We’ve all dreamed of packing it in and traveling the world.
But we couldn’t possibly take the kids out of school. After all, they’d fall behind their peers in school. They probably couldn’t graduate or land a well-paying job if they spent all their time gallivanting around the globe.
Or could they?
Although quantifiable data is impossible to come by at this time, anecdotal evidence suggests long-term travel doesn’t cause kids to struggle with their studies. In fact, it gives them cause to thrive.
Whether you call it world schooling, road schooling or homeschooling on the road, this alternative form of education is becoming more popular every year.
And it could work for your family.
The ancient Greek playwright Euripides once famously proclaimed, “Experience, travel—these are an education in themselves.” The families who have taken on world schooling would have to agree!
Why world school your children?
As a nomadic family, you don’t really have any other choice.
But that’s not to say world schooling is a necessary evil. On the contrary, it’ll expose your kids to new cultures, educate them on global issues and foster an open-minded and international outlook on life.
Constant real-world experiences in a variety of countries and cultures will allow your children to gain a far better understanding of world issues than they ever could at home.
And yes, they’ll still be able to learn their reading, writing and arithmetic!
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The challenges of world schooling
Providing your little ones with an adequate education is no easy feat. After all, the school system has been attempting to perfect the art since the dawn of civilization.
To become a successful world school teacher, you’ll need to track down suitable resources, work out a balanced schedule and enforce proper discipline. All of this while darting between countries on an epic international foray.
But it can be done. Below you’ll find teaching resources and tried-and-tested advice to help you provide your kids with a first-class mobile education.
Teach with Travel: Tips for All World Schooling Families
Reading resources for world schooling parents
Before you get started as a teacher, you should have some semblance of an idea of what you’re doing. The following books will help bring you up to speed:
- “Homeschooling: The Early Years” by Linda Dobson
- “The Unschooling Unmanual” by Jan Hunt
For a bit of encouragement from fellow world schoolers, the Worldschoolers ™ and Worldschool Family Facebook groups are worth a look.
World schooling equipment
Teaching your kids while you travel requires a fair bit of kit. Luckily, the digital age allows us to depend on lightweight electronics rather than bulky textbooks.
I recommend bringing the following:
- One small laptop per child
- One tablet per child
- One kindle per child
- Notepads, pens, pencils and crayons, etc.
- Homeschool workbooks
Maintaining discipline on the road
All kids have different disciplinary requirements, so there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. Nevertheless, the following rules could help keep their study habits in check:
- No computer games outside of the hotel room or outside of certain hours
- During overland travel, they’re only allowed to read or study (they’ll become avid readers in no time)
- No treats or special activities until studies are up to date
The Kindle Paperwhite is the ideal e-reader because it can’t be used for games. That way, you won’t have to peak over your kids’ shoulders to ensure they’re doing the right thing.
Setting a world schooling study schedule
Although world schooling is inherently flexible, it pays to have some sort of schedule in place. In general, aim to have the kids hit the books in their downtime, either in the hotel or during a long overland journey.
Speaking of travel, trains make better classrooms than cramped buses and planes. Use them wherever possible.
But how much studying is too much studying?
It ultimately comes down to personal preferences and requirements. As a rule of thumb, most world schooling families don’t enforce more than 10 hours per week of dedicated study time.
Remember, a great deal of learning happens on the road. Use every possible excursion as a chance to educate.
Teaching through travel
Children are much more likely to take an interest in learning about the places they visit. As a result, it pays to structure their studies around each destination whenever possible.
If you’re staying in a region for more than a brief stint, it’s time to introduce your children to the language. Programs like FluentU provide an excellent base they can build upon by reading signs and interacting with the locals.
FluentU takes a huge collection of language video clips from real-world sources—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and uses it to generate personalized lessons for each learner. (Oh, and the first 15 days are free!)
For example, Latin America is the perfect place to learn Spanish, as your family will have a huge amount of exposure to the language for a long period of time.
Supplementing time with the locals with your own curriculum will make the kids strong language students.
Ask the kids for input on planning your itinerary. Teach them about the cities, countries and regions that you’ll travel through.
Purchase a laminated fold-up map and encourage them to mark off the places you visit.
Opportunities abound for kids to practice their arithmetic on the road. You could get them to help with the monthly budget, ask them to calculate a restaurant bill or request that they figure out how many miles remain on an overland journey.
For little ones, even just a simple game of Uno each night could work wonders.
Given you’ll be visiting a plethora of stunning natural attractions, there’ll be ample opportunity to pique their interest in geology and other natural sciences along the way.
Ask them to research natural wonders and provide a report on their makeup and history. Planning a visit to the Amazon rainforest? This is the perfect place to inspire and teach your kids about biology and zoology.
Zoos and natural parks are other inspiring, real-life ways to teach about the natural world.
The ancient battle-worn fortresses of Rajasthan in India and the cobblestoned medieval towns of old world Europe are fascinating to children, especially when savored firsthand.
Prepare mini history lessons and quizzes about the historic landmarks you visit.
Each region has its own unique politics that are often deeply rooted in history.
Discuss contemporary issues with your children and put them into context with the rest of the world.
Galleries and museums are an outstanding introduction to the arts, albeit a little dry at times. To keep things interesting, focus on the most famous artists, such as Michelangelo, and familiarize them with highly-regarded works, such as David.
Encourage their creative side by allowing them to paint and draw the things they’ve seen as part of their study schedule.
Resources for world schooling families
Although teaching through experience may trump hitting the books, it’s essential to pepper some conventional learning into your kids’ curriculum, as well.
If you’re traveling for a matter of weeks or months, ask your child’s school for learning material.
If traveling the world is a more long-term venture than that, the following resources have received rave reviews from world schooling families.
Phone and tablet apps
Let a tablet teach your kids to pass the time on long overland journeys.
- Crossword Puzzles for Kids teaches spelling and vocabulary to children ages six through eight [iOS / Android]
- DragonBox teaches elementary level math, as well as an introduction to algebra and geometry through colorful, interactive games [website]
- Motion Math: Cupcake! encourages elementary kids to practice arithmetic by managing an imaginary cupcake business [iOS]
- GradeProof picks up grammatical errors that a standard spellcheck might miss [iOS]
- FluentU teaches kids up to nine different languages through real-world videos, from French, to Russian, to Mandarin [iOS / Android]
Computer programs and apps
The kids can work through a myriad of homeschooling applications on a laptop in the hotel room.
- BBC Dance Mat Typing teaches young kids how to type using Flash games
- Studyladder is a popular web-based platform that teaches various topics and levels
- Khan Academy is a massive, free e-learning platform that incorporates videos into its short courses.
- Time4Learning is a one-stop-shop homeschooling platform
- HomeSchool with Minecraft incorporates learning into the popular children’s game
- Reading Eggs teaches kids from ages two to 13 how to read
- Codeacademy shows students at the high school level and above how to code
- Art for Kids Hub teaches elementary arts and crafts skills, including Minecraft construction
Although physical workbooks are hard to replace on the road, some world schoolers just can’t get enough of that old-school paperback feel.
Try the Carol Vorderman Made Easy series, which covers just about the entire educational spectrum.
So there we have it.
A complete guide on how to educate your children while gallivanting around the globe. If properly implemented, they won’t fall behind their peers. In fact, they’ll probably be well ahead of the game!
Harry is a South American-based freelance writer who covers travel, the arts, and culture, among many other things.
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