Housing, employment and school: The things that tether us to a single geographical location are all being reimagined. As companies like AirBNB are simplifying long term housing worldwide and employers are embracing permanent remote setups, more families are seizing the opportunity to take education on the road through an approach known as worldschooling.
An educational philosophy advanced by Eli Gerzon, worldschooling turns the whole world into your classroom, creating infinite possibilities for learning experiences of every kind. The definition of world schooling is open-ended. It can be a full-time lifestyle or a part-time adventure: Some live on the road for a family gap year, while others alternate periods of time at a home base with trips to locations foreign or domestic. (Those who stay state-side are known as ‘roadschoolers’.)
As a form of location-independent education, worldschooling has significant overlap with home education, including from a start-up perspective: You’ll want to find out your state’s regulations around homeschooling. (This resource from the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), gives detailed information, from the most regulated states to the most flexible.)
But there are also important shared benefits between homeschooling and worldschooling that make them natural complements to one another.
For people with the travel bug, the major benefit of worldschooling is obvious: total freedom. Like a college student with an unlimited Eurorail pass, you can go wherever, whenever (as long as your family can agree on the destination).
Free from the limitations of the school calendar, vast horizons open up. Instead of cramming into hot spots during peak tourist season, you can avoid the crowds, or time your visit precisely to the moment that suits: Spend carnival in Rio, attend the Umbria Jazz festival, or commemorate the anniversary of the end of World War II in Hiroshima.
World schooling isn’t just about having a great time (although it’s a likely side effect). It’s the ultimate in experiential learning, teaching your family about the world to a degree that neither traditional school nor traditional world travel can.
Here are a few ways worldschooling is an educational game-changer:
Children learn best when they understand what they’re doing and why – in three dimensions. Worldschooling offers you the richest possible library, whatever your child’s interests: When you’re free to move about the globe, you can explore the Amazon, visit a temple in Thailand, see where the Beatles got their start, all while learning new languages and meeting new people. Revel in the music scene, get up close and personal with the politics, stand face-to-face with the art and architecture, or live the urban planning - no lesson plan needed.
It’s one thing to read about different cultures, it’s another thing to take a taste of it on vacation. But when you can take part in the life of a new place first-hand – whether it’s through community service, attending events or hanging out at the local cafe – you gain an unparalleled level of understanding. The people you meet on your extended travels become more than extras in your highlight reel – they become your teachers, as this worldschool veteran explains.
For anyone who has ever struggled to learn verb conjugations and memorize endless lists of vocabulary, worldschooling abroad offers the single best way to learn a foreign language: in an immersive, experiential context. Necessity is the mother of invention, and when you need to figure out which stop to get off the bus, you’ll find yourself willing to step outside your comfort zone and grow your communication skills.
Family travel takes significant logistical effort. But that‘s one of the best possible learning opportunities: Get your kids involved in the planning, scheduling and budgeting, as this road schooling family suggests. It’ll teach them hands-on skills and give them a sense of mastery and responsibility. They’ll be much more excited about a hike, a museum visit or a performance when they’re the ones who spearheaded the effort. And they’ll be much less likely to complain about the day’s itinerary when they’ve had a hand in coordinating all the moving parts.
For every parent who has ever wished they could go back into the classroom, worldschooling offers an alternative. When you go on a worldschool adventure, your kids won’t be the only ones pushing themselves to experience new things; once you find your bearing, you’ll be able to pursue your own interests as well. As you guide them through a new place, you’ll necessarily learn and grow in the process. No time machine required.
Because it’s vastly different from conventional views of education and family life, full-time worldschooling can raise eyebrows. Regardless of what the neighbors think, there are a number of big-picture issues to confront, before joining the worldschooling community.
One of the most commonly raised concerns about alternative education is socialization: How do world-schoolers form stable friendships? In their post, “Do Nomads Have a Social Life?” one family debunks that perception. Describing their diverse, global connections, they explain that the extreme freedom that comes with their van lifestyle, allows them to prioritize people not places.
Still, for kids who crave a consistent friend group in addition to the unique cast of characters that a world school experience attracts – they can have their cake and eat it too by enrolling in a program such as Prisma that fosters peer-to-peer learning and friendships among a stable cohort.
If you’re looking for adventure, worldschooling checks all the boxes. But there’s another side to the ledger that poses more of a challenge: finding the consistent daily routine that allows kids to thrive. Even families who are taking a totally unstructured “unschooling approach” will want to think about the rituals and habits that will anchor their child’s day. This could include incorporating check-in questions at family meals, for example using breakfast to share each member’s intention and using dinner to report back on successes, lessons and hopes for tomorrow.
Geographical freedom doesn’t have to mean a free for all. Some worldschool kids enroll in local schools for a more traditional immersive experience in a foreign education system, some use a formal homeschooling curriculum to meet their core requirements just as they would have from their home country, while others choose a full-service option like Prisma to give them flexibility within a well-designed educational framework.
Circling the globe sounds expensive, but worldschooling is not code for jet setting. Between remote work options and affordable long-term accommodations, travel-based learning won’t necessarily drain your bank account. There are also plenty of ways to save, as this worldschool family writes: The cost of living varies widely from city to city, which leaves plenty of options for budget-conscious families, and families who plan to worldschool extensively might use income from renting out (or selling) their home to pay for their living expenses abroad.
As this worldschool family writes, it’s all a question of values. If you think you might want to pack up your books and hit the road, start with a family conversation about what you hope to achieve, as we explain in this guide to starting homeschooling.
For families with the curiosity and drive to embark on a global adventure, worldschooling can feel like drinking from a firehose. Between orienting to new places and the drumbeat of decisions, learning can end up taking a back seat. A full-service online learning option like Prisma saves parents the bandwidth they would’ve spent on being their child’s principal, curriculum designer and teacher, so they can use it to lead the field trip of their family’s life.