Worldschooling: What, Why & How?



While homeschooling is an umbrella name for the fact of deciding to educate your children yourself, instead of using the school system, there are several ways to do this. One is what has become known as worldschooling.

As with many things, you’re likely to find about as many definitions of this eductional label, as there are people out there who adhere to it. To me, worldschooling actually is a subcategory of unschooling, rather than a teaching style or learning philosophy in itself. Here’s why.

All learning comes from from living. As an unschooler, your curriculum is your everyday life and your classroom is the entire world. What you learn depends on who and where you are. What is relevant to one, will not be to another. What is interesting to one, will not be to another. Unschoolers don’t decide in advance what they “should” be learning and when (classic scope and sequence). They don’t compartmentalize their learning into neatly divided subjects, which are then studied separately and out of context. Instead, they let their learning arise from their ACTUAL life and acquire skills and knowledge as these become relevant or interesting. There’s a whole lot more to unschooling than this, but in a nutshell those are the main principles. Worldschooling then, is simply taking this educational philosophy on the road 🙂

Learning about coastal erosion in Lønstrup, Denmark

Finding YOUR Way.
To me, life is all about doing what matters most to YOU. Not what some educational expert has decided you should be doing at X or Y age. That’s why I have zero interest in my kids being taught the same thing as 27 other kids their age, at the same time and in the same way. To what end? All it does is teach them that there is one universal standard of ‘success’ and that they either excel or fall short of this. It also tells them there is one universal mass of knowledge that is necessary or important, when clearly, this is not the case. What people actually need, in real life, totally depends on their individual situation. I know this is provocative, but in reality it is what the school systems teaches you. It’s just not presented that way to us, obviously. School is supposed to teach us about the world we live in. To prepare us for life. But uhm, I find that just a tiny bit illogical, given that what school does, is separate you from the world and interfere with you living your life. 😉
It’s also a very time consuming invention. Most school systems in the world literally hi-jacks the best hours of your time, when in reality time is one of the most valuable resources we have, and we should spend it wisely. You can replace lots of things. But time isn’t one of them. When the day is gone, it’s gone. Oh, feel free to replace school by work as well 😉

Time And Opportunity.
To find out what matters to you, what you’re passionate about, what sparks your interest and makes you want to know more – you need to have two things: time and opportunity. Time, because it’s important that you can try out things at your own pace. Opportunity, because you need to know what’s out there and be able to access it.

You might want to spend hours exploring something, but you might also just want to dip in your toes. Whatever level of interest and engagement you want to put in something, you have to have the time to do it. For us, worldschooling gives us this time. The kids aren’t hung up with mandatory subjects and assignments that they have to complete first. They aren’t physically away eight hours a day, leaving just evenings and weekends to pursue their own interests. And they aren’t being told that they have to move on to something else, because the bell is ringing. They learn and explore at their own rhythm.

But time isn’t all, of course. You could have all the time in the world, and still not learn much. You need opportunity as well. In school, this is called ‘curriculum’ and ‘school hours’. As unschoolers, we just call it life. And as worldschoolers, this is where the traveling comes in. Unschoolers learn through all that is available to them, or they seek it out. Worldschoolers do the same, just in a traveling mode. Concretely this means learning about nature phenomenons by being out in nature. About history, by visiting historical sites. Languages by practicing first hand. Other cultures by meeting them in person. Geography. Food. Mathematics. Politics. Any and everything there is to learn IS out there in the world. That famous real world, school otherwise spends 12 years of your life preparing you for…

Anything Is Possible (Or Almost)!
The big advantage about life being your curriculum, is that it’s not limited to what someone else has decided you must know or do at age 6, 10 or 14. It’s not limited, and it’s not restricted either. Want to learn Chinese at age 8? Awesome. Let’s work to include China in our travels. Not possible right now? Let’s seek out an online class, a private tutor or check out the local Chinese community center. Better yet, let’s do both! As worldschoolers, we learn from the world, in the world. In whatever fashion is available and practical.

