With a virus still looming and conventional schools shifting to online learning, many parents are considering the switch to homeschooling. Having begun homeschooling in 2014, the Kaufmans are ahead of the pack. After seeing how conventional school didn’t align with the family’s flow of life — waking up at 5 am, wasting time on the road, not having enough time together as a family — parents Mai and David decided to go the homeschool route. Today, daughters Alexa Isobel and Calista Simone are in Grade 6 and Grade 2, respectively.
The Kaufmans also have the unique privilege of being able to travel extensively, so for half the year prior to the pandemic, the world was their classroom. “My husband and I are adventurous people so we make it a point to travel to new places, discover new things, explore new designs and learn about different cultures,” says Mai. “When the girls were born, we just continued doing what we love doing and naturally brought them along. They have been with us on every trip whether it’s business or pleasure.”
Below, Mai lets us in on what it’s like to educate their children on the go and gives helpful tips for parents who are considering homeschooling their own children.
Q: What is your homeschool routine like?
Mai: Typically for academic subjects, we cover them for 1 to 3 hours. After, my girls can do independent explorations and learn about whatever interests them. They can do as much or as little as they like. We have endless time to spend together or with friends and family so we usually take our children to places that are educational, interesting or fun. We do it often, unhurried and during times with no crowds.
Q: What are some of the misconceptions about homeschooling?
Mai: One misconception is that homeschoolers have insufficient social interaction and have less opportunities for extra-curricular activities. The efficiency and flexibility of homeschooling allows our children to enjoy many extra-curricular activities so socialization is not really a problem for my daughters. They are involved in community work, volunteer activities, girl scouts, fencing, book club, bible study group, figure skating, theatre, ballet, art, music, dance, homeschool co-ops and have frequent field trips with other kids. My daughters get to interact with people of different ages, from different backgrounds, and in different settings.
Another misconception is that homeschooling does not provide enough structure. Parents can actually make their homeschool as structured as they want. It cannot be overly structured though because it can possibly dampen a child’s curiosity and enthusiasm for learning so we try to have a good balance of flexible learning and structure.
Q: Travel seems to be an integral part of your family’s homeschooling experience. What lessons have your daughters learned on the road?
Mai: Travel adds so much more in terms of experiences, observation and exposure to our homeschool lifestyle. Learning geography, history and languages becomes more concrete. We like it when our daughters get to navigate in other countries and function in uncomfortable situations; they naturally learn to adapt and be resilient. Getting to know the different people of the world and their diverse culture and history is something not easily learned unless you travel to these different places.
Q: What’s your homeschool routine like when you travel?
Mai: No two days are ever the same but an example of a stay-at-home day when abroad would be… we say our morning prayer of thanks together, have breakfast, then we work on the academic subjects. After lunch, we do some arts and crafts, board games, exercise, watch documentaries, leisure reading or any outdoor activities like gardening, lawn games, garden camping, free play, movie night, live entertainment, etc.
Some examples of what we do when we are out exploring and learning would be going to museums, visiting the library, attending community festivals, watching a play, going to the playground or skate park, enjoying outdoor theatre, attending farm and agricultural shows, checking out the different stately homes, castles, abbeys and gardens around.
We learn all throughout the day, we don’t always stick to a routine when we are abroad. We could be studying on a train, on a plane or hotel room. When travelling one has to be flexible.
Q: What has been your favorite homeschooling-on-the-road memory?
Mai: I quite enjoy going to the heritage homes in England where they have special tours and explain the history from a child’s perspective. Some even had period costumes that our daughters wore which just made the experience even more memorable.
Q: Now that traveling is on hold, do you somehow incorporate some aspects of learning on the road into your current homeschool routine?
Mai: Our family is used to changes so we simply just try to find ways to adjust. Instead of watching theatrical plays, ballets and musicals in theaters, we now just stream performances from Broadway, the West End and other venues around the world for free from our living room.
Q: Not everyone has the means to travel extensively with their families. How can others teach their kids the lessons yours have learned through travel?
Mai: Local travel would certainly be my first option. If that is not possible, I suggest watching travel videos and documentaries instead of movies or cartoons.
Q: What should parents consider when looking for a homeschool provider?
Mai: You will be the one teaching your child so it is very important that you choose a provider that will have the time to assist you when you need help and guidance. The future of your child is in your hands so be sure to do your due diligence and research. What works for others might not work for you and your child.
Tips for First-Time Homeschoolers
Mai says that parents should have a good reason for choosing to homeschool, as well as a vision and a realistic goal. Her other tips:
- Start out slowly. Try not to overthink and get overwhelmed.
- Approach homeschooling with your heart. Having a good relationship with your child is the biggest and best part of homeschooling.
- Be a parent first and a teacher second. Joyfully work together as a team.
- Try to develop a lifestyle of learning.
- Have an intellectually stimulating environment. It is essential to designate an area in your home for studying.
- Remember that no teacher is an expert. You can do a better job because you are more invested in your child.
- Always look for progress, not perfection. Make learning relaxed and fun.
- Establish a routine but be flexible. Take lots of breaks.
- Just keep going until you get into the rhythm. It will feel more natural after.
- One cannot do everything so only do what you can.
- There is so much support available. Try to find your tribe to connect.
- While you are at it, enjoy the process!