What is worldschooling?
Also called roadschooling, this approach to life and education is the mindset that the world makes the best classroom. You won’t find a dogmatic set of ‘key elements’ or ‘core ideals’ from proponents of this revolutionary method, because every family that chooses to worldschool will have a unique approach to education.
Core skills, like the three R’s, are taught according to the parents own educational ideologies, while the student learns history, language, geography, the sciences and all the other subjects from the wide world around him and the people he interacts with daily. He learns by asking questions and seeking answers, and he learns the things he needs to know.
Roadschooling tends to mean more local and Worldschooling tends to mean international, but both terms can be used interchangeably. However you think of it, homeschooling and traveling mixed together are the perfect recipe for strong family bonds and deep appreciation of other cultures in such a way that our kids feel globally connected.
Imagine learning about the Holocaust by walking the jewish ghetto in Warsaw and touring Auschwitz. Or learning about WW2 by road-tripping Germany and Europe, touring Hitler’s compound in Berchtesgaden, walking the very halls he walked at his Eagles Nest.
Imagine learning about colonial America by visiting the Jamestown colony site, completing chores like the early settlers would have in Colonial Williamsburg. Or learning about the American Revolution by walking the Freedom Trail in Boston, gaping at the enormity of the fireplace and the narrowness of the staircase in Benjamin Franklin’s home or trying out the hammocks below deck (seeing how soldiers actually lived and worked) on Old Ironsides.
You can’t beat learning about the constitution by walking the halls of Constitution Hall in Philadelphia. Or learning about Mao’s Long March through the Chinese countryside by walking through the villages he passed through and hearing his name praised by the villagers who believe that he freed them from the oppression of the landowners.
Those villagers still hang his photo, the only decoration in the dirt-floored hut they share with their pigs and chickens, in a prominent place. I wouldn’t have believed it until I saw it with my own eyes and heard it with my own ears. Now I’ll never forget it.
This kind of learning is a daily reality for worldschoolers.
History of Worldschooling
Worldschooling is a new phenomenon. Eli Gerzon claims to have coined the term, and defines it as “when the whole world is your school, instead of school being your whole world.” He has a Worldschoolers facebook group you can join if you want to learn more.
Worldschooling and Homeschool Laws
This is a question that gets asked a lot. Does anyone regulate worldschooling/roadschooling? Are you subject to the laws of the country where you are located?
I don’t know all the particulars, but I’ll share what I do know. In the U.S., homeschooling is regulated at the state level, and homeschoolers/unschoolers/worldschoolers are subject to the laws of their home state, even while abroad. As long as you are in the U.S., all you have to know and follow are the homeschooling regulations of your home state.
However, if you stay in a foreign country long enough, you may then become subject to their laws as well. For example, countries that are part of the Schengen area of the European Union only allow tourists to spend a total of 90 days within a 180 day period between all of the countries which make it up.
Tourists have to leave the Schengen area for 90 days in order to reset the 180 day period before they can enter those countries again. As a tourist, you won’t have to pay foreign taxes, nor you will you be required to register your kids in school. But if you decide to make one of those countries your long-term home base, you’ll have to get European residency and then you will deal with those things.
Homeschooling is illegal in some of those countries, too, and many of them are very strict. Many German families have left Germany permanently just so they could homeschool. Factor those limitations into your travel decisions.
This information is not a substitute for legal advice. It is your responsibility to research and understand the laws that you will be homeschooling under.
What Does Worldschooling Look Like?
Like we already established, it’s going to look different for every single Worldschooling family. Let’s talk about three different types.
1. The Slow and Steady Worldschooler
This type of worldschooler could almost be called a frequent mover. They spend weeks or even months at a time in one location, getting to really know countries and cultures and people.
Instead of living out of suitcases and hotel rooms, these families rent houses and actually get involved in their communities and put down roots. Many of them focus on enriching their communities through service.
A worldschooling friend of mine even enrolls her children in local private schools, though usually part-time and only occasionally, primarily for the purpose of learning the language. In between schools her children unschool themselves by following their interests, which are wide and varied.
2. The Infrequent Worldschooler
This is me! As a location dependent family (the hubs’ job, the kids music teachers and orchestra, and our farm) we are only able to travel a couple of times per year. But the hubs’ job is pretty flexible and homeschooling and the farm are pretty flexible, so when we go we usually spend at least a month abroad.
Occasionally, I dream about selling it all, having the hubs find a location independent job and worldschooling full-time. And then I wake up!
Call me boring, but I love coming home to our home. Home is a feeling as much as it’s a place, I know. But this home, surrounded by mountains and wildflower fields, with cows who come when I call — this is the home I want forever.
