Schooling on the road, with textbooks or without them. Letting the world be your teacher. Everyone has their own definition of world-schooling. Some people love it. Others are skeptical. I’ve been world-schooling for most of my life. Has it ruined my childhood? Oh yes, it most certainly has, in a few ways:
1: I’ve become a world-class snob.
The first Shakespeare play I ever attended was at Stratford Upon Avon. I experienced my first live opera, La Traviata, at the Sydney Opera house. I’ve played gladiators in the colosseum of Rome as well as at a lesser known one in Tunisia. I’ve ridden elephants in Northern Thailand and eaten tropical fruits and delicacies in their home countries. Naturally, I’ve become a bit of a snob. No church is quite as fantastic as the Sistine Chapel. No cheese is quite as delectable as freshly made mozzarella bought from a vendor in Italy. No combination of colors can be quite as vibrant as those found in the highlands of Guatemala. No ruin as fantastic as Angkor Wat. See what I’m getting at?
2: I’ve never attended a “proper” school.
Isn’t it terrible? How can anyone possibly expect me to cope in a social environment? Naturally, I must be awkward and uncomfortable around other people! But in reality,
3: I have more friends than I can keep up with.
I’ve met so many incredible people over the course of our travels that I have a hard time staying in contact with all of them. Even worse, most of them aren’t teens. Most of my friends are either adults or younger kids. Worldschooling allows me to make friends with people of all ages. Read more about that here.
4: Castles don’t impress me.
You know travel has ruined you when you see a castle and regard it as a normal part of the landscape. Don’t get me wrong, I adore exploring new places and I’m always up for another castle day or wildlife adventure. But after seeing dozens, if not hundreds of castles in Europe, I’ve stopped taking pictures of them for the most part. Even worse, this sometimes extends to incredible third world markets, the occasional pyramid, and even (for a while, in Tunisia and Thailand) creatures like camels or elephants. I constantly have to remind myself to take photos of the things I’m experiencing. I’m a terrible tourist!
5: I must explore to live!
After having spent most of my childhood on the road, I find that staying in one spot for much more than a few months can be really difficult. I’m always on the hunt for a new adventure, I love seeing and experiencing new things (especially weird foods!), and while I can stay in one place for a while without too much discomfort, I’d much rather be outdoors exploring the world around me. Some people would definitely consider that a problem.
6: I’ve had to learn more than most.
Rather unavoidable, that. You can’t spend years immersed in other cultures without learning more than you could ever learn from within the walls of a classroom. My family are certainly not un-schoolers. We’ve taken our schoolbooks with us as we’ve wandered the world. But there’s no better way to learn geography, history, art, or music than by experiencing them first-hand. And those don’t even cover the other things traveling kids learn, like how to interact with people whose language I didn’t speak or understand, or how to deal with being outside of your comfort zone. As a result of our travel (and a lot of work on my part and that of my mom, I might add), I actually finished my high school years early, and had to fill in the gap between high school and college with a bunch of extras. Kids, don’t travel! It’s too good for your brains! Too much of a good thing can’t be healthy, right? That’s what they keep telling me about cake, anyway.
7: I travel more than I game.
I can calculate time zone differences faster than I can kill a zombie in a video game, and can pack a backpack with all the essentials faster than my friends can beat a level on Portal 2. Is that good or bad? Depends on who you’re asking!
8: I only have one pair of shoes.
Girls, this is your queue to gasp and take traveling off of your bucket list. I only have the one pair of that much loved accessory, and they are less than glamorous. Think close toed heavy duty sandals, caked with the dirt of a dozen or more countries and at least a hundred adventures. Isn’t it awful?
9: I LOVE my teachers!
I’ve listened to my friends complain about the teachers at their schools. Mean ones, shrimpy ones, ones with peculiar resemblances to cows, strict ones… I’m a bit boring in those conversations, as all my teachers have been fantastic. My parents are the first to come to mind, of course. But there have been so many others! Guatemalan boys to teach me soccer tricks, countless hippies to trade songs and star signs with, cooking lessons by locals, loom weaving – courtesy of a Mayan woman we befriended, and endless others! You don’t have to be a certified teacher to have an incredible wealth of knowledge to share. As humans, learning ought to be one of our greatest joys in life. Travel has exposed me to so many things that have changed the way I see the world and those in it. My teachers have been so varied and amazing that I can never find anything bad to say about them.
10: I don’t have a house.
The upside to that is that a house isn’t necessarily a home. The entire world is my home! Not tied down to a single location, I can be perfectly satisfied wherever I am! The downside to not having a house is that I can’t figure out where my “favorite place” is. Italy? Belize? Guatemala? New Zealand? The States? Canada? I honestly don’t know. I spent the first eleven years of my life in New England, so there’s definitely a sense of connection to that region. But then there’s Guatemala, with its volcanoes, crystal blue lakes, and wonderful people. There’s Italy, with the incredible architecture, and unbelievably delicious food. There’s Belize, with its luscious jungles and colorful reefs. New Zealand, with its indescribable scenery. And Canada, with its maple leaf cookies (not a good example, I know, but they taste like home!) and gorgeous forests. Not to mention all the other countries there are on this spectacular planet. How could I decide? Strangely enough, I find that I’m home wherever I’m at, but that I’m never “home” as everyone else knows it.
So, choose for yourself! How terrible for kids is world-schooling, really? Does all that time away from home, a school environment, and regular routine really make us unsociable and uneducated? Well, it’s certainly not for everyone, but it’s been amazing for me! I’ve learned tons about other cultures, about how the world can be seen from more than one perspective, and how the world is a lot bigger than just North America. Sure, I’m a total snob when it comes to cheese and architecture, but in the end, I think that’s a pretty good tradeoff, don’t you?
A few ways worldschooling has benefited my life since I first wrote this in 2013:
- I’m still traveling, still pursuing my passions, still in love with learning and the world around me.
- I built my own online income stream and became location independent and independent from the “bank of mom and dad” at age 20.
- I’ve now traveled to 6 continents and am still going on my own.
- I got into one of Canada’s most competitive universities with ease and made Dean’s List this year.
- My international experience landed me an internship working in Guatemala’s top research library for a summer and then got me an exchange opportunity to study geography for a year in the Netherlands.
I say this not to brag, but as evidence that worldschooling DIDN’T cripple me – instead, it set me up for success as an adult and student. There’s no one right way to do school. Education is a life-long process we’re all still working on. But if you’re a kid or a parent considering worldschooling, I hope I’ve encouraged you to face any fears you might have and give it a try! Feel free to shoot me any questions you might have. I’m happy to help.
Think I’m an uneducated snob? That’s ok, you’re not alone. Read this!
Or, for a less sarcastic/satirical take on life and education on the road: