From mainstream to world schooling.

When you find out that you’re becoming parents, one of the first things you begin pondering is your child’s education. We were just like any other mainstream parents. We were certain that we would send our children to public school, or maybe even private school.

Gradually, over the course of the first two years of our eldest son’s life, we became committed to attempting homeschooling. There was no defined path, but soon this transitioned into a practice called world schooling, which gave our whole family the freedom to travel the world while continuing our children’s educations — on a global scale. Whether you’re a skeptic or you’re considering this method yourself, here is everything you need to know about world schooling.

What is world schooling?

World schooling is saying yes to experiences and being open to letting those experiences teach your children — but on an international level. With a deeply rooted love of travel, culture, language, and other views, I want our children to know that love from their own experiences — to learn math from counting temple columns or see primary colors become secondary colors when looking into the teal of the sea.

The world is an exceptional classroom if you are open to what it has to offer. Therefore, world schooling means learning history where the history happened. Studying architecture from the Grand Canal in Venice. Learning to make pasta in Italy because there is no better place to learn. That’s what world schooling looks like to us, but the fact is, world schooling looks different for each family, and that’s the beauty of it.

There are many ways to do it.

A lot of factors go into how you will world school. The main one is money. How you travel is dependent on your access to income, so each family will have its own approach.

We are a family of five (mom, dad, boy 6, boy 4, and boy 19 months). My husband is a US Marine. We began world schooling when my husband deployed. He got on a ship for seven months, and the children and I got on a plane and left for 11 months.

We’re a common example of one person bringing home most of the bacon and the other doing the world schooling. My husband joins us for post-deployment leave abroad, and we meet him on his port calls whenever possible — such as when we were in the Mediterranean. Our ultimate goal is for the kids and me to live abroad four to six months a year.

Sky and his son, on the other hand, live in a large RV full time and move to a new state approximately every month. Twice a year they head abroad for a month. This is much less drastic than my travel choices, but it allows the international exposure that Sky wants for his son and allows Sky to work.

Rebecca and her family of four are based in New Orleans. They have very defined roots there, a homeschooling community they love, and her husband’s job as an ER doctor. In Rebecca’s words, “We save, travel, repeat.” They travel about four months out of the year internationally, typically as a complete family since her husband is able to take long vacations.

Another friend of mine, Robin, and her family of six travel full time, jumping from country to country as temporary house sitters. There are a million ways to world school and be successful at it.

You can world school your kids, too.

For those of you who are not committed to a sedentary career or a desk, becoming location-independent is key. Many world schooling families are writers, analysts, consultants, online teachers, and so on. All of these jobs allow you to be essentially wherever you like, as long as it has a decent WiFi signal.

There are also world schoolers who cover their room and board expenses through trade. These families do work-away-type programs. They trade room and board for helping with the olive harvest. They work on farms, help build permaculture communities, or trade working as hostel front desk staff for beds to sleep on. Robin, for example, does international house sitting. There are pet sitting and nannying opportunities, as well.

To decide what works best for you, write down what values or worldly knowledge you want your children to have. Identify what region of the world you think best fits your needs and begin planning. We saved for a full year before we could afford our first international adventure. Just because you have a career that you cannot walk away from doesn’t mean that world schooling is not achievable. There is a way.

Downfalls to world schooling.

Like all things wonderful and adventurous, there are challenges. For us, the most difficult thing about world schooling is finding something for everyone all the time. There is a lot of give and take to keep yourself and the children happy.

One of my children adores nature, open spaces, and farms — but he often acts out in museums because he’s not interested at all. Our older son loves architecture, history, and science. There will be very few times when everyone is truly happy. With a little practice, you can find ways to engage the uninterested party, but it’s an example of the challenges you’ll face.

You may also be frustrated that your kids, especially young ones, can’t always appreciate the opportunities you are putting in front of them — and may not until they have their own children. Standing in front of Michelangelo’s David at the Galleria Accademia in Florence the other day, one of my kids was crying because he’d seen a pink statue of David souvenir in a store and thought the real David would be pink.

The other world schooling downfall is that of friendship. To prevent months of isolation, seek out regions of the world with excellent homeschooling communities, Steiner communities associated with a Waldorf education, and areas with lots of children. Having other kids around is a major contending factor in choosing a location, as well as keeping everyone in love with the experience.

It is worth the work.

You may have a rough start. You may spend a quiet night questioning this decision, but there will also be all the moments that confirm your choice. We’ve had injuries, bad rentals, and severe weather. Yet yesterday, my six-year-old was taking in a magnificent view of Florence, and after a few moments of silence said, “The only thing missing is souvlaki (Greek kabob) and good cheese.”

Kids learn things about a culture and people much more thoroughly than we do as adults. They become food connoisseurs and forget about chicken nuggets. They learn to appreciate simple things like a slow morning and an empty street.

It can be scary abandoning your comfort zones, but the grind will always be there if you want it. The opportunity to world school your children, whether they are four or 16, is a brief window of time. There is a lot to learn outside of the four classroom walls we have grown comfortable with. Start small, like with a few weeks in an apartment somewhere new to you, and see how your own plan unfolds. Chances are, you’ll start planning another longer, greater adventure. Maybe we will meet on the journey one day.