Our kids were exclusively worldschooled (homeschooled or unschooled) from junior school to the teenage years. It worked out well for all of us and we want to help you find your own paths in alternative education. Every now and then I create a blog post on how worldschooling changes with time and age. 15 years old was a good age for us, a lot changed for my young teens around that age, so I just wanted to show you what worldschooling a 15- year-old teenager looked like, for us. I wanted to show you how worldschooling teenagers works, or how it can work. Hopefully, it will give you confidence and ideas, maybe a push to try a worldschooling teens as a lifestyle.
If you’re new to the concept of worldschooling you may need to read our post on what is worldschooling? first.
Worldschooling a Teenager
Kids hit maturity at different ages, that’s just one reason the school system can be such a farce. The 15-year-old worldschooling teen I’m talking about here was pretty mature for his age and was an early bloomer.
It’s just biological hardwiring. That’s OK, that’s normal. This post is about one child and my child won’t be the same as yours or any other on the planet.
The most important activities for my teen, I think, aren’t the academics but the “character building” stuff. I don’t believe we shape our kids’ characters, I’m not that mom, but I don’t know how else to put it.
Meeting diverse people, climbing mountains, volunteering, and seeing the world as it really is have been massively important parts of my kids’ education, particularly as they reach young adulthood.
The benefits of mixing with a huge diversity of adult humanity, rather than a classroom full of same-age kids have been off the scale. More on that down the page.
Academic Worldschooling at 15-18
The older the child the easier academic flow becomes. That’s what we’ve seen with our worldschooling teenagers.
Teens develop academic interests of their own, they may not be the academic topics you or the state curriculum would pick for them, but they appear and the teens run with them. It’s very easy to become an authority on anything just using Google and a critical eye.
A little more structure can be reassuring, so on top of research for personal interest, we always had the kids doing courses. Open University is a brilliant resource for young teens and adults, Khan Academy is there if you want it, there are many courses, free and paid, available online if you look.
Some are internationally recognised, some can be building blocks for degrees, some can be just for fun. We have ideas for homeschooling teens here.
My older teen picked his courses and did some just for the fun of it. His interests often surprised me. Our younger teen needed mum or dad at his side, we did his courses together just to check he understood everything he was doing. Again, he picked the courses, we went where he would lead. We’ve got a lot of biologists in our family as well as historical, literary and language interests, but new topics pop up all the time.
Don’t feel you have to complete a course and be handed a certificate to be an expert on a topic. I’ve never done a course on website creation, marketing, writing, SEO, any of the skills I use every day to support my family. If you’re self-employed you won’t need to.
Not having a piece of paper doesn’t make you any less qualified to do what you do, you’re simply not buying into a system where qualifications are a saleable product and often a source of huge debt for young people.
I was a scientist by training, my new skills came from our friend Google.
Teen Attitude and Home Education
I wasn’t going to add this paragraph but I’ve been scrolling Pinterest looking for pins about travel with teens. All I saw was pins relating to how to “fix” teen rudeness, attitude, entitlement, and behaviour. It was sad to see.
We didn’t have any of these problems, not even one at the 15-year mark. My only conclusion is that raising teens outside the school system, without FOMO and peer pressure, produces young adults that are more adult.
I don’t know if other world or homeschooled teens end up with bad attitudes or disconnected from their families, but it’s our experience that the kids turn out alright. My teen was my best travel buddy, friend, helper, and source of joy. I’m very thankful for that.
Teens and Screens
Yes, my teen lived for his gaming, his online world and friends. Modern technology has brought him and us, so many benefits.
At “home” he would happily be online all day, every day, for weeks on end and I’m cool with that. He’s busy in his world. But give him a chance to do something different, to go somewhere new, try something special, to be offline up a mountain or on a remote beach, and he’ll grab it.
His hours on screens never were an “addiction”. I don’t believe in addiction. He was filling his time with what he enjoyed and that’s how we all want to live.
