Unexpected Benefits of World Schooling

July 15, 2020
Written by:
Guest Author

Sponsored by Culture Trotters.

As homeschooling families, we all are already on the road less traveled. As world schoolers I feel like we are now out in the jungle with a machete forging our own path. There are not really any resources out there telling you how to properly world school your kids. Maybe a better name for it would be “Zen” schooling. Even before we were traveling, we learned that our perfectly color-coded lesson plans and time lines quickly became a laughing matter as we adapted to our children’s ever-changing learning styles and capacities. If everyone would have just followed my Tiger-mom plan, they would all be off to Harvard before puberty; and some therapist out there would have her hands full and a lot of our money. So even without travel, we learned to constantly change our view of what education and even parenting looks like from day to day. Therefore, I can’t really present to you a step by step guide to world schooling, but I can give you examples of how it is unfolding for us.

Exploring Living History

Some of it is easy. Go to Chechen Itza, explore the ruins, listen to the guide, learn some Maya history. (Fun fact: it is ‘Maya history’. ‘Mayan’ is only used to refer to the language.) Mission accomplished. I once got everyone up at 6am to drive to Mount Vernon on Presidents Day. Visiting George Washington’s home and final resting place on his birthday sure beats making a diorama. “Homeschool pat on the back overachieving mom!” Learning history by walking through it creates a big impact. Every paleontologist remembers the field trip to the Natural History Museum that sparked their passion and inspired their career. As world schoolers we want to fill our children’s education with these moments as often as possible. Now if only we could get this coronavirus to go away so we could get back to all those awesome museums; That would be great.

 Cultural Perspective from the Locals

Other parts of world schooling are far more subtle, but equally if not more educational. We call ourselves the Culture Trotters because our goal isn’t just to have “big adventures.” I mean we have them, and we love them! We view World Schooling as a way to gain first-hand experience about people and their way of life. Knowing facts about Mexico is not the same as getting to know Mexicans and their culture. We want to learn what people from other cultures value, how they face problems, and how people’s natural, political and social environments shape a unique perspective on life.

For example, yesterday our new neighbors invited us over for refreshments and conversation. Our conversation ranged from the Spanish Inquisition, to how Mexicans feel about the current affairs in the US, to looking at their daughter’s Quinceańera photo album. While one might think a seven-year-old girl would find a baby pink princess dress a dream come true, Arabella’s face indicated she felt it was a little over the top. The promise of an entire day making her the center of attention, however, quickly got her to overlook the dress and get on board with the idea. Being able see the inside of a Mexican family’s home, taste their home cooked food, and see how they really live their day to day life is a cultural experience you can’t get on a tour bus or from a museum display.

We need to live more economically while we travel. Which means we are rarely in a hotel with other tourists. Instead we are in neighborhoods where locals are living, working, going to school, or more recently, all staying home in quarantine. Our kids love  playing outside with the neighborhood kids. More often than not, they do not speak the same language; but they all happily play together just the same. It is amazing to us that kids are so open to each other. They are not as jaded as adults, and differences are fascinating, not frightening. Every homeschooling parent knows what it is like to be asked that annoying question about socialization (sigh). Our kids not only get the homeschooling benefit of socializing with a larger age-range of people then their assigned classmates, but also with a variety of cultural, economic, and religious backgrounds. An added bonus is they are learning Spanish much quicker from their friends than they are from my flashcards.

Living with Less/Valuing Experience Over Possessions

At this point we each get one back pack and one carry-on to fit all of our stuff. This forces us to be mindful of what we buy. Like it or not we are now minimalists. Not the super stylish minimalist with a 10 item perfectly coordinated wardrobe – pressed and folded into a high tech Tumi carry on. Oh no, we are a walking fiasco of mix match everything, but it’s still a simplified fiasco.

The kid’s backpacks are dedicated to the toys and personal items they just “can’t live without.” I am actually impressed with how many Legos and stuffed animals they can smush into those packs. As we travel, any new toy or trinket means getting rid of something else to make room.  It really has made them adjust from ‘needing’ every shiny new toy they see, to being sure it is a worthwhile exchange.

Even better, it has led them to push for spending less money on toys, and more on experiences.  Aside from a handful of very small items like Kinder Eggs, they have repeatedly bypassed getting the latest “shiny object” and instead chosen snorkeling with turtles, a day at the beach, or exploring caves. There has been a perspective shift on what they find really brings value to their lives.

Adapting to Change

It is said that the only constant in life is change, and that our ability to adapt is the mark of intelligence. I don’t know how much of that is true, but I do know that being good at adapting to change can save a lot of stress and anxiety. Since February we have lived in 10 different Airbnb’s in different towns and cities. There has been something special that we loved about each place. You would be surprised how quickly you can grow accustomed to something. It’s just nice to know where you can get a good cheap taco or which vendor at the Mercado adds cinnamon to their horchata. But the upside to change is it keeps your mind working and constantly problem solving.  As soon as we are unwilling to change, we lose the chance to see and experience new things. We stop learning and we stop growing.

The kids grow attached to friends and pets wherever we are. We encourage these attachments because connection with others is among the most important things in life. When we leave one place for the next, however, it is sometimes hard to say goodbye. Our kids are comforted by the idea that in each new place there are new friends waiting for us to meet them. With each new friendship, love doesn’t divide, it grows. Good people live all over the world, and our children’s perspective on life and the world changes and grows for the better with each new connection.

Following Along

Once or twice a week we document our fun times and fiascos. You can subscribe at  YouTube/culturetrotters to join us on our world schooling endeavors as we explore more cultures and try and educate our kids, such as:

Breaking Quarantine and Re-Opening Akumal

Re-creating Frida Kahlo’s life

Buying a JipiJapa (Indigenous hat of the Yucatán)

Every day we post a photos and stories of the beautiful cultures we get to experience. Follow us in real time on Instagram @culturetrotters to see where we are and what we are up to every day.