Worldschooling Mistakes Not To Make

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Worldschooling is a wonderful way for kids to get an education, and it’s a wonderful lifestyle for the whole family. After worldschooling (or world schooling, if you prefer) from birth to 16 years old, here’s a post about pitfalls and mistakes not to make, with input from my adult worldschooled child.

Worldschooling mistakes pushing kids too hard
Worldschooling mistakes – don’t push kids beyong their limits. They were fine here, just clowning around. But if your child can’t cope with walking for 3 weeks, don’t take them up Everest. Mount Everest is back right in this photo.

Worldschooling Mistakes

I hope you find the mistakes we made useful in figuring out your pitfalls, with your kids. Remember that no two kids and no two families are the same. What worked for us in a world schooling lifestyle may not work for you. And remember, be kind. I’m just trying to help and encourage if I possibly can.

Worldschooling mistakes museums
Worldschooling mistakes, don’t expect your kids to learn or explore all the topics, just because you want them to. I was blown away by the Enola Gay at the Smithsonian, the kids were much more interested in Amelia Earhart’s flying outfit. Let them be interested in what they find interesting and importantly, have fun. That said, museums are fabulous for worldschoolers and without travelling, you’re missing out on so many.

Keep Your Child’s Options Open

Worldschooling child reading a book
It would be a mistake not to buy your worldschooling child books. Anything that sparks their interest! While we used Kindles a lot because they’re more convenient for travel, if they saw a book they wanted, we bought it. This was in Athens, a book bought at the museum there. And always, always books over gaming. But I’m not anti-gaming at all. I just love books.

Your worldschooled child may decide they want to be a doctor or lawyer, or go into any profession that requires a degree. Keep their options open, keep exams possible.

This doesn’t mean they need to be in school of course, nor slavishly following your government or state set curriculum.

While homeschooled kids can and do get into universities with alternate entry requirements, I don’t think it’s as common as a lot of homeschool advocates make out. I don’t know of any child from my immediate contacts who has gone this way. And one did apply to Cambridge.

I’ve drilled into my kids from birth what a big money-making con tertiary is. I have a degree, all of my group from school went to university, it was expected back then. I feel my opinion is valid and based on the experiences of a good cross-section of peers and colleagues. Unless, of course, they’re heading into a line of work where a BSc or BA is required, then they’ll have to go.

Had they come to me and said they wanted to go to university at any point, for some special subject or profession, we probably would have done things somewhat differently. Our lives would have been more focused on getting them the grades they needed, in whatever subjects they needed.

So keep it open and you should have no problems further down the line.

Don’t Direct Your Child’s Learning To What YOU Want Them To Learn About

Let kids have fun worldschoolin
They had a fun day at Tikal, but it was a very big, tiring day. They particularly liked the bugs and coatimundis. But they picked up enough about the Mayans along the way.

Let’s say, for instance, you’re walking through the sub-tropical rainforest to the ruins of Tikal. You want them to learn about the Mayans, but your child is focused on bugs and coatimundis. Let them study the bugs!

Let them have fun and enjoy the day. Don’t make it all about the learning. The critters of the sub tropics are just as valid a thing to learn about as Mayan history. And thank you Steve Backshall for that interest in bullet ants.

I’ve seen this in playgrounds too. My kids wanted to play one way, an elderly relative had other ideas in how they should play and tried to force them to do things their way. Let the kids be!

Everything they do is learning and no one piece of knowledge is better than the other.

Build Up Your Worldschoolers’ Self-Esteem

Worldschooling meeting people
This is what I mean by meeting people! My son, back right. A business associate of mine, another tourist, our guide, and a whole tribe! We stayed with the Iban people in Borneo, in their longhouse. We hunted, fished and camped out with them. We even fed tarantulas cicadas with tongs. What an experience! I guess they call this stuff “character building”.

Self-esteem and confidence are vital. And that’s coming from me as a child and young adult who had none.

I was academic but socially awkward in school. I was bullied and had no friends until the final few years. At least my kids were spared that fate. But building their self-esteem without these negatives to drag them down is also important.

For us that meant making sure they were accomplished. They’re good skiers, qualified scuba divers, have their lifesaving qualifications and they’ve walked to Everest Base Camp. Stuff like this builds confidence.

I think interaction and friendships with a diverse range of people is also very good for their self-esteem. People they struck up friendships with along the way, of any age.

I’ll whisper this very quietly, but having exam passes is also something that adds value and confidence. They’re not essential, I’ll never say that, but they’re a good thing to have in this world.

Adapt If Your Child Has Motion Sickness

Motion sickness is a horrible thing for a child to endure. If you have a child who suffers, change your plans. Long minibus or taxi rides are out, he would always take a tuk tuk through choice, he suffered less.

Sometimes those bus journeys are unavoidable (think Laos, Guatemala, Nepal). In which case have medication that works. My family were the only people not motion sick on the bus from Phaplu to Kathmandu. Find what works for your kids well in advance and take a stash with you.

