschool co-ops to meet other families and their kids. And I had martial arts, softball, and church group, which is how I had my group of friends.

    Feel free to ask any questions about what it was like being a HS’ed kid and graduate! Good luck in making the best decision for your family!

  14. Nick November 8, 2017 at 6:31 am

    I love this article & this looks adorable!
    I would like to thank you for your great job. Keep doing the best and good luck!

  15. Edith Arteaga January 22, 2018 at 6:01 pm

    I regret not homeschooling my kids. I had no idea I could do so in my adopted country since this option doesn’t exist in the country where I grew up. My sons are older now, 12 and 9, and we love to travel as much as we can. Sometimes I have to ask for a whole week permission at school because a trip overseas during low season. As they get older, it gets more difficult to leave school for several days but it doesn’t stop us. Traveling since they were little is showing its benefits. Our kids have developed a sense of appreciation for foreign cultures, art, architecture, history, geography, gastronomy and music not common for their ages, and this is one of the many reasons that keeps us planning our trips as a family. I can’t imagine how cool would be to combine these experiences with homeschooling. I always remember when my oldest was 7 years old. I took him out of school for the first 3 months of the school year when we moved to Beijing because husband’s work. My boy learned how to navigate Beijing’s subway system!

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