By TED Staff
Alternative education is having a moment, and that is especially true of world schooling.
World schooling is based on the idea that kids are best educated by experiencing and interacting with the world around them.
Like homeschooling, world schooling leaves education up to the individual family. But unlike homeschooling, world schooling usually takes place out in the wider world, often in the form of full-time travel.
This probably leaves you with a lot of questions. How does a family afford to travel full time? How do kids learn? Is it too late for me to get started?
In this article, we take a closer look at what world schooling actually is, what the day-to-day life of a world schooler looks like, and how a family can get started with world schooling.
What Is World Schooling?
Imagine studying the Greek myths in Athens, volcanoes in Iceland, and Japanese in Tokyo. This is world schooling.
Eli Gerzon, a leading voice in alternative education, says of world schooling, “It’s when the whole world is your school, instead of school being your whole world.”
Although world schooling is officially a form of alternative education, it’s more than just an educational philosophy. World schooling is a way of life, and a commitment that must be made by every member of a family.
World schooling does not have teachers, classrooms, or schools. Some world schoolers don’t even use a set curriculum.
Instead, the world and its people become the classroom. Students are given control over their education, and they learn by experiencing the world, learning straight from the source, and searching for information on their own.
In short, world schooling is home education with a lot of travel and learning through travel.
World schooling vs. Unschooling
World schooling shares a lot in common with another popular form of alternative education: unschooling. Still, there are some major differences between the two.
Unschooling is exactly as it sounds; it is the exact opposite of traditional education. Families who unschool follow their children’s interests when deciding what to learn, instead of a set curriculum. With no guidance from a school district, unschoolers trust children to facilitate their own learning.
Many world schoolers find it convenient to unschool, and to take advantage of the many learning opportunities that come from full-time travel. For example, a child spending time in Kenya may become fascinated by the animal food chain of the savanna. This would prompt an immersion into what eats what on the plains of Africa until another interest presents itself.
While some world schoolers find unschooling to work best for them, just as many stick to what looks like homeschooling on the road. They bring along a curriculum from their school back home, or enroll in one of the many accredited online schools that have popped up in recent years. Still, others use set curriculums for subjects like math and spelling, but approach other subjects more loosely.
Families are attracted to world schooling because of the freedom it provides. Whether they unschool or stick to an established curriculum, no two world schooling families educate their children the same way.
What Does World Schooling Look Like?
Put simply, world schooling looks like traveling the world and learning as much as possible while doing so.
As you probably expect, world schoolers visit museums, historical sites, temples, and churches. They also visit markets, playgrounds, transportation centers, and hotels where they learn just as much!
By spending time in a different city or country, world schoolers are able to meet all sorts of people from different backgrounds, faiths, and experiences. These interactions inevitably spark interest in different learning opportunities.
World schooling families tend to world school in one of three ways: fast travel, slow travel, and immersion.
Because traveling quickly tends to be the most expensive, most fast-traveling world schoolers are those who are world schooling for a certain amount of time, such as six months or one year.
Taking one year to world school has become increasingly popular, and is probably the most common form of world schooling. These families have usually taken work sabbaticals and have saved up the funds to travel full time for 12 months.
Fast travelers spend just 1-3 weeks in a certain destination, with most destinations planned out well in advance.
World schoolers who work remotely and who intend to live nomadically for an indefinite amount of time tend to slow travel.
These world schoolers stay in one place for at least a month, though some may stay in the same city or country for as long as one year.
Some slow traveling world schoolers enroll their children in local schools for language and cultural immersion, while others continue a homeschool-like regimen.
Slow travel is usually much more cost effective, and families plan just one destination ahead. Slow travel also has the inherent benefit of having a solid base from which to explore more of a country or continent.
Though certainly less common than fast travel and slow travel, immersion is another route many world schoolers choose to take. Immersion requires staying in a country for more than one year.
Immersion is arguably more difficult than either fast or slow travel. It almost always requires a special visa, and depending upon the country also requires children to be enrolled in local schools. For all intents and purposes, world schoolers who choose immersion become citizens of another country for a determined amount of time.
How To Get Started World Schooling
No two world schooling families are the same, but they do all have a few things in common. Most world schooling families have:
- a love of travel
- a desire to travel with their children, and to show them all the world has to offer
- an open-minded view of education, and a flexible learning style
If these three important characteristics describe you and your family, then there are some steps you can take to get started on your own world schooling adventure.
1. Decide how long you are going to world school
Before you start planning your travels and deciding what to do with your possessions, you will need to know how long you will be world schooling. While some families choose to begin with six months or one year, others know from the start that they want to world school indefinitely. Each option requires a different level of time and financial commitment.
