Can You Really Leave School Behind and Travel the World with Your Kids? Robyn Robertson Tells Us How
Have you ever wanted to travel the world with your family?
Would you like to experience different cultures with your kids?
If so, then this Galileo inspirEd event is for you.
Daniel Prince, a world schooling parent himself, chatted with Robyn Robertson about being a world schooling family and making the leap into home education.
Robyn has a fantastic podcast called Honey, I'm Homeschooling the Kids!, where she has interviewed some of the leading names in the unschooling world.
This inspirational conversation will have you planning your next family adventure, maybe one that takes you to new and unexplored places!
But First: What is World Schooling?
The unschooling movement is not a new one, yet we seem to have such a narrow view of what education looks like and how it should be.
Children learn all the time, not just in the classroom.
Robyn says that:
"We need to talk more about learning outside of the walls of the classroom and what other families are doing around the world."
The school system has always been structured and confined, but a child's education comprises so much more than facts, figures, tests, and results.
The good news is that an internet connection is all you need to leave mainstream school behind and become a traveling family.
Why Choose World Schooling Instead of Traditional Schooling?
Like Robyn and Daniel, many families have taken their kids out of traditional schools and are letting them learn according to their own interests.
This holistic approach to education allows families creative ways to experience other cultures and start worldschooling.
Traveling abroad and letting your kids experience the broader world around them means they learn what it means to be global citizens.
Your child will have the opportunity to learn at their own pace and immerse themselves in different subjects.
At the same time, they will feel free to explore a different culture as they discover more about themselves, the country they are in, and life itself.
World schooling is about so much more than world travel. It is about trusting yourselves, but more importantly, trusting your kids as you embark on an epic adventure of learning and growing together.
"It starts out in your learning process, thinking that it's all about just your kids and how they learn. And then honoring them and starting to trust the natural learning process really becomes about trusting yourself, and then gaining agency and autonomy in your own life in every aspect." - Robyn Robertson
From the Public School System to World Schoolers
Maybe you think that world schooling is not an option for your family... maybe you've thought this at some point:
- How would you make money?
- Don't you need a school curriculum for your kids?
- Could you really live in a foreign country?
- How would your children feel about being homeschooled kids?
How Robyn and her Family made the Leap into World Schooling
It was like a family gap year that turned into a whole new way of life for Robyn and her family.
"We just got to a point where we ourselves in our personal lives saw that we needed to make some shifts and changes. We had started to do so, and we really reflected and got clear on what we really wanted out of life and if we were living in alignment with our purpose and what was really true for us. So we saw that we needed to shift some things, and one of those things was we wanted to shift the way we're just living our life".
It is so easy to get caught up in the rat race of life as we juggle work and school, extra-curricular activities, and homework.
Parents and children aren't spending time together anymore, and if they are, it is a short period filled with distractions.
Robyn and her husband were struggling with the fast pace of life and the lack of family time, so they decided to make a bold move.
"We rented out our house, and then we moved in with my dad in Jamaica. Of course, homeschooling was just the easiest option because we thought we wanted to be flexible in our schedule and agile in what we were doing".
Living the life of digital nomads while starting from scratch in a new country may seem daunting, and even Robyn admits it was nerve-wracking.
"But halfway through, probably two months in, it was like ok, this is better than we thought. This is really good. And we're not going back to the way it was, and everyone was happy with that".
How Does World Schooling Work?
World schooling is a lifestyle for the whole family.
To world school is to allow your kids the space and freedom to learn through living life.
Traditional education focuses on measurable outcomes, conformity, and content. Does this way of learning really teach kids the skills they need for the future, though?
The short answer is no.
The world is shifting, and creativity, innovation, and independent thinking are skills that will stand our kids in good stead as they forge their own paths in the world.
Being "world schooled" means you will have more autonomy as a family, allowing your kids to learn about themselves as they learn about the world.
