Travel Schooling: Spiritual Stewardship and Educating Children in New Environments

Travel Schooling: Spiritual Stewardship and Educating Children in New Environments

Right now we are seeing a big trend, especially in the conservative homeschooling community, to return to a slower-paced way of life: homesteading, bread baking, hobby farming, etc.  Sometimes we feel pressure - or at least I do - to compare our lifestyles and homeschooling styles to those of the ‘Instagram’ families we see living the dream of self-sufficiency, farm-to-table meals, and a forever home to grow and cultivate. There are huge benefits to providing kids with roots and stability, and to navigating life with a consistent tribe of friends and family. Essentially, it's a return to the ‘old ways’, right?  It’s the way the founders of our country lived and the way the pioneers and colonists did things.  They, like us, left mainstream society and set off to create a new, stable, fruitful life for their families, educating through both academics and hard work, and letting life be a teacher in and of itself.  

For all of you who do live this way, I will say I am a little bit jealous of you. God is working on me still. He recently put on my heart that some of us are called, whether by desire or circumstance, to something different.  Not all of us can be a Jefferson or an Adams, managing and building our households while farming and living off our own land.  And it’s important to remember, not all great men lived this way, either.  Look at the Apostles of the Bible.  They were called to leave home, not to go establish a new and better one, but to never again have a place of their own.  We also have examples of great men in history, like Ben Franklin, who left home and traveled the world.  You have great literary heroes like Bilbo Baggins and the Pevensie children who journey for journeys' sake, whose characters are improved tremendously for having left all they knew, and who gain a new perspective and immeasurable personal and spiritual growth. As Tolkien said so eloquently, "not all who wander are lost." 

We have an inclination, when we choose to forgo mainstream education, to also depart at some level from mainstream society as a whole.  One of my favorite quotes is from Mother Theresa: “we desire to bequeath two things on our children, one is roots, and the other is wings.”  No one can dispute the benefits of a child growing up with roots, stability, and community.  But in focusing so much on these aspects are we neglecting to develop their wings? One of the biggest benefits we have chosen to take advantage of in our travel schooling is the chance to build our children's confidence in their ability to navigate the world around them.  We want them to be able to get through an airport, navigate a city, and buy food in a country that doesn’t speak their language.  As parents we can’t know in what direction God will lead our children as they grow into adults, and we want them to be prepared for whatever may come.  I never want my children to feel incapable of trying new and difficult things because they lack confidence in unfamiliar situations. So, whether you are a Bilbo, Frodo, or Lucy, longing for adventure and discovery, or a Samwise or Edmund being unwillingly prodded toward something a bit unknown, I want offer this encouragement. If God is calling you to lead your kids through travel schooling, He will equip you as well.

Defining Travel Schooling

In simple terms Travel Schooling is educating children while on the move. When you first hear that it might evoke images of families crossing continents or living out of a van. But it's important to refine our understanding; travel schooling is not necessarily about globe-trotting or perpetual motion.

At its core, travel schooling is the act of integrating travel experiences with educational goals, creating a dynamic learning environment anchored in real-world experiences. It's a flexible and broad concept that can take many forms. Some families may weave short travel excursions into their established home-schooling routine, allowing their children to explore new places while maintaining a base at home. Others might adopt a nomadic lifestyle, learning and living on the road indefinitely.

The heart of travel schooling lies in the rich, contextual learning it provides. Whether through virtual schooling, following an established curriculum, or unschooling approaches, travel enhances education by bringing textbook information to life. Children gain not just bookish knowledge but also a genuine sense of place and a direct understanding of different cultures and societies. This educational approach transcends traditional boundaries and taps into the vast potential of experiential learning.

Remember, travel schooling isn't confined to extensive, long-term itineraries but is defined by the intentional pairing of education with travel, however vast or limited that travel may be. By leveraging the power of travel, families can offer their children an enriched perspective that often proves invaluable throughout their educational and personal development.

