Worldschooling: An Interview From a Kid’s Perspective (Part 2)

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This is Part 2 of our interview with Hannah Miller, blogger and founder of the site www.edventuregirl.com. Check out Part 1 here.

OK so here we are again. Let me be clear: Our intention is and always has been to document the freak-show that is a World-schooled kid but our guest Hannah has NOT made it easy, what with her “articulate” and “well thought out” responses. Bah. By now I was hoping to at least get a shot of someone biting the head off a chicken, but so far nothing. Let’s all hope out luck takes a turn for the better in Part 2.

So, Hannah *slides a caged chicken towards her suggestively,* tell me what life’s been like after high school. Was it hard to get back into the system for university (or college for our American readers out there)?

I didn’t have any difficulty enrolling at Queen’s University. I had several university credits under my belt already and we’d kept track of my grades. Mom and I collected all of my grades, extracurriculars, and personal projects, wrote them up as a list, and went in to speak to the admissions at Queen’s in person. I was accepted without issue. Universities today are looking for something that stands out or is unusual. Both universities and employers get excited about students that have international experience, as our societies are becoming increasingly globalized. I basically showed them my skill/experience/grade list in person and was admitted without a glitch.

But you crashed and burned, right? Please tell me you crashed and burned.

Nope! During my first year, I didn’t have a hard time with the schedule, the workload, or learning to live alone as an adult. I was used to managing my own time. I’d been traveling solo for a bit, so I knew how to cook and clean and take care of myself. Hilariously, I didn’t know some very basic things about house care that I’m sure you’d all school me on. Like that you actually have to buy toilet paper. It just shows up when you’re traveling. Haha. Learning to deal with a landlord was also an adventure, but I figured it out. School was easy, but staying in one place was new. I had cabin fever by month six.

OK, THAT I understand. I’m the same way. I can no longer stay anywhere for longer than a few months without getting itchy and wanting to get back on the road.

Actually, about that. One of things I realized after I started travelling is that you really have to figure out how to be a self-starter to get things done on the road. Did you find that as well, and do you think it takes a special personality to adapt to world schooling? What was your experience like?

I don’t think you have to have a certain personality to be a worldschooler. While it’s true that a worldschooler needs to be self-driven to get their work done, I think it’s also true that self-sufficiency and self-motivation can be taught regardless of location or lifestyle. We are not all born with it, but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn it. As adults, the majority of us have to be self-sufficient and motivated if we want to succeed. Why not begin teaching that at an early age instead of waiting for the college years and the school of hard knocks to teach it to you?

I have always been a bit of a self-starter. I started reading from an early age and can learn anything on my own time, given the right reading material. I’m lucky that way. But each of my siblings has a slightly different approach. Some needed more guidance from my parents than others. A couple of the boys really had to learn self-motivation, and yeah, that was a tough process. But now, as the guys are reaching adulthood, those skills are starting to kick in in other parts of their lives. It’s not a personality thing as much as it is a family commitment to making it work thing, in my experience. We all have to learn to organize ourselves outside of a structured environment eventually. Some start earlier than others.

I read on your blog that you’ve learned how to make a side income online to support yourself while you are in University. Tell us about that.

We never did an allowance in my family. Our basic needs and a few treats were taken care of, but we were expected to find ways to make extra money ourselves. When I was little, that meant doing “the big chores” like cleaning the car or refrigerator. As I got older, I found ways to make money wherever we went, stacking wood at campgrounds, raking leaves, selling cookies, doing dishes, whatever. I like to work and to have my own money. Then I sold my first article to a teen travel magazine and realized I could make money (and learn anything I wanted to) online. I was fourteen. It took off from there. Opportunities are always there if you ask for them, work hard, and step outside of your comfort zone, it seems. Now I’ve been published all over the place, have written a few novels, built websites, and am currently doing SEO work, managing social media accounts for a few big travel companies, and teaching creative writing to kids around the world via Skype. It’s a blast and I’m fully supporting myself at this point. The gigs came to me as I learned more, talked to people, and put myself out there. It took time and commitment, but it’s starting to really pay off!

