Our children have never been to school. When we started our family we knew that homeschooling would be a part of our lives because it has always been our goal to travel. That was always a given with us but what we did not realize was that we would keep them out of school entirely. We did not know that travel would become intertwined with our educational philosophy and we certainly did not realize that there was a way to educate our children that did not mimic the type of institutionalized schooling my husband and I received.
Three years ago we were faced with the decision of whether to enroll our oldest child in Kindergarten only to pull him out when we were ready to travel or to just start homeschooling from the beginning. That was when we began to take a serious look at our options for education. I read everything I could get my hands on from the library, I contacted homeschooling groups in the area and met with homeschooling moms, and I scoured the Internet. The more I learned the more I felt that homeschooling from the start was the right decision for our family.
It wasn’t an easy decision for us to homeschool however. We agonized over it for months. We were still in the mind set of believing that without school our children might not be properly educated, that school was where children learned to socialize, and that we, as parents, were not equipped with the knowledge, training, or patience to facilitate learning. Now I know that all of my concerns were just my fears of not meeting societies expectations. I know that children hunger for knowledge, I would argue that children raised outside the school can be equally if not more socialized than those in the public system, and I hold a space for myself to know that I am perfectly capable of providing an environment for my children that is rich in learning, creating, and fostering curiosity.
Now entrenched in our third year of homeschooling, our own ever evolving philosophy on education has helped to shape the way we approach learning. If we must subscribe to a label we best fit with a type of homeschooling referred to as Unschooling. I’m not a big fan of the word as when people hear it they tend to think we are not learning anything or that we are unparenting. This is certainly not the case. We do not follow a set curriculum. Learning happens in a natural way and fits into our days without setting aside a certain time, completing a certain subject, or having any sort of external expectations.
When my children express an interest in something I help to facilitate a deeper understanding for them, be it by searching out new books to read, videos to watch, mentors to teach, supplies to create, or anything else I can think of. When something happens in our lives or we witness something new I try to follow up with that to deepen the learning.
The other night here in Thailand we had a big thunderstorm. The kids went out into the rain hooting and hollering and getting soaking wet. When they came back inside and dried off we watched a video on BrainPopJr.com on how rain clouds are formed. I feel as a homeschooling mother it is my job to look for opportunities to facilitate learning. I don’t take on the role of teacher but I do provide an environment of learning. If my child asks me a question we search out the answers together.
For us, unschooling does not mean that we don’t ever do workbooks, that we don’t ever practice our math skills, that we don’t seek out mentors and put our children in formal classes. We do all of those things. What it does mean is that I don’t expect them to learn anything at a predetermined time. I don’t believe that when it comes to learning there is some magical age appropriate topic that you must study when you reach a certain age or that learning can only be obtained through workbooks, textbooks, and tests.
To me, unschooling means that you educate outside of the box, that you use the resources, the community, and the real life opportunities that surround you to raise curious, knowledge-seeking children.
The world is our teacher. The term worldschooling appeals to me much more than the word unschooling. It closely describes our educational philosophy which is to use travel as a way to educate. We are providing our children with real world opportunities to learn by slowly traveling and immersing ourselves in a new country or area for six months of the year. I believe that travel is the best teacher there is, for children and adults alike.
For us the lust to travel came before the inspiration to home educate, but those two desires are now fully intertwined. We want to raise our children as global citizens. Through travel they can experience different cultures first hand. Geography, history, religion, artistry, music, languages, and yes, even math come alive and have meaning when you are experiencing them instead of reading about them.
So, at least for now, that is how we educate. We worldschool!
Disclaimer: I want to make it clear that we are not anti-school or saying that the way we choose to educate is the best way. There are many great schools out there and I do think for some families’ school is the right choice. It is just not the right choice for us at this point in our lives.