Making School a Priority During Travel

I think the most common question I get about travel schooling is how I make sure school is a priority. I think a better question is how do I make sure learning is a priority.  This is a reason I love Charlotte Mason so much: her focus on growing and nurturing an individual through education, not training a child to fit the mold of a traditional school pupil.  With travel schooling we can simply expand upon Ms. Masons philosophy, adjusting it to learning on the move.

Think of our children’s education in the terms of building a house of knowledge.  By the time we start formal education, we have built a foundation of life skills, core truths, love, safety, spirituality, listening skills, obedience, and basic safety knowledge, among other things.  When formal education begins, we are building upon this foundation.  We introduce a variety of subjects as well as extras like fine arts, sports, and music, with which begins the process of framing and decorating our house.  Different curricula frame our house differently. If one chooses a more traditional homeschooling method, it is like we are building the house according to a specific design (like my children saw in Washington's home at Mount Vernon), while an unschooling family is drawing their blueprints from scratch and will have a truly unique finished home (like the Goudí house that they saw in Barcelona). And there are so many other options that are middle of the road. Maybe you are using a general plan and making additions, maybe your building materials are a bit different, or maybe you are personalizing all your furnishings.  

With a Charlotte Mason-based curriculum, we are supplying a variety of building materials to our kids and allowing them to pick and choose what to use to build a house that fits their needs and personalities as an individual.  For example, let's say I am building a Ben Franklin closet in the history wing of my house.  The pre-fab model of the house is going to say that my support beams in the closet need to be that Ben Franklin was a founding father, Ben Franklin was an author, and Ben Franklin was a scientist.  But with my personalized blue print, my support beams might be that Ben Franklin was a printer, Ben Franklin was an inventor, and Ben Franklin was a diplomat.  Once the room is framed, they can finish the walls.  The more we present on the subject, the more our children can fill in the gaps and complete their rooms.  The more they are able to personalize and internalize the information they are receiving, the stronger and sturdier their houses are going to be. This is where traveling can become such a rich supplement to our children’s education.  When we are taking our kids to the places they have heard and read about, it is like reinforcing our room's dry wall with concrete.  

Charlotte Mason mommas will appreciate a relation to nature study.  Imagine we read all the nature readers in the world to our children but never take them to explore or play in nature.  They will still know the four seasons and that plants have roots, but their knowledge will be so much more extensive when they experience firsthand the things they have read. My children’s knowledge of Ben Franklin grows far more if I take them to see his printing shop in action, a pair of bifocals he himself once wore or the room in which he sat to sign the Declaration of Independence. Travel Schooling enables parents and students to personalize their education and equips them to engrain the truths of what they are learning into the core of who they are. 

The Strategy - Integrating Travel into Homeschooling

Another common question is how I maintain consistency and forward momentum with our curriculum while travel schooling. Just like homeschooling styles vary greatly, so do travel schooling styles.  For our family, the basis of our kids' education isn’t travel. Travel supplements the education.  Our family has found A Gentle Feast (A Charlotte Mason-based curriculum by Julie Ross) a very easy curriculum to adjust to a life of travel schooling.

Whether you are full time travelers or move every few years, my encouragement to you is to see how you can use your location in tandem with your curriculum to maximize your family's learning experience. When we were travelling in Latin America, we made a point to visit places from one of our readings, "Richard Halliburton's Book of Marvels," such as the Panama Canal, Chichen Itza, and Machu Picchu. This helped to reinforce the things that we had read, and the kids were always excited to tell us all they knew about each place.

Also, don’t be afraid to rearrange your curriculum's schedule to fit your needs. When we found out we were going to Virginia, we shifted the order of our U.S. history to study the American Revolution, which allowed us to visit Colonial Williamsburg and the homes of several founding fathers, and to make weekend trips to Boston and Philadelphia.  Just because you’re not moving directly through reading assignments doesn’t mean you won’t finish everything for the year, and you might even finish on time! 

