When we chat to people about the benefits of long-term family travel, one of the most common questions we’re asked is how we manage our own working schedule and how we look after the boys’ education. Whilst us parents are fortunate to have careers we can fit around travel, the boys’ schooling needs slightly more planning. You may have heard of worldschooling and we’re often asked ‘What is worldschooling?’, ‘Is it something you’d recommend’?, and ‘Are there any disadvantages to worldschooling?’.
It’s an important subject because our boys’ education is incredibly important, and we’d never want our travels to get in the way of that. It’s something we’ve thought about a lot and we’ve boiled it down to eight benefits of worldschooling as well as the disadvantages.
You may also want to read our tips for worldschooling.
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Benefits of worldschooling
1. Go beyond a curriculum
Understandably, the education system in the UK follows a specific curriculum to ensure as many children as possible reach the age of sixteen with an acceptable knowledge and understanding of key subjects. There’s little room for teachers to work outside these boundaries so there can be a tendency for kids to learn the exact same information about kings and queens and WWI poets that their parents did.
Worldschooling gives greater flexibility to experiment with what the kids are learning and exposed to. Whilst it’s still important they learn and follow your home country’s curriculum (especially if you intend them to return back into full-time education at some stage), worldschooling allows you to introduce a new language for them to learn, or to study the impact of the Second World War in Southeast Asia, rather than just focusing on Europe.
Your kids might prefer to focus on sport or performing arts whilst you’re travelling. Again, worldschooling gives you some flexibility in what they’re learning, rather than handing over all the responsibility to a teacher in the UK who’s constrained by a narrow curriculum.
2. First hand experiences
We can probably all remember our time at school and how much more interesting the practical lessons were, watching a science experiment go wrong was more exciting than reading about it in a textbook.
Worldschooling can provide more practical and interactive first-hand experiences which will be more memorable to kids than textbooks and worksheets.
Perhaps you’ll have a Geography lesson one day about volcanoes because you just happen to be in Iceland, and there are practical examples simmering outside the window. Or for today’s History lesson, you might be decide to focus on the Vietnam War because you’re heading to Hanoi next week and they’ll be able to visit the tunnels and understand the war from the Vietcong perspective.
3. Expanded social skills
Travelling overseas provides the opportunity to meet people from other parts of the world, something which can be lacking in everyday life back home.
If there’s a language or cultural barrier, kids are forced to interact with people in a different way. Learning how to communicate with someone who speaks a different language takes skill and patience, and is a great way to improve your kid’s social skills.
4. Flexible learning
9:00am to 3:30pm, five days a week doesn’t suit every child and how they prefer to learn. There might be some days when they don’t feel like going in to school, and others where they can’t wait to arrive and need to be coaxed back into the car at home-time.
Six weeks of holiday in the summer can feel like a drag when you’ve run out of activities, and the long Christmas holidays seem to last forever when the novelty of new presents has run out and it gets dark at 3pm.
Worldschooling lets you set your own schedule and learning cadence. This doesn’t mean all discipline and time-keeping goes out of the window, instead it’s more about listening to your child and understanding when they’re on good form and when they’re a bit low. If you decide an early finish is best for today, that’s fine. Similarly, if a lesson is going well, feel free to keep ploughing on through dinnertime.
Everyone learns at a different pace, and worldschooling lets you respond to that and build your own timetable.
5. Increase adaptability
As parents, it feels like a large part of our time is spent ensuring everything runs like clockwork. Our kids lives need so much planning and organising, that it’s understandably seen as a success when everything just works.
That’s easier to do at home but when you’re travelling, it’s that much harder to control everything that happens around you. For kids, this can be a great life-lesson, helping them learn to adapt as their environment and routine changes.
6. Time to feed their curiosity
It always amazes us how, when crossing a land border into a new country, everything can seem to have suddenly changed. From the language, the food, the people and the landscape, travel is a constant time of change.
When you’re worldschooling your kids, this changing backdrop is a huge source of inspiration, feeding their curiosity and creativity. Lessons suddenly seem more relevant and interesting when they’re learning about the new country they’re in, or that the maths lesson is now taking place on the beach, with pebbles being used as counters.
7. Personalised learning
The worldschooling curriculum is down to you so it can be tailored to your kids strengths or weaknesses, depending on your preference. You might decide learning new languages is of particular importance, or perhaps you feel more physical education is a key component of any school day.
