Homeschooling with the Redpath Family

Case Studies in the 9 to 5 alternative: No. 5

Welcome to a series of profiles on alternative lifestyles. If you think that you (or someone you know) would make for an interesting interview, then drop me a line. I know there are plenty of you out there :) Hope you enjoy!

redpath childrenMeet the Redpaths. Living proof that just because you’re not a 20-something doesn’t mean you can’t travel! The Redpaths are a full-fledged family, four total; Brenna and Bob, Owen and Eleanor. Brenna reached out to me via email, and when I checked out their site, From Here to Uncertainty, I discovered that the Redpaths homeschool their children.

Truthfully, I knew very little about homeschooling when I asked Brenna about her family’s experiences. Methods. Perceptions. The logistical and psychological trials and tribulations. Brenna was more than happy to answer a few questions for us. If you’re interested in learning more, check out her post on homeschooling or her  interview with Christine at Almost Fearless.

Brenna, let’s get started!

Had you always wanted to homeschool?

We started thinking about the idea of homeschooling when our oldest kid was 3. I did a lot of research, and went to some homeschooling conferences to learn more. By the time he was school age we had decided.

What prompted the decision?

Not any one thing really. Our decision was never about avoiding public school, it was more about being able to dive deeply into interests, and follow passions. Here’s a quote that has helped to form our home school philosophy: “Education is not the filling of a vessel, but the kindling of a flame” -Socrates

Where have you traveled so far?

We have a pretty short list for our 7 months on the road! We slow travel, renting an apartment for a month or two in one city, and taking smaller trips from there. We started our trip in Serbia with friends. We spent a few weeks in Belgrade, and a few weeks in the Serbian countryside. We’ve “lived” in Krakow, Poland; Bamberg, Germany; Perth, Scotland; and Edinburgh, Scotland. We’ve spent a week or less in Vienna, Budapest, Venice, Stuttgart, Isle Of Skye, Oban, Rothenburg, Dresden, Germany’s Romantic Road, and taken day trips to other places.

How long have you been homeschooling?

Owen is 11, and Eleanor is 8, so 6 years (which some days feels like 60).

redpath family

Are certain countries more kid-friendly than others?

Not in our experience. We’ve only been to relatively tame countries, and we tend to seek out more family-friendly places. We have been surprised at how much our kids have enjoyed more typically “adult” things: the Peggy Guggenheim Museum in Venice for instance, and the ballet in Stuttgart.

Every country does have it’s own way, of course, and the kids have taken a watch-and-learn attitude. For instance, we lived very close to the Town Square in Krakow, where there was a large sculpture by Igor Mitoraj. Local kids as well as tourists climbed all over it, using it as a jungle gym and for photo ops. Coincidentally, just down the street from our apartment in Bamberg, Germany there was a similar sculpture by the same artist. No one even touched the sculpture in Germany.

As far as homeschooling, it varies. Most people assume we’re on vacation until we keep showing up at their cafe day after day. By then they know us. Scotland has a wonderful homeschooling community, and people are really open to it. There is a spectrum of homeschooling acceptance throughout Europe both socially and legally, but from our experience the US is one of the countries at the forefront of homeschooling.

Are there any countries you wouldn’t take your family?

Sure. Safety definitely comes before adventure, and we’re not “Adventure Junkies”, although it does sound fun! Having said that, one person’s prudent destination is another person’s nightmare. We had some family members who weren’t wild about the idea of us starting our trip in Serbia. We try to be smart. For instance, we’re planning a trip to Morocco in March. If we didn’t have kids we would probably fly into Marrakesh and then just figure out the rest. Instead we’re making reservations. We’re planning a month of volunteering in the spring, and I’m looking forward to venturing more outside our comfort zones. It will be good for all of us.

What resources do you use as curriculum?

Owen and Ella both use an online program for basics. We keep notebooks for their work. We do a lot of reading out loud on our Kindle, choosing books that are set in the places we’re visiting. We read The Thief Lord just before we hit Venice. Owen has become addicted to the  Sherlock Holmes series now that we’re in Edinburgh. He loves reading, and I build around that. For instance, we’re going to Stonehenge in a few weeks, and he is super excited. I made him a deal: I’ll spring for the tickets that get us inside the stone circle, and he reads up on Stonehenge so that he can be our tour guide. Ella is pen pals with a 2nd grade class in Illinois. We help her write emails about her adventures, and they tell her about what they’re doing in school. Ella is a lover of art, and I link as much to that as I can. The paintings in a church lead to a conversation about the social climate of the time. History and Geography, obviously, come pretty naturally this year.