Travel schooling starts before reaching your destination. As the facilitator of your child’s education, you must do some research in order to have some basic knowledge and ideas to share with your students.  However, don’t think you need to know everything about where you are visiting. Allow time to wander, and don’t be afraid to use google!  Some of the best learning opportunities will just pop up when a child asks a question that would never have occurred to you. But the leg work starts before you depart on your trip, where you learn as much as you can about your destination before you arrive. Without prior knowledge about the sights you plan to visit, your kids are much more likely to be bored and uninterested. It is equivalent to handing our kids a bucket of wet concrete with no frame to poor it into - it's ultimately going to be a waste of good material.  But with just a little bit of educational preparation, our kids will have a framework with which to internalize what they are seeing and will be passionate and excited about what they are experiencing.  

Adaptations for Effective Travel Schooling

So how does this look practically? A life of constant history themed field trips is all well and good, but how does completing a ‘full feast’ of school actually work? With travel schooling, we know it is going to be impossible to have a consistent schedule or routine, and as such, traveling is often viewed as a disruption of school. This is where our main deviation from Miss Mason's recommendations occurs.  Timed study of core subjects for the morning hours followed by an afternoon of nature exploration will hardly be possible in a traveling environment. Sometimes we are doing two days worth of school on an transcontinental flight.  A library of rich printed books will be impossible to haul around in cars, trains, and planes.  So, making use of modern technology is vital to having a simple travel schooling experience.

We have found that a few iPads can substitute for a pile of books, notebooks, and even our math lesson DVDs. With a stylus, a paper-like screen protector, and a travel adapter for the charger, we can complete almost all of our work on the road.
Instead of buying your printed curriculum, if you purchase the digital copies and save the PDFs directly to the files folder on your tablet, you can fill everything out directly on your device.  For a curriculum that does not offer a downloadable digital version, we download a free PDF scanning app onto our tablet and can scan our blank physical workbook onto our mobile device.  We use the note taking app for writing or typing narrations.  

If you know you will be traveling somewhere without internet access, a little preparation will make it possible to seamlessly continue your lessons.  With YouTube premium you can easily download videos from your online membership resources directly onto your tablet. Often I can find a book from the booklist as a read aloud on YouTube or Spotify if all other avenues fail. Obviously, it would be ideal to have a physical copy of every book, but travel schooling definitely requires some flexibility and creativity. Sometimes finding digital copies of a book just isn’t possible.  For example, we recently needed to use "Encyclopedia of Life: Animals," which I was unable to locate on any of my usual platforms.  I eventually found a short YouTube video of a man flipping through the pages and was able to pause the video and read the book to my kids. In the rare event I can’t find the book ANYWHERE on the internet, we buy a printed copy and can then scan the chapters we will need onto our tablets.  Finally, we should remember that the books on our booklist are recommendations. We need to give ourselves permission to substitute books. There are a variety of quality living books available in every subject.  

So once we have all our materials in a mode for easy transport, we come to the issue of when we actually do it.  When we are traveling, 90 percent of our work is done during transport.  Car rides, plane rides, train rides, and boat rides are all times when we are stuck in our seats for hours on end without many distractions, so we take full advantage of this time to pull out the tablets for a YouTube read aloud, a math worksheet, an eBook, or even an audiobook of our family read aloud selection. This not only gets schoolwork done but also prevents the kids from getting bored (and keeps us on good terms with the travelers around us!).  We also supplement writing on our travels by keeping a family blog.  Our kids each choose an activity we did in every new country or state and write a short narrative about what they saw, learned, and experienced. This has been a great way to introduce the concept of journaling, a way to share our adventures with friends and families, and a treasure we use to look back on our trips months and years down the road.  

The Responsibility of Stewardship

One Biblical truth I often need to remember is that my kids belong first to God, and that I am raising them for Him.  As parents, we are the ones to whom God entrusted our children for their care.  We are stewards of our kids, so the main consideration in our parenting should be His will for them.  How do we help our children achieve this?  

