Education for kids: Consider all options

Consider all options. That has become our mantra when it comes to our sons’ education.

There was a time, many years ago, when we fully expected our sons to take the standard route through school. We figured they would go through elementary, middle, and high school just like millions of other kids do. Maybe they’d take some online classes or tutoring lessons along the way.  And then, we expected to watch them cross the stage and receive their high school diploma, just like John and I did.


When are sons were young, we expected them to follow the standard path through school. My, how things have changed!

My, how things have changed!

Shortly after returning to Idaho over two years ago, I wrote an update about what we planned to do about our sons’ education. At that time, we were thrilled that we had discovered a special program offered through the Boise Public Schools that was exclusively for advanced math and science courses. We enrolled our sons to see how that would work.

It worked beautifully!

And now, two years on, what does our sons’ educational program look like?

Basically, we’ve learned to consider all options and not discount anything until we’ve ascertained that it won’t meet their needs. Nothing. And that open-ness has led to all kinds of incredible opportunities!

civil war reenactment

We seek out all kinds of educational opportunities wherever we go. One weekend there was a large Civil War reenactment near Boise. Of course, we were there!

What we’ve done for the past two years

1)      Advanced math and science classes through Boise Public Schools

Our boys have continued with their classes through the local school district. They are each taking a math class and two science classes. What I love about this program is that it’s not based around how many years you’ve been on our planet, but rather on what you bring to the table. The classes are all filled with kids of many different ages and they all work together and respect one another for what they can do. Daryl is now taking two AP classes – Calculus and Physics – so he should have his first college credits within a month.

2)      PE through Boise Public Schools

As you could maybe guess, our sons love physical activity! While we were perfectly capable of getting them out and about on bikes or hikes, what we couldn’t provide was the group activities. They each chose to take a PE class through the local school before being bussed over to their math/science program.

3)      FIRST Robotics

For a couple of kids who have long been fascinated by all things robotic, FIRST has been an incredible program for them. This program has nothing to do with the school, but is one of the best educational opportunities I’ve ever seen. Through FIRST, Davy and Daryl have a chance to work one-on-one with professional engineers who serve as mentors to design, build, and program robots. What an opportunity! (For those not familiar with FIRST, read here: What’s this FIRST Robotics stuff  all about?)

4)      Boy Scouts

D & D have been involved with Boy Scouts since our return to Idaho. Although they don’t really care about amassing merit badges like some of the kids, they enjoy the activities and campouts. We’re good with that, and figure they will learn what they learn.

5)      Sports

Daryl has opted to be on the swim team at the Boise YMCA, while Davy has taken up running. The Boise schools have allowed Davy to participate in both cross country and track, which has been a wonderful program for him.

FIRST robotics

FIRST Robotics has been a HUGE part of our lives for the past two years. Davy and Daryl have learned a lot about building robots and are eager to learn more.

What we like about this program

For Davy and Daryl, this program has been perfect.

  • It has allowed them to pursue their passions and learn what they are interested in.
  • They are excited about learning. Notice I said learning, not school? In our family, it’s all about learning – not bringing home good grades. We never, ever ask them to do their homework – they do it because they enjoy their classes and they want to keep up, not because we demand it of them.
  • The schedule works for them. They both love to stay up late, and sleep in late. This program, having them start their classes at 10 in the morning, has worked out well.
  • When the kids see a need, they can jump on it. For example, as we drove to the robotics competition in Spokane last month, another high school kid rode with us. She was passionate about history and was talking about her AP World History class and why the Treaty of Versailles and other world events were so important. My sons had never before been interested in world history, but are now considering taking AP World History.
  • Because they are not locked in to a particular schedule, they are free to explore other options. For next year, they have decided to take an electronics class. They know that this class will feed directly into their robotics passion, so they can’t wait to get started.