I love that we can travel to historical landmarks and monuments, and actually BE at the place something happened. This just adds an entire layer to the whole thing. Like when we visited Anne Frank’s house in Amsterdam, which was an incredibly moving experience. And a hands-on, real life history lesson right there (along with religion and politics, because in real life things tend to be intertwined). In the same way, we have learned about elephants (and societal issues such as poaching or animal welfare) during our visit to an elephant sanctuary in Thailand, about geology in a beautiful limestone cave in France or about religion and local cuisine in Sweden, where we happened to be for the feast of Saint Lucy one year.

Beautiful limestone formations in the Padirac cave in France

You Only Live Once.
Cheesy, but true. Think about it. If you spend the majority of your waking hours, doing something you wouldn’t do if you weren’t paid for it – then chances are, you aren’t doing what you really love the most. Yes, I know you have to pay the bills. We all do. But all to often, earning money or ‘having a career’ becomes the main reasons we do what we do. Just look at all the ‘oh-no-it’s-Monday-again’ and ‘thank-God-it’s-vacation-time-soon’-memes out there.

We love traveling and we love to experience hands-on the things that interest us. We love discovering new things, meeting new people and seeing new places. We love animals and nature. Cities and villages. We love the beach, and we love the countryside. Above all, we love the freedom to roam, which the nomadic life gives us. As a parent, I love that my kids can explore at their own pace and set their own learning agenda. That they have the ability to craft their own lives now and that they will (hopefully) grow up to look at the world as their oyster and know that life is what YOU make it, not what others think it should be.

Worldschooling for us means we shape our life the way we want it to be. We don’t live for the weekends and we love Mondays just as much as any other day of the week. In short, we don’t need a vacation from our own life. And that’s probably the single most compelling reason I could ever present you with, for choosing to worldschool.

Close encounter with Hanuman monkeys in Ao Manao, Thailand

I get a lot of questions about our nomadic lifestyle, but the absolute number one is this one: How do you afford it?

The answer to this is both simple and complex. Simple, because it really all comes down to three main principles. Complex, because how these principles translate into daily life, depends on so many things.

1) Get Your Values Straight.
I guess the primary thing, the aspect that really lies at the base of any lifestyle choice, is defining what your values are. I don’t earn much. Not even quite enough, really. Meaning that if I could make just a bit more money than I currently do, it definitely would be nice. Some things would become a lot easier. Some things more doable. But I’m not willing to postpone living our best life, because it would be easier with more money. To put it bluntly, I’d rather be poor and free, than trade my time and liberty in for loads of money. Obviously though, we are not poor. Not by any stretch of the definition. But I do have a low income by European standards, and we certainly don’t live a life of convenience. Ultimately though, we all value adventure and freedom over money or material possessions, so we work together to make things happen! Because, well, it’s that YOLO-thing again.

2) Live Simply, So You Can Travel Widely.
The big, big thing to understand about a nomadic lifestyle, is that we are NOT on vacation. This is not a holiday. This is our regular life, we just live it in changing locations. And we live and travel very simply, and very cheaply. We choose low budget guesthouses, cheap rentals, stay with friends or do work/housing-exchanges. We almost exclusively fly low cost airlines, travel a lot by train and bus and choose off peak hours to save on transportation costs. Think traveling at 5AM rather than at more convenient mid-afternoon hours for example. We go on hikes, train parkour, bring games and a picnic to the park or do other free or budget friendly activities. We eat at home or have simple meals out. And so on, and so on.

3) Prioritize. Then Prioritize Some More.
Thing is, it’s all about priorities, really. Priorities and perspective. Even if there are sometimes things we wish we could do, but aren’t able to financially (yet) we don’t look at ourselves as powerless. The power lies in prioritizing what matters most to us, and then going for that. Sometimes by compromising on other things or coming up with creative solutions. And not least by cultivating an attitude of gratitude towards what IS. That’s why I’ll gladly sleep on a junior inflatable mattress (the only size that will fit in my carry-on backpack, lol) if this means we can make an overseas trip a reality. It’s why we’ll buckle down and walk 8 miles from the station, when the money saved on a cab means we can afford an extra night at the guest house. And it’s why we’ll contentedly eat a simple soup-and-bread meal, because in turn this allows us to pay the entrance tickets to a famous geological site. Priorities. Perspective. What is possible (or not) almost always comes down to this 🙂

Read here for more about the financial side to a traveling life.


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