Jesus teaches the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30.  In summary, a master is going off on a journey and turns over his talents, which were the current form of currency, to his servants for safekeeping.  The first two servants invest the money and upon their masters return are able to present him with more money and are highly praised and rewarded as a result.  When the third servant is called before the master, he states “Master, I know you  are a difficult man, reaping where you haven’t sown and gathering where you haven’t scattered seed.  So I was afraid and went off and buried your talent in the dirt.  Look, you have what is yours.”  This servant is chastised, stripped of his responsibilities, and thrown into the outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

At this moment as parents, we are God's servants and our kids are the talents He has entrusted to us.  What are we going to do with that responsibility?  How will we invest and return to the Lord more than we were given?  

Personal Journey in Spiritual Growth and Decision Making

This is going to look so different for every Christian family.  We are all, in some way, shape, or form, constrained by the circumstances in which the Lord has placed us. Therefore, no two families' educational choices are ever going to be exactly the same. What is important to remember is that we are responsible for providing and caring for our kids to the best of our abilities. The focus of that effort should be on equipping them spiritually and practically to love and serve the Lord, and to go forth and complete the work that He has planned for them.  

In my family's life, working within the circumstance in which God placed us, the option we were called to pursue was travel schooling.  This decision was by no means easy, and it played a huge part in my spiritual growth.  God graciously led me step by step, over the course of many years, to a place where I finally trusted Him, and our family has been immensely blessed as a result.  

My husband’s dream since he joined the army had been to become a Foreign Area Officer, a career shift that would require years of training involving multiple stateside moves, plus an international move which would then necessitate extensive regional travel.  And once this training was complete, it would eventually involve moving our entire family to live at foreign embassies, potentially for the rest of his career in the army.  

When we had discussed this option while we were engaged, I had just moved home from 6 months of mission work at an English School in a remote village outside of Bangalore, India. As a soon-to-be-married young woman, the idea of living internationally sounded exciting and appealing.  However, less than three years later and just hours after delivering our second child, I watched my husband walk out the door to take a test as the first step in pursuing this dream of his. I was no longer so enthusiastic.  When the next six years brought 6 new houses, 4 new babies, and 3 deployments to Afghanistan, and my husband gently informed me it was his last chance to pursue his dream, I pushed back.  I was not ready to commit to spending the rest of our military lives raising our 6 kids under 8 on foreign soil.  What if we were assigned somewhere dangerous?  We already stuck out everywhere we went with our 15 passenger van and swarm of tiny people; how much more would our blonde-haired and blue-eyed crew draw attention in the Middle East, China, or Africa?  How would medical care work?  Was our chaotic family really cut out for foreign diplomacy? The list of perceived dangers was endless.  This wasn’t about me and my husband anymore; it was about our kids too. Was exposing them to this drastic lifestyle change really what we should do? I wanted them to know where they came from, love their country, and to identify as Americans.  

I was the last servant in the parable of the the talents.  I was afraid, and just like that servant, I was going to duck down my head and bury this little family God had given me and keep it safe with our small town conservative American life.  Raising our kids in safety, living in conservative small towns, instilling a love of country - none of these things are wrong, nor were they wrong desires, but my motivations were wrong. I had made an idol of our lifestyle.  I was clinging to what I knew with a spirit of fear.

2 Timothy 1:5-14 “I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well.  For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God who saved us and called us to a holy calling not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel for which I was appointed a preacher and apostle an teacher, which is why I suffer as I do.  12 But I am not ashamed for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that day what has been entrusted to me.  Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.”

God did not give us a spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control.  I wanted to be like Lois and Eunice, to pass on this sincere and epic faith in Christ to my kids, not demonstrate a lack of self-control by allowing my fear to prevent me from trusting God’s plans for my family, and ultimately his plans for the lives of my children.  Was I, like Paul in verse 12, convinced that God “is able to guard until that day what has been entrusted to me”? No, I wasn’t trusting Him. I was burying my talent. After lots of prayer and reflection and meditation, I approached my husband and told him to go ahead and apply for the Foreign Area Officer program.  I still wasn’t convinced that this was the direction our family was supposed to take, but I refused to be a hinderance to my husband pursuing what he felt God calling him to do.  