I’m not the only infrequent worldschooler I know. Sometimes you’re just tied to a job or a family member with ailing health. But you can see the tremendous benefits of travel on education, so you go to great lengths to travel as much as possible within your limitations.
Even if you only have a couple of weeks to travel each year, you can be very intentional about your travel so that it’s an incredible learning experience. That’s what worldschooling is all about.
In fact, infrequent worldschoolers often turn into full-time worldschoolers after getting a taste of the worldschooling lifestyle.
3. The Expat Worldschooler
My sister and her husband have raised their children all over the world. Both my sister and her husband are teachers. They love the teaching lifestyle — summers off, great hours and benefits — and they love working with kids. But they wanted a better lifestyle than a teacher’s salary would provide. So they teach abroad.
They are currently teaching in Singapore, and love teaching in Asian schools, where the kids are more respectful and where they can double their salary by tutoring English after school and on weekends. They have nearly all of January off for Chinese New Year, in addition to the summer.
Their employers typically reimburse them each for one round-trip flight per year (it’s a standard perk for foreign teachers) plus their housing is included. That means her family gets two free trips per year (mom and dad are each reimbursed for flights), plus a whole lot of time off.
Their kids do attend school at whichever private school they teach (free tuition is another perk), but they have a lot of say in their educations. Attendance at these international schools affords them friends from all over. Probably the best part of their educations, though, is all the traveling that happens during the four months they’re not in school.
One of my nephews knows everything there is to know about pretty much every animal known to man. I’m not kidding! But he’s been encouraged to pursue those interests with up close and personal interactions with animals all over the world.
My other nephew is a total history buff. He always wants to visit the ruins and the museums and the archaeological sites. That’s not a problem when you have four months out of every year to travel and your flights are paid for.
My sister doesn’t know I consider her a worldschooler. She doesn’t consider herself one, and she tells me all the time that she’d homeschool if she could. But she plans her myriad trips with learning in mind, the same way I do, and I really believe her kids are receiving a great education through travel.
My Experience With Worldschooling
As I write this series about all the different methods of homeschooling I am laughing because I seriously utilize aspects of almost every method. I guess I’m the quintessential eclectic homeschooler, jack of all methods, master of none!
Really, though, I think Worldschooling is one of the very most effective of all of the educational methods.
Whenever we fly internationally, my kids struggle to figure out how long the flight will actually take, since departure and arrival times are given in the local time. Of necessity, they’ve had to learn about time zones and the International Date Line.
They’ve learned how to navigate airports, huge cities and rural villages; how to order meals and barter in foreign languages; and how to exchange currency. Learning something because you need to know it is incredibly effective.
Worldschooling will make your kids ask questions.
Why do the Chinese people, living without basic necessities, still idolize Mao?
Why do those birds have banded necks (cormorant fisherman on the Guilin river in Yangshuo)?
Why was the black cab (Belfast) driver so angry with the British?
Why do all the buildings along the canals (Amsterdam) have that beam and pulley?
Why are the roofs pulled off all the old castles and abbeys and cathedrals in Ireland?
Why did they combine Buda and Pest into one city?
Why? Why? Why?
Instead of answering them (let’s be honest — I often don’t know the answer anyway) just keep a record of the questions and let your kids find the answers to their questions themselves. Studies have shown that asking questions accelerates learning. What better way to generate questions than traveling?
Traveling means new and unfamiliar languages, foods, cultures, people and places to explore. It really pushes you out of your comfort zone and helps you to grow.
Additionally, trips rarely go according to plan, providing unexpected obstacles for travelers to overcome. As you overcome them, your abilities grow, your fears shrink, and you become more confident.
I know I mentioned it earlier, but it’s worth mentioning again — traveling also strengthens family relationships. Just tonight, during dinner, we laughed and laughed about a the taxi situation last year in China (we required three taxis to go anywhere and our poor communication skills would often result in three different groups being dropped off in three different places, plus our phones rarely worked, even though we bought Chinese SIM cards).
I learn as much from our worldschooling adventures as my children do. As a world schooling family, you are in a position to learn together and achieve a level of education far beyond the walls of a classroom.
Your kids will probably start asking you, like mine do, “Does everything have to be a learning experience?” and then you’ll all laugh about it.
How to Get Started Worldschooling
If you think of worldschooling as simply an intentional introduction to the world beyond your front door, it doesn’t take much to get started. You don’t need passports and visas and flights because every corner of the entire world is fascinating.
- Choose a destination. We’ve chosen destinations based on our interests (Mt. Saint Helens when we studied volcanos in Geology and Boston when we studied the American revolution) and we’ve also chosen destinations (an Eastern European road trip) and then spent several months learning about our destinations history, culture, geography and more. Either way works.
