Our journey to ‘worldschooling’
When we meet new people on our year-long trip around Europe, the inevitable happens. They ask how it is that the kids aren’t in school. As homeschooling is not common in Europe, and not even legal in Germany, this question is often delivered with a touch of concern. The first few times I was asked this, I went into the same narrative I used with my own parents when I told them we were going to homeschool — about each child’s differing needs and the ability to focus on passions and strengths. Admittedly, our thoughts on how we would be teaching our kids this year have changed as has our answer. At first we pictured more ‘homeschool’ inside as we worked through our books, but then once we started traveling, we realized what we were doing was ‘worldschooling’.
We are learning that we don’t need to spend as much time with books, we have everything around us. When people still aren’t convinced, I usually just run down some of the things we’ve been doing — visiting a 1000-year-old castle near Prague to learn about the Holy Roman Empire, sailing down the Tagus River in Lisbon and learning about 16th century explorers, going to a chestnut festival in Malaga and learning about…. well… chestnuts. The point is clear — we’re not just teaching our kids about history and culture and geography — we’re showing them.
Taking advantage of festivals
My husband and I left the U.S. in June 2016 to start our own company called Around the World Stories. We’re visiting 13 countries in one year and writing and recording stories about each country and offering them as audio stories to inspire kids to learn about other cultures.
When plotting the course for our trip over a year ago, we had certain guidelines. We knew what countries we’d visit, and we didn’t want to take too many warm clothes with us so we could travel light. To do this, we needed to move south for the winter. Right now we’re in Portugal and finally ready to make our way back up north with the coming spring.
That gave us a rough idea of where we would go, but we had another guideline as well — festivals and holidays. Teaching the kids about other cultures and traditions is so much more fun when it involves music, dances, food, and folklore. Holiday festivals really highlight what makes a country unique. The crafts, food and music are all on display, and to make things even better, everyone is in a great mood! The Christmas markets in Germany and Austria, the summer festival on the Rhine, Midsummer festivals in Sweden and Denmark, Bastille Day in France and the Tulip Festival near Amsterdam. Even the Chocolate Festival here in Portugal made for a day of learning about chocolate and history! All of these are worldschooling gold — once in a lifetime field trips!
Learning with the kids
My husband and I find that when we’re learning something, the kids are always eager to learn right alongside us. And when traveling, there’s so much for us to learn — things that I was completely unaware of. I had no idea where cork came from before visiting the cork forests in Portugal and taking a tour of a cork factory. It was absolutely fascinating and the kids loved it as well. And on the way we even stumbled across an 8000-year-old rock formation!
Whether we’re learning about a famous local artist or an old monument, the kids see the look of curiosity and wonder in our eyes and they become instant students of whatever we’re learning. It’s honestly surprised me how much their love of learning has grown on this trip. They truly love learning and exploring. It’s not just about getting ice cream or visiting parks, they love learning about the places, the history and the people where we go.
What about the other stuff
Of course not everyday is an epic field trip. We still spend time at home (wherever home might be at the time) and read and do math problems. But whenever possible, we let our kids’ passions drive the curriculum whether it’s writing books about fairy tales after our visit to a fairy tale forest or whether they want to learn more about Magellan after seeing a monument in Lisbon, we are learning to let them lead with their newly found passions.
Raising world citizens
For us the ultimate goal of worldschooling isn’t just the field trips. It goes much deeper than that. It’s an opportunity to highlight that the world is made up of people who have different ways of living, different family structures, different diets, different goals and different dreams. It opens their minds to accepting others for who they are, and we hope it will help them become compassionate adults. In short we want them to become world citizens — people who care about the whole of humanity, not just the problems in their own town or even their own country.
You certainly don’t need to worldschool to raise world citizens, but it is a fun way to do it.