The act of submission felt like stepping off the edge of a cliff. My stomach was in knots while we waited to hear if my husband had been selected for the program. It turns out he scored insanely high on that little test he took after being up with me in labor all night 7 years prior.  He was qualified to study the most difficult languages in the world, Arabic and Mandarin, and because finding capable candidates for these languages is so difficult, I had convinced myself that we would be assigned to the Middle East or China.  So imagine my surprise and relief when we found out we were selected to the region of Latin America.  I felt as if God was showing me so much grace in assigning us to a region where risks to Americans are extremely low compared to other parts of the world.  I had trusted him with my children, my talents, and perhaps he was rewarding my investment.  

Upon acceptance to the program, we knew we had approximately 18 months before we would be moving overseas to a job where my husband would be required to travel to as many different countries in Latin America as he could over the course of a year. Early on in his career, we had decided that there were enough forced separations with deployments and other mission requirements that we would always make the choice to keep our family together whenever possible.  If we were going to stick with this decision, we were going to have to figure out how to travel school.  

In my 3 years of homeschooling experience, we had tried 3 different curricula and none of them would be practical for travel schooling.  I needed something that was easy to use, required few or no physical books, and was structured in a way where we could learn as many subjects as possible as a family instead of on individual grade levels. It was around this time that my sisters-in-law first introduced me to Charlotte Mason’s teaching philosophy and, specifically, A Gentle Feast.  My husband and I took advantage of our upcoming move from Texas to California to listen to several audiobooks about Charlotte Mason's approach to education and decided it was the direction we wanted to go.  I then called my dad, who is my expert on everything tech related, and explained my vision.  I needed some way to make my homeschool mobile.  We spent our 9 months of Spanish language training in California figuring out our new educational style with our first year of A Gentle Feast (cycle 3), while also learning the ropes of 'minimalist homeschooling.'

By the time we hopped on a plane to our new home in El Salvador (after moving from California to Georgia for six months), our kids' first time leaving the United States, we were no longer anxious but excited to see what God had planned for us. During my husbands 7 month assignment at the embassy in El Salvador, we were able to travel with him on all 11 of his country visits.  By the time we came back to the U.S. we had become travel junkies.  Our family of 8 visited 23 countries in the year 2023, and I am writing this from Europe on a trip to visit 5 new countries.  We have also visited 27 states.

 While my life does not look at all the way I planned for it too, God is always there reminding me that He has a perfect plan for each of our kids, and that this plan involves us faithfully following his prompting with each opportunity he presents to us.  I often wonder what amazing places God will lead our kids. Will they be missionaries? Will they work at an international non-profit? Perhaps they will head up a major US corporation in foreign country, or become a lawyer specializing in international law. They could end up as a military spouse called to homeschool their kids as they follow their spouse around the world, or perhaps they will get to live out their mother's old dream of a stable life in conservative, small-town America.  Regardless of where God leads them,  I take comfort in the fact that we are preparing our kids to the best of our ability for whatever their future holds. We have seen so much personal growth, character growth, and intellectual growth in each of our children, and our family has grown so close as a result of travel schooling that we know we want to continue with it.  Travel schooling looks a little different now, but our kids continue to thrive, and we are excited to see where God will lead us next.

Combining homeschooling and traveling is something I am truly passionate about, and as such I love volunteering my time consulting with families about travel schooling. Please feel free to email me at for more information on travel schooling, or if you are interested in gaining access (don't worry; it's free) to the entirety of our blog!

Allyson Beverly is a military spouse and homeschooling mom of 6 who became an accidental travel schooling pioneer when life in the military nudged the Beverly clan to hit the road. Travel schooling brought unexpected joys and a stronger faith as she watched her kids flourish with each new adventure. Now hooked on the enriching experiences that travel schooling affords, Allyson has turned this serendipitous journey into a passionate lifestyle by choice, not chance. With stamps from 24 countries and visits to 27 states in their family passport, the Beverlys' odyssey is a testament to the educational wonders beyond the classroom walls. Her unique approach combines traveling and Charlotte Mason's educational philosophies, breathing life into every lesson with the world as their classroom.