How to have a homeschooling non-vacation


Written by Rozanne Dioso-Lopez of Tomfoolery & Shenanigans.

“Mom, when are we going to do schoolwork???”

Asked in frustration, my darling 11-year-old daughter looked at me imploringly as she ran up the beach with boogie board in hand. We had been in Costa Rica for four days and she had had enough of vacation mode.

Looking up from my book I reassured her, “Monday.  Tomorrow we start.”

She pumped her fist, waved goodbye, and as she turned to catch more waves, she flung her sandy saltwater hair to the side in triumphant glee.

For the first time we are traveling abroad to one location for an entire month. We decided to try an experiment.

Although one month isn’t long enough to really live in a place, it’s long enough to settle in and try to imagine if living abroad is feasible for our family.

Prior to the trip, my husband and I discussed our goals.  What did we want to accomplish? Was this a sight-seeing trip?  One of those busy “doing” vacations?

We agreed that we didn’t see this trip as a “vacation” in terms of our previous family travels. It was just going to be a break from the ordinary.

It was a reprieve from winter’s bite.  It was an opportunity to introduce the children to another culture: eating and living local.

Can we transport our life at home to another place for an entire month? More specifically, what does homeschooling look like during this month?

Some tips on how to homeschool abroad in non-vacation mode:


Before you leave, take a break from regularly scheduled programming.

We had a one-month break from our regular rhythm of homeschooling back in December.

The kids read independently and worked on their handmade gifts for Christmas.

As a family, we did some research on Costa Rica. We cooked some Costa Rican meals at home and did some online Spanish lessons together.

The kids were so excited about the trip that it would have been next to impossible trying to get them too focus on other school blocks.

Prepare your homeschool lessons according to the kind of environment you will be living in.

For example, tropical flora and fauna nature studies would be appropriate for some of the children because our house would be in the jungle.

There would be astronomy lessons too because the sky is clear for star gazing.


Use the first few days to acclimatize and assess the situation.

We took four days to get to know our surroundings, to take trips into town to stock up on food and supplies, to begin getting to know new friends in our neighbourhood, and to go slow.

I tested out various eating times based on the new wake-up and bed times. The kids were getting up earlier and crashing faster at night. I observed the kids and their energy levels based on their activities throughout the day.

Mark a day to start a new rhythm in your home away from home.

The following Monday after our arrival marked our beginning of school, and thus, a new rhythm that had a slight resemblance to the one we had at home.

I announced the pending date and made my preparations by reading over the material I was going to present.

I decided to try a morning school rhythm since that works so well at home and made sure to set up tools that each of my children could use to help their focus while I worked with others.

Be flexible and open.

We are in a spot where the weather is unpredictable: sunny skies one day and torrential downpour for two days, a sunny morning and stormy afternoon, or vice versa.

I’ve had to adapt to the weather because good weather meant heading to the beach or running into town while bad weather meant hunkering down indoors or under our outdoor gazebo.


Keep in mind that, like at home, learning occurs all the time — so use what’s around you.

By conversing with the same local artisan or the bakery owner every day, the kids pick up a little more Spanish.

They calculate the conversion of local currency into our currency at home to manage their spending money.  I told my five-year-old a local folk tale by drawing in the sand with a stick.

In the end, I wanted to have an adventure with my family while keeping some of our home routine to make for a smooth transition.

If we can accomplish this with relative ease and grace, maybe it will turn out to be more than an experiment.  Maybe this is our inaugural voyage.

(Now excuse me while I grab a boogie board and join my daughter in the ocean.)

Have you ever had a homeschooling non-vacation?

About Rozanne Dioso-Lopez

Rozanne likes pina coladas and getting caught in the rain (with an umbrella, of course because she’s also slightly neurotic about being prepared). She is just getting the hang of having 5 children, let alone homeschooling them. Her secret? Coffee and a sense of humour. You can read more about her family adventures at her blog, Tomfoolery & Shenanigans, and see her flex her writing muscles at Sense of Story with other mama writers.