Basically, what I’ve seen by handing the reins over to our sons, their education is completely tailored to what they want/need. Both Davy and Daryl are considering some sort of engineering for the future, and they are building up a platform that will help them tremendously in that endeavor. And besides, they love learning – and that’s what *I* am most happy about!

MK Nature Center

There are great hands-on activities all over, if you look for them. What I especially love about them is that kids of all ages can learn from playing with them. A small kid could make a dam to block up the flow of water here and learn a lot. And teenagers can actually play with design elements to see which kind of dam is most effective.

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

About Nancy Sathre-Vogel

After 21 years as a classroom teacher, Nancy Sathre-Vogel finally woke up and realized that life was too short to spend it all with other people's kids. She and her husband quit their jobs and, together with their twin sons, climbed aboard bicycles to see the world. They enjoyed four years cycling as a family - three of them riding from Alaska to Argentina and one exploring the USA and Mexico. Now they are back in Idaho, putting down roots, enjoying life at home, and living a different type of adventure. It's a fairly sure bet that you'll find her either writing on her computer or creating fantastical pieces with the beads she's collected all over the world.

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6 Responses to Education for kids: Consider all options

  1. Theresa Gonzalez May 6, 2013 at 1:13 pm #

    I absolutely love this! What wonderful opportunities you have uncovered for your boys! So great to have the freedom to take advantage of them, right?

  2. Nancy Sathre-Vogel May 11, 2013 at 11:14 pm #

    @Rilla, It’s all about seeking out options. There are so many options out there, but most don’t actively look for them.

  3. Em May 2, 2015 at 10:19 pm #

    Hello! I’m just now coming across your page… so awesome. Thanks for sharing your journey. My husband and I are interested in Unschooling our kids, which is actually what brought me to your page through a web search. Anyway, we also like to cycle tour and would definitely love to do a big tour with our kids when they get older, so we will be checking out your books and experiences for guidance! But for now just a question specifically about your sons’ experience with alternative learning… you said that they very much enjoy the free schedule,and that they enjoy learning, and that’s awesome. What benefits and downsides have you seen them experience relating to social relationships? It’s simple enough to find activities for the kids to be involved in so they can be around other people their age, but I keep wondering about the longevity of friendships… there’s something to be said about forming bonds with peers because you’re in the same place everyday… which, of course is not the #1 reason most parents would enroll their kids in traditional school, but it’s the thing I guess I have the most concern/curiosity about regarding NOT enrolling our kids in traditional school. Thanks! And Cheers, emHT

    • Nancy Sathre-Vogel May 3, 2015 at 1:38 pm #

      You just hit on the THE major downside of the long-term travel lifestyle. There is a natural progression of friendship – you meet somebody and go through the honeymoon stage where everything is perfect. Then maybe you realize that you don’t have much in common and fall apart. Or maybe you have a big disagreement and don’t play together for a while, before figuring out a way to reconcile the differences and playing again. Or maybe you remain friends for years and years.

      While on the road, our sons did not have the opportunity to go through that whole process. Yes, we met loads of people. Yes, they played with loads with kids. But then they left those kids after a few weeks, and they never went through the various stages of friendship. I do think that’s important.

      Ultimately, it’s up to each family to decide the relative importance of these things for their own children. We have now been stationary for 4 years, and our kids have established friendships that I’m sure they’ll hold on to into adulthood. That has been wonderful to watch, and I’m thrilled that they’ve had the opportunity to do that. But do I regret our years on the road? No. My sons sacrificed those long friendships, but they gained a lot of other things. In the end, it’s all a balancing act, and we parents have to figure out which particular experiences are highest priority for our kids right now.


  1. » Blog Carnival: day in the life of a homeschooled high schooler LaPaz Home Learning - May 6, 2013

    […] Finally, meet Nancy of Family on Bikes, who (after taking a world-record breaking three year bike ride with her husband and twin boys from Alaska to Argentina!!!), has collaborated with her boys to assemble a unique combination of school and activities to meet their educational needs and feed their passions. As Nancy says, “Consider all options!” […]

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