Worldschooling: An Interview From a Kid’s Perspective

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FIRECracker

FIRECracker is Canada's youngest retiree. She used to live in one of the most expensive cities in Canada, but instead of drowning in debt, she rejected home ownership. What resulted was a 7-figure portfolio, which has allowed her and her husband to retire at 31 and travel the world. Their story has been featured on CBC, the Huffington Post, CNBC, BNN, Business Insider, and Yahoo Finance. To date, it is the most shared story in CBC history and their viral video on CBC's On the Money has garnered 4.5 Million views.
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“Travelling the world, huh? Wait until you have kids.”
“I wish I could do what you’re doing, but I can’t. I have kids.”
“Once you have kids, all your dreams will be over.”

We hear these phrases a lot when we mention our nomadic lifestyle. People seem to think this lifestyle is completely impossible when you have kids. And for a while, we believed them. Until we met Alice.

Alice is a single mother travelling the world with her son, whom we met in an Airbnb in Merida, Mexico. She opened our eyes to something called “World Schooling,” a movement with 30,000 Facebook members. We wrote about it here.

Now, admittedly, when I first heard about “World Schooling”, I was just as intrigued as sceptical. I mean, what happens 18 years down the road, when you need to worry about getting them back into college? Are they going to be well adjusted? Are they going to be able to get jobs?

All these questions were quickly answered when I discovered www.edventuregirl.com, a blog written from the perspective of a world-schooled kid, Hannah Miller. Hannah, now a student at Queen’s university, wrote a viral article back when she was 16 called “How World Schooling Ruined My Childhood,” so I thought it was my duty as a fake journalist to reach out to her, ask her to come on our blog, and try to poke holes in her life story under the guise of a friendly interview. Foolishly, she agreed.

Anytime I talk to someone about World Schooling, they seem to think that it produces kids who are weirdos and psychopaths. How weird are you? Do you enjoy a good human liver with fava beans and a nice bottle of Chianti?

Okay, this is possibly the best interview question I’ve ever had. Haha. Yes, I’m definitely weird. I wear colourful, wild clothing. My hair changes colour every few months. I actually like going to my lectures and studying. I can get extremely passionate about things I’m learning about. Some days, I wear fairy wings and fiddle in downtown Kingston, just because. Living an unconventional life IS weird. But weird isn’t a bad thing. I embrace the weirdness more than most people.

Am I weird? Yup.

Passionate about learning? OK then, guess you ARE a weirdo. So let’s all stop and examine the process that produced such a monstrous child like you who actually *gags* LIKES to learn. When your parents were travelling the world and you and your siblings, what was a typical day like?

Well, we traveled together for nine years and each stage was slightly different, of course. When you’re traveling, the little things change regularly. What you eat, where you sleep, what language is being spoken around you, what social rules you need to be aware of, what your surroundings look like. But the big things are constant. No matter where you are in the world, you get up and do a little tidy. You brush your teeth. You have your breakfast. We spent mornings doing school, working on personal projects, or having quiet time. Afternoons were typically spent on adventures. Travel days were dispersed in between. We weren’t changing location every day, apart from the first year spent bicycling through Europe and Northern Africa. The rest of the time, we’d spend up to six months in one location, renting a fully-furnished apartment, taking a rest, and immersing ourselves in local culture. Full-time travel doesn’t necessarily mean a new location every day, and that way of living was too exhausting and expensive for us in the long run. It is 100% possible to have a calm, enjoyable family routine while traveling the world. We took our routine with us.

The whole family. Probably the best picture ever taken of us. I mean, Ez still isn’t paying attention and Gabe forgot what was going on, but hey. 4 out of 6.

Look, I’m not sure if you understand how gotcha journalism works, but you’re supposed to give me something that we can point to and say “Ha! That’s where her life went wrong!” so our readers can feel better about themselves, not describe a kick-ass upbringing that everyone wishes they had. You’re killing me here, Hannah. Just killing me.