- Research. I always start with the internet. There are so many fabulous, thorough travel bloggers, and tripadvisor.com is full of forums with helpful information. The travel section of the library is helpful, too, and so is YouTube. Once we have a framework, or a basic itinerary of places we want to see, we start learning about those places.
- Decide where to stay and find accommodations. Your research will help you decide where you want to stay, because it’s optimal to be within walking distance of the things you want to see, or else near public transportation. Hotels are often your most expensive choice, so be sure to check airbnb, vrbo, hostelworld.com and discount travel sites. Or if you plan to stay local, you could buy an RV and save on accommodations (totally kidding because those savings are negated by the cost of fuel and RV parks and parking and the cost of the RV itself, but whatever). We save money by renting bigger places with kitchens, so we can cook our own meals for the most part. I always find great deals when I book well in advance, like 6+ months.
- Learn, learn, learn! Living books (Charlotte Mason term) are our favorite way to learn the history of places. We like puzzles for learning geography and Amazon Prime for documentaries and movies about where we’re headed. If we’re headed to the ocean, we learn about the five layers of the ocean and marine biology. If we’re headed to Mesa Verde we learn about Native Americans and the geography and topography of the American Southwest. I always make sure my kids have maps as we drive or walk places so that my kids feel like partners in the adventure rather than feeling like they’re just tagging along. Maps are great teachers!
- Prepare your children ahead of time. Cultures are vastly different, so your children will inevitably be exposed to different beliefs and even things they might find silly or gross. It’s important to teach them to show respect, even when they don’t understand something. It’s also helpful to teach them to wait to ask some questions until a more appropriate time. Before visiting Auschwitz we prepared our children to be reverent and sensitive to the sorrow others might feel. Before visiting cathedrals and monasteries, we help our children understand the beliefs of that religion.
- Record your worldschooling adventure. We’ve tried journaling unsuccessfully, so I just record our adventures with my phone. However you choose to record your educational adventures, they will be treasured. My kiddos memories are far superior to mine (I’m pretty sure they stole it all from me) but even so they love to look back over the places we’ve gone, remembering all the things we’ve learned.
How to Afford Worldschooling
“How do you pay for it with such a big family?” is the first question I get when people find out how much we travel. People probably think we’re loaded. Ha!
My response is usually to tell them the difference between travel and vacationing. Travel doesn’t actually cost much more than living at home (and much less in many countries).
When you vacation, you sleep at hotels and you eat at restaurants and you spend your days at Disney World, paying admission and buying overpriced souvenirs. Traveling can look very different. We’ve been able to rent apartments for far less than the cost of hotel rooms, and which include kitchens so we can make our own meals.
In some countries, we can rent homes for less than our mortgage on our own home.
We pack lunches and fill our backpacks with water and snacks to take along as we sightsee. We also pay lots less in admission fees than you’d think, because there are so many completely free ways to enjoy cities and learn about history and culture.
Frugal Travel Ideas:
- Examine your budget for financial leaks (like paying for cable TV) that you can plug, so you can divert finds to your travel budget.
- Downsize your home and add the difference to your travel budget.
- Sell everything and buy an RV so you can live anywhere you want without have to pay for lodging.
- Learn how to churn credit cards for free flights (and free cruised, hotel points, rental cars, etc…). This totally works! I’ll give you details below.
- Look for alternatives to hotels (airbnb, vrbo, and discount sites) for cheap lodging.
- Pack your own snacks and cook your own meals as much as possible. We eat yummy oatmeal from paper cups, made with boiling water from the tea kettle in the room for breakfast, eat sandwiches for lunch, and make dinner in a crockpot most days. We splurge and eat out enough to try the local cuisine, but not every meal.
- Purchasing family tickets (we usually have to purchase two or three for our family of 10) saves us a bundle over individual tickets.
- Research will save you a bunch, too. Tripadvisor is full of forums with tips for the best way (and the cheapest) to see what you want.
That’s the frugality side of the coin. If you want to worldschool full-time, you’ll also need to look at the income side of the coin. How do you earn money in a way that gives you the freedom to travel?
Location independent and Passive Income Ideas:
- Virtual Assisting. I was a Virtual Assistant before I became a blogger. The money is decent and you can work anywhere you have an internet connection. I stopped when this site started making more money, but I enjoyed being a VA. It was very creative and fulfilling. Want to learn more?
- Real Estate Investments. When you own property, the rent is not contingent on you being present and working. This is called passive income.
- Seasonal Sales. You can make a lot of money selling things like pest control during the summer. Work dries up come winter, but if you can make enough during the summer and live frugally, you can travel all winter.
- Foreign Service. The U.S. Embassy employs Americans all over the world. They are paid good salaries and receive stipends for housing. Their moving costs (including vehicles) are completely covered and they receive new assignments in new locations about every 3 years. Want to learn more?
