Children's Toy & Media Reviews Since 1978

Home (Away) Schooling

Home AwayThe notions—and methods—of homeschooling have changed rapidly over the years. One can blame educational gaps on test score tunnel vision and underfunding. However, a good deal of research points to the fact that even top students aren’t truly learning. Education isn’t simply remembering facts and figures. That can be important, but it is also crucial for kids to think critically, adapt and, well, really learn something. To achieve that, we may need to take a whole new approach.

On our vacation this past summer to Costa Rica, we met a family that decided to think outside of the classroom—way outside of the classroom. The Shindell family, including dad Colburn (a teacher), mom Deb (a nurse practitioner) and kids Lucia, 10, and Mac, 8, left their home in Nevada and hit the road for an entire year abroad.

We met while volunteering at an animal sanctuary Proyecto Asis in Alajuela, Costa Rica. The family has been documenting their adventures in their family blog. Colburn explained that their mission was to “home school” the kids while traveling and volunteering in real world situations. “The English and History lessons just come naturally,” explains Colburn. The math lessons, he admits, can be hard.

The family’s blog is a fun read, and an inspiration for making big dreams comes true. The Shindell’s cover the good and the difficult, but prove what we know—kids are resilient and adjust. According to their blog, among other great lessons, arachnophobe Lucia, has gotten used to routinely shaking out her clothes and checking for spiders and scorpions, while Mac, a somewhat picky eater, has tried lots of new foods.

Would you ever take a year off to travel with the family? What kind of unconventional methods do you take to enhance your child’s education?