Category Archives: Worldschooling

Our family's worldschooling journey started in 2009, when we moved to Korea. Learn more, plus gets tips to help you embark upon your worldschooling journey!

Our worldschooling story

Our family's worldschooling journey started in 2009, when we moved to Korea. Learn more, plus gets tips to help you embark upon your worldschooling journey!

Worldschooling is gaining more and more traction amongst homeschoolers and families looking to travel more and simplify their lives. We just recently met up with a family from Colorado who have been traveling with their two kids and are trying to worldschool, and we’ve connected with dozens of families in the process of worldschooling online.

I realized that since we’ve been worldschooling and living abroad since 2009 I should finally write a post summarizing our journey!

What is worldschooling?

I don’t like labels and find that most people fight over who does what better. But to loosely define worldschooling, it means basically learning from the world around us. Pretty simple definition.

However, many of us also use the term to mean using travel as a form of education.

For our family, it’s a combination of both definitions.

What Worldschooling Looks Like For Us

To clarify, we aren’t constantly traveling and we have had a long-term home base in several places, from Korea to Italy to Phuket and now Chiang Mai. We’ve been visiting Myanmar and Malaysia multiple times per year, and traveling within Thailand. You could say were chronic expats or very slow travelers! Either way, his is what has worked for us. We love the community here in Chiang Mai and Thailand is affordable. However we plan on moving to Canada soon ( somewhere in British Columbia) to be closer to family, and to only have one of us that needs a visa ( Billy and Kaya are both Canadian).

How Our Worldschooling Journey Began

In 2008, my husband and I made the decision to raise our daughter outside of the U.S. I yearned to live near where I grew up ( in Europe) but Billy was hesitant to move there. He had only been to the EU with me when we were on vacation and wasn’t sure what it would be like to live there long-term. He assumed it would be wonderful, but his heart wasn’t in it. However, he did love the time we spent in Asia when we were on our honeymoon, so after much talk, we decided to move with our toddler and 4 pets to South Korea, where Billy taught English in the GEPIK program outside of Seoul.

Worldschooling in South Korea

Pit stop on a road trip to Seoul

While we love Korea and two of my best friends are from Paju ( where we lived), I was completely sick of being stuck at home with a two year old, all on my own. I didn’t want to work at the time and was still nursing our daughter, I just wanted to see my husband more and also have some more free-time during the day. We decided to spend a month vacationing in Phuket and then headed to Tuscany, where we planned to stay permanently.

Billy took six months off from working to recover from his somewhat long hours teaching and to spend more time with us. It was then that we decided he wanted to work from home, and also that we had loved vacationing in Thailand so much that we wanted to go back to Phuket. So after six months of living in Italy, we moved to Phuket.

And we stayed there on and off for almost four years, visiting Malaysia and Myanmar every few weeks.

One of the many reasons we decided to go to Phuket was that Kaya was turning three, and in europe children tend to enter a crèche and we didn’t want her to go to school. But the pressure to not homeschool is very strong in Europe, even though it’s legal in Italy. Thailand is very welcoming of homeschoolers in general, so we wanted to give it a shot!

Because we still didn’t know basically anything about working from home or freelancing, Billy went back to teaching in a small private school in Phuket Town while I started this very blog and began frantically researching how he could find a reliable way to work from home so we could all ‘worldschool’ together.

Eventually, I ended up becoming a freelance writer and digital marketing consultant and Billy too started working online, so things did work out!

Worldschooling to us is a lifestyle and not some term that places us in a box with another set of rules. We don’t constantly travel, and if you too choose to worldschool, you don’t have to either! You can settle down for a few months or years in a town or city that feels right for your family. And you can use your home base to explore other parts of the country or area.

Kaya takes robotics classes here in Chiang Mai and also taekwondo at a local dojo, and has made many wonderful friends that are locals and expats. This is why we’ve stayed here for so long instead of move to Canada earlier.

worldschooling

Naomi and Sarah are the worldschooling duo behind realgilmoregirls.com

Tips For Future Worldschoolers

 If you’re considering traveling full or part time as a family, here are some things we recommend you consider:

 Do you need to be in a like-minded community?