- International Employment. I know several people whose international employers to help them see the world. We have a friend who works for HP and has lived all over the world. The hubs’ company (Intel) has sent many of its engineers overseas (not us, because we have too large a family for a 2-bedroom apartment). It’s great to work internationally, because most employers cover all your expenses, including moving, and you can often earn a tax free salary.
- Blogging. I don’t make as much as the hubs, but it’s good money for the amount of time it requires, and I can do it from anywhere. I love that the income is passive, so it doesn’t hurt at all to take entire months off here and there. I earn income through advertising, affiliate links and selling my own homeschool products. Want to learn more?
- Online Tutoring. VIPKids connects teachers and young students in China with a fully immersive English education. Teachers earn up to $22 per hour and work from home. The only drawback is that most of the hours are either really late at night or early in the morning, because you’re working on China time. Although that may be a perk if you have multiple kiddos who make working online difficult! I’ve worked in the past as an online math tutor.
- Online Lessons. Do you play an instrument? Three of my girls take violin lessons from a fabulous teacher in Michigan. We’re in Utah. You could teach music lessons from anywhere in the world with an internet connection.
- Work remotely. If you work mainly via computer, why not ask your employer if you can try working from home? If that goes well, ask if you can work from anywhere.
Additional Worldschooling Resources:
Worldschooling: How to Revolutionize Your Child’s Education Through Family Travel by Ashley Dymock de Tello
This book dives into the growing movement of families leaving the 9-to-5 routine to live a life of greater freedom and adventure. More importantly, it explains exactly how YOU can do it too. It breaks down the barriers to education through family travel into three sections. The first section takes a deeper look at the purpose of education and what children need to know to thrive in the 21st century, liberating you and your family from the traditional education system and guiding you into the incredible alternative education movement that is world schooling.
Roadschooling: The Ultimate Guide to Education Through Travel by Nancy Sathre-Vogel
Most parents contemplating the idea of full-time travel with their children are overwhelmed with questions about all facets of life. Perhaps the greatest worry is about their children’s education. * Will my kids learn everything they need to know? * Will I be able to keep up with my children’s education on the road? * Will I harm my children so they’ll never be able to live a normal life? This book is designed to answer those questions and put your mind at ease. In these pages, you’ll find background theory about what is happening inside kids’ heads when they learn, as well as concrete guidance about how to take advantage of your travels as the basis for your “curriculum.” Head out confidently into the world, knowing that you’ll give your children a life-changing experience that they’ll carry with them their whole lives.
The Road Taken: How to Dream, Plan and Live Your Family Adventure Abroad by Michelle Damiani
This is the definitive manual for parents who crave the family-bonding and horizon-broadening of an international expedition. It offers practical strategies for financing your travels, describes the advantages and disadvantages of various educational opportunities, and emboldens families to step bravely into the unknown.
360 Degrees Longitude: One Families Journey Around the World by John Higham
After more than a decade of planning, John Higham and his wife September bid their high-tech jobs and suburban lives good-bye, packed up their home and set out with two children, ages eight and eleven, to travel around the world. In the course of the next 52 weeks they crossed 24 time zones, visited 28 countries and experienced a lifetime of adventures.
Cindy Ross describes a philosophy of experiential learning through adventures as she describes the adventures her family experienced as they hiked the Appalachian trail and later the Rockies. They never allowed fear or the unknown to stop them from following their dreams and taking their children along with them.
And here’s a blogroll of traveling families and proponents of worldschooling:
An Epic Education: We’ve been traveling as a family since 2013. On our site, you’ll find tips, stories and advice on gear, accommodation, destinations, and more. I’ve also interviewed over 100 traveling families for the podcast. Family travel is the most epic form of education. Join us!
Raising Miro on the Road of Life: This mom/son team is helping to create temporary learning communities around the world so teens and young adults can collaborate in a rich experiential & social learning environment. They consider themselves “accidental unschoolers” who have transformed the world into their classroom.
Living Outside the Box: Jared and Alisa spent many years Worldschooling, or homeschooling their children around the world. This blog is very inspiring!
RambleCrunch: This nomadic, worldschooling family has traveled Europe in an RV and currently lives in Mexico. Their blog is full of great travel tips and destinations.
The World is Our School: You’ve got to see the interiors of their dreamy bus.
And those are just a few of my favorites! Honestly, I could spend all day, every day, for weeks at a time just browsing family travel and worldschooling blogs, and never get bored! I’d just get antsy for my next travel fix.
Would you like to know more about the other homeschooling methods?
Click the links to learn more about each of the following Homeschool Methods:
Reggio Emilia Approach(also known as project-based homeschooling)
Unit Studies Approach
Are you a worldschooling family? If so, we’d love for you to share your favorite resources in the comments below!