Worldschooling is a rather unique homeschool approach that combines travel with learning.
In recent years it has become something of a popular option for families looking for an alternative approach to traditional homeschooling, allowing them to explore different languages, environments and cultures while still providing a solid education for the children.
There are, however, many factors to consider when it comes to setting up a worldschool, with costs and curricula being just two of many critical factors that must be kept in mind.
To help out, we designed this article to provide a comprehensive overview of worldschooling, including its benefits and challenges, as well as a number of practical topics and issues that we feel parents will want to know about.
What Is Worldschooling?
Worldschooling is an approach to homeschooling that generally involves having students directly learn the world around them through real-world experiences, cultural immersion, and travel, rather than relying solely on textbooks and traditional classroom learning.
Worldschooling families typically do so by traveling to different countries, immersing themselves in different cultures, and learning about history, geography, and other subjects in a more experiential, hands-on way.
The idea behind worldschooling is to really provide a more holistic, real-world education that not only teaches students the facts they need to know but also exposes them to a variety of different perspectives, experiences and ways of life.
As with other approaches to homeschooling, wordschools can be set up and run in many different ways depending on a family’s goals, preferences, needs and abilities.
Some worldschools may travel on a more full-time basis, learning on a variety of educational resources, such as digital courses, online or local tutors and various homeschool curricula, to supplement their core courses (say, in math or science) as needed.
Others, however, may lean on a more traditional homeschool set up and integrate an assortment of relatively short trips as a worldschooling supplement.
History of Worldschooling
The idea of broadening a student’s understanding of the world through extended and guided tours of different countries has been around for a while.
From about the 17th century to well into the 20th, students in the upper classes and aristocracy across the West would generally cap their education with a Grand Tour.
This Grand Tour could last several months to several years and would see the student travel across Europe with a tutor being exposed to Western history, art, music, architecture and design, classical languages, contemporary thought and philosophy and more.
It is only more recently, however, that this concept became more widespread, largely due to advances in technology, greater access to education and shifts in attitudes towards cross-cultural exposure.
The term “worldschooling” itself is thought to have been coined in the late 1990s and early 2000s as the digital revolution took hold.
With an increasing number of online resources, digital learning tools and easy online booking systems available at the click of a button, the idea of integrating travel and cultural immersion into a student’s lessons became more appealing and more realistic to families.
Today, worldschooling is practiced by families all over the world, and while perhaps not quite as popular or well-known as some other approaches, it has become a popular alternative to traditional schooling for those who want to provide their children with a unique and immersive education that goes beyond the boundaries of the classroom.
What Are Some Of The Advantages Of Worldschooling?
Beyond the fun and adventure of traveling to and exploring new places as a family, worldschooling can offer homeschools a variety of benefits.
With worldschoolng, students have an opportunity to learn through real-word experience, such as visiting important landmarks, engaging with local people and hearing foreign languages spoken in day-to-day life, rather than through textbooks or traditional lecture-based methods.
In this way, learning becomes a far more active and personal endeavor, one in which students are far more engaged and in which the material becomes far more meaningful, which in turn can help better promote deeper learning and long term retention.
One of the biggest draws to worldschooling is its opportunity for students to visit and immerse themselves in different cultures, which in turn can help them gain a deeper understanding of the world around them.
Personally visiting different cultures can itself offer a number of benefits to students that simply reading texts or watching videos simply cannot provide.
When students visit a new culture, for example, they have the opportunity to see and engage with its people and places personally, giving them a better understanding of how people from different backgrounds and societies live, speak, work and think, as well as develop a stronger appreciation of their values, beliefs and customs.
More than just helping them hone their general knowledge, this can help students develop greater empathy for people, help them understand different perspectives and generally learn to see the world from a different point of view.
Worldschooling is one of the more flexible and open methods of homeschooling out there, with little in the way of hard and fast rules for teaching.
Parents can, for example, choose where they want to visit, as well as where they would like to go when they get there, which in turn gives them the ability to tailor learning more finely around student needs and interests.
