World-schooling… without the camper van!

There’s a LOT of buzz in my circles around “world-schooling”.  While definitions differ, most people use the term world-schooling to talk about using the world as your school. World-schooling families may travel the world for a year or much longer. They learn as they travel around the globe in a camper van or a boat. They stay at hostels or in locals’ homes. They may use a distance learning curriculum or choose to unschool their kids (living as if school doesn’t even exist). Indeed, world-schooling seems like a rather appealing lifestyle choice for many of us living in one location most of the year.

Ever since watching documentary Waiting for Superman, I have seriously admired families like these world-schooling ones, questioning the status quo. I love how they challenge the traditional, often painfully outdated model of classroom education. Most of all, I admire these courageous families for how they don’t rely on paid teachers to become active life learners.

Come on, who wouldn’t want to hang out with this family for the weekend?

We’re not planning on roaming around in a decked out world-school car any time soon (we can barely handle a trip to the grocery store without some level of insanity). In fact, we just started our second year in French public schools. If you have read my thoughts on our experience of the French education system, you know it is far from perfect. Also, ours is about as local and removed from “the world” as you can get.


That said, we believe our village school is absolutely where our children are meant to be this year. Our school is the epicenter of village life: it gives us all relational roots and a number of linguistic and cultural opportunities. This year, our children have far fewer kids in their class and have teachers that we love. They’ll learn to write and swim, learn poetry and negotiate and do life in their microcosm of the French society. Our school is a place that is trying so darn hard to keep up with more creative methods of early childhood learning and changing parenting demands.

It’s beautiful.

That said, our school is not that which will prepare them for jobs that haven’t been created yet. It’s not where they will learn character formation or blossom spiritually. It’s not the place they will develop a global perspective, thirsting after the world. Our school is not where they will become out of the box thinkers. Or where they will learn to be world-changers in a changing world.

That’s fine! In my mind, we are still their primary educators. And knowledge can’t be held in a set of dated books on a shelf. We believe that it’s our role as parents to help our kids become passionate life learners so that they will be inspired to take action.

And so, in more ways than one, I’ve recently come to realize that our cross-cultural family shares a common vision with many of the world-schooling ones. Both in how we view travel as gain, and education as a joy that deserves being taken out of the classroom.

Summer trip to Roggenburg, Germany (before hitting Legoland of course)!

We certainly place importance on traveling with our kids during the holidays if we can. If we can wing it, it might be internationally. This year, we will all have had the immense privilege of traveling to places like Oman, Germany, USA..  It’s not just a race to check off all the countries on a list however. We also want to discover local hidden gems in our stunning country of residence. (This summer we stumbled upon the city of Nice and fell head over heals in love with the place!)

Sampling traditional niçois cuisine last month!
Sampling traditional niçois cuisine last month

World-schooling is not just about traveling. For me, world-schooling is a lifestyle. It is a mindset of the passionate and wonder-filled.

Year round, we’re not making papier mâché globes or researching how an avocado seed grows because school told us to do so. Rather because we’re following the natural path led by our wonder. We’re interacting with friends worldwide and figuring out what time of the day it is there. Kids ask who we know near the Caribbean as Hurricane Irma strikes. They are invited 🙂 to watch Chinese shows when they beg for a little screen time. And as they grow, we’re eager to share more of our love of food, travel, culture, language. Tall Mountain reminds me that in many ways, it is also a part of how the Third Culture Kid can create a global world all around. Indeed, this type of so-called “unconventional traditionalist” world-schooling is a natural extension of how a Third Culture Kid might choose to parent. Personally, learning new things with my kids is one of my favorite parts of motherhood. Sometimes, we parents lead with what we are learning (an incentive to never stop learning). Other times, it is our littles leading us. That right there, is where the magic happens.

This week, I’ve gained a whole new understanding for cyclones. Why not! That’s just what our 5 year old, wannabee EMT / paramedic latched on to this week. Today, we followed Hurricane Irma’s trajectory. We talked about how a French rescue squad arrived in Guadeloupe, 150kms away, because they couldn’t land in St Martin or St Barthelemy. And how some inhabitants of those islands don’t know the next hurricane (Jose) is headed their way. How terrible! And how even playground slides are ripped right out of the ground. All the while, we’re diving deeper and deeper as long as interest is still there.


These past weeks, we’ve been riding the airport / aircraft obsession, building a full-on Lego airport. It’s been so fun to watch the wheels turn. Do all airplanes have back wings (rudders)? What does a security check really do? How does the metal show up on the screen? Then, we open up a fascinating book on airports and follow where mamie’s suitcase just went through at the airport. And where that one with the skis could be going to. And we follow the magical yellow brick road of questions and natural learning.

Not everything has to be a learning opportunity. We are all for unstructured play (all parents say, amen!). But sometimes we do have enough energy left to answer all the “why” and “how comes”.  And we can facilitate a much more empirical and long-lasting road of learning.

What greater thrill than to be part of developing our kids’ creative and critical thinking?


This type of world-schooing doesn’t have to cost you loads of money, but it does take intention and passion for learning… with a side of wanderlust. 😉






If you enjoyed this article, you might also like:

Growing a world-shaped heart
A simple tool to help young kids remember their travels
Holidays are for world-schooling

Adventures in China with small kids


2 thoughts on “World-schooling… without the camper van!

  1. I really enjoy reading your blogs! Both my husband and I have grown up outside our own countries among people of different cultures. When our kids were younger and we were in our own country (for a while) we took the approach of every situation being a learning experience and learning also happens outside the school (we delayed putting them in school by our country’s standards of starting at 2.5!). I think that parents have to be engaged at some level with kids to broaden their thinking, cuz let’s face it, traditional schools offer only one type of education which really wouldn’t present an array of world views. In today’s world, exposure to global information is vital. As is building open-mindedness and tolerance of others.

    1. Hi Qudsia!
      You’re right, the prerequisite is that parents are active and present and intentional. Without burning out, because that is possibly the other extreme. Global information has never been easier to access, but we have never been busier (to find time to give to our kids).
      It’s so encouraging to hear that the idea of taking learning out of school resonates with you as well.
      Take care and thank you for stopping by to share your thoughts!

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