*Angry Sigh* OK let’s move on. Many people curious about World Schooling want to know “what makes World Schooling parents so sure they’re qualified to teach their kids? Don’t you lose out by not being taught by professionals?”

Well, I’m a bit of a cheat when it comes to this question… Mom was a professional teacher for a few years before I was born, so she knows what she’s doing.

HA! GOTCHA! *throws down notepad, does victory dance*

…BUT to be honest, worldschooling would have been great for us even without her expertise. There are so many resources out there at this point for families who want to homeschool or worldschool. The internet is changing the way we do things. I was homeschooled from the start, even before we hit the road. Mom helped us learn to self-teach through books and resources. We covered all of the basics you usually learn in school, and then some. I learned math up through calculus, studied multiple different branches of science, geography (duh), English, world history, etc. On top of the basics, I studied multiple languages and world religions. Finding teachers was never a problem. I adore art, so I took lessons from an art teacher via Skype for quite a while. I also picked up music lessons from musicians around the world and can play the fiddle, mandolin, and guitar proficiently. And of course, I learned even more from visiting museums and heritage sites while interacting with cultures around the world.

HEY! You’re ruining my victory dance!

My point is that it is quite possible to study these things regardless of location and that you don’t need to be in an institution to learn.

But at least it took you way longer to get your high school diploma, right? Because of all the travelling?

I was finished with high-school level material by age 15 and then studied extras like religious studies, web development, and e-distance university courses until I was ready to actually attend a university.

What?!? Well then you must be some kind of genius-child!

No, I’m not a genius by any stretch. I was just given the freedom to explore subjects at my own pace, using my own learning methods, in a semi-structured environment.

If you’re trying to get started, check out all of the online professional teaching resources. I took religious studies though a university-level online program for much less than the cost of attending in person. Use Duolingo to learn a new language. Take an online math course and learn from a professor via Coursera or Khan Academy. Sign up for local classes in the arts or music in your area. Find professionals or professional resources that work for you.

Goddammit. You know you’re really making it hard for us to poke holes in your story, right? OK let’s move on to something I KNOW homeschooled kids have a disadvantage. What about the social aspect of school that you’re missing? How do you make friends on the road? Do you ever get lonely without having stable, long-term friendships?

I’m not going to lie, this question always cracks me up because the underlying assumption is that I DON’T have stable, long-term friendships, when nothing could be further from the truth! Sure, I don’t have a little clique that I go everywhere with, but how many adults do? We have this weird belief that kids need a specific kind of socialization or they’ll be miserable. That hasn’t been my experience. I’ve made friends all over the world, and I’m still in contact with many of them. We’d meet up with other traveling families, invite strangers over to dinner (weird, I know, but so much fun), share a soccer ball with local kids, and look for ways to get involved socially wherever we were. I can’t tell you how many music nights I’ve gone to worldwide. Once I’d make a friend, it was actually pretty easy to stay in touch. I text my buddies pretty much every day. I was having a conversation in Swahili just yesterday (thanks, Google translate). Next week, I’m reuniting with a long-time buddy in Indiana. A few weeks later, I’ll be meeting up with my “sister” in Guatemala and finally meeting someone I’ve been friends with for about two years but haven’t seen face to face. I have the community of a lifetime. Just because we don’t all live in the same town doesn’t mean we’re not there for each other. I honestly don’t remember the last time I felt lonely and didn’t have a friend “around.” I actually met my partner of 4 years on the road in Germany as a 12 year old kid.

I met this guy by chance in Germany at age 12. Now he’s my partner. Friendships on the road can last.

OK my producer is telling me we have to take a break. We’re 1500 words in and you and your weirdo-hippy-flower-child lifestyle STILL isn’t crumbling under cross-exam, and that’s really messing up the program we have planned here.

Who are you talking to? You aren’t wearing an earpiece…

Let’s cut to commercial!