His online time never harmed him, it wasn’t an issue, it’s simply modern life and I think, all told, I spend just as much time online as he ever did. The internet is our income as a digital nomad family, it’s our connection, it’s how we organise our lives, plan, learn, and research. The internet is a lifeline.
Exams and Worldschooling Teenagers
Worldschooled, homeschooled, or unschooled teens can sit exams if they choose to or feel they need to. Obviously, there are national variations in the exams 16 and 18-year-olds sit, but for us, exams can be sat at any age and no school attendance is required.
There is a full post on how homeschooled kids can sit exams here. Exams aren’t necessarily required to have a fulfilling life.
No exam I ever sat has helped me in my current career or life. I can guarantee that.
Always remember that a lot of kids come out of the school system with barely any paper qualifications to show for a childhood of forced school attendance.
My elder teen has indeed sat exams now. He’s passed his iGCSEs and is about to transition into his A-level courses. This is the British academic system and kids from many countries follow this path. There are a lot of exam centres in the UK that take independent candidates and many in other countries too.
Just know that to sit exams in this way is expensive. The costs are quite shocking.
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Building a Social Life and Network for Worldschooling Teenagers
This was the most exciting aspect of launching a teenager into the world and the teen years were a lot of fun. Our older teenager joined us in the adult world socially and professionally and started to take his own independent steps into it.
You probably know that I like to keep the kids’ lives off the internet. They have always been happy for me to use their photos but I began to crop them out more and more as they got older. They’re building their own lives now and I respect their privacy, but I can tell you a little about the big social launch.
Because of the travel we do and our original lack of roots and family, my kids never really belonged anywhere. Neither do we parents, it’s just who we are and we like it that way.
Instead, we trod the path of being at home anywhere in the world. We have friends scattered around the globe and I know my teens could happily live in half a dozen countries and have some connections and contacts in them as well as the ability to just get on with life in what many would see as foreign cultures.
I’m not saying our way is the right way, but it is what it is.
The older child went on many an adventure in his teenage years, mostly with just one parent and without his brother. Splitting the family like this was good for everyone and there was a lot of personal growth as brothers stepped out from each other’s shadows.
We were able to get our teenager more and more involved in the adult world through our, and his, work, volunteering, social interaction and travel. He found himself a part-time job at 17. He did do a few odd jobs for people when he was younger too.
The travel often involved varied groups of people or other travel professionals. It was good, watching him grow. I liked what I saw happening. He met a lot of people and saw many nationalities, life experiences, personalities, and attitudes. He watched, analysed, and learned how to be, and not be, a part of the adult world.
In our experience teenagers like a challenge, we were able to provide plenty of those, from trekking Everest, Borneo, and Bhutan, to off-roading camping trips in the bush and learning new skills like scuba diving or skiing.
This really is the fun end of a worldschooling upbringing and we are, and were, always looking for new ideas and challenges that he would love.
There are various world schooling camps, retreats, and projects for teenagers. Lainie and Miro run Project World School, that’s something we’d consider sending world schooling 15-year-olds to. They’re about building temporary learning communities for worldschooling teens.
We have never done it because we never wanted to do it, but once pandemic restrictions are over, we may go to one of these.
If our teenagers wanted to go, great, but they never quite fitted with where we were and we pretty much didn’t need that facility. We did fine, our way, but these group get-togethers could still happen in the future.
What Does Worldschooling Teens Cost?
I can’t possibly give you a figure on that because it depends on you. The cost of travel varies enormously. If you look at our post on gap year cost comparisons, you’ll see that the annual per-person cost can be anywhere between $5,000 and $40,000.
Worldschooling costs depend on which countries you visit, whether they’re cheap or expensive, what visas you need, how many ticketed attractions you visit, how you get from a-b, and what type of accommodation you prefer.
Then add to the cost by considering lost earnings. Will you be earning as you travel? I do, I earn through travel blogging. But most worldschooling families aren’t that lucky. Most family gap years are paid for by saving up.
The cost of educational resources or curriculum can be almost zero. However, a worldschooling teen should at least have his own laptop and kindle. Reading is important, always let them read.