We’ve spoken to a few families who have expressed a concern about travelling full-time: the lack of community. And we totally agree! And even if you do plan on slow traveling, you may still find your home-base area to not have enough people you can build friendships with, whether it be because of a language barrier or a cultural issue, or some other random reason.

The lack of a like-minded community is the exact reason we left Phuket, and the supportive local community here in Hang Dong ( outside of Chiang Mai) is the exact reason we stayed here.

Do your kids actually want to travel?

When we left for Korea, Kaya was obviously too young to have a say in where we relocated to, or if we even should relocate. Billy and I did the best we could to take into consideration how the move would impact her life, and Korea thankfully had loads of playgrounds and other toddler-friendly things.

But if you have older kids that are perhaps in school ( who you want to homeschool), do they want to travel full or part time?

worldschooler

How will you make a living?

This is always the challenge we get asked about, and also the one we personally faced. For many years, we were very broke. I assumed I could make money off a nebulous travel blog, and sometimes I did. But it took me years and years of education ( programs like Marie Forleo’s B School) and experience to understand how to grow a business online, not be a ‘pro blogger’. Thankfully, my husband and I both are blessed to now work from home, but it took us a long, hard road to get to where we are.

As I mentioned in the beginning, Billy was a teacher for several years. This can be a great start to slow traveling, but some countries don’t pay ESL teachers well ( I think Billy made about 1K USD when he taught in Phuket and 2K in Korea).

The more experience you have as a teacher and qualifications, the more you will be paid. Japan and Korea typically pay the best. You can get a visa to sponsor your family this way too, which is a great plus, and housing in Korea is frequently included.

Many of the traveling families we’ve met are living off of savings, or renting our their houses in order to pay for their travels.

If you have a travel blog or are thinking of creating one, consider using it to market your freelance services ( if you’re a freelancer) or any ebooks or products you create, instead of trying to ‘monetize your blog’. Check out our travel blogging page for additional tips.

What types of visa do you need?

Because I’m an EU citizen, my family ( who are Canadian American) didn’t need a visa to live with me in Italy. However ( and this is the part that baffles everyone), due to the spousal visa changes made years ago, despite me being British, it’s almost impossible for me as a self-employed individual and freelancer to sponsor my family to live with me in the UK. Nope, makes no sense at all and it’s very complicated, but thousands of Brit-non EU families have to leave the UK every year because of it, or get split up. It’s a horrible tragedy, and it was the reason we left Scotland after moving there for a short period of time. Perhaps after Brexit this will now change, but who knows.

If you aren’t an EU citizen and want to stay in the EU long-term, you will need a visa. The same goes for pretty much any country, including here in Thailand. I plan on writing a post in the near future about the various visas you can get to stay here long-term, including the education visa I’m currently on.

Will you have enough activities for your kids?

If you are traveling while using a traditional homeschooling curriculum that’s accredited, will you be able to find the supplies you need for your kid’s classes? In  most cases you will, unless you are very rural, but it’s important to take this into consideration just in case.

Are you a worldschooler? Share your journey with us below in the comments!

 

unschooling in Chiang Mai

Unschooling in Chiang Mai

unschooling in Chiang Mai

Hello there!

It’s been quite awhile since you’ve heard from us, and I apologize for that! I write regularly on my other blog and neglected to update this one.

We haven’t made it to Canada and instead took a detour to Hang Dong, on the outskirts of Chiang Mai. I must say this move has been fantastic for all three of us. Our good friends Krid and Aung helped us find a very affordable house that is near a community swimming pool and in a quiet, mostly Thai neighborhood.

We were renting a car for several months but after the car rental company decided they could make more renting short-term to tourists, we’ve struggled to find another rental place that has the same rates. Just like in Phuket, renting a car here is pricey.

The good news is that publish transportation in Chiang Mai is better than in Phuket and have both super inexpensive buses that go into the city, as well as private ones that are slightly cheaper than taxis.

worldschooling

exploring Wat Rong Khun in Chiang Rai

We live near Kad Farang, a market that is popular with both Thais and farang. It has a food court ( that includes live music and beer towers lol) and several restaurants, plus a Rimping supermarket. On Mondays and Wednesdays, there is a fantastic outside market that sells everything from puppies to clothes and food.

