Maggie Paul has spent years in schools as a teacher, while her son, Rowan, 10, has spent years in school as a student. Last year, both mom and son did something a bit different, something a bit more adventurous, and something definitely not in a traditional classroom. Paul and her son spent the last nine months “living” their schooling as they traveled around the world.
Worldschooling takes students out of the classroom and into the world. “It’s about being passionate; about learning communities around the globe,” an educational psychologist and consultant based out of Rapid City, South Dakota says. “And geeking out over all the alternative schools people are founding around the world in response to western education’s decline. It’s a beautiful movement of parent empowerment and advocacy, and we’re only going to see it grow.”
So What is Worldschooling?
According to Time4Learning, a company that provides curriculum for homeschooled students, worldschooling is a movement that provides a “holistic approach to learning” and lends to the preference for “experiential learning to solidify knowledge.” It’s a time and a movement where the world is the classroom, where schooling is the blend of education and travel. Some families choose to homeschool while on the road. Some, like Paul, choose to unschool.
The knowledge gained for kids through worldschooling is abundant, but for parents, it can also mean time to unwind and get out of their own comfort zone, too. Parents aren’t sending their children on a cross-the-world trip alone — they’re traveling and exploring alongside their kids.
How Do You Prepare?
Paul knew she couldn’t spontaneously just up and leave with her son for a year. “To prep, I sold nearly everything I owned, including my house,” she says. “I turned my commercial property into an Airbnb rental, rented my car on Turo, waited tables six nights a week, and moved in with my brother to build finances. I prepped a whole binder of ‘my life how-to’ for my parents: wills, estate planning, insurance documents, and bills.”
Once logistics for her home life were in order, Paul focused on planning for the year-long trip. “I did extensive research on all aspects, like locations, safety, travel gear, immunizations, and insurance,” she says.
As a trial run, Paul and her son spent two weeks in the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. “We wanted to assure that we could do 24/7 together and test out travel gear before committing 100 percent.”
After the initial rehearsal in Mexico, Paul and her son set off to Thailand. Paul had done her research. “We started with the Project World School Family Summit in Chiang Mai, Thailand,” she says, which took place last October. “This was a meeting of 150 families and I figured the best way to know if this was our path was to join in the community of families already worldschooling.”
Paul was able to observe, meet, judge and ask questions about worldschooling, all while meeting her ‘people’ — other parents going the worldschooling route. “I hoped the community would be there,” she says, “and I never expected that I would actually and finally find our people.”
What to Expect
Traveling with a child, long-term, is a different kind of travel, Paul says. With Rowan being nine years old for most of the trip, Paul had to follow his lead. That meant nixing some countries (like New Zealand) and finding amenities that adults often shy away from during their own travels (like always-connected WiFi).
“If kids hate hiking, or whatever it is you love, you probably won’t get to do many of those hikes because it’s not worth the agony of a miserable child,” she says. “It’s still parenting with all of its ups and downs, just with an always changing, exotic environment you have to adapt to. Stability, routine and normal have different meanings.” Yet, ““Your kid is still a kid. They want friends, good WiFi, familiar food, and to play.”
When worldschooling, tune into your children and family to understand what adventures and places every party will enjoy. Paul skipped New Zealand because after time together in Australia, she knew she and Rowan’s shared interests (i.e. she wanted to hike, he wanted to attend Minecraft camp) wouldn’t click there.
The Best Parts
Taking Rowan’s lead, Paul ditched their original plan and went to Bali instead. There, Paul found a worldschooling hub with like-minded families and community — digital nomads needing strong WiFi — and lots of schooling options for Rowan.
The flexibility to change the schedule turned out to be a blessing. Paul and Rowan spent two weeks in Ubud, Bali with 11 other worldschool families. “We lived aboard a very humble boat for three days while visiting Komodo Dragon Island,” she says. “Swimming with Manta Rays, snorkeling at Pink Beach, and jumping on and off the boat all day were huge highlights.”
Rowan won’t be swimming with sea life or snorkeling this year. Back at his traditional school, he’s entering a new grade with all the memories and knowledge gained via worldschooling.
What is Worldschooling? — Sources
Time4Learning: Worldschooling: How to Start & How to Afford It
YouTube: Unschooling: making the world our classroom
Kid World Citizen: WHAT IS WORLDSCHOOLING? 4 DIFFERENT APPROACHES FOR FAMILIES