Any specific companies, websites, social gatherings?

Time 4 Learning is an online curriculum, and it’s terrific in many ways. The presentation works well for my kids. They can advance as fast as they like, or as slow as necessary. They aren’t held to a certain grade level. All progress is documented online and accessible anywhere.

Handwriting Without Tears has been a great program for my kids for learning both printing and cursive.

Starfall is a learn-to-read website geared for younger learners.

And then of course there’s Google for all of the obvious reasons. I can’t imagine doing what we’re doing, the traveling OR the homeschooling, without the internet and Google.

We mentioned the Kindle, which we all fight over. It’s a hell of a lot lighter than the wall of bookshelves we had at home.

As far as social gatherings – it depends on where you live. In Southern California there is a vibrant homeschooling community (which I miss very much). Some areas of the US, and of the world, have more going on than others.

What’s the hardest part of home schooling for you, the teacher, and for your kids, the students.

Such a good question! The hardest part for me has changed over the years. I think that in the beginning I didn’t have a fundamental trust that kids learn because they’re built to. Give them the opportunity, and they’re sponges. These days it’s juggling everything: working, traveling, teaching, mothering. Just like everyone I guess.

Owen says: The hardest part is when there’s not always someone available to help me. I’m impatient.
Eleanor says: I don’t know – it’s not really hard.

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You can follow the Redpaths’ adventures in world education at From Here to Uncertainty. If you have any additional questions or comments, feel free to comment below and I’ll do my best to make sure they see them!

9 thoughts on “Homeschooling with the Redpath Family”

  1. What an amazing way for those kids to grow up. Bigtime kudos to the Redpath parents! I find this whole traveling with a family thing fascinating, I’m hoping that maybe I can do that someday when (if) I have kids.
    .-= Nate´s last blog ..reclaim your weekend =-.

  2. Kudos to the Redpaths! Yes, indeed, 20-something singles aren’t the only ones who can benefit from travel!

    I think by the end off this decade there will be TONS of families doing this. 70% of families dream about extended travel and 60% of schools will be virtual by the end of this decade, so it only makes sense, now that the technology & economics make it a really good option.

    We’re a family on an open ended world tour since 2006 and have found it to be an amazing experience so far and the best possible education. We live large on just 25K a year, so we travel the world for much less than we lived on at home (even in “expensive” Europe).

    We’ve been to 32 countries, 4 continents & over 175,000 miles so far and I agree wholeheartedly with Brenna that slow travel is the best mode for families. So much can be learned with life as a field trip and it’s rewarding to have the time to bond & share travel experiences together.

    There are as many ways to homeschool as there are homeschoolers. My adult niece in Texas was homeschooled until she started community college at 15. She then went onto a degree in Chemical Engineering at Rice Univ & got a 6 figure job and bought a house at graduation while still a teen!

    We use a combination of homeschool connected to our travel, collaboration online with others for things like piano, violin and JHU CTY online classes and going to local schools for deep literature/language/culture immersion and a consistency with the same friends.

    We’ve done 4 winters in Spain and next winter we will immerse in Mandarin Chinese for a few winters. English won’t always be the dominant language, so we think this is the easiest way to get this skill while the brain can most easily learn it.

    Families can thrive on a 9-5 alternative!
    .-= soultravelers3´s last blog ..Seth Godin, Linchpin, Education & Travel =-.

  3. Just wanted to share how much I enjoy your blog and agree with so many of your life choices. As worldschoolers ourselves we appreciate you getting the word out on what a wonderful world there is out there for families willing to take on adventure while their kids are still at home. Also wanted to mention jumpstart.com. We do time4learning too but recently added the jumpstart downloadables as they seem more fun. Looking forward to following your travels. Enjoy!

  4. Your children are very lucky they have parents like you. I’m sure your kids will grow just like you. As a parent I salute you guys for having this blog.

    Linda W.

  5. While I love the concept of traveling the world with my kids, homeschooling them as we go, I just don’t think it’s a good choice for the kids. (PLEASE note I’m just speaking my words. Don’t get mad, please)

    Homeschooling them in different countries may give them a lot of experiences, but they’ll never perfect social interactions properly without being in a school setting with other kids. Idk..just my thoughts…

  6. What a wonderful way to grow up. I rarely traveled when I was a kid and now I wish my parents took me on more adventures. Maybe if they home schooled me it would have been different.

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