In the Homeschool Groove: One Mom, Four Kids on a European Whirlwind Roadtrip
If you had asked me on this same day two years ago if I thought homeschooling was all that it’s cracked up to be, I would have looked at you with a quirky half-smile and then taken a really, really, really deep breath before admitting that I hadn’t yet really discovered my groove as a homeschooling mom. I hadn’t yet figured out how other homeschooling parents could be so over the moon about homeschooling. Back then, my confidence over the homeschooling decision waxed and waned with each passing
day hour. It seemed I was constantly plagued with doubts about whether homeschooling was really the “right” decision, though in my brain and heart, I had come to believe it was the right choice for my children in so many ways.
Fast forward though two years, and I can’t imagine any other educational choice or lifestyle adventure for my children. Oh, the good news for those of you reading this and contemplating homeschooling or who are currently plagued with doubts about your decision, it didn’t take me two years to find that groove!
In those very first months of homeschooling, I struggled with trying to recreate a classroom at home. Trying to do so, nearly burned me before I had even found my groove. As soon as I was open to accepting that the world is a giant classroom–a different way of viewing and approaching education–I quickly got into the homeschool groove. Now, I’m one of those giddy, over the moon types.
How does our school work then if we don’t recreate a perfect little classroom at home? Well, for starters, everyday we school. Yep, even in the Summer. Even on the weekends. Even on Christmas. Learning never stops. The way I see it, every new day presents yet another 24 beautiful hours to learn about life, relationships, academics, people, animals, the world and our environment, etc.
But the learning that happens in my family most frequently takes place well beyond the desk or kitchen table. I’ve discovered that learning beyond the “traditional classroom” is the secret to everyday 365 days of the year learning/teaching for me, and the secret to avoiding mom-teacher burnout.
For example, when we recently spent six weeks “roadschooling” (or “worldschooling”) in Europe, my children were counting Euros and throwing coins into toll booths across France, Italy and Austria, rather than sitting in a classroom or at the kitchen table learning about currency. Rather than learning about microorganisms and plants in a classroom, we learned about them trekking across Spain and hiking in Germany. Instead of learning multiplication at the kitchen table or desk, we counted and multiplied pebbles and sea glass on the Costa Brava in Spain.
Am I ever so glad that I held on long enough to see the beauty and magic of homeschooling, and let go of the expectations of what I believed homeschooling should look like at home. One Mom, Four Kids plus lots of weeks in Europe on a whirlwind roadtrip…now, that just wouldn’t have happened. I can’t wait to see what the next homeschool adventure brings. Thankfully, I’m in the groove.
I am fascinated by this post! Someday I plan to homeschool my now-15-month-old son and his possible future sibling, and like you, I would love to take them on a whirlwind European adventure of a lifetime. I am really curious: How did you manage to keep your trip affordable? Where did you buy your plane tickets, and which cities did you fly into/out of? In what kind of accommodation did you and your children stay? Is there anything in particular that I should keep in mind about renting and driving a car across Europe? Thank you so much for your help!!!
Hi Diana, Thanks for posting! I’m always on the prowl for best airline deals, so I suggest checking popular travel sites frequently, getting an idea of how fares trend/change over time and jumping on a deal when it looks right. Ways to keep the trip affordable are to rent your own apartment for use as a base or for a week at a time, etc. Be willing to stay off the beaten path and be adventurous. I’ve had great luck finding totally amazing places with HomeAway. You’ll have your own kitchen and often beautiful accommodations–options to fit almost any budget. I’ve seen rates as low as $190 Euro for a beautiful Condo for a week in the Pyrenees. I’ve seen apartments in Spain rent for $500-800 for the month. Get to know local grocery stores and markets and cook “like locals” and with local products (olive oils, wines in Spain, for example) at your place often. Many Youth hostels have family rooms and you can stay in some pretty sweet places, like old castles. Renting a car was a snap from my end, but check into insurance–figure out whether your own auto policy will cover you while you’re away–if not, check to see whether your credit cards provide insurance coverage. You can save hundreds this way. I was able to get a rental for around $300 for a month. Gas costs a lot, but the cars are much smaller and very fuel efficient. Be sure to set aside money for tolls. There are MANY depending on where you are going. Driving in Europe is much easier and better marked than in the US, in my opinion, with many kid friendly rest stops right off the highway along major routes. Also, as I learned, be sure to figure out if the country you are entering requires Vignettes (a sticker you buy at a gas station) and watch out for speed cameras (you’ll see signs warning you of them) or face possible fines. Finally, Europe has tougher standards on car seats and age limits. Make sure you’ve brought along the right car seat. Travel significantly lighter than you think you would ever want to. You’ll be very happy you did. Skip the stroller, if possible, and opt for a child backpack or light folding umbrella. Build your itinerary on the fly, especially if you are bringing technology to allow you to get online, though it’s helpful to have a place initially lined up. Get a prepaid cell phone when you arrive in Europe for cheap if you don’t have a reasonably priced plan already. Go for it! Just jump! You can live cheaply when you are there. Oh, and Google homeschool groups in the area you plan to travel–I got ideas on where to visit from a homeschool family that I connected with this way.
Thank you very much for your thoughtful and detailed reply! It was extremely helpful! I will definitely look into all of your suggestions. I really like the idea of renting an apartment as a home base and staying there for a week or two before moving on… I think that would give us time to really soak everything in, and it would give the kids a sense of stability too. I also like the idea of living and shopping like a local. It would be nice to get to know an area in more depth and to feel connected to the place.
Would you say that taking the rail (or other public transport) is significantly more expensive than driving, or are they about the same? I’d like the flexibility of having a car in Europe, especially for taking side trips from our apartment to other cities, but I’m a little worried about how to handle any driving mishaps that might come up. If I do get in an accident, whom do I contact?
Thanks again for your reply and your encouragement! I’m finally starting to feel like maybe I can really make this happen!