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Worldschooling families – How we bring up and educate our kids while travelling

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(Last Updated On: 12/07/2020)

What is worldschooling? It is educating kids while travelling the world. It’s not following the book, but it might involve searching out books to learn about the planet we live on. It is all about seeing the world to learn about it. It’s about being in new places and seeing the culture of the people who live there, not hearing about it all from a classroom at home. 

We started our worldschooling adventure by taking time out from the girl’s school terms when they were six.  The school kindly agreed to let us take extended time out and to reserve a place for them when we had done – that was five years ago and after the first year out of school they never went back. 

Some families start worldschooling by adding travel to their homeschooling curriculum, some have a yearning for travelling which necessitates them taking the kids out from school. while others may be frustrated with the traditional school curriculum, and believe that the best education is by unschooling. Every family’s story is different, so I asked other worldschoolers to tell us their stories too – how they began and what effect it has had on their lives.  Here are their stories and ours.

worldschooling families, worldschooling

How did we start worldschooling?

When we started Worldschooling, we didn’t even have a name for it. We were expats in the Middle East (Oman) I was tired with traditional schooling and especially with all the after-school activities, I felt that neither my kids nor I ever had any time that wasn’t scheduled, no time left for exploration and play.  So after some problems with one of my girls (which turned out to be dietary), I felt we had had enough and we agreed with the school to take them out to travel to South East Asia – Thailand, Vietnam.  It was an immediate success.  

At that time they were still enrolled with the school and after the first three months of travel we came back to Oman for a few weeks before going away again, and the girls spent the time back in class with their colleagues.  This confirmed my view that the worldschooling experience was more beneficial for my girls than traditional schooling. Our travel break had not left them behind with catching-up to do. On the contrary, they had gained both knowledge and self-confidence without forgetting their friends and how to act socially.  In every way, I felt that they had outperformed as a result of the break.  After that first experimental year, they have never gone back to traditional schooling

Different approaches to worldschooling – Some definitions

During these last five years, we have unschooled, homeschooled and worldschooled. We do a mixture of all of these three approaches because this seems to work best for us.  I should describe a bit what I mean by these words.

Homeschooling

Home schooling (Formally known as Elective Home Education in the UK) – means following a structured curriculum.  

This is defined in English legislation as teaching a curriculum which is efficient, full-time, and suitable to the child’s age, ability and aptitude.  The curriculum homeschoolers use in the UK is not fixed and does not have to be the government published national curriculum taught in schools.  Annual exams are not mandatory.  Although the girls are half English and we have a house in England, we have not yet registered them yet for home education in England as we spend so little time there.  We will register them this summer.

Doing math on the slow boat to Luang Prabang

Our children are half Polish and the rules in Poland are a little different.  To keep our options open but mainly because I want the girls to have a strong grounding in Polish Language (it’s not the easiest language to learn) and History, we have taken advantage of enrolling them in the Polish online education system for ex-pats which has web-based teaching resources and webinars.  This is a formal curriculum leading to annual exams in the Elementary School subjects of Polish Language, Maths, English Language, History, Natural Science, and IT including Coding. 

The Polish system has been quite intensive, but the girls have enjoyed the lessons and we have all benefited from the structure that we had to adopt in the-run up to the annual exams.  Up to present (They passed their Grade 4 exams with As in all subjects in May this year) this has been a great system for us, especially since the teaching (and this year even the exams) were online, the system has not tied us down at all.  Looking ahead though, I have reservations about the Polish School system for older children because I believe it to be too heavy on cramming facts rather than encouraging research and experiment.  

Unschooling

Unschooling – not schooling your kids at all, Unschooling is a complete rejection of the school system and lets kids lead their own path of learning in partnership with their parents. The term was coined in 1970 by John Holt the American author and educator)  We do quite a bit of unschooling for short periods of time, which you might think of like school vacations except that ours might happen at any time of year depending on our travel plans.  It really does seem to work that our kids benefit as much from their first hand experience and self-administered learning as they do from formal teaching.  

During these unschooling periods we keep up with maths practice, encourage the girls to write diaries or daily creative writing, we follow an American Science education website, and both girls are voluntarily studying a third language each.  They are also learning to touch type and computer coding (Scratch).  

So perhaps although unstructured, our version of unschooling is not quite as anarchic as it might sound.  We are always pleasantly surprised to see how much the kids actively welcome their lesson times, and also they are really happy when we come back to the routine of more structured courses.