Parents are also free to make use of the many resources and learning opportunities that each location can provide, be that museums, historical locations and archeological digs, science centers, local experts and guides, various points of interest, tutors, worldschooling organizations, local homeschooling groups and more.
Finally, as much of the learning comes from where a family chooses to visit and the places and people there, parents are free to integrate just about any learning resources, curricula or even methods so long as they fit a student’s learning style, pace and interests.
Worldschooling can also provide a good reason for parents to travel and explore new places with their children, allowing them to experience new places and cultures and to see sights that they may have always wanted to visit.
As such, it is one of the few homeschooling approaches that can be arguably as fun and educational for parents as it is for students.
Families who worldschool will spend extended periods of time with one another, something that can create a closeness that few other homeschooling frameworks can compete with.
Further, as they navigate the inevitable language barriers and culture challenges that can arise, families will have to learn to problem solve and use teamwork, which in turn can help strengthen family bonds and create priceless lifelong memories.
What Are Some Of Its Challenges?
While worldschooling can be quite attractive, there are also some challenges that families should consider before booking their first tickets.
Likely the most obvious challenge families face with this homeschooling approach is its cost.
Worldschooling involves travel, which nearly always means buying airplane tickets and arranging accommodation and food.
Families will also need to arrange passports for each member, as well as vaccinations, travel/medical insurance, mobile/internet access and visas (in some cases), all of whose costs can add up.
All of this is, of course, on top of the various educational resources and experiences that parents may require or have planned.
Lack of stability
As just about any parent knows, kids need stability.
While it can certainly be educational and enlightening, traveling for long periods can disrupt a child’s sense of stability, as they may not have a consistent routine or environment, which in turn can be hard for some kids..
This is something that parents of children who really thrive on structure and routine should be aware of.
In many cases when it comes to homeschooling, it can take a bit of effort to fill up a child’s need for socialization.
Traveling to different places with their families can make this process a bit harder, as it can be more difficult for children to form long-term friendships without regular and stable opportunities to interact with peers.
One challenge that’s often overlooked with worldschooling are the various legal requirements and considerations that go along with it.
In many countries, for example, homeschooling is not really a thing and can even be illegal or highly regulated, which can make it difficult or impossible for families to worldschool in that location.
Further, depending on the country families may need to get special visas or permits to stay for extended periods, which may require time-consuming interviews, background checks, forms and more, and there is no guarantee that relevant authorities will view worldschooling or even homeschooling in a favorable light (homeschooling is illegal in a number of countries and highly regulated in many more).
In a similar vein, there may be specific requirements around the type of accommodations or areas that foreign families are allowed to stay in, which can certainly limit a family’s choice and impact their budget.
Another legal issue that worldschooling families may face is making sure they meet the educational requirements of their state or home country, if any.
Homeschooling families often need to show evidence of their children’s educational progress or record to the government, and may even need to adhere to particular guidelines or testing requirements that can be harder to follow when traveling and worldschooling.
Increased parental responsibility
There’s no getting around it, homeschooling can be a lot of responsibility.
On top of making sure their kids get a good education, worldschooling parents also need to make sure that their children stay safe, healthy and well looked after in new and often quite different locations.
What Kinds Of Curricula Are Best For Worldschooling?
Unlike many other homeschooling approaches, such as Charlotte Mason or Classical education, there really isn’t much in the way of appropriate or inappropriate curricula or resources that can be used when worldschooling.
With a little hard work and ingenuity, just about any program can work when learning abroad – after all, core math, science, civics and American history lessons are typically not all that affected by a change of scenery.
With all that said, there are certain features to a homeschooling curriculum that we feel can integrate a little better with the underlying ideas and goals of worldschooling.
Generally speaking, Project-based curricula, for example, allow students to work on longer term projects that are often aimed at solving real-world problems and challenges.
Their hands-on, experiential learning and research-based learning can seem like a natural fit for worldschoolers, whose students are far more personally connected to real-world people and places and who can make use of a wide variety of local resources (museums, libraries, schools and more).
Programs and resources with an emphasis on strong cross-cultural awareness or globally-inspired learning, such as Honest History or the Who Was/Where Is series of short books, can also be a great addition to worldschooling, providing important context and history to the societies students encounter.