You know your kids best, what makes them tick and where their weaknesses might be. Worldschooling lets you set the pace and content of learning, tweaking it as you see fit. There’s also more scope to ask your kids what they want to learn, and take on their feedback.
8. Cultural enrichment
Experiencing different cultures is a key benefit of travelling, allowing your kids to meet and interact with people and things they’d never normally see.
Spending a few weeks in one place let’s you delve deeper into that culture, whether that’s hearing the call to prayer several times a day, or wandering down a Penang street and passing a church, temple and mosque within a few metres of each other.
Disadvantages of worldschooling
1. Time away from extended family
This might be the biggest disadvantage of them all, time away from family and missing out on birthdays and festive occasions. It’s tough for the whole family but especially for the kids as they can go months without a hug from grandparents or a playdate with their favourite cousins.
Skype and Zoom fill some of the gaps, but not all of them.
2. Missing deep friendship connections
When you’re travelling, you tend to meet great people and form friendships quickly, but it’s accepted it’s only temporary. Everyone is on the move, sometimes at a moment’s notice. The friendly play-pal from the playground is suddenly nowhere to be seen and you find out later they’ve already moved onto the next place.
At home, kids make friends and in most cases, they’re around all of the time. Kids can form tighter bonds and friendships when they’ve known someone for years and years, and you won’t get this from worldschooling friendships.
3. Lack of routine
This can have a bigger impact depending on your child but for some, the routine of 9:00am to 3:45pm five days a week is a good thing. They get used to school and clubs on set days each week and respond well to it.
You can’t have those routines when you’re worldschooling, at least not over a long period. By definition, you’re moving from place to place and a routine is never able to settle into place.
4. Lack of childcare
To a large extent, you’re on your own when it comes to childcare. Sure, you might meet another family from time to time and swap babysitting duties, but it’ll be a one-off rather than something you can rely on.
Many parents have grown used to (usually) grandparents helping out with school pick-ups, sleepovers, and weekend visits. These give parents the chance to recharge, have a date-night or finish off some work and you may discover you miss these breaks when you’re travelling and worldschooling.
5. Lack of traditional resources
Many schools have a great array of musical and sporting equipment for kids to use. It goes without saying that most families don’t carry a piano around with them when travelling but even smaller musical instruments and sporting equipment are out of the question.
You might be able to borrow or share these things when you’re travelling but it’ll be a one-off rather than the norm.
Similarly, you won’t have access to a library full of books and learning resources. Kids won’t have a gaming console with them, or a PC with keyboard and large monitor to do homework. You can work around most of these but it can feel like a compromise at times.
6. Lack of academic support
You’ll likely be your kid’s main teacher and be expected to know enough about the subjects you’re teaching. As kids get older, this can stretch even the most knowledgeable and resourceful parent.
You might be using excellent online resources like online teachers and e-learning, but the lack of other academic support can be difficult, not to mention the challenge of combining the role of loving parent and teacher, which is never easy for you or your children.
7. Missing exams
Exams are a necessary part of a kid’s education, forming a benchmark around which so many of their future options will be based upon. Whether we agree with that approach or not, it can be challenging when/if they return to mainstream schooling if they’ve missed out on these exams.
Traditional schools aren’t (understandably) always able to pivot when a child re-joins school if they’ve not done the exams as they won’t know where to place them or what their capabilities are.
8. Missing out on extra-curricular and group activities
Whilst there are increasing numbers of worldschooling hubs, and you’ll always meet other families when travelling, for the most part you’ll be in your own family bubble.
So unless you have a huge family, it’s difficult for the kids to take part in group activities like an 8-a-side football match or choir. Extra-curricular activities like cubs and brownies, sports teams and computing club will be lacking from your routine, meaning they miss out not just on the activity, but also the teamwork and camaraderie which comes from it.
Final thoughts on the advantages and disadvantages of worldschooling
As with all aspects of parenting, what works for one family may not work for another. There are some thriving worldschooling families who travel fulltime and there are those families who love the stability and familiarity of home and fitting holidays around school terms works well for them.
Then there are those families, like us, that do a balance of regular school and long-term travel. We manage this by deregistering our kids from school and then re-registering them.
For us, there will always be a place for regular school in our family life; us parents appreciate the childcare to work uninterrupted and the boys love their clubs and friends.
But if you are considering worldschooling for your family, we have hopefully outlined both the pros and cons here, so that you can make an informed decision.