I find this part of Thailand to be amazing for a worldschooling, work from home family. Unschooling in Chiang Mai is much easier and more fulfilling than in Phuket, the latter of which has very few homeschoolers. I adore Southern Thailand and lived there for 5 years, but as much as I love Phuket, I’m so happy to be in Northern Thailand and have more book stores, educational opportunities, and playrooms for Kaya to meet kids.

 

If you happen to be an unschooling family or homeschooling family in Chiang Mai, please get in touch with us! We’d love to meet you!

3 Things YOUR KID wants to do in Birmingham

I won’t lie. 

We’ve outgrown Phuket island life and have been searching the web for new stomping ground.

Obviously we have a list – a quota – for our potential cities and countries.  And upon meeting some of the main points, we hope to spend a few days experiencing the lifestyle and vibe while seeing how our daughter, Kaya, reacts to the change.

So…  First on the list, is actually quite surprising, seeing as I worked in the city over 10 years ago and never thought I’d be looking back.  But after it hit so many unexpected points, I just had to make it one of our candidates.  I mean come on – it’s an Asian/Indian foodie’s delight touting the famed Balti Triangle – packed with over 50 SE Asian restaurants.  I mean the city has an unofficial count of 179 mostly Kashmiri influenced Indian restaurants!  It was UK’s Curry capital in 2005! This calls for a visit. Hotel Direct book me a room in The Cube please.  Don’t have it? Alright then, just suggest a few on your “Most Popular Hotels” list.  Thank you!

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Birmingham, England.  Yes, the Brums!

So we’ve created a list, not for the parents, but for the kids – cause we’re doing this as a family and what’s more appropriate for Europe’s ‘youngest’ city – It’s true!  40% of the population are under 25!

3 Things YOUR KID wants to do in Birmingham

1)       Cadbury World

A family trip to Birmingham must start where life began.  In chocolate.  With chocolate.  Okay so maybe not literally, but if you live or have at one point journeyed to the eastern hemisphere of the world, you know that Cadbury chocolate, candy and sweets are tops.  Dairy Milk may just be the king of milk chocolate.  And everyone knows about Cadbury eggs!  So why not take a journey to Cadbury World!  Enjoy the best history lesson – where chocolate began, enjoy seeing the original Cadbury shop on a replicated Bull Street (complete with actors!), watch the magic in action as they describe the ingredients and what makes a their milk chocolate exquisite, take a ride through a Cadbury wonderland for the kids, and partake in the Interactive side of Cadbury with simulated “chocolate rain” (song not included).  After all the fun, there’s even a 3-storey play area for the kids to burn off any excess sugar highs.  You’ll have to run past the world’s largest Cadbury store, lest you succumb to temptation that has been brewing since you bought the tickets!

2)      Library of Birmingham

You can’t miss the largest public library in Europe; the 9 Floor (11 if you count the 2 ground floors) Library of Birmingham.  This 400K Book library has a glass elevator, 2 gardens – one for ‘discovery’ and one for serenity, a top floor Shakespearean Memorial room, and an excellent Children’s Library set away from the more quiet areas of the library.

new-birmingham-library11library1 library2 library3

The Library of Birmingham

If the architecture doesn’t draw your kids through the doors, perhaps show them this video about a special collection of books and games, called the Parker Collection.

3)      RoguePlay

And after a trip, you can walk around the city center while enjoying sights and sounds of the boats and canals.  Head on over to Bull Ring for some shopping or even better yet, get the kids enrolled in a Circus skills workshop at RoguePlay.


Usually only once a month, these 2 hour workshops are for kids 7-15 (don’t worry they do have more intensive classes available for the older teens) and “introduces them to a range of Aerial and ground based Circus skills.”  Trapeze, aerial hoops and ground acrobatics all taught by professionals in a safe environment.  But plan ahead – I’ll repeat – these are available only once a month!

 

If you are staying for a longer period of time, you can explore other kid friendly attractions like the Birmingham Nature Center, the BBC public space at The Mailbox where you kids can take part in making their own radio drama complete with sound effects on a tour of the BBC public space, and if they’re truly thespians, take on a day trip over to Stratford-upon-Avon!