Worldschooling

Worldschooling – Before we travel somewhere we set the girls the task of doing some research about the country we will be visiting, this means they arrive feeling like expert pathfinders and so they approach the sightseeing with more ownership and enthusiasm.  In one case we have required them to make a powerpoint presentation to follow up after a country visit (In this case Greece) Other times have just dived in and learn about places and their culture when we arrive is them for example the Angkor Wat Temples at Siem Reap, or about the American War during our times in Vietnam.

Is world schooling a privilege? The answer is Yes.  We are very fortunate to be able to do it and we are fortunate that our girls are the kind of bright sparks who benefit from it.  Is it expensive? Not really – our experience is that travel is no more expensive than regular life in the city. Certainly opting out of paying expat school fees in Muscat, Oman contributed significantly to the cost of our travelling life at that time.  It also depends on where you go. Living in and exploring Southeast Asia is far cheaper than living in London, though London with all the free museums is also an excellent place for world schoolers. 

I have invited a few travelling families to write about their world schooling experience, as world schooling is different for every family. All depends on the approach, age of the kids, countries you visit. But whatever path you choose, you may be sure of one thing – you will never get bored, and you will learn with your kids. 

What connects all worldschoolers is an open minded approach to different cultures and a lively mindset to embrace the integration of life with education. 

Worldschooling Families

Small footprints, big adventures 

We started worldschooling in 2017, after saving and planning for years. It seemed like the best choice for us to raise our children to be culturally-aware and to learn experientially, and to spend a lot of their childhoods together as a family. 

Anthony and I had travelled quite a bit before becoming parents, so we knew how much the experiences helped us grow, and how making friends and exploring new places is one of the great gifts of life. 

We wanted that opportunity for our kids at a young age so they can grow up knowing how similar we are to people all over the world, and know that it’s (mostly) a safe and always amazing world out there. The experiences of travel also help us all to be responsive to new situations, and for our family to be a close-knit unit who create our own adventures together. 

We decided to focus on sustainable and ethical travel experiences as much as possible when we started, and it’s been a great decision. We’ve met many new friends by choosing small tours and accommodation providers, and we feel good knowing that our travel income is supporting local people rather than big corporations. 

We left for our trip to South East Asia in September 2017, funded by our savings and rental income from our home. I started my blog that year to show how sustainable family travel could be achieved and to discuss eco-lifestyle topics, but it wasn’t earning any money during that trip. 

It was a wonderful adventure through four countries, but our kids were ready to come home for awhile after four months. The following year we spent two months driving through Australia’s red centre with a caravan, and we’d planning to leave on another big trip in 2020 but obviously that’s on hold! Once we can travel again we’ll be heading to Africa, Central America and Europe. 

Contributed by Emma Walmsley, and Anthony, Dante and Allegra Mammone from Small footprints, big adventures 

Mount Adventure Club

New Zealanders are natural travellers; it’s in our DNA, I’m sure. When we were younger, Alissa and I traveled a lot and discovered once we left our safe, Pacific Island bubble that there was so much to learn, so much more than we could ever find in a book or an article online. There’s no comparison to being there, feeling it. From that jumping off point, it became the idea that the best school to learn in, the best lessons are found out while traveling the world rather than in a classroom. Worldschooling really chose itself. 

There’s a lot to be said for life experience and lessons in resilience, adaptability, problem solving, resource management and self-confidence found on the road, plus of course, we get to feed that insatiable wanderlust. In a standard schooling environment, they might make up scenarios to push these opportunities, but to live them! That’s where the gold is. And as a bonus we live these lessons together, tightening our little family unit. So far our family of five ( 3 boys aged 3, 11 & 15 when we set off) found that and more in 86 days spent hiking the Camino, three months exploring India, and lately trekking in Nepal, where we had to abandon our Everest Base Camp goal in light of Covid-19.

It takes a lot of effort, a lot of focus and work plus a lot of bravery to jump into the worldschooling life! For us to sell our home, quit our jobs, reorganize our lives, find alternate income streams and adapt to our new income structure (aka learn to live off the smell of an oily rag). To reach our goals takes some doing, but it’s eminently doable. 

Contributed by Alissa from Mount Adventure Club www.mountadventureclub.com

MY RIG Adventures

As a full-time nomadic family, schooling on the road is the best option for us and our two kids (ages 10 and 12). We live on the road in Australia, travelling slowly to explore this great land down under and pick up work along the way to fund our lifestyle.

Back in mid-2016, we sold the lot (house and possesions) and bought ourselves a caravan to live in. It’s complete with kitchen, separate room with bunks and an ensuite (with shower, toilet, basin and washing machine). We have everything we need all condensed down into a portable, tiny home!

We generally stay in a town for a few days if we’re just visiting, or up to a few months if we’ve stopped for work. So, the most consistent way for our kids to gain a solid education is to do it ourselves from our van.  

