A growing number of parent-educators are world schooling: traveling for the purpose of educating globally-minded children. Worldschoolers use international travel as the classroom, and its varied opportunities as the curriculum.
We spent our eldest son’s kindergarten year camping our way around much of the U.S. Just before he was to start first grade, we purchased one-way tickets to the Philippines with six children seven and under. We have been traveling and worldschooling since 2007.
Here is a list of the questions and answers you want to know about worldschooling: what it is, what it isn’t, why it’s the best way to raise a globally-minded child, and how you can do it, too.
Worldschoolers value the need for educational reform and freedom that the homeschool community highlights. We share in common the belief that the real world is not peer-matched and age-segregated.
The key difference is the approach to how a child will shape his worldview. For the traditional homeschooler, a child’s world view (outside of his family) will be shaped by one community in one country and curriculum in his own language. A homeschool child will form his opinions about the world based on what he hears from others and what he reads. A worldschooler will come to his decisions about the world from what he sees and experiences first-hand. He will gain a broader understanding of the global community.
Unschoolers have thrown out the textbooks in favor of natural learning. Radical unschoolers have freed their child from routines, set curriculum and test-evaluated performance. While our family’s educational style has much in common with unschoolers, many other worldschoolers travel with traditional curriculum. As worldschoolers we foster natural learning just as unschoolers do.
The difference between worldschoolers and unschoolers is the range of opportunities for a child to spread his wings of interests. An unschooler may have the opportunity to pursue his own interests, but he will be limited by his monoculture. For the worldschooler, engaging in multiple cultures and languages becomes non-optional. The worldschooled child has his appetite whetted with a wide variety of changing experiences.
Worldschoolers and roadschoolers both seek out educational opportunities wherever they go. Many roadschoolers, like homeschoolers, remain bound to state-mandated curriculum and testing. Roadschoolers experience a variety of subcultures from state-to-state. We loved touring the U.S. and even volunteered in National Parks.
However, when a child steps out of her comfort zone and is immersed in new languages, cultures, and customs, she significantly increases her scope of opportunity. She will learn that there is more than one way to view life.
Throughout the U.S. for example, it’s a faux pas to take a child out to eat after about 7 or 8 pm–many restaurants start closing by that time. At this hour in Mexico, the best taco places are only getting started. It’s totally acceptable to be walking around with little children eating, laughing, and playing at 10pm.
The Japanese highly value respect and silence. Your child will vividly hear and feel this as she rides a jam-packed, home-bound train, in total silence. If you want to raise a globally-minded child, you must travel outside your country and culture. The longer you travel, the more your child learns, the deeper her understanding of the world will be.
“I never let schooling get in the way of my education.” – Mark Twain
Worldschooling can best be summarized in the word opportunity. The attentive and passionate parent seizes the opportunities she has to invest in her child. Here are a few broad categories with specific examples below.
What do the Children say?
“Experience, travel – these are as education in themselves.” – Euripides
The following excerpt is taken from that interview:
Our energetic four-year-old, Jeremiah, takes cultural change in stride. He states that he enjoys seeing, “toys, trains and boats” from different countries.
Our six-year-old, Hadassah, is enjoying acquiring more Spanish each day. “I can talk to more people, making new friends as we go,” she says. She has a special fascination with the undersea world, and has been enjoying snorkeling.
Our 12-year-old, Hannah, has celebrated her birthday in six spots around the globe. In this last year, she has added traditional weaving and native basketry to her life skills. She shared that travel has given her “perspective,” [allowing her to understand] that “my way is not always the right way.” When we asked her if she would like to travel or or take a break she was emphatic: “I want to travel. I enjoy seeing things for myself. An author can only give his side of the story. When I visit places for myself, I leave with a greater understanding.”
Josiah, who has just turned 15, has had the opportunity to learn much in our seven years of travel. This year he learned how to hand-carve a table from a Mexican carpenter. He has a tremendous appreciation of world history. He carries memories from the Banaue Rice Terraces in the Philippines and Mayan ruins in Mexico and Belize. Over our travels, Josiah has also developed a love of nature. “I love watching creatures native to the area, like tropical birds building nests,” he says. “[This] has given me a great appreciation for the world around me.”
For our children with special needs (who cannot voice their responses), we watch their eyes beam in new surroundings as they experience love around the globe. They laugh in the salty sea, bask in the sunshine, and challenge their palates with local spices, sauces, and fruits. They teach us more than we teach them. Our children thrive with travel therapy.
A Few More Questions on Worldschooling:
Is worldschooling accessible to all, or is it only for the very rich?
There is a misconception that in order to worldschool, you have to win the lottery or be financed by some (departed) great uncle. We have done neither. The reality is that our income is lower now than it was in the U.S., but so is our cost of living.
Like anything in life, it is a matter of priorities. We choose not to own a home; our RV is an antique. We live simply, choosing to make our children’s worldschooling our priority. Location-independent income is becoming more common in our generation. Jobs from teaching English overseas, to website design and many other creative options are an increasingly accessible option for many skill sets and professions.
What About College?
“We are educating children to have safe secure jobs in 1950.” – Robert Kiyosaki
The concept that a child must have a college degree to be financially successful in this world is yesterday’s paradigm. More and more are choosing entrepreneurial opportunities over college. Many are questioning the wisdom of pouring out multiple thousands for an institutional degree that keeps the wheels of modernity rolling.
We would not shut the door entirely on college; Brent and I met in graduate school. We would never discourage a child who was highly desirous of training for a particular field of study for which he or she was gifted. We certainly do not embrace it, as so many have, as the assumed course of life.
That said, worldschoolers are well sought-after from schools such as Yale, Harvard, and Dartmouth. College admissions staff realize that worldschoolers bring a higher understanding of the history, science, and culture, with an unquenchable thirst for learning. Our son Josiah received his first invitation to University at age 14.
We are helping our children pursue life skills that lead to financial freedom. They have discovered the joy of living simply.
No teacher or school can provide all knowledge. Learning is a lifelong process from which there is no graduation. Worldschooling opens a window of knowledge and opportunity for a child to catch a lifelong thirst for learning. From firsthand experience, worldschoolers develop their philosophies on life and the world.