The Importance of an Aquarium

 Phuket Aquarium

The Importance of an Aquarium

The Phuket Aquarium is Phuket, Thailand’s cheapest tourist attraction.  Located on the tip of Cape Panwa, a beautiful piece of land jutting out into Chalong Bay, the aquarium offers a fun morning of exploring, marine life gazing, and learning about the issues involved in keeping the waters and beaches clean and free from extensive damage due to over fishing and improper tourism practices.

 

Needless to say, it is any child’s dream, and our unschooled daughter’s favorite place on the whole island.  For less than 4 dollars a ticket, free for kids  under 5, whole families get the opportunity to peek through glass and salt water into another world.  And the beverage or snack outside overlooking the ocean is a view that can’t be beat.

 Cape Panwa

Kaya’s most recent query came at the container of the Electric Eel.  Her container is hooked up to a gauge that registers electric charge, making a small popping sound every few seconds with a needle flicking up and back to zero in an instant.  And it certainly details how kids take one small snippet and run with information.

Kaya:  “Dad… how’s the eel make that sound?”

Dad:  “That’s the electric meter.  It buzzes every time he makes a shock”

Kaya:  “What’s a shock?”

Dad:  “Well, I guess it’s like baby lightening.  He can make it in his body”

Kaya:  “Why would he want to do that?”

Dad:  “I don’t know.  Why do you think he would do that?”

Kaya:  “Hmmm…”  Pauses while gazing at the eel swimming through a small cavern…  “Maybe he wants to scare bad guys.”

Dad:  “That’s right.  I wouldn’t want to eat someone who has lightening in his body”

Kaya:  “Or maybe that’s how he gets his dinner…”

Dad:  “Wow… maybe!  We’ll have to check on the compy* when we get home!”         *computer

 

The definition of ‘Fish’ in the mind of a child changes from the simple sketch drawing of an oval with a triangle tail to something completely unique.  They begin to understand more about how creatures survive and use their natural gifts and abilities; why some are colored differently, and some are very ugly.

Kids begin to pose questions that require further research, if answered correctly.  Like:

“Why does that fish swim upside-down?”  (Upside-down catfish).

“Why does that Lionfish have spikes?”

“What does that big Grouper eat?”

Due to our frequent trips, Kaya has begun to develop a relationship with many of her favorites – the eel, Mr. Grouper, Arowana (dragonfish – who, to her amusement, holds a ‘conversation’ with dad, albeit one-sided).  Each time, more questions arise that makes her think about animals in their natural habitat and how they might act in certain situations, how they find food, or how they “get married and make baby fish”.

Phuket Aquarium

Nature Trail Map showing the Hatchery and Sea Turtle Pool

Maybe most importantly is the effect of being enthralled with all that an aquarium has to offer.  After reading this, you’ll be searching for an aquarium in your area, like the Miami Seaquarium in Florida or the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, California!  Purdue University conducted studies on two separate occasions, 2004 and 2009, on the health benefits of an aquarium.  In 2004, the study found that “the average patient [those undergoing psychiatric treatment] experienced 12% less anxiety in the presence of an aquarium”.  The 2009 study  “examined the effect of aquariums on the nutritional intake of patients diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease.”  The patients “averaged an increase of 17.2 percent in the amount of food they consumed. Weight also increased significantly, and the patients required fewer nutritional supplements. In addition to the nutritional benefits, there was also a noticeable decrease in physically aggressive behaviors among the patients.”

Those studies involved a smaller home aquarium.  Now, guess what surrounded by tranquil lights, calming sounds, beautifully colored fish and magestic creatures that appear to be product of imagination, does to a child?

Phuket Aquarium

Sources for Health Benefits:

http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/bloomsbury/azoos/2003/00000016/00000003/art00003?token=0056148ed3d77b76504c48663c25533a5b2f423f514d386a332b257d7241255e4e6b633194e96f62300e2c

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aquarium_therapy

5 Ways To Worldschool Without Leaving Home

unschooling

I wish I could worldschool.

This is a sentiment that gets expressed to me often by parents looking to travel and educate their children while on the road. Many want the cultural experiences as well as something to break up the monotony of our daily routines. The great thing I tell people is that they can worldschool, and it doesn’t matter where they are. This stumps them. But I am being honest: yes, travel is a fantastic form of family bonding and education, but you can experience similar elements without leaving your hometown.

