We began our worldschooling journey in the fall of 2017. It’s been two years since then, and although we are not full-time family travellers (we spend ½ the year at our home base in Vancouver, Canada), we have learned a LOT.
For those considering worldschooling, here are a few tips that might help you kick-start your journey a bit more smoothly:
#1: Don’t recreate what you didn’t like about school, in a foreign location
Our first stop in October 2017 was Taipei, Taiwan. We were brand new to the whole worldschooling concept. Before we left Canada, we purchased the BC curriculum textbooks (yes that’s right, somehow we were able to pack those ridiculously thick publications into our luggage) and brought them overseas.
Every morning right after breakfast we would start ‘school’. We would stay inside at our Airbnb for hours, trying to force the kids to complete their lessons according to the textbooks. I was living my worst nightmare as I hated math in school, now I had to teach it to my own kids (are you kidding me?!).
We thought we needed to become their teachers. We also somehow forgot the very reasons we pulled them from school in the first place. Kids are all different. They all learn differently. Yet here we were trying to ‘do school’, just in a different location. They were absolutely miserable, and so were we. Don’t do this.
Every morning after breakfast we did “school” in this tiny space of our little Airbnb. We were ALL miserable.
We decided to take a break. Clearly it wasn’t working well. It was so bad that it almost made us give up on worldschooling all together! We couldn’t figure out how other families did it. So, I did what I always do when I’m stuck – I googled it.
I read up more and more in the groups that I was already a part of. I uncovered new concepts I hadn’t yet heard of including unschooling, radical unschooling, road-schooling, worldschooling on a boat, etc and I joined all sorts of groups focused on alternative education through travel. I watched Tedtalks and found my way to Sir Ken Robinson, John Holt, and read article after article about successful unschoolers.
We stopped ‘school’ altogether for 2 months. We went cold-turkey as they say. And then gradually, as we became more and more comfortable with our new nomadic lifestyle, we slowly began uncovering ways to support (not teach) our kids based on their own interests, so that they can develop their own love for learning.
Every worldschooling family has to find the way that works best for them. It’s not the same for everyone. But the key is to not view worldschooling as simply recreating school (especially the parts you don’t agree with in the first place), in a different country. With all the traveling families we’ve met along the way, none of them have said that that worked for them.
For families new to worldschooling, our advice would be to learn everything you can about the different types. Here are a few thought-provoking resources to get you started:
- WATCH: TED Talk by Sir Ken Robinson, Do Schools Kill Creativity? (one of the most popular TED talks of all time)
- READ: Author & educator John Holt, Learning All The Time (he was a pioneer who wrote the books How Children Fail and How Children Learn, and an advocate for homeschooling and more specifically – unschooling)
- READ: 3rd generation worldschooler “EdventureGirl” who wrote 10 Ways Worldschooling Has Ruined My Childhood
- WATCH: Documentary feature film, Most Likely to Succeed, an international film festival award-winner, that highlights the growing shortcomings of today’s conventional education system.
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With a little patience and a giant leap of faith, we ended up finding our own groove. I know that you will too.
#2: Take time to deschool and get used to being together 24/7
We were so excited about the idea of getting to be together 24/7 we didn’t realize the actual implications of being together 24/7! Not only were we getting used to life on the road, we had to deal with being together ALL. THE. TIME.
It’s like that saying: be careful what you wish for. We wished for it and it came true, but not without a transition process.
So just be wary of it – when you start, it will be important to make things as comfortable as possible for everyone because you will be dealing with a lot. This may mean taking a break from school, in order to ‘deschool’. By definition, ‘deschooling’ refers to an adjustment period where children take a break from traditional school in order to adapt to a less structured environment. We found that this break was critical in our own worldschooling journey, and was what helped us find our way.
You will be experiencing a change of environment, a change of personal space, personal time, climate, and even a change in mindset. If you put too much pressure on yourself to do everything: keep up with all the learning opportunities, seeing all the sights, experiencing everything your destination has to offer, etc your journey will suffer. So take a few steps at a time, not all at once, and then gradually you will begin connecting more and really enjoying your time together. It really is all about the journey!
#3: Join online groups and worldschooling conferences to meet up with other like-minded families
I will never forget the day I discovered the term ‘worldschooling’. It was like everything suddenly fell into place. I literally said to myself “What? There is such a thing??!!” I was so excited. And when I found groups online, actual families that were doing this, I had found my tribe.
Search up the term ‘worldschooling’ online and you will be amazed by the wealth of information out there. There is no question, more and more families are discovering this form of education. Although it’s still fairly unknown in the conventional world (some of you may only be reading about it for the first time now) it is definitely not new at all. Families have been doing this for years. We have met so many families who began worldschooling long before there was even a name for it. These families took a major leap of faith when no one else was doing it, and they have raised successful, dynamic, young adults who are out there making a difference in the world.
Every year there are worldschooling conferences aimed at bringing families together to learn, grow and build community.
The ones that we have attended and can recommend so far are:
- Project worldschool– hosted by Lainie Liberti and Miro Siegel (this was the 1st worldschooling conference we attended). It offers an intimate setting with interactive group work. Its focus is on providing immersive learning events around the world and they have held family as well as teen events in places like Mexico, Spain, Peru and so many others.
Our first worldschooling conference was with Project World School in Guanajuato, Mexico in 2018. We started some wonderful friendships and have since met up with many of these families again in different parts of the world.
