Family on Bikes: Homeschooling on the Road

[singlepic=1691,250,,,right]John Vogel and Nancy Sathre-Vogel were both long-time teachers with over 20 years of experience each. So what made them decide to quit their jobs? Time. “They say time is the greatest gift one can give their children. Time is why we made the decision to quit our teaching jobs and join the ever-burgeoning ranks of homeschoolers; we were tired of spending more time with other parents’ kids than with our own.”

They are now using that time and combining it with their passion for biking to cycle the Pan-America Highway (Prudhoe Bay, Alaska to Ushuaia, Argentina) with their sons, Daryl and Davy. Along the way they are using the world as their classroom. You can follow along on their adventures on their site, Family on Bikes.

We asked them to share their experiences homeschooling their sons on the road.

[singlepic=1692,250,,,left]What made you decide to travel with your children?
Time. My husband and I came to the conclusion that we would never be able to put time in a bottle. We can not go back to regain precious lost moments. We can only live for today. Our boys will never be this age again and, if we don’t take advantage of their childhood now, the opportunity will be lost forever.

My husband and I had traveled extensively before the boys were born (and while they were young) and we knew it is the best education there is. When we decided to take time now for the boys, it was a given that we would take off and travel with them. They’ve learned way more in their years on the road than they ever could have learned in the classroom!

[singlepic=1698,250,,,right]Did you look at this as an educational experience first and foremost? If so, why?
I think it’s basically twofold – an educational experience and a family experience. When I look back on my childhood, what I remember most are the times I spent with my parents – camping or traveling together as a family. We want our sons to have those memories.

But we also feel it is the best education going. Our boys learned about the Oregon Trail by cycling it – and now truly understand why water was so important to the pioneers. They walked in the footsteps of Lewis and Clark. They examined cannons on the battlefields of Gettysburg. In short – history has come alive for our boys.

They’ve also learned, first hand, all about Mother Nature and her handiwork. They’ve cycled over the mountains created by collisions between tectonic plates. They’ve pedaled through deserts, paramo, tundra, and rainforests. They’ve seen sloths in trees, iguanas on rocks, and bison by the side of the road. Weather conditions are a very real phenomenon.

But beyond all that “school stuff” our boys have learned so much more. They’ve learned the value of perseverance and determination. They’ve learned that life isn’t always a bowl of cherries and that anything worth achieving won’t come easily. They’ve spent that past 20 months working toward a goal and have another year to go – and I have no doubt they have the strength and mental fortitude to reach victory!

[singlepic=1694,200,,,left]You were schoolteachers beforehand – how was the transition to homeschooling your own children?
One of the toughest things for us to accept was the idea that schools don’t know everything. We tend to think that schools have all the answers – that they “know” what kids need to know. They have their scientifically prepared curriculums and kids will be “prepared” for adulthood after a successful completion of school.

However, we also know that there is no scientific basis for those curriculums. In all honesty it doesn’t matter if kids learn the phases of the moon or the parts of a flower. What’s important is that they know HOW to learn and have the skills to do that.

I look at education as having two distinct parts – process skills and content. The process skills (reading, writing, ‘rithmetic) are the skills we use to learn content. As long as our boys are fluent in the three R’s, they will be able to learn whatever content they want to.

How do you prepare your lesson plans?
Lesson plans? Are you kidding? We do have math books that our boys are working through, but other than that we take advantage of educational opportunities we find on the road. For example, today we visited an ecological park where we learned about traditional rainforest cultures and medicinal plants from the rainforest. Now, the boys will use that info to write reports.

[singlepic=1695,175,,,right]What kind of unexpected educational lessons have you found on the road?
Too many! I did not even know Big Hole National Battlefield in Montana existed until we pedaled past and saw the sign. We spent hours there touring the battlefields and talking with the rangers – fascinating! We also ended up with an incredible opportunity to visit the Galapagos Islands and learned all about Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection. We’ve stumbled upon ancient sugar cane presses and old Mayan ruins and gold mines. Rarely a week goes by that we don’t find some unexpected treasure to take advantage of.

How have the boys adapted to life and learning on the road?
They LOVE it! They have had no trouble adapting to this life at all.

What recommendations would you have for people who don’t have prior teaching experience but want to travel with their children?
I don’t think you have to be teachers to take advantage of educational opportunities. If you are learning something, your kids are too. Just seek out places where you can learn and take your kids with you!

Other comments

4 Comments on "Family on Bikes: Homeschooling on the Road"

  1. Alonna on Thu, 18th Feb 2010 7:00 pm 

    Wow, this is so inspirational! Good for you guys, what an amazing experience for your children.

  2. Michael on Tue, 27th Apr 2010 1:19 pm 

    I love what their doing! After meeting Nancy last night, I’m even more inspirited then ever hearing her stories.

  3. soultravelers3 on Sat, 22nd May 2010 7:17 pm 

    Great interview! I first met Nancy online when they were preparing for this trip and have enjoyed their travels & am awe of them doing it all by bikes!

    We’ve been traveling the world as a family since 2006 & couldn’t agree more with her philosophy about the value of travel as education. It is phenomenal and also such an amazing way to bond as a family. Every day is a world field trip, what could be better?

  4. Loving the Bike on Tue, 27th Jul 2010 12:29 pm 

    I love these guys. They are such an inspiration for some many reasons….family, cycling, adventure, life. I’ve been a fan of their since I first came across them and I am so excited to follow their every move.


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