1.) Develop a traveler’s mindset

BE AN ADVENTURER! Believe me, this can take some effort for people. I personally get stuck in a ‘bored and tired’ mindframe a lot. I completely forget that I feel better when I acknowledge that life is a mystery waiting to be explored, and even our mundane habits can take on new meaning when we look at them this way.

I learned this when I was in Korea. My husband seemed to be perpetually at work, and I was at home with a toddler all day and a good portion of the evening. I felt desperate. Trapped. Longing for something. One day my attitude shifted and all of a sudden I felt really happy and excited. For God’s sake, I was in Korea! We had a lovely park in our apartment complex! We had some great friends at a local cafe, who basically adopted us. I got to eat kimchi! When this sudden shift happened, the mundane really seemed…cool.

Project:

How can you shift your mindset to that of an explorer and share this outlook with your children?

2.) Pack up the kids and do something different, perhaps out of your comfort zone.

Pick a random day of the week and go somewhere you’ve never been before. It could be a zumba class, or horseback riding. This is a good way to shake things up and it’s a great way to bond with kids. Even if you all hate it, at least you tried it and know it wasn’t for you.

Project:

What classes in your neighborhood could you do with your kids?

3.) Go to the Asian supermarket nearest you

There happen to be a lot of ethnic supermarkets in the Western world, even in some smaller towns. Do you have one that is semi close? Research some dishes you have always wanted to try, make a list and have a family outing to the supermarket. Even if you can get some of the items from a big chain/regular supermarket, go to the ethnic one as the kids may find some unique foods they may want to try that they wouldn’t have seen at a generic store.

Take the groceries home and cook up your new dish!!

Project:

Go to the closest ethnic supermarket and get items to make a meal you have always wanted to make…but haven’t. By some exotic fruits or veg as well, or maybe even Asian snacks ( such as seaweed). Keep a World Food journal with your children to keep track of your trips and your meals, as well as their reactions.

4.) Download some world music

One of the best parts of my summer in Kenya was listening to Brenda, a South African singer who was popular throughout Africa. I covet my CD! My neighbor, who is from Nairobi, got incredibly home sick when I showed it to him, and asked me if he could borrow it. It was a great way to get to know him.

Project:

Have your children pick a country and begin to research pop or traditional music from there, and download it. Some may be harder to find, but sites like Live365.com have free radio stations from around the world.

5.) Begin to simplify your life

Many worldschoolers and folks following Lifestyle Design actually live a simple life. That’s not to say we don’t like some luxuries, but we take a preference for following a simple path ( aka not buying a ton of stuff). I find the best way to begin this process is to make a list with your family of things that are really important to you. What could you do without? How can you free up your time by following a simpler path? This varies from family to family.

We personally try to buy good quality items but from Indie businesses, such as etsy.com, or support our local community by buying from our friends and neighbors.

Project:

Ask your family what you really need to buy, and donate, sell, or throw out unwanted items. Pick up a copy of Living Simply With Children and go over some of the topics discussed in that book

I can’t wait to find more ways to worldschool without leaving your hometown!!

What are some of your ideas on activities you can do with your family?

 

 

The Benefits of Keeping Kids Active and Engaged

family travel

 

Today’s children are inundated with digital entertainment while spending countless hours in front of TVs, computers, smart phones and video games.  The importance of engaging them in activities that build their character becomes more significant by the day.  In a short span of a couple generations, the way children grow up and experience their development has totally changed.  Kids play outside less, don’t drink water out of garden hoses much anymore and don’t know what it means to come home when the street lights turn on.  Regardless, by taking an active role in preserving a child’s natural curiosity, and sense of adventure, you’re giving that kid a head start on adulthood.

When I was young, I frequently got mad at friends who would stay home and watch TV or a movie on a perfectly gorgeous, sunny day in Chicago.  One of the only 30 or so we were annually rationed.  Although my friends failed at joining me on outdoor adventures, my parents always picked up the slack.  Like most American families, my family packed up into vehicles and car rentals of various shapes and sizes, and drove off to all compass points across America.  These were the lean years when we couldn’t afford a private jet charter to flit off to Europe.  Actually, the road trip years were all the years, and I’ll always prefer to be like the Griswolds than anyone else.  I spent time in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Arkansas, Tennessee, South Dakota, Colorado, Florida and Maine on vacations when I was a child.  Most of my recreation focused on fishing, swimming, looking for odd creatures in the woods and getting lost in the woods.  That’s one of the worst feelings for a kid.