- Family Adventure Summit– annual conference run by Brandon and Jennifer Pearce and a group of talented worldschooling parents. Their conference brings together around 400 people (parents and their children) each year as a community to inspire each other, live with purpose and choose adventure. We have attended their conferences for the past 2 years and will continue to do so.
- Family Adventure Academy– also hosted by the Pearce’s and their team, this is an academy for parents only. It’s a 3-day intensive program for parents who are considering taking their family for a travel adventure. The last one was held in Seattle, Washington. Check their website for updates on the next session.
The first 2 above are actual family conferences where you bring your kids along. They are meant to be inclusive, and have amazing learning programs for the kids while the adults are getting inspired at the sessions.
There are also many other great events that bring worldschooling communities together in different parts of the world, like Anahata, Stone Soup Pop Up (we have had friends who have gone and raved about them but we haven’t been just yet). They are held in Mexico, Malaysia, Indonesia, Peru, Philippines, you name it. They exist pretty much all over the world. We haven’t had an opportunity to explore those yet, but we hope to do so in the coming months. Once we do, we’ll be sure to share our experiences! We also share great resources and updates through our newsletter, so make sure to sign up to stay in the loop.
#4: Involve your kids in choosing your destinations
When we first started, we just decided as adults to go to Taiwan. We never consulted the kids, never involved them in the conversation, and as much as I hate to admit now, we never even considered asking them! They were excited about beginning ‘our adventure’ (as they called it), but they had no clue as to where, why, or how we were getting there. They just went with it.
We (or I should say ‘I’) chose Taiwan because of the food scene. I wanted to go there because of my fanatic foodie tendencies. I wanted to see what everyone was raving out. We had always heard how amazing the food was, how people diet for weeks beforehand to prepare for all the weight they will gain there. But back then I didn’t really consider whether the kids would be interested. Luckily, they ended up enjoying it, but I’m not sure whether they gained as much as they could have in our first worldschooling destination.
Now that we’ve travelled for 2 years and have learned so much from other worldschooling families, we have seen first hand that when you involve your kids in choosing your destinations, the level of engagement skyrockets. You’re no longer in a position of “let’s go here to see this because I heard…”. Instead, your kids are the ones in the driver seat saying “Mom, let’s go here and do this because I read that..” They’re learning and they don’t even realize it! We have found that to be the best kind of learning.
Last year, we decided to bring the kids to our beloved France (where Tony and I lived and worked before kids) not because we planned it, but because my daughter wanted to go. An artist to the core, she was curious about the art-scene, the Eiffel Tower, and the food. Can we say “like mother like daughter”? She was a thousand times more engaged and absorbed during our time there than she had been in other locations during our early worldschooling days.
Similarly, my son is nutsos about dinsosaurs. So this past summer, we planned a road trip to Drumheller, Alberta, which is known as the dinosaur capital of the world because there is a huge concentration of fossils in the area. It took us 15 hours to drive there. Of course we broke it up into parts, but not once did he complain about the long drive. Not once did he mention the endless windy roads through the Canadian Rockies, nor complain about the motion sickness that would ensue from time to time. When we finally got to the Royal Tyrrell Museum he was like a kid in a candy store. He soaked up every little nugget and piece of information the museum could feed him. He was so excited to learn that day. THIS was the type of learning I want for my kids.
I’m not saying go only where they want to go, though. What you’ll quickly realize when you begin worldschooling (or what I hope for you at least) is that your family unit will become less of a parent/child relationship, and more like a team. You will be amazed at how close you will become because when you’re in a foreign land, all you’ve got is each other. You will learn to rely on and trust one another, including the kids, and they will grow to deserve your trust, faster than you think. So weigh your destination choices together with theirs. Everyone will gain the most that way.
#5: Slow travel – don’t be a tourist
We’re not vacationing. When people hear that worldschoolers travel as much as we do, they often assume that we are independently wealthy or that we’ve won some sort of lottery. This is very rarely the case. No, we’re not rich.
The secret is that we don’t travel like we used to when we were on ‘vacation’. We don’t stay in luxury resorts, drinking fancy drinks by a pool, spending in restaurants and paying top dollar to enjoy the regular tourist tours and activities.
We’re actually living our lives, just in a different land. We work every day (most of us have remote jobs, or jobs that allow us to top up hours and then take months off), we buy groceries like the locals do from the markets or grocery stores, we do laundry, we cook most our meals, we book long term accommodations that offer steep discounts for multiple weeks or months. Yes, we may go to the museum or local attraction that offers educational opportunities, but for the most part, we are living like locals. We spend a longer period of time in one location so that we can truly learn from our environment. Moving slower also allows us to save in transportation costs.
Doing laundry in the tiny apartments of Taipei means hanging them out on the window balcony to dry. We were just lucky to have a washing machine!
Before worldschooling, we did 1 week stints in a vacation resort, spending a ‘vacation’ budget because we would only do it once or twice per year. We now stretch that same budget over a far longer period of time – months even – in carefully chosen locations and accommodations where the cost of living is far less.
After 2 years of worldschooling, and seeing the real costs of living like locals elsewhere compared to our hometown, we’ve learned how to plan ourselves so that it actually costs us less to travel than to stay put in our own home. Yes, you read that right. It’s actually cheaper for us to worldschool and live abroad then it is for us to stay at home in Canada.
If you’re curious about how we fund our travels, read my blog post “How We Fund Our Travels”.
So – that’s it! We hope you found this Top 5 list helpful. If you’re planning on beginning your own worldschooling journey soon, we’d love to hear from you and hope to meet you out on the road one day!
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