World Schoolers are Usually Unschoolers
As Robyn says, "I really truly believe that unschooling is like liberation. It's autonomy in so many ways. It's not just learning. You start to see how having agency in all aspects of your life is truly important".
Learning doesn't happen in a vacuum.
The people around you and the places you visit all add value to your children and their learning.
When you travel with kids and allow them to take control of their learning, they will become students of life as they find their interests and passions.
World Schooling Families Embrace Joy and Freedom
Like Chinmayananda Saraswati said, "Children are not vessels to be filled, but lamps to be lit."
As parents, we can help our children find the things that spark joy and curiosity. This looks like less curriculum, school, and structure in its simplest form and more freedom, self-direction, and exploration.
"Unschooling is recognizing that every learner is in that process of learning and that process is eternal and internal, and every learner can have agency. And the power of having agency and self-direction in your learning and the responsibility of your own learning is a really big thing" - Robyn Robertson.
Is World Schooling for your Family?
World schooling is a brave leap into the unknown.
Not only will you leave your home country but you might not even stay in the same place for very long. This takes courage as parents because it's probably utterly foreign to you.
We were brought up in a school environment that, like most schools, focused on test scores rather than free-thinking.
It is what makes the idea of anything different so daunting. It is also why world travel and unschooling are as much for parents as for children.
Robyn said, "We just learned as we went, and then I learned as we went along as well. I learned a lot more about myself. I was learning about them because we were always so busy that we never really stopped and just were present".
But Isn't World Schooling Expensive?
As Daniel says, "there is this kind of paradox that it is cheaper to travel with your family than it is to live a normal life."
To world school, it is helpful if you can do online work that allows you to explore and learn along with your children.
But as Robyn says, ' when you're in that mode, you become more conscious of what you're creating, building, and spending than when you're just in everyday life, living".
Robyn's tips for making your world schooling dream a reality are:
- Pair Down: You don't need as much stuff as you think, and there is something so freeing about being able to carry the essentials in a backpack. Kids get distracted by the toys and gadgets they have access to, so pairing down will allow them to use their imaginations and immerse themselves in authentic play.
- Live Simply: We could all benefit from living more simply, whether we are in one location or not. It is also easy to get caught up in being a consumer, but when you are on a tight budget, you can find fun ways to make your money stretch by keeping things simple. Daniel told a story of how his family would have zero-dollar days where they would try and spend no money at all.
- Be Conscious: As parents, it is easy to become distracted by the busyness of living when we really should be spending quality time with our children. Time doesn't cost anything, and our children want to connect with us, which doesn't require spending money.
Not Ready for World Schooling? Why Not Try Unschooling?
Maybe you aren't a travel blogger who wanta to experience language immersion and explore the world around you. Still, you know that you want something different from the traditional model for your family.
Maybe you are a parent who knows that education can happen outside of schools?
Maybe you know that school and curriculum are not the right fit for your child?
Judy Arnall defines unschooling as "when the learner chooses the how what, where and when of learning. So it's having autonomy in your learning, it's having the choice in your learning".
Robyn says, "it is a human way of learning that is natural. But somehow our vocabulary shifted in the last while to make it seem like it's exceptional, or it's alternative or out of the ordinary".
Although the idea of learning freedom is as old as Plato's, it is an entirely novel thought for many.
Robyn explains it well, saying, "it's hard to understand something when you have no reference or framework yourself."
Education Is Not One-Size-Fits-All
Robyn has a unique perspective on education because she is an unschooling parent and an elected public school board trustee for her local school district.
She says, "honestly, through these years, I got a better understanding of why things continue to remain the same" in the education system.
Mainstream education is so rigid and has so many levels of bureaucracy that local schools are becoming less about students and families and more about curriculum and test scores.
"It's really hard for someone to support autonomy or self-direction or freedom in learning when you've never had a chance to experience that for yourself" - Robyn Robertson.