  1. This is good stuff. We travelled through the US for a month this winter while my husband was on parental leave (we are Canadian). I homeschooled the girls along the way and it was such a positive experience that we hope to repeat it soon. A lot of this advice was what worked for us as well. I had basic goals in mind, mostly connected to the skill subjects – English and math – and then adapted everything else based on surroundings and schedule. It was so richly educational and I can’t wait to do it again! Caveat – the better you plan, the better it goes, in my experience.

  2. We lived in India for three years and traveled to Nepal and Thailand (stayed five weeks there) during that time. This was an excellent post. Thanks for the tips. They’re spot on. We might need them in the future again!
    Hannah’s latest post: On Finding Your Own Bones

  3. I am so excited to read your post, and to find more info about your trip! We are going to Costa Rica in the fall! Please share all the details, and send recommendations! The kids and I are fluent in Spanish (husband is not). We decided to go because it is Pura Vida over there! I have been to C.R. before a few years ago without kids and loved it. I am sure I am going to love it even more as I share the experience with my family.
    We have gone on a few homeschooling vacations. Our latest one was to Cancun in Jan. were we learn about the Mayans and dolphins. We always bring our journals, and learn from what is around us. Thanks for the extra tips. (and hopefully more post about your trip!)

    • Hi Silvana,
      We had a wonderful time in Costa Rica! We stayed on the Caribbean side, near Panama, just south of a little town called Puerto Viejo. I wrote more about it on my blog but needless to say it was a life changing experience for us. We rented a house for a month with another homeschooling family and just lived our life there. We are definitely going to head back soon!
      Rozanne’s latest post: 34. make mistakes faster.

      • Hi Rozanne,
        It is me again (Silvana) with questions about your trip to Costa Rica. we are leaving in October!!!!! Since it is the rainy season we will be staying in the Caribbean side. I would love to read more about your experience. I need advice! We were looking into Airbnb for renting a place, but haven’t made a reservation yet. How did you find your place? We were looking at the Puerto Viejo area too, near parque Cahuita and Gandoca-manzanillo. I unable to find information about the area, Any help will be greatly appreciated.

  4. I would be interested in hearing more about the “tools that each of [your] children…use to help their focus while [you work] with others.” This sounds so helpful. 🙂 And, thank you for a first hand look into a leap we would love to take!

    • Thanks Debbie! We set up gymnastic rings in our outdoor gazebo for the kids to play around on and to get all their “wiggles” out before settling down for main lessons. And in the first picture above, I gave my five year old a little nature scavenger hunt activity book where he had to search for things in nature and check them off. On beautiful days, we headed to the beach for morning lessons. The kids would boogie board or make mandalas out of natural objects while I would do lessons with the others. Some of my older kids wrote in their journals or sketched some of the vistas before their lessons too. I hope some of these ideas help!
      Rozanne’s latest post: 34. make mistakes faster.

  5. I find even during our summer vacation at home my boys get bored easily. I end up planning a simple science related activity like a nature walk and read alouds for about an hour a day to beat some boredom. Of course I have friends who think I am not giving my kids “a proper childhood”.

    • We do the same! Homeschooling gives the added benefit of having enough time for free play AND mama-led activities…with my 5 at home, the summer can feel a little long without some rhythm!
      Rozanne’s latest post: weekend links.

  6. Oh my goodness. What a really cool idea. We’re doing some hard-core debt payoff right now, with the intention of getting everything cleared in the next 2 years, and starting some major traveling in 2018. This type of thing could be really cool – now added to our list of options.
    treen’s latest post: Women’s History Month kickoff

  7. We are just coming to a place financially to start thinking about vacations. Thanks for a amazing bee in my bonnet! Wow! I could really see doing this!

    • You’re welcome Lynda! It’s really an experience that not only taught our family lessons about a new culture but also about ourselves!
      Rozanne’s latest post: may.

  8. Renee P. says:

    One of the reasons I’m homeschooling is so that I can do this eventually! I want to spend a few weeks living in Merida, Yucatan, MX to learn Spanish and soak up the culture (my husband’s home culture). I love your tips – thanks for sharing! I will save these for a little bit later.

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