Imagine your child exploring new countries, meeting people from different cultures, and gaining a deep understanding of the world in a way that simply isn’t possible in traditional education.
As a parent, you want your children to have every opportunity to succeed and thrive in life. For some families, success might look like earning all A’s, acing standardized tests, and making varsity sports teams. There’s nothing wrong with those things, but perhaps you’re looking for something unique for your children.
As the world changes rapidly, more and more families are exploring alternatives to the traditional education system. Whether it’s seeking out private schools that offer alternative education, online schools, homeschooling, unschooling, or innovative online programs that are inspired by all of these options, many families, especially after the pandemic, are realizing that the old way of doing their child’s education wasn’t flexible, modern, or personalized enough to meet the demands of the 21st century.
Imagine your child exploring new countries, meeting people from different cultures, and gaining a deep understanding of the world in a way that simply isn’t possible in traditional education. Worldschooling allows your child to learn through hands-on experiences, to immerse themselves in different languages, and to develop a global perspective that will serve them well throughout their lives.
Let’s explore what worldschooling is, the benefits of this type of education, and how to get started as a worldschooling family.
What is Worldschooling?
Worldschooling is a type of schooling that involves full-time or part-time travel away from the family’s home country. Worldschooling families may be nomads, traveling from place to place, or they may have a home base in one country and travel periodically.
The name ‘worldschooling’ simply means that the world is the setting for the learning. This often implies a focus on experiential learning, or learning through experiences rather than formal instruction, books, or lectures. However, there are as many types of worldschooling curricula as there are traveling families.
Worldschooling can take many forms, including very flexible approaches like unschooling, child-led learning, and self-directed learning. However, some families choose to keep a more traditional education approach while engaging in world travel, by moving through a standardized homeschool curriculum or enrolling in a public online school. Some choose something more in the middle, like online learning through a program like Prisma, which follows a set curriculum to ensure learners don’t have gaps but also allows learners to go at their own pace, learn through creative projects, and follow a flexible schedule. The idea is to allow families to tailor their child’s education to their own interests and needs.
Benefits of Worldschooling
There are many benefits to worldschooling. One of the most obvious is the opportunity for children to experience different cultures and worldviews. By traveling to new places, children are exposed to different languages, foods, customs, and ways of life. This can broaden their perspective and help them develop empathy and understanding for people from all over the world.
Worldschooling also provides many hands-on learning opportunities that traditional schools may not offer. For example, a child learning about ancient history can visit historical sites and museums to see artifacts up close. A child learning about marine biology can go on a snorkeling excursion to see marine life in its natural habitat.
If your family chooses to use a more self-directed approach, worldschooling can allow children to learn at their own pace and according to their own interests. This can help them develop a love of learning that will serve them well throughout their lives.
Who is Worldschooling a Good Fit for?
Worldschooling is a great fit for families who value experiential learning, adventure, and a non-traditional approach to education. It’s a perfect fit for families who want to embrace the freedom and flexibility of homeschooling while still providing their children with a rich and diverse educational experience. Here are some possible types of families who might benefit from worldschooling:
- Nomadic families: Families where one or both parents work remotely or who are interested in becoming ‘digital nomads’ may find worldschooling to be a great fit for their lifestyle.
- Traveling families: Families who love to travel and explore new cultures or families where parents or family members travel frequently for work or are from different home countries can integrate education with their adventures, providing their children with rich and diverse learning experiences. You can even worldschool part-time, or take a family gap year if it’s too challenging to abandon your home base entirely.>
- Alternative education families: Families who are interested in alternative education methods such as unschooling or child-led learning can use worldschooling as a way to facilitate these approaches.
Cons to Consider
While there are many benefits to worldschooling, there are also some potential cons. Before reading the below guide to getting started, here are a few possible challenges you may encounter:
- Lack of routine: Lots of travel and new experiences can make it difficult or impossible to maintain a consistent routine. This can be challenging for some children who thrive on structure and predictability, though it can also push kids to become more adaptable. You know your kids best. How would they handle unpredictability or unforeseen changes in lodging, transportation, and availability of the conveniences they’re used to?