We should be asking the students, our children, what they want to learn and how they want to learn it. We should help them create a culture of learning and exploration. As Robyn so wisely says, " they're the ones who have the better ideas than we do. They know exactly what they need."
Self-directed Learning Requires a Mindset Shift
Most of us went through primary school and high school, believing that school was where you learned things and school holidays were the times for fun.
But learning happens through play and exploration, and curiosity!
Unschooling allows your child to be themselves outside of the rigid rules of the classroom, particularly if you have a vibrant and outspoken child.
Robyn talks about school being based on a structure that minimizes disturbances, making it a difficult place for kids who don't fit the mold.
"So what happens is those disruptions, those disturbances, are then labeled as bad. They're labeled as disordered. They're labeled as wrong. They're labeled as needing support. The support is to get you back into that mold. It's not there to support your differences or to help you flourish in those differences. It is to erase those differences. So you can be like everybody else, so you have the least disturbance" - Robyn Robertson
Deschooling is as Important for Parents as it is for Kids
You need to forget everything you thought education should look like and focus on your child and how they want to learn.
Forget a curriculum, forget age-related learning milestones and spend time getting to know your child. Enjoy watching them puzzle out the world around them as they discover who they are and what they love.
But What about Socialization?
This might be the question unschooling families encounter the most!
Just because your child is not in a classroom with other children the same age learning all the same things at the same time doesn't mean they aren't socializing.
"We sometimes forget that socialization is one of the purposes of school. They want to socialize us in a certain way. And many times, that way is not asking questions, not being yourself, not having space to voice your opinion, not being able to respect yourself, and having self-confidence in order to live out in the world. It's about following the group. It's about following others and looking to others for acceptance. It's looking to an authority for acceptance or a checklist for being a good person. It's taking away any self-validation" - Robyn Robertson.
Whether you choose distance education, online learning like Galileo, unschooling, or homeschooling, your child will be socializing. It may just look different to school. As adults, we mix with people of different ages all the time, and a self-directed journey offers your child the same opportunity.
Why Is the Idea of Unschooling so Daunting?
We may think that our fears are unique, but they aren't.
As parents, we want the best for our kids, but that often involves huge amounts of trust and freedom.
Robyn summed it up when she said, " I think sometimes with parents the concern is, oh my kids are going to be weird. And therefore, I'm going to look like a bad parent because my kids are oddballs. Is it really about our kids, or is it about us? Are we worried about what other people are thinking and saying about us? Are we really worried or concerned about the actual person that our children are?"
That is profound and so true!
Our fears are based on what society considers normal and acceptable rather than what is the best decision for ourselves and our children.
For families choosing an alternative educational path, one that is free from a curriculum, it can take work.
" The other part of it that I think makes unschooling difficult for many parents is that it's about trust. It's about trusting your kids, trusting the unlearning process and trusting ourselves as people and parents".
But There is Information Available that Can Help
Unschooling has been around for years, and seasoned unschooling families and experts have shared their knowledge.
Like Robyn's podcast, there are blog posts, books, and academic articles to help you get started.
Here are a few resources from Robyn that you will find helpful as you venture into learning freedom:
- Peter Grey's book 'Free to Learn.'
- Dr. Gina Riley's book 'The Homeschooling Starter Guide.'
- Sue Patterson's book 'Homeschooled Teens: 75 Young People Speak About Their Lives Without School '
- Karla Marie Williams's book 'Homeschool Gone WILD: Inspired Learning Through Living.'
So, Would You Consider an Unschooling or Worldschooling Adventure with your Family?
We live in a world alive with possibility and the opportunity to re-imagine how we view education.
Life is meant to be lived and experienced, and offering our children the chance to immerse themselves in the world around them is the best learning opportunity we can provide.
So, will you trust yourself and your kids as you embark on a journey of learning freedom and exploration?
If you have found this inspiring, share it with someone else who would enjoy it!