*looks around confused* …But…there’s no camera…

Stay tuned for next Monday’s conclusion of our interview with Hannah, where I’m sure her subterfuge about growing up nomadic resulting in a normal, well-adjusted adult will be exposed for sure.

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

 

 

35 thoughts on “Worldschooling: An Interview From a Kid’s Perspective”

  1. It would be interesting to know the financials behind doing something like this from the parents perspective.

    1. Hey, here’s their blog and FAQ. We get that question a LOT. When we first set out it was on savings, and then my parents reinvented their careers to be location-independent. No rich uncles here, they work hard. Living outside of the US and traveling slowly (not moving every day) can actually be quite a bit cheaper. http://edventureproject.com/faq/

      1. In the theme of this blog, were you and your husband financially independent when you did this?
        Did you have freelancing gigs that allowed you to work remotely?
        What would costs look like for the family on an average month?
        Might have more questions when you respond 🙂

        1. We set out to travel for one year. We planned and saved for two full years to do that and we set out on our savings. That was April 2008. As you know the market crashed in October… and all of our stocks were underwater, overnight we had nothing. That’s a good story in itself, but the result of that “disaster” was that it forced a decision based on what we really wanted to do and forced creativity… go home, get jobs, carry on (DH could have returned to Apple with full benefits and the same comp package he had at any time within two years) or recreate and figure it out as we went… guess which one we picked. It sounds neat and tidy, but it was not… it took about three more years to build back real stability in our careers. Now we both work remotely/freelance/our own companies… Tony does database development and design for a couple of big companies and some smaller contracts that are iOS development related. He is also an inventor and is working on an exciting product that stands to democratize the one remaining bastion of the coffee wizardry. I am a travel writer and editor as well as running a non profit that provides resources and funding for Gap Year students.

          As to finances… I know there is a lot of smoke and mirrors in this department where “Location Independent” and “Digital Nomad” people are concerned and it’s been shocking to me to learn that the vast majority of even the “successful” ones live at what I consider to be a dangerously low income. We’ve been lucky to grow into a community of people who have made “real” careers out of it and the adults our children have had the privilege of being raised with the example of are a spectacular group of creative, innovative and financially successful young people. Our budget or costs for the family have varied widely over the past years depending on where we are living and what sort of travel we are doing. Living months at a time in Southeast Asia and Guatemala is very inexpensive, even renting very nice houses with staff. Campervanning New Zealand for half a year was surprisingly pricey. The year we bicycled Europe and N. Africa was the only year we kept track of every penny… that year cost us $35,000. Which was less than half of our outflow the previous year in our “real life” in NH. Before we took off traveling our last tax return was about $120,000 and that was a full time job that was over 40 hours a week, living on one income. We now make well over $200,000 a year working about 20-30 hours a week and traveling as we wish. (We can work anywhere there is wifi). The husband and boys are currently sailing back from the Bahamas… they took off about eight months ago for a “guy trip” and my husband has worked from the boat all winter.

          Ask away. You can also email me: edventuremama(AT)gmail.com

  2. I don’t think people realized how much time is wasted in public school and how much more learning can occur during homeschooling/tutoring when you have the curriculum that is catered to your interests and learning pace. I was just having this conversation with my spouse on the weekend because our friend came for a visit and mentioned that his children are homeschooled. I always attended public school growing up and there was a lot of time wasted either by teachers and students being off task or reviewing things to make sure everyone got it (good for students who don’t understand and need extra help, a waste of time ever everyone else. Not saying I never needed to review anything but with a tutor or homeschooling you only need to focus on reviewing what you need to review and don’t have the needs of 30 other students wasting your time). My Japanese teacher was the worst, she wasted so much time telling us all about her trips to Japan and then would freak out at the end of term because we were so behind. It is not surprising that kids who are worldschooled or homeschooled or child actors who have tutors end up finishing school 3 years early.

    1. So true. I remember learning all sorts of useless topics in school that I never ended up using in real life.

  3. I may have missed this in other posts, but my question is do you keep a permanent address at home for things like mail and keeping a point of reference for gov’t mail? If not, how do you tackle that?