Beach – believe it or not, I’m working in this picture. The digital nomad life is my fav. 😉

Holy crap. Colour me impressed, especially since I know how much work it takes to get ANYTHING published. I’m starting to think that maybe you’re not that screwed up after all. Did you find it hard to adapt back into university life?

I don’t think I’ve had a hard time adapting. I really missed travel after the first six months of uni living. Once I’d been in Ontario for a year, the cabin fever settled down and I felt at home. The only thing that’s been difficult to adapt to is the uniformity of university culture, where almost everyone has had extremely similar life experiences and lived in the same 400 square kilometre patch. I’m used to a rainbow of changing cultures and people and there’s a sense of almost forced conformity and lack of diversity at my university that drives me a bit crazy. It’s a conformity in how you talk, how you think, what you like, what offends you, what you look like. My partner and I have a game where we walk home from my afternoon class and count how many people are wearing the same (pick an item of clothing). Hehe.

Oh yeah, we did that too in Engineering school, except for us we were counting people who were wearing crocs and/or torn clothes repaired with duct tape. We stopped playing once we realized the answer was always EVERYONE.

What’s your ideal job after graduation?

To be honest, I don’t have a specific job I’m shooting for after graduation. I’m already supporting myself financially, so I don’t feel a great push to get a traditional job. I’m going to see how my current work evolves and continue to take opportunities and move forward. Right now I’m working at an important historical archive in Guatemala, learning to document and maintain negative images of Guatemala from 80 years ago. I likely won’t do that forever, but who knows?

Making friends on the road – Guatemala

Oooooh Guatemala! I’m actually bouncing around Central America right now myself, maybe we’ll see each other! Hmm, so judging from my producer sulking in the corner, it looks like you aren’t actually that screwed up and Worldschooling’s actually worked out really well for you. Dammit.

What’s your favourite thing about World Schooling? What’s your least favourite thing?

I loved having control over my own schedule and interests. I always had time to pursue the things I wanted to explore outside of the typical high school lineup. I was never bored. I could work when I wanted to and take breaks when I felt like it. When your learning is primarily interest-driven, learning time isn’t something you dread. That said, there were still days I had to knuckle down with something I didn’t particularly like… but hey, that’s life.

Least favourite thing… had a really hard time with this one… Dude, I really don’t know. I liked worldschooling. The only downside for me was that I had a hard time finding fiddle lessons around the world. I suppose I also had a phase at around 16 where I really wanted a gaggle of girls to hang out with and I missed my girlfriends from around the world. But all in all, there’s not much I can point to as a definitive least favourite thing. More closet space would have been awesome. Ha.

And finally, what advice would you give to parents or would-be parents about World Schooling?

You’re not going to f**ck your kid up by worldschooling them. You’re really not. The whole idea of worldschooling sounds scary because it’s off-the-beaten-path and not in the parenting handbooks. But you’ll be fine. Do your research and go for it, if it feels right to you. Slow travel and save money, or change locations every day. Live in luxury or live in a tent. Enrol your kids in international schools around the world or teach them yourself. Every worldschooler does it a bit differently, so find your own groove.

But also, if worldschooling isn’t for you, that’s 100% okay. This isn’t some “my kid’s checked off more countries than yours has” competition. I’m sure I’d have loved my childhood just as much if it had been spent in one place. So go with your gut, trust that your kids will turn out just fine, and do your best. You’ve got this.

When we set off worldschooling, it was to bicycle Europe and Northern Africa. This is us in… England? It was Canada Day, hence the fake tats.

Hannah, thanks so much for doing this. I was expecting some weird awkward kid living in the woods or something and instead we got a smart, witty, and articulate woman who seems to have her shit together way more than most other people her age. I guess we’ll have to live with that.

Hannah Miller writes about her adventures on her excellent blog www.edventuregirl.com. Be sure to check it out.

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15 thoughts on “Worldschooling: An Interview From a Kid’s Perspective (Part 2)”

  1. It is actually kind of alarming how our education system tries to get everyone to conform to their way of thinking about “education”. To the point that people are terrified if they step outside of the box. Kids are resilient..humans are innovative…you can do this if you really want to and yes..still be a success! Kudos to Hannah and her family!