Initially we registered with the Home Education Department of Queensland (our home state). We had to write a full report for each child, detailing where they were at academically, mentally and socially. Plus, we needed to include what we planned to cover over the coming 12 months for their education on the road. Now that we’re in that system, we write a report (for each child) every year, which covers the year gone by, plus the year ahead.

The only real ‘book work’ that we do is based around reading, writing and maths, as well as independent reading each day. The kids learn so much on the road through seeing, doing, touching, observing and experiencing. So, we build all of those thing into their education. When you worldschool, every day and every experience becomes a lesson!  

Contributed by Emma from MY RIG Adventures www.myrigadventures.com

Wandering Bird

We started homeschooling our teenager daughter when she was 15- nine months before her big, end of school exams. TOP TIP- don’t do this unless you have nerves of steel!

It began when we discovered she was failing at school- her mock results were E’s and F’s in all subjects- even the ones she used to be good at. 

At that point, we decided to take her out of the system and homeschool her- which is hilarious as I hadn’t done algebra since I was 16 and science was never my strong point. I spent a year getting up at 6am, learning whatever I needed to (thanks YouTube!) and then teaching it to her- all whilst travelling around Europe in a motorhome (hey- if you’re going to homeschool a grumpy teenager, might as well do it up a mountain with incredible views!)

Homeschooling is NOT easy- especially with a teenager who misses her friends and isn’t used to being told to ‘do it again’ when she got something wrong. I also found the pressure stressful- were we making the right choice? What if she failed everything and I ruined her life? 

BUT- she went from getting E and F grades to getting A*, As, Bs and a C on her finals. To say it was worth it is a huge understatement. It also made us a lot closer as a family and we (mostly!) enjoyed that time with her.

Since then, she’s gone on to passing college with Distinctions and now has a job as a graphic designer. She’s kind, funny, thoughtful and can easily hold a conversation with adults about many topics- which I think came from having only us to talk to for most of a year! 

If I could do it again, I’d start world schooling much younger, which would be less stressful than the pressure of big exams looming. I think the opportunities we could have had with her and the places we could have travelled to are endless but I’m grateful we got to do it for a little while. 

I also think she is much more confident in her abilities and what she can achieve when she focuses on a task and works hard for it- and that’s a lesson well worth teaching our kids.

Contributed by Kat from Wandering Bird

Map Made Memories

We decided to homeschool our three children during our round the world, family gap year. We took the decision to homeschool as we planned for the children to return to mainstream school when we returned from our trip. We chose a world-school approach to our homeschooling, preferring to learn in context from our surroundings rather than follow non-relevant topics or subjects from online courses. We ensured the children read and wrote every day though this did not have to be a pen and paper task. Reading and writing could include deciphering a timetable, writing a shopping list or sending a postcard to a friend. We chose topics to study that were relevant to the locations we travelled through. For example, in Costa Rica, we learned about rain forests, and we studied volcanoes in Hawaii. We tried to draw and learn about new and unusual flora and fauna. Our family attended festivals, visited museums and places of worship from a variety of faiths. We saved non-contextual learning – usually math – for long-distance journeys and it proved to be a useful and engaging way of passing long transit days. The colourful and individual projects that the children completed enhanced our travel experiences but also created wonderful mementos for our children of their round the world trip.

Contributed by Sinead Camplin from Map Made Memories https://www.mapmadememories.com

Tori Legih Family

Though worldschooling, for us, is in its infant stages, we recognize that our boys learn best when immersed in other places and cultures. We love the idea of world schooling because it involved child-initiated activities and explorations. Our travels remain mindful, flexible, and child-centred so our kids can learn and grow into global citizens.

Even at young ages – our boys are one and three – we recognize how they thrive being able to foster their interests outside of our home and a traditional school setting. My older son, for example, loves dinosaurs. We take him to various dinosaur museums and destinations we can find across the country to continue to foster his knowledge and interest in certain topics. He’s learning not only about a topic of interest, but about travel, culture, nature, and the world in general. We also love that our children are exposed to culture and learn just how vast the world is from a very young age. Worldschooling, for our family, is largely about minimizing negative school experiences and recognizing that the best lessons are the ones we learn through play and experience.

 As our boys get older, we have goals to integrate more traditional aspects of homeschooling and longer stretches of travel. Since my husband works remotely, our goal is to be nomadic with our children, but for now, in early stages of worldschooling we are happy to be giving our children an alternative, yet child led, global education.

Contributed by Tori from Tori Leigh


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Ania James

photographer, traveller, mother of twin girls, wife, worldschooler, rulebreaker

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