A Parent’s Guide to Unschooling on the Road

A Parent’s Guide to Unschooling on the Road
April 28, 2011 Lainie Liberti

Long Term FamilyTravel

Long term travel = 1 year +

Miro birdwatching in Panama

Trends indicate more families are choosing to experience long-term travel than ever before. As conditions in the economy change, many families find long-term travel more affordable than the traditional family vacation which is usually expensive relative to the duration of time. Additionally, this may be the first time in a long time the adults find they have time off together. Surprisingly many families discover that traveling for a longer durations actually costs less than their current monthly combined expenses living a stationary life. On the road, most families can reduce their monthly cost of living by half and even more! With this information, what family cannot afford to experience long-term travel?

There are endless options for planning your long-term family travel, from driving across the United States in a motor home, to backpacking & camping through South America, from circumventing the globe with a RTW (round the world) airline ticket, to slow traveling through South East Asia. The options are as infinite as the imagination can dream and any itinerary can be designed for any budget or lifestyle preference. One thing is for certain though, the more exposure you children have to world cultures, the greater they will thrive in their lives.

There are many terms used to describe the long-term traveler: digital nomad, location independent, lifestyle design, round-the-world explorers, vagabonds, perpetual travelers, mini-retirement, sabbatical travelers, permanent vacation, gap year, etc. Independent of the term used, the idea is the same, families traveling long-term are planning on traveling long-term with children, you will need to decide how you will approach your child’s education before you leave.

Hands-On Learning –Unschooling -Travel the World

“I never let schooling get in the way of my education” Mark Twain

The most organic choice for the family long term traveler is child-led education, also known as “unschooling”.

Just what is Unschooling?

The philosophy behind unschooling is that children learn what they need to know when they are ready and want to learn it. This flows through every other aspect of life and experienced as a family. At the core of unschooling, it is believed that empowered children learn based on their interests and have an inherent thirst to learn more.

This is a paradigm change in thinking about education.
You mean we’re to trust our child?
Yes! Of course, that’s what it means.

Trust in your child will initiate what he or she is ready to learn and empower them to pursue more. In other words, unschooling does not begin with a parent’s notion of what is important to learn and then turn the choices of how to learn the content over to a child. Rather, it begins with the child’s natural curiosity and expands from there.

There is no one way to unschool.
Unschooling is primarily about process not content. The process of learning, the process of knowing yourself, openness, confidence, self-determination, independent thinking, critical thinking….none of which one gets when following other people’s agenda. Making one’s own agenda is what it is all about. This is done not in isolation but in the context of ones family and community.
~Joel Hawthorne

In general, unschooling is not “instruction free” learning. If a child wants to learn to read, an unschooling parent may offer instruction by providing help with decoding, reading to the child, and giving the child ample opportunity to encounter words. Likewise, if the child is uninterested in these supports, the parent needs to back off until the child asks for help.

The most important thing about the unschooling process is that the child is in charge of the learning, not the adult. Unschoolers do no traditional school work, yet they do learn traditional subject matter. They learn it as a natural extension of exploring their own personal interests and by virtue of being in the world.

Long-Term World Travel & Unschooling = Worldschooling


“I recognize June by the flowers, now. I used to know it by review tests, and restlessness.”
~Lisa Asher, unschooled teen

Unschooling and long-term travel seem to compliment each other perfectly.
Worldschooling — This is a new term coined by Eli Gerzon that is essentially a more descriptive and positive version of unschooling that can apply to anyone even those beyond school age. Gerzon defines it by saying, “It’s when the whole world is your school, instead school being your whole world.” Eli Gerzon has “unschooled through college” mainly by learning from his international travels but the term does not require you to travel the world, just as unschooling doesn’t forbid making use of school resources. Instead, it’s when one actively experiences and learns from the world around one: the home, family, friends, strangers of all backgrounds, libraries, parks, sports, forests, schools, towns, and of course the world and the world wide web. It also emphasizes that there is always more to learn from this wonderful, complex world regardless of whether one has a high school degree, is a doctor, or is solely self-educated.

  • Travel somehow intensifies life.
  • Travel removes the usual daily grind that we’ve become accustomed to.
  • Travel replaces the hum-drum routine with the inspiration to ‘be present’ in both the experience and the environment.

There’s no denying that travel presents conditions ripe for learning.

Experiential Learning

The journey, itself, becomes the teacher.
Traveling presents the surrounding world as an organic learning environment. Within the context of travel, one cannot help but to absorb and learn, providing countless opportunities stationary families will not encounter. Children are exposed to infinite occasions to observe. The more adventurous will participate in new cultures, customs and traditions, expanding their scope of experiences. Often times, new locations inspire interest in site specific history, art, geography, politics, science, religion, geology and world economy. But that is not all. The curious mind will explore deeper based on whatever inspires your child. For example, a visit to Panama may inspire an interest in pirates. A visit to Greece may inspire a deeper interest in mythology. A visit to Costa Rica may inspire the pursuit of eco-conscious issues and conservation. And a visit to Spain can peak an interest in the Dark Ages.

Experiencing history in a place of historical significance somehow removes the abstractness or separateness from the learning and the learner. There is no arguing, experiential learning has a far greater impact on a child than if they were to memorize facts and dates in a classroom.

As a Parent, What Am I Responsible For?