If you are leaning towards the latter, then many world schooling families recommend taking a test trip of about one month to discover your travel style and challenges.
2. Start saving
Even if you will be working remotely, it helps to have a cushion of savings for your world schooling journey. This is especially true at the start of your travels.
Seasoned world schoolers recommend saving as much as you can before you leave. Emergencies aside, having some money will help you adjust to a new — and very different — work-life balance.
And of course, if you are taking a sabbatical to travel for six months or one year, you will need some savings to live on during your time away.
3. Decide what you will do with your home and possessions
Depending on how long you intend to world school, you may want to sell your current home. Hopefully, the sale will provide some money for your new lifestyle.
If you are world schooling on a time limit, then renting out your home may be the better option.
Similarly, you will need to decide what to do with all of your stuff. Many families sell things like cars, furniture, toys, and household goods to help fund their world schooling adventures. Others keep everything in storage until they return to their “normal” life.
4. Choose a curriculum or learning style
Your next step in planning your world schooling adventure is to choose a curriculum or learning style.
If your children will be keeping up with their current curriculum, then you will need to arrange everything they need with their current school. Depending on which state you live in, you may also need to register as a homeschooling family. Many world schooling families who intend to return to “normal” life after their travels take this route.
Another option is to choose a new curriculum. Families that don’t plan on returning to brick-and-mortar schools often enroll in accredited online schools, or purchase a homeschooling curriculum to bring with them on the road. Some families purchase a curriculum for every subject, while others focus only on subjects like mathematics.
And, of course, if you choose to unschool, you will not need to arrange any formal curriculum. You should, however, have a good understanding of unschooling before you set off. You should also have access to the internet and various resources your learners can use to follow their own curiosities.
5. Book a tickets and go!
Finally, book your tickets and go! Though families who are world schooling for six months or a year might plan all of their destinations in advance, those who are heading out indefinitely might find it less overwhelming to choose just their first couple of locations.
Pros & Cons of World Schooling
- Time spent as a family
- Travel opens minds and broadens horizons
- Language and cultural immersion
- Opportunities to make new friends all around the world
- Fewer opportunities for alone time
- Requires organization, planning, and adaptability
- Children may miss traditional friendships
- Requires hefty savings or the ability to work remotely
Frequently Asked Questions About World Schooling
How much does world schooling cost?
The cost of world schooling greatly depends on the number of people in your family, in which part of the world you are traveling, and the types of accommodations and activities you intend to book.
Generally speaking, traveling through Asia is far less expensive than traveling through Europe. Similarly, a family of five is likely to spend more than a family of three.
Before you begin world schooling, you may find it helpful to take a test trip of 4-6 weeks. Live just as you intend to on your longer world schooling adventure, and see how much you spend. Is there room to cut costs? Do you have the budget to spend more?
Alternatively, you can decide on your monthly budget, then use websites like Numbeo to find destinations that match that budget. Remember, you likely won’t be paying as much for things like housing and health insurance, and you will no longer have house, car, or school tuition payments.
What do world schoolers do for work?
Families who want to world school and travel full time often get very creative when it comes to making an income. Some are lucky enough to have jobs that allow them to work from anywhere in the world. Others start their own businesses in order to work remotely. Still other families depend on passive income from renting out their home. Those world schoolers who plan to word school temporarily often do so with savings or monies earned from selling their home and possessions.
Is it possible to world school part time?
Many world schooling “purists” will answer this question with an emphatic “no!” To properly world school, you need to be exposed to cultures, languages, and peoples completely different than your own. However, world schooling is learning by interacting with the world around us, and many would argue that that can occur anywhere.
How do world schoolers learn math?
Different families approach mathematics differently. Some choose to bring along math workbooks, while others will enroll in an online class they can attend from anywhere in the world. Other world schooling families, especially those who unschool, rely on the natural uses of math in daily life. Naturally occurring math lessons might be coming up with a budget for the grocery store, counting back change, or figuring out a time difference.
What is the best age to start world schooling?
Any age! All children are different, so any challenges a family faces will likely be due to personalities more than ages. Some kids find it harder to adjust to nomadic life after they’ve been in a regular school and made friends. Others have no problem leaving a life that is considered more normal.
What are the best world schooling destinations?
The best world schooling destinations are the ones that interest you and your family. Many families choose to check destinations off of a bucket list. Other families follow their interests and spend time in Africa for animals, England for Shakespeare, or Iceland for volcanoes. Still other families choose to stick to places where they can stretch their budgets, such as Asia and Central America.