  4. I’ve always said, the real learning is done outside of school. School is for what society wants you to learn. The important stuff, you’ll need to learn on your own.

    It seems like Hannah’s been doing plenty of that!

    1. So true. The curriculum is made to get you into university, and then finally into 9 to 5 job. Learning how to learn and entrepreneurialship is all from self discovery.

  5. This is so heartening to hear. Ever since I was down in the dumps about why house prices are so high and I googled that question out of desperation and stumbled upon this blog and your story my life has taken on a new meaning. I no longer sit despairing that my pay cheques will never let me buy a $1.4 million crumbling shack in Toronto, rather my partner and I have decided to winter in South America. 🙂 FIRECracker, if it hadn’t been for this blog my life would still suck! So exited to be off to see new horizons! If I ever have children there is no way I will coop them up in stuffy schools. Lovely start to the morning this was.

    1. Thanks Anna and welcome to the blog! I felt the same way you did (trapped and stressed, thinking I needed to buy a house) before I stumbled on the FIRE (Financial Independence Retire Early) movement. It’s been life-changing!

      And wintering in South America is a great idea! We’re travelling through Mexico, Central America, Eastern Europe and South America this year, and everywhere we go, we’re finding the cost of living is WAY lower than Toronto (and weather is better too!). And now that we know other people who are world-schooling their kids, we can learn from them and do this with kids too!

  6. Man, this sounds just awful. Who wants to learn about geography and history actually being in the place it happened, when you can just read it out of a book. And who wants to have friends all over the world that you can meet up with in random destinations. Although, we do not have any waffle-kiddos at the moment, if we do, I definitely think I need to subject them to this horrible upbringing, just to make them miserable *wink wink*

    1. I know right? So horrible. I can’t imagine raising kids who are self-sufficient, open-minded, and creative enough to make their own online income by age 16. The horror! The horror!

  7. Great interview and awesome story! I was just telling a friend about how a younger cousin of mine has had a similar experience with homeschooling, and she too has become an interesting, confident, accomplished young lady in the vein of Ms. Hannah here! The more stories like this get shared and talked about, the more this option will be taken seriously.

    I believe there is definitely a place for public schools in society, but for kids that are motivated and bright, it can often be frustrating as the pace can be dictated by the slowest kids in the class. And the point cannot be reiterated too often, we don’t need to be in any particular physical location to learn (or for many of us, to work) any more!

    1. “pace can be dictated by the slowest kids in the class”

      This is so true. Depending on the kid, sometimes school actually holds you back. It’s good to know there are other options for learning out there and that traditional school isn’t the only way to learn.

  8. Totally agree with this. The idea here (North America) continues to be, train up little minions, to pay taxes, work full time, and pay interest on their debts and mortgages.

    The children of the people who are in charge of this system, don’t go to public schools.

    Everything here is seen as a “burden”, from your job to your kids to your place in “society”. On the other side, there is a reason for all that. We have our “educational system” which exists for the purpose of providing teachers with an income. That is basically it. Kids don’t need it, are better off without it and can learn everything that it purportedly “teaches” them, in much less time, in a home schooled environment.

    School “socialization”? Is this the process whereby children are stigmatized, prescribed medications to keep them sedated in boring, oppressive classrooms, with the focus being on everyone being quiet and well behaved? Elementary schools are like jails for children. There is no better comparison. You are creating little delinquents by forcing them to cheat and bend the rules just to survive.

    There is no need for any of this. Our government does not need little brainwashed minions, and in fact hates them. They do their best to get rid of them when they graduate, telling them to “go abroad”, “experience life”, basically get lost, as these poor brainwashed youth grow up to realise they’ve been had and there is no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

    Your children do not need a formal education. They just simply do not. They need someone to educate them, but that function can much better be served by home schooling than by a government controlled state education system.