“Children pursue life, and in doing so, pursue knowledge. They need adults to trust in the inevitability of this very natural process, and to offer what assistance they can.” ~ Earl Stevens

“My job is not to teach at all, but to find the opportunities for my kids to learn. NOT knowing something can be an advantage, as it reminds me of the wealth of resources out there in the community and world, if only we are willing to go look for them.” ~ David Albert

Lainie & Miro at an art museum in Colombia

As a parent your role in the unschooling process is vital. As a parent, you are not responsible for providing structured curriculum based on what you think your child should be learning. On other hand, your role as a parent in the unschooling process is to provide support to help your child learn about whatever he or she is interested in. This involves listening to your child, recognizing the clues, and being sensitive enough not to push, rather allow things to unfold based on your child’s timing, not your own.

If you child shows interest in a topic, then by all means encourage your child to discover more on that topic. If you child asks for assistance, then of course, provide whatever support you can. Sometimes the most supportive role a parent can play, is the role of the co-observer. Reflecting back to your child what they are experiencing is a wonderful way to create discussion and inspire greater insight. If the interest is piqued, pursue it together. If the child is no longer interested, let it go.

The World is Our Classroom, Travel is our Teacher

Miro observing hands-on, a starfish

Having global experiences is one of the best ways to educate and prepare a child for the 21st century. Our world is changing and exposure to global issues is the most valuable education you can provide.
Travel can’t help but to enrich and educate, and having the freedom to choose interests to pursue based on your child’s interests creates an empowered adult who thinks as a global citizen.

Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world,” and through long-term travel and unschooling you are offering your children the chance to be just that.


  1. Great read, thanks for sharing!

  2. Experiential learning is definitely the best way to go. I’ve learnt so much from volunteering and traveling…

    • Author
      ilainie 13 years ago

      I agree. Not only do experiences teach more than books, having fun really creates a lasting lesson. Thanks for your comment Roy!

  3. Sattvicfamily 13 years ago

    Perfect; I agree totally. Travel was my best education as a kid, and I am giving that gift to my daughter.

  4. Michael Taylor 13 years ago

    I couldn’t agree more! I’ve long believed that schooling was nothing more than Insitutionalized Child Abuse!!!

  5. BodesWell 13 years ago

    Nice write up. There is simply no better (or fun) way to educate children than travel.u00a0 Look us up when you get further south!nn

  6. Cindy 13 years ago

    Great insights! Even though my kids are not really unschooled our travels and their freedom to learn and pursue their interest even for their early age is a big advantage compared to other children. Hopefully soon more people can understand the benefits of this and other alternative education.

  7. Stephanie 13 years ago

    Hi Lainie and Miro,nnI’ve been following your blog for a while now, and I don’t take the time to leave a reply. You are an inspiration to me and I’ve wanting to take the leap of roadschoolingu00a0for some time. We have 3 boys who have been homeschooled waldorf style forever but we are itching for extended travel. I’ve started with a web site called http://www.mygreensneakers.com , i’ve placed a link to your site on the sidebar and we are hoping to hit the road long term soon!u00a0Thanks for your wonderful insight,u00a0keepu00a0offering your daily experiences, adventures and bumps in the road.u00a0i’ll check out the great family escape book when I get a chance.nHappy travelsnCiao!nStephanieu00a0

    • Author
      ilainie 13 years ago

      Thank you so much for the lovely note! I am so happy to connect with other roadschooling parents. Our community is getting bigger and it’s great to be a part of this wonderful progressive and supportive group. I am so excited to hear about your desire for extended travel. Thank you so much for the link. If there’s anyway Miro and I can support you, please let us know. Sending you much love and light from the road.

  8. interior painting 13 years ago

    nnThis is anreally good read for me, Must admit that you are one of the best bloggers Inever saw.Thanks for posting this informative article. nn interior paintingnnnn

  9. Clark Vandeventer 13 years ago

    This is great. Sharing with everyone who wants to know “my” thoughts on education.

  10. Jessica Bowers 12 years ago

    What a fantastic post!  I am so happy to stumble across this and can’t wait to share on my homeschool forum!  This is such a positive explanation of how unschooling can work so well.  Thank you!

    • Author
      ilainie 12 years ago

      Thank you so much Jessica! Keep us posted about your homeschooling / unschooling experiences. We’d love to hear from you!

  11. Redswamp 12 years ago

    Hi! I found you originally through Niki, my midwife.
    And thank you for paving the way for us parents and single parents.
    Jewel and i begin i 2 weeks then to Bali to visit green school bali. My idea is to 
    travel and also, find new vitalizing ways for parents to have abundance to travel and
    share i areas they love. Wendy Gardner, Redswamp@aol.com

  12. Aaron G Myers 12 years ago

    Thanks so much for this article. Often times we have thoughts; hunches perhaps, and we just need to hear that someone else has gone down that road before to give us permission to entertain ideas that may run contrarty to accepted practice.  Thanks for giving me permission to pursue a new thought in unschooling.  

  13. We are planning on making a 2 month trip from PA to CA and wondered if anyone had any pointers.  Kids are early teens and we will have a dog with us going to CA.  This is really exciting.  Any places that are a must-see.  Not interested in amusment parks etc.  Thanks for any help

  14. Eden 10 years ago

    I absolutely wish I had these opportunities where. I were a kid. My patents were big on institutional learning, and I always felt the urge for more. When I travelled in my teens and early 20’s I felt unleashed and loved the experiences.

    I’m currently in the planning stages to travel with my 7yr old for a year and perhaps longer. I started him off early in travel and he loves it. And I see he’s a mini wanderluster. Always looking at the map and asking questions. It’s time I share the world with him.

    Thanks for posting this. And thanks to my friend Natasha Travel Troves for telling me about your site.

    You and your son are simply an inspiration.

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