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Around 20 years go, homeschooling in the U.S. was a relatively underexplored concept; a radical idea that few chose for their children. In fact, in 1980, only 10,000 families approx. in the U.S. chose to homeschool their kids. Today, according to the National Home Education Research Institute, this figure has increased to more than two million.
There are lots of reasons why Americans are choosing to homeschool their children. Many feel that the current education system is failing kids in so many ways. Homeschoolers have more freedom to explore their creativity and develop personal opinions. They have more time to practice extra-curricular activities. There are more opportunities to eat healthy foods. Of course, they also get plenty of exercise, instead of being sat at a desk for the most part of the school day. Homeschoolers seem to be benefiting from and enjoying their education a whole lot more than their traditionally-schooled peers.
World-Schooling: At home or on the road
Granted there’s a whole community of children who receive their education in the comfort of their own home. These homeschoolers go on regular field trips that take them in and around local areas. But there’s also a number of families who make the decision to take kids out of the traditional education setting in order to embrace a learning program on the road.
A subcategory of homeschooling, an education on the road has been duly dubbed world-schooling. A growing number of parents are escaping the binding routine of work to take their kids out of school and set off on an adventure to foreign climes. Some go for six months, others take a year. An even smaller percentage stay on the road for longer. But one thing they all have in common is the responsibility they assume for their children’s education along the way. What better way to learn about the world than to experience it!
Tips for World-Schooling
Structuring your child’s education
The way in which you choose to actually teach your children is really down to you. This includes the number of projects you set, the way in which you have them “hand in” those projects, the daily structure and how “lessons” are conducted, etc. There are so many ways in which you can provide a non-traditional education. This ultimately comes down to trial and error, personal taste and circumstance.
For example, it might make sense to set cross-curricular projects that are organized according to the places you visit and the time you spend in those places. Have your children share assignments via Google Docs. You can sign up to some of the virtual courses offered by your home state, just to make sure you’re keeping your children on track with standard curriculum objectives. Bear in mind that each state has different options available, like these ones provided by the Florida Virtual School (FLVS). Let’s face it: your child may return to a public school in the future.
The only thing that’s really essential before committing to a non-traditional education is to take the time to do your research as thoroughly as possible. Reading about the personal experiences of other parents who have opted for a world-schooling experience is one of the best first steps you can take. With some of the basics under your belt, you can then start thinking about how you will incorporate each area of the curriculum into your world-schooling experience.
English, Math and Science
Imagine you decide to begin your traveling education in Asia. It could be the perfect opportunity to read a novel set in Thailand, or to explore some of the ancient Chinese inventions. Check out discoveries that helped to shape the world as we know it, like the abacus, alcohol and the clock.
As a way of tapping into those mathematical skills, children could be given the opportunity to investigate the minimum wage in Japan. Research how many people live under the poverty line, how much it costs to rent an apartment, pay bills and cover the expense of the weekly shop. A project of this kind would exercise their ability to work with numbers. It would also invite them to question standards of living in the places they visit and maybe even compare them with standards of living back home.
What better way of getting children interested in language learning than to take them to places where they get the chance to put what they learn into practice. A trip around Europe could provide plenty of opportunity. They may come into contact with French, Italian, Spanish, German and Portuguese speakers in a matter of months. A year in Central America, on the other hand, would offer the perfect environment to solidly focus on the Spanish language.
As part of your educational approach you can set boundaries so that between certain times of the day, you only communicate with each other in a certain foreign language. In this way, you actually accompany your child in their learning, supporting them through actions as they improve their language skills.
Geography, History and Politics
Africa and Australia are two wonderful settings for lessons related to geography, history and politics. You could set an assignment to explore the history and culture of the Aboriginal community. Plan a trip into the country’s Red Centre at the same time. Design a series of lessons and activities that focus on the rise and fall of the Incas in South America. Then you can include a trip to the famous Machu Picchu ruins as part of the unit of work. You could even devise an entire project that introduces your children to Apartheid. Document the long fight for equal rights between black and white communities, particularly in South Africa.
Arts and Music
Take them to foreign rock concerts. Sign them up to classes in which they can learn how to tango, salsa or dance the samba. Visit artisan markets. Ask those who are selling local musical instruments to explain a little about how to play each item on display. Investigate the cultural programs offered by local theaters, galleries and museums, particularly those programs and exhibitions that are free or have been designed with children in mind.
The popularity of individual sports varies across the world. Cricket is popular in Britain and India while softball and baseball are important activities in the U.S. Hockey is a favored female sport in Argentina. Small communities in Chile still enjoy a competitive round of rayuela. The list is endless. There will be plenty of opportunities for getting your children involved in short sporting courses as you travel. Not only will they get the exercise they need, but they will also get the chance to improve their fine motor skills. They will also socialize with other children of their age. They’ll learn a new skill and connect with foreign cultures on a whole other level.