    1. I’m currently reading Ken Robinson’s book “Creative Schools” where he goes into depth about how the current education system is more like an assembly line; producing kids that conform to certain standards (not necessarily useful ones) and rejecting those who don’t fit.

      I’d highly recommend any of his books and especially his TED talks if you’re interested in learning more about education reform and how impractical the current system is.

      1. I loved his Ted talk! So hilarious and informative. I think that’s why it’s the most watched TED talk of all time. Going to have to check out his books once I get some free time…

    2. I agree. The education system churns out office workers not free thinkers. This is probably why the world schooling Facebook is thriving with 30,000 members and growing. People are realizing that traditional schools are not the only way to learn.

  2. World Schooling or not, Hannah seems like a very well adjusted gal. Definitely not a freak-show.

    I think any parent who really cares about educating their child, can do it anywhere.

    I’ve met tons of kids educated in a similar ‘non-traditional’ manner, and I’d daresay most of them seem ‘smarter than the average bear’.

    1. ‘any parent who really cares about educating their child, can do it anywhere.’

      Fwiw, even within the scope of the ‘traditional’ school system, one of the significant determinants of success is parental involvement. I’d extrapolate that further to say that regardless of educational environment, as parents, you need to participate in order for your child to succeed.

      1. Agreed. Parental involvement definitely helps. Or at the very least a mentor or friend of some sort. In the case of Friday Case reader, Millennial Academic Scientist, it was her teachers who pushed her to succeed.

    2. I haven’t met that many world schooled kids, but of the ones I’ve met, they seem to be very self-directed. Hannah is the best example of how world schooling trains you to be self-sufficient and think outside the box.

  3. Thank you for sharing Hannah’s journey. I want to echo what’s being said about the non-traditional route with education. But going even further, just the general capacity for human beings to adjust, I find, is incredible. I’ve bounced around all my life myself. Born in South Korea, but my parents moved us to Hungary in 1991; we were practically the only Asians around! It was weird, and there were many challenges, but the experience has shaped me in ways that I know wouldn’t have been possible any other way. Living in one place and not exploring the world creates such a one-dimensional world view!

    1. “there were many challenges, but the experience has shaped me in ways that I know…”

      I agree with this so hard! Without challenges, we never grow or learn anything. Kudos for getting past your challenges!

  4. I think the most important thing is making sure that the kids have enough adult supervision and guidance if they are not self motivated to do well and that could be said for any kid in any learning environment. When it comes to education you are going to get out what you put into it and there are plenty of kids in traditional school who don’t pay attention, refuse to do the work or don’t even show up and the teachers either don’t care enough to help them or don’t have the resources to help them because class sizes are so big and you hear a lot of things about how teachers either just pass the kids because they don’t want to deal with them the next year or the school administration will encourage the teachers to pass them. Socialization in a traditional school setting can also do more harm than good. Some people go to a school for years and get bullied or have to deal with a lot of drama. I can only imagine that it’s gotten so much worse nowadays with social media and everyone having a camera in their pocket. Growing up traditionally can potentially mess people up just as much as an unconventional upbringing and one could argue that an a world schooling environment that is so rich in experiences would be much better for development than the boxed in, over sheltered system that has been created all of these clones that Hanna mentions at her university. During that part of the interview I couldn’t help but think of all these “special snowflakes” who think they are all so different from everyone else that seem to make up university culture nowadays. People who have been so sheltered that they explode every time they face any sort of adversity and demand safe spaces where no one is allowed to upset them. They must all seem like a bunch of crying babies to someone like Hannah who has been all over the world and would have a much broader perspective on the real world and the issues people need to deal with every day in other countries.

    1. Being completely sheltered from adversity definitely does more harm than good. I think Hannah has proven to us all the advantages of learning to be independent and self-sufficient early on in life.

  5. This is interesting! I have a 16 month old toddler and I too hope to help her in learning not just in Maths & Sciences, but arts, humanities, etc.

    Are there any parents here who can recommend books, websites, articles, etc. that give certain guidelines in doing so age appropriately?

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