Online school on the road: camperlife in South America

Niles with a Monkey Puzzle tree in camp at Parque National Lanin, Argentina Patagonia

We are a Montana family on the road for a year, traveling South America in our two pickups with pop-up campers. We are staying in a combination of situations of camps, Airbnbs and Workaway stays.

Our son is 14 and attempting to complete highschool courses along the way because he has the goal of returning to his school in Butte, Montana with enough credits to be a Sophomore. He is currently a Freshman enrolled in BYU online courses.

Many miles in this position.
Niles with Argentinan friends his age practicing Spanish and coaching English, such a refreshing sight for me.
Products of Niles and Vivian’s work on the Uruti farm, Colonia Valdense, Uruguay

I would have chosen a free, non-religiously affiliated school like k12 if it was an option. If he hadn’t been interested in returning to Butte High, there would have been more options including more interactive schooling. We chose BYU which is, ironically, religiously affiliated  because it had some support the other option didn’t have. Plus the price was a little less.

On  Workaway stay in Uruguay, koifarm’s source of eggs and meat. We all can manage chickens now. Vivian raised an orphaned chick in their shared room which means Niles really got to know chick stages of development from day one to 30 days.

As we have more time traveling in the countries of South America I believe more strongly that his experiences in camps with Argentinan friends, buying snacks in stores in Spanish, pick up basketball with kids in Colombia, and problem solving travel issues, understanding other cultures politics and economies is his true education this year. Just as the majority of time in a traditional school is social, his time dedicated to curriculum is short compared to time he spends becoming himself in this place.  The anxiety for me of course is wondering if this is “enough” when entering back into the Montana education system.

The day he decided to get his hair cut 5 months since leaving Montana. We went next door to Javier’s place in Guernica where this young man did a favorite Argentinan soccer cut for Niles (Argentina just won the World Cup BTW, so proud!).
“Oldfish” of the Rio de la Plata region which we found on the shore of Rio Uruguay.
Eating out is a rare treat in our past 4 months. We are cooking most meals to stick to budget. Our kids are learning how to travel on $30/day operating budget for food, fuel, and camps for the whole family.
Harvesting Tilo leaves and flowers for Tilo te, a natural sedative for bedtime.
Online school position at the Uruti farm without device in hand. Are you doing school?
Moras we harvested together with the Uruti family
Harvesting fence posts
Birthday pie for Victoria made by Niles
Are you doing school?
The whole family learned what water dependence on a windmill is like over the months of November and December in Uruguay. The groundwater is abundant but you need windy days as well to have water here.
Niles cutting a thick plant the Uruti farm is not using. It can be used as a fiber but only when the plant is much bigger. The farm area here is being envisioned as a vineyard.
Are you doing school?
Exploring the Rambla in Montevideo, Uruguay with sister Vivian.
Are you doing school?
Favorite desert is Flan and Alfajores
Navigating Buenos Aires by train
With a dog

We enrolled Niles in 4 courses through BYU which align with requirements to re-enter Butte High, he is slowly picking through the coursework. The experience as a parent is that we can check his progress from our account but he is very protective against us being with him as he does school. He is in general not an enthusiastic student and missing his friends. When he applies himself, grades go up, when he doesn’t grades go down.

Making Arepas over the Solo fire beneath a Monkey Puzzle tree in camp with views of Lanin volcano and glacier.

In our family, education has been highly valued. We are engineers, attorneys, nurses, plumbers, electricians, gardeners, and adventure seekers. I don’t know of any relatives in our last 3 generations that didn’t finish a traditional highschool. However, I also see that our family situation is in a unique opportunity to give a global education which the Montana school curriculum cannot provide. So, pros and cons.

Today, Niles has a sunburn from sitting near the camp store doing school next to the camp’s internet connection. He is doing a weeks worth of school to catch up after we had days of travel from the Atlantic Coast of Argentina to the Andes of Argentinan Patagonia. Traveling days and internet strong enough to complete school assignments is an issue now that wasn’t an issue in the first 3 months of travel, Google Fi cut us off of our service at month three of international travel.

We continue to pay for Google Fi and may have a way for another phone on our service that is in use by Vivian’s friend to come down here and provide a hotspot for another three months.

Montanan kid in South America learning stuff.

We welcome comments and ideas that may help us make this Freshmen year even better for this guy. Thanks in advance for your suggestions.

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