In our case minibuses were by far the worst form of transport for him, so we avoided them.

Be Smart Around The Costs of Worldschooling

If you have money to burn, spend a fortune. But don’t live in a resort hotel bubble. You have to get out there and experience the country.

If funds are tighter, you’re just like us and you need to find cheaper ways. We always say that travel was cheaper than staying at home, and we still stand by that. But we made our travel cheap.

We didn’t do it by setting a budget, that doesn’t work for us. We just cut costs whever we could. We found the best value flights using these Skyscanner tips, we compared costs of boat v bus b plane v train, and usually picked the cheapest.

Scouring the online booking engines for bargain hotels took more time than I liked, but we found the best deals. We ate the local food, in the small restaurant. A meal can cost as little as $1 in parts of Southeast Asia.

We looked into options like home exchanges and house sitting. We tried house sitting and found it wasn’t for us.

Be Aware That Some Places Aren’t Suitable for Kids

Some places not to take worldschool kids
This photo was taken at The Bone Church near Prague. I’ll put a link to this post at the bottom of the page. The kids loved this, it was tame compared to many places I WOULD NOT take them.

Younger children and sensitive children can’t cope with all of the realities of the world and they shouldn’t have to face them.

While all countries can be child-friendy, certain places and parts may not be. I would never take them anywhere I didn’t think was safe either. So that rules out war zones.

I’m thinking of the encounters we had with lepers, terrible deformities, toddlers with hydrocephalus, beggars, and more in Nepal, India and Cambodia. These were chance encounters and I would never have knowingly taken my younger child to the places where these encounters happened, had I known.

He was too young and it was too shocking. My bad.

He also struggled with crowds, particularly on some Indian trains and buses.

Some museums can be harrowing too. The war museum in Saigon Vietnam is one I’d avoid with young kids, also the Killing Fields and Tuol Sleng Jail (S21, Security Prison 21). I quickly turned him around and got him out of the top floor of the Saigon museum. His older brother was OK with the images there. It’s worse than you can imagine.

The more commercial parts of Thailand aren’t good for kids either. We had some bad experiences in Phuket, in Patong specifically, I wouldn’t go there again. We were only there because a relative was staying there and I didn’t appreciate the bar and massage boys and girls grabbing at my then young teen boy, nor the signs for various unsavoury shows. We find Bangkok is great, not Patong.

We also saw some horrible animal cruelty around the world. Just use your discretion.

Don’t Confuse Worldschooling With Unschooling

Some worldschoolers are unschoolers, others aren’t. We were not unschoolers but we fully respect this learning path. Some of my kids’ best learning came about through self-driven explorations. They taught themselves computer animation and how to upgrade their gaming laptops. To some extent, my younger son picked up reading naturally.

Unschooling is completely child-led learning. At no point would my kids have had the insight to choose destinations to enhance their knowledge. Mum and Dad were driving that ship and helping constantly with more academic learning, online, in workbooks, and in projects. For instance, creating blog posts like this one.

From time to time they chose a destination based on their interests. They selected Greece, Egypt and Scotland as special birthday treats, mostly driven by their love of Harry Potter and Rick Riordan’s ancient history books.

My young adult son, a worldschooling graduate, suggested that I include this point. While a lot of basic maths and literacy skills do come naturally, my son is adamant that a higher level of understanding is necessary. He’s working now, and sometimes interacts with people with barely any numeracy or literacy skills. And most of those people will have been through the standard education system. A shocking number of kids come out of school functionally illiterate.

While some individuals may not have these particular skills because of their make up, too many just never learnt these skills.

He agrees that quadratic equations will never feature in his life again, but he passed the exams and is pretty good all-round. This gives him confidence in his interactions with people.

He can talk knowledgeably about most topics that kids may have learnt something about in school so he can fit right in, usually.

I wasn’t going to include this point because it could anger some readers, but this point came straight from the horse’s mouth. I thought it was important to add what he thinks, after all, it’s him, not me, that really matters here.

He’s also glad that he has those exam passes under his belt should he ever need them for higher education or job applications. So far nobody has asked for them and he’s happy doing what he’s doing. He sat iGCSEs at the end of 7 years of worldschooling.

A worldschooling lifestyle is a wonderful thing for families. I know I’m in a very privileged position, we could afford it. There are ways and means and we’re always here to help. Good luck in your mission! Tell me what your plans are in the comments.

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About the author
Alyson Long
Alyson Long is a British medical scientist who jumped ship to chase dreams. A former Chief Biomedical Scientist at London's West Middlesex Hospital she started in website creation and travel writing in 2011. Alyson is a full-time blogger and travel writer, a published author, and owns several websites. World Travel Family is the biggest. A lifetime of wanderlust and over 6 years of full-time travel, plus a separate 12 month gap year, has given Alyson and the family some travel expert smarts to share with you on this world travel site. Today Alyson still travels extensively to update this site and continue her mission to visit every country, but she's often at home on her farm in Australia.

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