World Schooling: Helping Kids Thrive in a Time of Chaos

November 24, 2020
Written by:
Crystal Esteves

Hi, I’m Crystal, mom in a world schooling family of four!

Like everyone else, we started this year out with a lot of plans.

I will pause till you are done laughing…

I think it’s safe to say that life this year has not gone as planned for any of us. I imagine half the people reading this article had no clue they were even going to be homeschooling. If this pandemic has taught us all anything, it is that we are not in control.

As world schoolers, our lives are always unpredictable, even without a pandemic to deal with. We must constantly adapt to completely different environments. If you think you have trouble getting your kids to eat, wait till the only option is raw goat organs. Some days it is an adventure just trying to figure out how to buy a pair of much-needed shoes. Then of course there are always new languages, costumes, currency, what side of the road are we driving on, how does the hot water work (if there is hot water at all), and the biggest stressor of them all, toilets. (Are you familiar with a ‘squattie’? Now imagine one with a water hose, but no toilet paper. Surprise !)  So how do we keep it together when life keeps throwing us curveballs, and how do we help our kids deal with the ever-changing world around us? Here a few things that have worked for us.

Letting go of Expectations

I had no idea how much parenting involved explaining basic civilized behavior until I had a son. I mean, I’m pretty sure he alone could have spread COVID-19 to the entire world. (I’ve caught the kid licking subway windows in NYC.) As the mother of a boy, my reality is spending my time and energy telling him to stop whatever gross, rude, or just profoundly weird thing he is currently doing, and then apologizing to whomever he has done it to. I can now say “Sorry” in about every language of the world. On top of this, he is also ADHD and is therefore in constant motion and off in his own world. I’d like to believe he is coming up with a cure for cancer in that head of his, but there is a good chance he is just imagining out how to play Minecraft and Fortnite at the same time.

My expectation, however, was to go to dinner with my family in coordinated outfits, with great manners, and be photo-ready at any moment. Everyone will see us and think we are awesome, with no reason to be judgy.

Okay, I will again wait for you to stop laughing…

Obviously, my reality does not jibe with my expectations. Just by the faces Alejandro makes when I ask him to smile, it’s apparent that breaking his train of thought to look at a camera for 3 seconds must cause him physical pain. So this becomes one more example of the many expectations causing my family to ‘be like Elsa’ and just “Let it Go.”

We are our own kind of a hot mess and I’m totally cool with it. The ability to admit we do not have it all together and are forever a work in progress brings with it a certain peace. That said, I’m still really sorry if you have to sit next to Alejandro on a 14-hour flight and he talks to you in a really loud voice about Captain Underpants the whole time.

Defining your Values

If there is anything we can actually control in this life, it is our values. Values are a major reason people do what they do. We can have bad or good values. One can value attention and power, or one can value peace, love, and chocolate. Simply put, our values are those things that are most important to us and drive us to make the choices we make. We all homeschool for different reasons; those reasons are our values. It could be that you value spending more time with your kids, you value giving them better education, you value your freedom and flexibility, or because the idea of getting your kids dressed and out the door every day makes you want to drink heavily and you value being sober.

With full-time travel during a pandemic, everything is uncertain, and feels like we are flying by the seat of our pants. We are held together by our values. My family has come to value the adventure, the time spent just being together as a family and the bonds that builds. Much of our lives is leaning into the unknown, putting our fear aside, and taking a leap of faith; and life has never failed to reward us for doing so. When I get lost and forget why we are doing what we are doing, I come back to these values.

We really value our time playing with Spider Monkeys

Being the Example

17 years ago I was on a road trip with my boyfriend, at 2 am the muffler blew out. Instead of freaking out he just turned the radio up as loud as he could and sang at the top of his lungs, making me laugh for another two very loud hours until we got to where we going. I knew I had to marry that guy.

In the last month, we have gotten stranded on a lake and needed to be rescued. We have taken our kids on a 62-hour journey across the ocean to a third world country to live like locals. They have witnessed extreme poverty and disease. We have lived without running water and without electricity. We helped slaughter and eat a goat (parts raw). We slept in a pop-up tent in the Serengeti surrounded by wild animals. We have packed onto crazy crowded buses and held on for dear life as they zoomed down the world’s bumpiest roads. Our kids have had plenty of opportunities to freak out! Yet they haven’t, and it is because Robert hasn’t. Our kids have learned from his example. If Dad is cool then everything is cool. Life is nothing to freak out about. We have learned that our kids are watching us far more than they are listening to us. As crazy hard as it is (trust me we still fail at it quite often), we strive to be the kind of people we want our kids to be.

The world shows no signs of giving us any certainties in the near future. We hope you are all out there winging it with style and a smile. Embracing your imperfect families, letting go of what doesn’t really matter, holding true to the values that really do, and showing the impressionable eye watching you that in spite of it all you have each other and that’s how we will all get through this.

About the Author:

The Esteves family left the states in late February to travel the world full time. Just three weeks later Covid 19 hit and changed everything. They ended up spending 7 months in Mexico having some amazing adventures. Recently they made the jump to Tanzania Africa where they are living more like locals and less like tourists in an effort to give their kids a more unique and in-depth cultural experience. Share in the adventures as they navigate their way around the world in these uncertain times on their YouTube channel  Culture Trotters  Get daily photos of their experiences on Instagram @culturetrotters.