Worldschooling, what the heck is that?
A guest post by Jessica Sueiro
That is exactly what I thought when I started exploring alternative education options for our daughter. It sounded cool, but what did it actually mean? Would we be jet setting to exotic islands, drinking martinis (us, not her) and calling it world schooling because we were traveling? Would she be memorizing all the countries on each continent and then regurgitating them back to us? Would she master Mandarin and then move on to Hebrew? Well, I was bound and determined to find out what this worldschooling thing meant. My child requested to be homeschooled / worldschooled and as her parent I felt that I owed it to her to broaden my horizons, fight my fears and step outside the box.
And I (we) did, oh boy did we ever.
What we discovered in the process was an education philosophy that perfectly aligned with what we had always searched for in a school: a global approach to education. We also discovered that we were already worldschooling when we vacationed, but slow travel would bring us to a whole new level of worldschooling. We fell madly in love and we have not looked back since.
What I appreciate most about worldschooling is that there is no right or wrong way to do it. I have met families in the US who have never travel, but make it a priority to educate their children about the world through a very specific curriculum selection. I have met families who take advantage of every cultural event they can get their hands on within their community, again without traveling. I have met families who change countries every several years and enroll their children in local schools across the globe. I have met families who are unschooling-worldschoolers who travel the world letting their children naturally absorb the culture for which they are currently living in. And I have met families who have their children in very traditional, same gender, parochial schools, but travel every summer in order to show their kids that the world stretches beyond their school. As you can see this world schooling education path has many options, but the one constant I always see is the importance placed on learning about the world and its people. Magic!
Before we get too deep into this I want to give you a little background about our family.
We are the Sueiro family from all over the US (we have moved a lot), but most recently from Cambridge, Massachusetts. We set out on a one-year adventure to Costa Rica in order to immerse our children in a rich culture and to spend copious amounts of time together. Well, long story short, we loved it. We had always fantasized about switching countries every year or two with our children, but we never thought it was theoretically possible. Guess what? It is, we did it. It took a lot of blood, sweat and tears (lots of tears), but the outcome has been a life we thought was only obtainable in our dreams or for the uber wealthy, which we are not. Today we currently call Quito, Ecuador home. We have chosen to worldschool our daughter, as her request and traditional school our son. Our choice to keep our son in a traditional setting was to give him more time to develop his second language (French). When he is 10 he will have the option to be worldschooled as well. Although we still believe he is worldschooled, just in a different capacity.
When we first started on this path to alternative education I thought we would be straight up homeschoolers, whatever that meant. Well I learned quickly that we had many options on this alternative education path and we did not need to limit ourselves. We are what you would call eclectic worldschoolers.
We have customized a program for our daughter that covers all the areas we (and she) feel are important on this worldschooling journey. She has a combination of the following: classes taught by my husband, classes taught by me, classes online (with kids from all over the globe), French and Spanish classes in Quito, weekly meet ups with her world schooling group (mostly Ecuadorian families), tennis and ice skating with kids in the community, theatre at the French Alliance and much more. In addition we adventure within Ecuador every Saturday, plus take many weekend and weeklong trips. These adventures offer us a deeper look into the culture, language and people of Ecuador. So as you can see we have a very eclectic approach to alternative education, but one that lets both of our children learn globally as we travel. On any given day they may be interacting online with kids from all over the world, meeting in person with local Ecuadorian children or performing with their French theatre group, all while being immersed in the Ecuadorian culture.
Although our son attends a brick and mortar school we believe he is also being world schooled, but in a different way. He is exposed to the customs and traditions of the Ecuadorian families in a French language setting while at school. He spends his day flipping between Spanish and French while interacting with local kids. And when his school day is done he joins his sister for activities within the community that include skating, guitar and theatre. In addition, he accompanies us on all of our adventures in Quito and beyond. It can be challenging living in two vastly different learning environments, but what I particularly love is that both of them share what they have learned in their journeys.
Just the other day Largo was explaining the liberation of the different cities in Ecuador to Avalon and she was explaining Forensic Science to him. Like I said before, there are many different ways to worldschool, you just need to find the path that fits your style.
Another part of our worldschooling philosophy is to “say yes” as much as financially and physically possible. By “saying yes” we have been able to grow our knowledge and understanding of the world through a variety of cultural experiences. We value these experiences just as much (if not more) as the online class work that Avalon is involved in. We truly believe that children learn when they are engaged in a situation more than if they are reading a dry textbook.
Below are some examples of the kids “say yes” experiences:
• They have ventured onto the beaches of Tortugero National Park (in Costa Rica) under the cover of darkness (with a guide of course) to watch the Green turtle lay her eggs.
• They have stood in the southern and northern hemisphere at the same time while getting a hands on science class about the forces at the equator.
• They have night hiked through the rainforests of Costa Rica, which has brought them face to foot with tarantulas, scorpions, poisonous snakes, monkeys and all kinds of birds.
• They have gone on a poisonous snake hunt in rural India.
• They have learned about the love story surrounding the Taj Mahal while sitting at the base of this magnificent structure.