Finally, worldschooling can ideally work with more student-centered and open writing curricula (i.e. those with a stronger emphasis on student choice), such as Brave Writer or Writing A-Z, as the people, places and societies that students encounter can make for exciting and natural prompts for student work.
How Old Should Students Be Before Worldschooling?
There really is no one-size-fits-all answer to the question of how old children should be before starting worldschooling as every child is different.
There are, however, a few things we think that parents should consider before deciding if their children are ready to try worldschooling.
When considering any educational approach, it is always a good idea to consider a student’s readiness and ability to handle it.
Children, young ones in particular, can be negatively affected by long periods of travel and time away from their familiar routines and environments.
As a result, they tend to have a harder time adjusting to new places, cultures, and languages than older students or adults, which can have a negative impact on their ability to learn.
While there’s not set age to go by, some signs parents can look out for that indicate a child might be ready to travel abroad are:
- A curiosity or interest about the world, in particular different countries and cultures and their people
- A basic ability to manage their own belongings and navigate around without the need for constant parental supervision
- An ability to cope with uncertain schedules or sudden surprises
- An ability to sit still and occupy themselves through a flight, bus or car ride
- Demonstrated ability to understand where they might be going and the details of an itinerary
- An ability to sleep and live without a ton of unwieldy comfort items
Most students tend to have a particular learning preference or style.
Some students are very visual learners, easy grasping information from videos or demonstrations, while others prefer to listen to a lecture or have discussions about a topic.
Worldschooling tends to be very hands-on and experiential, with students directly interacting with and exploring the places and cultures they learn about.
While some students may thrive in such a learning environment, others may become overwhelmed by it or become distracted.
Parents will need to balance the excitement and educational richness of worldschooling with the inherent risks associated with traveling to new places.
Families of very young children may find that various health risks, local climate and even socio-political conditions may be too much for them.
Need for care
As a rule, younger children tend to need more care outside of their learning than older ones, which can add additional demands to a parent’s schedule.
On top of the usual stresses of teaching and traveling, parents, for example, may need to contend with their typically shorter attention spans, earlier bedtimes, greater likelihood of becoming overwhelmed by their environment, greater proclivity to boredom, greater need for parental comfort and so on.
Can Worldschooling Be Done Without Actually Travelling?
Although traveling is often a hallmark of worldschooling, interestingly enough, it can be done without traveling…something that might be good news for more budget-minded homeschoolers.
Worldschooling is ultimately about providing children with a globally-minded and cross-cultural personalized and experiential education, something that can be done in a variety of ways from the comfort of home.
In today’s world there are a wide number of online platforms and resources that let students learn and even experience different areas of the world without actually having to leave their home town.
While they perhaps aren’t a complete substitute for the real thing, when combined with an carefully-designed lesson plan online classes, virtual museums and art galleries, virtual reality technology, online tutors, language-learning technology, streaming video services and more can all give students an in-depth look at the different places, people and societies of the world.
With a little careful planning, parents can find lots of opportunities to expose students to different cultures and perspectives without leaving town (or, at the very least, without going very far).
For example, visiting local cultural events and festivals can help students get a better appreciation for certain cultures, while periodically visiting different ethnic restaurants can expose kids to the delicacies of various regions and peoples.
Pen pals and language exchanges
An old-school, but still relevant, way of helping students connect to other children from different parts of the world, pen pal and language exchange programs can be a great addition to any homeschool interested in worldschooling.
These activities can help kids understand the broader world by allowing students to freely interact with individuals from different cultures, making learning far more personal.
How Can Kids Sit For Exams Or Standardized Tests While Abroad?
There are a few options out there when it comes to having students take formal exams or standardized tests when abroad, so homeschools interested in taking formalized exams need not let this stop them from worldschooling.
International testing centers
Students interested in standardized tests, such as the SAT, CAT, ACT or even AP exams, can usually do so at select authorized testing facilities, which are usually located in international schools or specific testing centers.
Online and Distance Testing
Exams that aren’t usually covered internationally by in-person testing centers, such as CTP, IOWA, CogAT, MAP or the Stanford-10, can often be done online through specialized services and even from larger educational companies, such as BJU or Seton.