- Social isolation: If you switch locations frequently or visit countries where your children don’t speak the language, it can be difficult for children to make friends and develop strong social connections. Some worldschooling families choose to engage in online learning opportunities to keep a consistent social group for their learners.
- Limited access to resources: Depending on where you travel, it can be surprisingly challenging to find resources such as libraries, museums, and other educational facilities. And in some areas, access to reliable internet to access online learning resources can be limited. Again, flexibility is key!
- Re-entry shock: Lots of people know about culture shock when traveling to a new culture, but many are surprised to know that the adjustment back home can be just as tough. When families return to their home country after an extended period of worldschooling, children may experience culture shock and find it challenging to readjust to their old routine. Make sure you’re prepared for that travel bug to stick around forever!
Not too scared off by the cons list? Read on for a guide on getting started with your worldschooling journey.
Getting Started with Worldschooling
If you’re interested in worldschooling, there are many resources available to help you get started. It can be overwhelming to know where to begin! Here are some steps you can take to begin your worldschooling journey:
Accept your new role: If you’re new to worldschooling, you might not be used to taking a leadership role in your child’s education. But worldschooling is an active process, not just a vacation. Successful worldschooling parents demonstrate intellectual curiosity, taking an interest in researching educationally valuable learning opportunities in each new location, finding online resources, and more. If this is overwhelming, full-service programs like Prisma can help take this load off your plate!
Find a worldschooling community: Worldschooling families often connect with each other to share resources, experiences, and support. Joining a worldschooling community on social media like Trailblazing Families or The Worldschool Pop-Up Hub can help you feel connected and even find other families to travel with. As you plan your adventure, you can ask questions in the group and begin to learn from others’ experiences. Don’t sweat it if the first group isn’t your speed, it may take some digging to find a community that vibes with your family’s approach.
Decide on your approach to travel, and consider experimenting first: You don’t have to travel the whole world or travel full-time to worldschool. You can start by choosing a country or region that interests you and plan a trip there, or even practice by first worldschooling from home (try learning from home with a focus on experiential learning through visiting museums, nature preserves, and cultural events). We recommend only taking the plunge to full-time travel after you’ve gotten your feet wet through short-term trips first.
Decide on your worldschooling curriculum approach: Depending on whether your children are in elementary school, middle school, or high school, and the type of education you want to provide, you may need to choose a worldschooling curriculum. Or maybe you’re taking a more self-directed, unschooling tack! Consider what has worked well for your kids in the past. Do they thrive in a highly structured environment? Consider an online school or following a strict daily paper curriculum with workbooks. Are they intrinsically motivated and self-directed? Consider letting them drive, and having them fill out a journal or make a video or photo diary of their learnings and reflections while worldschooling.
How to select a worldschooling destination
When selecting a worldschooling destination, families should consider a variety of factors, including:
- Safety: Some countries may have political instability or high crime rates, so it’s important to research the safety of a destination before traveling there. Research the specific neighborhoods you plan on staying in since this is rarely broadly applied across a whole country.
- Accessibility: Families should consider the ease of getting to and from a destination (how many transfers? Will the trip be comfortable for kids?), as well as transportation options within the country.
- Cost of living: Some destinations may be more expensive than others, so it’s important to research the cost of accommodations, food, and other expenses before deciding on a destination.
- Language: If you don’t speak the local language, it’s important to consider how you will communicate and navigate in a new place, and have conversations with your kids about how they’ll do so as well.
- Cultural opportunities: Of course, since this is worldschooling, not just vacation, consider destinations that offer unique cultural experiences, such as festivals, museums, or historical sites.
Our favorite Worldschooling Destinations
Here are some popular worldschooling destinations, the best times to visit, and some cool educational benefits you might find in each place:
- Thailand: Thailand is one of the most popular worldschooling destinations, due to its overall popularity with remote workers and digital nomads. Thailand is known for its beautiful beaches, friendly locals, and delicious food. Kids can learn about Thai culture by visiting temples, exploring markets, and taking cooking classes. November to February is the best time to visit, as the weather is cooler and less rainy.