One of the best feelings a kid can have is when they overcome their fear of getting lost.  Or maybe one of the best feelings is when a kid learns how to swim.  Maybe it’s when they climb a tall tree and get over their fear of heights.  Whatever the task is, giving children the courage, indomitable spirit and belief to do these things is up to us.  Thinking about my childhood, I try to do my part with my friend Jaden.

I volunteer for Big Brothers Big Sisters and I have an eight year old, Little Brother.  Like most kids he loves video games.  He doesn’t play outside much and he doesn’t get many opportunities to do exciting, fun things or go to new places.  I always try to keep him engaged, energized and entertained.  I am his “enabler.”   I always try to enable him to do things he didn’t know he could do.  I took him tree climbing once.  An outdoor educational group rigged a Brazilian style, tree climbing system to a 100 foot tall oak tree, which my Little Brother and I climbed.  My Little Brother nimbly scooted up the rope, with wild eyes and a wide smile pouring out from underneath his helmet.  He climbed over 50 feet into the air and loved it.  I also took him fishing once and we caught a puffer fish.  Within moments, the puffer fish inflated, and suddenly fishing became a biology lab.  I never saw a puffer fish in my life, much less a frightened one that looked like a small balloon.  My Little Brother particularly enjoyed that surprise of the sea.  The two of us also traversed a three story high rope course.  I am not sure who was having more fun.  Between the challenging obstacles, the balancing and the heights, you felt like you were a monkey at a zoo.  It was quite an entertaining way to spend the afternoon.

My Little Brother doesn’t get a lot of chances to do things like this, so it’s great that I can offer him unique, character building experiences.  I can see that he’s changed a bit since we first were matched.  He’s shown a few signs of being more inquisitive and confident.  Sometimes these qualities aren’t nurtured enough in children.  I attribute my travels throughout the United States and abroad to my parents.   They sowed the desire to travel and a sense of adventure in me, on our vacations when I was a kid.  Hopefully now, I am sharing the same fortune with another kid.  The world is shrinking and America’s youth is increasingly diverse.  Instilling kids with confidence, passion and curiosity prepares them early to adapt and engage to a rapidly changing world.  So when they become adults they can live, work and travel where they choose.

 

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Should you go to the Phuket Zoo? It's a rather strange place but has some highlights.

Phuket Zoo trip

Should you go to the Phuket Zoo? It's a rather strange place but has some highlights.

Phuket Zoo Trip!

The Phuket Zoo has always been a place we have wanted to visit. It is the strangest zoo I have ever been to, and quite intriguing. There are few signs as to where to go, and beer bottles all over the place. Part of it is under construction. And the strange half empty aquarium inside of the dragon’s body is also a very random, obscure treat.

Phuket ZooPhuket Zoo

Phuket Zoo

I LOVE GOATS!!

Phuket ZooPhuket ZooPhuket ZooPhuket Zoo

The Phuket Zoo, as strange as it is, makes for a fun family outing and is one of the many things to do in Phuket

Make sure that you also visit the Phuket Aquarium when you are on the island. I happen to prefer it to the zoo and it is less touristy for some reason, and located in beautiful Panwa.

The World As A Classroom: Adventures in Family Travel

family travelI am very happy to announce that we have finished The World As A Classroom: Adventures in Family Travel, a photobook filled with pictures from our adventures in Italy, South Korea, Penang, and here in Thailand.

The 68 page book is available for sale on blurb ( see below) in ebook (3.99), hardcover with dust jacket (31.95)  hard cover with Image wrap (34.95) , and softcover (19.95) varieties.

Blurb publishes the best quality photo books available, and they were basically the

only service I found that could offer print on demand and yet retain such quality.

To celebrate, I will be giving away copies of the book!! This week’s giveaway is a copy of the ebook version ( which works on an ipad, iphone, and ipod touch).

To enter, simply subscribe to our blog and comment below!!