    1. You hit the nail on the head. Schools tends to churn out office workers instead of entrepreneurs. And I know not everyone is suited to entrepreneurialship, but having the skill to be able to figure things out for yourself rather than be told what to do is extremely useful.

  9. So how do you get your kids to the point where THEY have a seven figure portfolio so they can live off the investment gains and be FI?

    I agree learning can happen anywhere. And humanities and social sciences can be taught by parents/finding material online/etc. But how will kids get good teaching in maths/sciences without a structured support system (ie. high school teachers, clubs, peers to solve things with) Unless their parents happen to be good at that. Maths/sciences are where the money is wrt good earnings potential. …Not everyone can be a self made business person. And some (majority?) of kids need the structure to slog through maths/sciences to get the foundation they need to keep going and succeed.

    1. You can have structure without being in school. I took all of the required (and more) maths courses up through calculus. I’ve taken biology, astronomy, geology, anatomy, geography, and more. I mean, I’m at university now for Geography, which includes everything from urban planning to all of the physical sciences. I’m doing an internship right now at THE research library on Mesoamerica. My parents aren’t scientists. It can be done. Structure can be created without it being a traditional structure.

      1. That’s great that you could handle math on your own. I personally wouldn’t have been able to, despite the fact that I like it and did well in it.
        The sciences you listed are softer. I was thinking along the lines of chemistry, organic chemistry, physics.

        I’m still interested in what Firecracker would do to get her kids to FI at an early age. Getting an education is one thing, but how do you get them into a well paying job?

        1. Anna… as I mentioned earlier, the classroom experience has changed. There are absolutely options for kids schooled outside of the system to take organic chemistry. All of my kids took physics. Teachers can be procured in a number of ways, often teachers far more qualified than one finds in the average public school classroom and at a fraction of the cost of what one might spend on a private school with all of the pitfalls of that sort of education.

          The thing I find worrying in your thread of questions is the “How do YOU get them….” the seven figure portfolio to the well paying job… the reality is that as a parent YOU don’t get them any of those things. They must do that for themselves. As parents we do our very best to meet their needs, provide every privilege and leg up that we can, financially, educationally, socially, all of the things. We get them well settled as young adults on a path of THEIR choosing and then we get OUT OF THEIR WAY. What they do with that is up to them. Not us as parents. If a child has a seven figure portfolio at forty I’ll be very proud of THEIR effort… but it’s theirs, not mine. If another child is making next to nothing but changing the world in a way that matters greatly to them and others (solving climate change, or curing cancer, or alleviating the suffering of refugees, perhaps) I’ll be very proud of them, but it will be THEM not me who has accomplished that.

          It is my opinion (and it’s only my opinion) that one of the great disservices we are doing our young people as parents of this generation is two fold: 1. Laying very heavy expectations on them from a generational mindset that is very far removed from the on the ground realities they face as new graduates and young adults… which is ruining very many parent child relationships in my sphere, as the kids struggle to free themselves from those expectations. 2. We are taking responsibility for too much of their shit, which means that they delay taking the reins. It’s not my job to make sure my kid is a millionaire by middle age. It’s just not. It’s not my job to get any of them a job, ever. It’s their responsibility. MY responsibility is to equip them, and then put some faith in my parenting.

          Also… we have a saying in our family: “Employment is not the expected ends of education.” “Education”, to quote Charlotte Mason, “is for delight, ornament, and ability.” My kids are very well educated, we used the best exit requirements for high school that we could find as the LOW BAR for emancipating our children. Multiple languages (including Latin and Greek) four full years of high school maths and sciences, language arts, literature of several continents, a social sciences curriculum the likes of which has not been seen in the Americas since the tutorial method gave way to institutionalized forced schooling, and that’s just the beginning. The idea that we educate our kids so that they can make money sells the human person so short of one’s potential. In my experience, the persons most successful at making money are the persons who have been educated in such a way that their creativity remains in tact and they have a very deep well of knowledge from which to draw. Institutional education doesn’t have a great track record on that front.

