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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.
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.
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.
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.