If you start paying for online schools and classes costs add up. My son’s current A level classes are $800 (Au) per subject per term. That’s quite a frightening number!
It’s private education basically. You can find cheaper, usually non-accredited courses on Outschool. These are great as revision and back up or to follow interests. One of my boys just did a business course on Outschool, the other has a maths tutor there.
There are loads of online learning opportunities for younger and older kids. We have some examples in this post on online learning courses, sites, etc.
The Future Looks Bright for Worldschoolers
None of us can know what our 15-year-olds will be doing in 2 years, 5 or 10. Predicting outcomes for worldschooling kids, or any kids, is impossible. The world is full of options and whatever my world schooled child wants to do with his life, it will be his call.
We will support him for as long as he needs our support. He’s part of our business team and earns an online income, so if he chooses to stick with us on that, it’s cool.
If he chooses some other path I’d be thrilled, either way, we’ve got his back and he will never be under any pressure to move out or pay us his keep. We share what we have and hopefully, he’ll continue to hold tight to our family’s dearest values, of compassion, learning, support, and inquisitive wonder at exploring the world.
If you’d like to read more about education outside school, at all ages, see the related posts below as well as our guide, tips and destinations for travel with teenagers. There’s a surprise at the end of this post. At the very end of his 15th year, our 15-year-old and now 16-year-old, went to school. He will likely continue this through to 17 and 18 years old. Stay in touch, I’ll let you know how that pans out
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Sunday 4th of October 2020
Grandma raising grandchildren older ones now (widowed) would love to do this hard with out a companion any suggestions
Alyson for World Travel Family
Sunday 4th of October 2020
I actually find travelling with the children, without their father, much better for us. There's a better adult/child connection. You lose some of that when you're travelling with another adult to take your attention away from the kids. Best of luck!
Monday 21st of October 2019
Fabulous post, Alyson. I’m always so impressed with you — and the thoughtful, experimental, and KID focused approach you’ve worked to get right for d and boo - and then use to help others! Education in the world needs such a reset and I think you capture how we need to think differently about it so well! Xxxx
Monday 21st of October 2019
Bless your heart Taft. Thanks D says Hi, he misses you and your brownies :)
Saturday 19th of October 2019
I was waiting for your post on the grownups for longtime. Its great reading and even little calming my own doubts of traveling with teens. I was searching the web for traveling with teens, couldnt find much real posts on that. Even thought thats the point when nomad family are going back home because of life changes of their teenagers. I sm still wondering how as parents you deal with their changing moods, the need for privacy, or them wanting to spend time with other teenagers If you can share of your experience with those aspects, it will be great. Thank you for sharing.
Saturday 19th of October 2019
Hi Iris. If you look at the paragraph in the post above about "fixing" teen attitude, you'll see that we've never had any issues of that kind. I don't share a bed with them anymore and they do like to have their own rooms " at home" but on the road we usually have 2 twin rooms, one adult, one child in each and it's been fine. They don't need to be with other teens, they enjoy ( or don't enjoy) the company of people of any age, although bonus points if those people can talk about topics they're interested in. There is some issue with adults not realising that teens are actually human beings to be conversed with. Most mainstream adults aren't used to that, but we generally move in circles where everyone gets that, or the adults we spend time with quickly figure it out. Take school and that herd mentality of school out of their lives and you get very different outcomes.
Saturday 19th of October 2019
Love this! Our teens, too, have very little "attitude," and I attribute a lot of it to homeschooling. The two oldest, in fact, are best buddies. They have their own interests and very different personalities, but they love to do things together.
Our 15yo has definitely started to branch off and become more adventurous, hiking 100 miles of the Superior Trail this September, as well as attending a research program in Costa Rica this summer. It was exciting and scary as a parent sending him off without us to another country, even if it was with a group, but I knew from our other travels that he would navigate it with his usual aplomb.
I can't say enough about exposing our kids to other cultures and ways of life, and encouraging them to follow their interests. Thanks for this great post!
Saturday 19th of October 2019
That all sounds fantastic Kathy!