          I’m very happy to continue to discuss any aspect of this because it’s so, so important to the future of humanity that we do BETTER with our kids than we are doing now. I love that you seem to have deep interest and concern on the subject and I would really enjoy talking with you more about it. Do feel free to reach out.

      1. I entirely agree. But it’s much easier to get a million dollar portfolio before age 40 if you have a well paying job.

        1. Well, of course I can’t speak for everyone. That said, the worldschoolers I know have had no problem with math or science, or with getting into some of the best universities in the world. Most of us haven’t gotten to the age where we can speak to the high-paying job part, however, I am fully supporting myself on self-created online work at age 20 AND paying for my own world travels (have been for years). That’s a hell of a start. We’ll see where it goes from here. Another set of worldschoolers you can look up are the Vogels. The Vogel boys, David and Daryl, roadschooled on bikes for four years, yet still managed to make enough headway in the math/science arena to take nearly every AP course offered – starting when they were 13 years old. Both now studying engineering/computer science with scholarships coming out their ears. I’m sure they will be making millions, however, most worldschoolers don’t define success by an income bracket.
          Also, I have taken advanced chemistry and physics. Worldschooling is not for everyone and it’s fine if it’s not for you. However, it does work and more than adequately prepares us for the future.

    2. A very cursory search of home education options will answer this question. Teachers and classrooms can be had and were used by our kids. Technology has changed the educational game. We’ve got to think bigger than the traditional paradigms of our kids are going to truly succeed in the modern era… which is already radically different from ours. Schools are still training kids for the old model… which is already gone. Ask any of the multitude of “over educated” and under employed millennials about this.

    3. Best way to ensure a six figure income is: (listen y’all, this is just statistics):

      1. Get ticketed

      2. Work for yourself.

      That’s it.

      Where to get the ticket? A university is a wonderful place for this. Choose an undergrad path that leads to a ticket in something. Doctor, lawyer, airline pilot, accountant, psychologist, the list is endless. Make sure you have a plan.

      Or…..college level skills training: plumber, carpenter, gas fitter….again the list is endless.

      Get a ticket in something that interests you, and get out on your own as soon as you can and build your business.

      Yes you can go to College and University without ever having set foot in an elementary school or high school.

      Really, College and University are the only two schools that are actually worth setting foot in…..

  10. I love the idea of world-schooling and can tell that this family gave their children an incredible opportunity and an education to be envied. Let’s not, however, be so critical of other educational choices including public school. I hate comments that talk about all the time “wasted” in traditional classrooms. Of course teachers are not “teaching subjects” all day long. Just as home/world schooled kids can complete the prescribed curriculum in an hour or two a day, so can classroom schooled kids. They are still learning all day long: how to listen, share, compromise, play, socialize, follow rules, learn manners, etc. And guess what, not all parents want or have the option to spend all day with their kids, so teachers and schools are also providing the valuable service of childcare. Ultimately, a child’s education comes from “school” and from parents and from experiences. Let’s be grateful for all of the amazing choices and the opportunity to hear the stories of other families. Can you tell I’m the child of 2 public school teachers?

  11. There are many ways to educate your kids. For every method, there are pros and cons. Public schools are not always better than private schools, and homeschooling is not always better than the traditional school setting. It all depends on child and family circumstances of course. However, I would say homeschooling an amazing option. It is really hard to beat a teacher to student ratio of 1:1 (or 1:2 if you have two kids). We homeschool our kids currently in a traditional setting (staying at home). We do travel a lot. Because we homeschool, we have more flexibility as to when we can travel. This is a big plus. Currently we are not yet ready to do long-term travels. But in a few years, we plan to travel more. The reason for this is both financial and personal. I feel the kids will get more out of our trips when they are older. They will also appreciate it more. That doesn’t mean we can’t take many shorter trips right now. Lastly, we want our kids to have a good grounding in the basics in terms of their education before we take off. Thanks for sharing this post. Ver inspiring!

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