Tests that aren’t covered by online testing can often be mailed out as packets for students to complete and sent back, although parents may need to spring for priority shipping or, in some cases, have them forwarded to them by friends or family.
Portfolio or Evaluation Assessments
Some homeschools in the US choose to submit a portfolio or do evaluation assessments, which are normally done by teachers or homeschool evaluators. .
As with testing, there are services that can do this online (for a fee), which can free parents up a bit in terms of scheduling.
Note: With all that said, it is critical that parents research any and all homeschooling laws and testing requirements for their state or country for themselves and before even thinking about leaving home.
Many states have specific homeschooling assessment requirements and failing to meet them can have severe consequences for families.
Planning ahead and exploring testing options before leaving home allows potential worldschooling parents to make sure their children will meet any requirements and avoid any potential disasters down the road.
What Might A Worldschooling Unit Look Like?
For those new to the concept, it can be hard to picture what a worldschooling unit might actually look like.
Below we’ve included a hypothetical unit in history that a worldschooling family in England might use to get a better understanding and appreciation of English history and its influences.
Length of Unit: 6-8 weeks
- Learn about major events and figures in England’s history.
- Explore various aspects of English culture and society, past and present.
- Practice critical thinking, research, and communication skills
Week 1: Introduction to England’s History
- Discuss itinerary, go over objectives of unit
- Brief overview of England’s history, focus on key events and figures from ancient times to modern day that will be explored in trip
- Discussion of different possible perspectives of English history
Week 2: Understanding Roman England
- Travel to Bath, England
- Learn about Roman rule over England, its beginnings and withdrawal in 5th century
- Study of the Roman influence on English culture and society
- Explore aqueducts, Roman Baths Museum
- Student presentation on an aspect of Roman influence, e.g. architecture, art, or technology
Week 3: Understanding Medieval England
- Travel to London, England
- Discuss major events and figures of the medieval period, such as the Norman Conquest, Magna Carta, and the Black Death
- Visit the Tower of London, Temple Church and/or Victoria and Albert Museum
- Student presentation on an aspect of medieval England, e.g. medieval art, literature, or music
Week 4: Understanding Tudor England
- Travel to Stratford-upon-Avon, England
- Discuss major events and individuals of Tudor period, such as Henry VIII, Elizabeth I, the Anglo-Spanish War, the English Reformation
- Visit Royal Shakespeare Theatre, go to Tudor World Museum
- Student presentation on specific aspect of Tudor England, such as Tudor politics, Elizabeth I, art and entertainment
Week 5: Understanding Victorian England
- Travel to Manchester, England
- Discuss major events and figures of the Victorian period, such as the Industrial Revolution, Dickens, Queen Victoria, the expansion of the British Empire
- Visit Museum of Science and Industry, Victoria Mill
- Student presentation on aspect of Victorian England, such as social reform, industrialization or literature
Week 6: Understanding Modern England
- Return back to London
- Discuss modern Britain and its changes throughout the years
- Visit the Cenotaph, the British Museum, take a London tour
- Student presentation on modern England, such as post WW2, politics, contribution to arts or the modern British economy
Week 7-8: Final Project
- Students will choose a specific topic related to English history, culture, or society to research and write about
- Class discussion and reflection on the unit, including what they learned, how they feel about it, their thoughts and ideas for future learning
‘Possible Assessment Options:
- Research presentation
- Reflective journaling
- Written work
Worldschooling can be a unique, exciting and extremely rewarding way of homeschooling kids that can broaden their understanding of the world and contribute to their personal growth as a person.
While certainly not the easiest or cheapest method of teaching, the benefits of worldschooling, such as its flexibility, interactivity, highly personalized learning and cross-cultural immersion, can make it a highly attractive option that is certain to create unforgettable memories for all concerned.
About the Author
Anne Miller is the editor of The Smarter Learning Guide and is a passionate advocate for education and educational technology. A mom of two, she majored in English Language and Literature and worked as a substitute teacher and tutor for several years. When not writing she continues to root for the Yankees and the Giants.