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.
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.
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?
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!