• They have ziplined through the cloud forests of Monteverde while learning about the local vegetation, biodiversity and preservation.
• They have visited more animal rescue centers than I can count.
• They have learned about the medical uses of plants in Costa Rica from a local farmer. Plus, shared a home cooked meal with him and his family.
• They have hiked until they wanted to collapse and then looked deep into the crater of an active volcano in Nicaragua.
• They have volunteered with children and animals in various countries for unlimited amounts of time.
• They have had to come out of their comfort zone regarding accommodations, transportation and food on so many occasions.
• Not knowing a word of Spanish, Avalon joined a local dance group in Costa Rica performing traditional dances. This provided us with a network of local families who embraced Avalon and our family as we started our journey in Costa Rica.
So, as you can see they have had some amazing global experiences through our worldschooling path. And I have barely touched on the people we have met along the way. Oh, the people. We have been extended kindness from families who clearly have much less than us. This is the true beauty of our worldschooling journey…the kindness of strangers and what they bring to the table is just enlightening. Again, magic!
We started eclectic world schooling Avalon a year ago. Have we found our groove? Yes and no, like with anything in life. We have had to make some modifications along the way in order to align with her personality and learning style.
In the beginning we were way too rigid in our approach. I had said that we did not want to recreate a school setting, but in essence our structure was too confining for this creative, kinesthetic learner. Once we loosened the reigns a bit and she focused a little more the planets aligned, but it is never a perfect science and neither is traditional school. I have a child in each world; therefore I can honestly say each have their own set of benefits and challenges. As for this year, we have had to make some adjustments as well. Now that she is in middle school the academic side of her education has become a little more rigorous. As a result, we have had to modify other parts so that she is not overscheduled, still has time for activities, social and free time to read, rest and create. Our worldschooling is forever changing as we change, move and grow. I would go as far to say that it is somewhat of a grooveless existence for us. We are always teetering on the line of finding our groove and comfort level and changing with it to adapt to the customs of our new country. Some parts stay consistent, but the truly immersive situations within the community are always in motion and change. I don’t necessary think this is bad because it teaches the children to be able to adapt to different surroundings and to think outside the box. So, we find our groove some days, weeks, months and years and other times we don’t, but we are ok with that because we see our children learning, happy and becoming more independent because of our travel situation.
Did we make the right decision? Absolutely. We definitely own it now. The proof is truly in the children. Do we get criticism? Absolutely, but not as often as you would think. Do we care? Absolutely not. Is that too blunt? We spend an enormous amount of time with our children. We learn as a family. We travel as a family. We give back as a family. We are a team. Team Sueiro. We are on the path that is right for our family in this season of our life. Will next year change? Maybe. Maybe not. Our children will always be given the option to attend a brick and mortar school and if they want to try out middle school or high school then we will let them. Although we are not unschoolers we do believe in letting the child guide their education to a degree in order to follow specific passions that ignite the fire within them. This is where we are supposed to be right now.
What are we hoping to gain from world schooling? We want our children to develop a level of compassion and understanding for other cultures that extends beyond the boundaries of their birth country. We want them to be able to understand why other cultures have different approaches to life rather than saying it is wrong or not normal. We want them to fight fears, dream big and know that their options are limitless in this world. We want them to see the world as much smaller and less scary than it is portrayed in the media. We want them to realize that at the end of the day we are all just people, maybe we have a different accent, religious belief or political philosophy, but the world and its people are generally kind and have something to offer if they are willing to listen.
If you are thinking of venturing into the life of worldschooling congrats! You will love it. Are you wondering where to start? Does it feel overwhelming right now? I get it, we were there. Let me share a couple of secrets. Well, they are not really secrets; it’s much simpler than you may think. First, network and by network I mean find your TRIBE! Reach out to those doing it already, ask questions and follow blogs. I promise you this community is a group of individuals that LOVE to share. Ask and you shall receive. Second, read as much as you can about alternative education. Again, read as much as you can about alternative education. Once you start researching you will begin to understand where you fit and your education philosophy will begin to emerge with very little effort. Finally, don’t give up. You will most likely hit a wall where it all seems overwhelming. Get over that hump and it will be smooth sailing. Reach out to your tribe when you need support. We have all been there and some days we are still there. And you can always find me at www.goodiegoodiegumdrop.com. I am a pay it forward type of gal. I was helped by many and I now help others venturing out. Contact me!
Go out and travel. Dream big and live the life that works for your family. If worldschooling is part of the plan then rock it!
I hope this has been helpful to many of you considering a worldschooling path.
Jessica writes about her family’s worldschooling adventures at the lifestyle blog, Goodie Goodie Gumdrops. You can watch a one-on-one interview between Lainie and Jessica here, and be sure to watch Lainie & Miro’s Worldschooling Presentation at the Un in the Sun Conference where the Sueiro family is featured.
GGG – Slow traveling Family. Worldschoolers. Digital Nomads. Dream chasers. Minimalists. Lovers. Laughers. Culture seekers. Life learners. Now is now! GGG is a lifestyle blog that focuses on travel as it relates to our family.