- Bali: Bali is another popular worldschooling and digital nomad destination, known for its beautiful landscapes and yoga culture. Kids can learn about Balinese culture by studying yoga and the meaning behind it, learning about traditional arts and crafts, and exploring the natural beauty of the island. May to September is the best time to visit, as it’s the dry season.
- Italy: Italy is a great destination for families interested in history, art, and food. Kids can learn about the Roman Empire, Renaissance art, and Italian cuisine by visiting museums, exploring historic sites, and taking pasta-making classes. The best time to visit Italy is in the spring (April to June) or fall (September to November), when the weather is mild and the crowds are smaller.
- Mexico: Mexico is a popular destination for families interested in learning about Latin American culture and history. Kids can learn about ancient civilizations like the Maya and Aztecs, as well as traditional Mexican culture through food, music, and festivals. The best time to visit Mexico is during the winter months when the weather is cooler and the crowds are smaller.
- Japan: Japan is a great destination for families interested in technology, anime, and traditional Japanese culture. Kids can learn about Japanese history and culture by visiting temples, museums, and exploring cities like Tokyo and Kyoto. The best time to visit Japan is during the spring (March to May) or fall (September to November), when the weather is mild and the cherry blossoms are in bloom.
- Costa Rica: Costa Rica is a popular destination for families interested in nature and outdoor activities. Kids can learn about ecology and conservation by exploring rainforests, visiting national parks, and going on wildlife tours. The best time to visit Costa Rica is during the dry season (December to April) when the weather is sunny and the wildlife is more active.
How to plan a worldschooling trip
Depending on the age of your children and where you plan to travel, there may be several factors to consider to ensure a safe and successful trip. If you are planning trips to multiple new countries over several months, you should create a spreadsheet or other organizer to manage travel, accommodations, and learning experiences booked and help you stay on top of requirements. There are even worldschooling consultants, like Lizz Quain of Trailblazing Families, who work with traveling families to help them navigate these logistics.
Also, consider having your children help you with the pre-planning and research of your next worldschooling adventure. This is a great way to make the process more child-led, increase their agency and confidence, and bring your family closer together.
Make sure you consider:
- Visas: Different countries have different visa requirements, and it’s important to research and obtain the necessary visas before traveling.
- Vaccinations: Some countries may also require specific vaccinations before entry, so it’s important to check with your doctor and make sure your child is up-to-date on all necessary vaccinations.
- Research: Depending on where you plan to travel, you may need to take extra precautions and do extra research to keep your children safe and prepare to interact with people from different cultures. Safety research could include things like avoiding certain areas, and being extra vigilant in crowded areas, and cultural research involves researching local customs and cultural norms to avoid inadvertently offending locals. It’s also important to have a plan in place in case of an emergency, such as knowing where to go in the event of a natural disaster or political unrest. Depending on the age of your child, you may need to consider the logistics of traveling with a school-aged child. Consider factors such as visas, vaccinations, and safety precautions.
- Travel: In addition to budgeting for flights, trains, or other forms of transportation, also consider the time it takes to travel between destinations, as well as the logistics of transporting your family and all your belongings. Kids are small, but they can have a lot of stuff (though we recommend adopting a minimalist philosophy when worldschooling!).
- Lodging: Depending on your travel style and budget, you may choose to stay in hotels, Airbnbs, VRBOs, hostels, or even camping. Consider asking other families in your worldschooling communities for their favorite places to stay in various destinations, or to share their itineraries.
- Food: Eating out every day while traveling full-time can get expensive, and can be challenging if your kids have dietary restrictions or allergies. Consider prioritizing access to a kitchen in your accommodations, even if it makes the cost of lodging more expensive, it may save you money overall. Plus, then your kids get the experience of shopping in a grocery store in a different culture and can learn to make traditional meals in each of the new cultures they visit.
And lastly, remember that the whole world is your classroom when you’re worldschooling. Embrace the opportunities for hands-on learning and encourage your child to explore their interests.
By embracing worldschooling, you’re not just providing your child with a unique educational experience. You’re setting them up for success in an increasingly globalized and interconnected world. Your child will emerge from this experience with a deeper understanding of themselves and the world around them, and a set of skills that will serve them well throughout their lives. So why not take the leap and give your child the gift of worldschooling?