We Are Worldschoolers

spotlight on karen ricks and our kitchen classroom

Briefly describe your family (who you are, ages, where you are from, backgrounds, profession(s), etc.)

We are a family of 3. I’m Karen, 44, and I grew up in San Diego, California. I’m a Montessori Educator, Professional Chef, and Author.
My husband Dave is 41. He grew up in South Carolina, and is a Romance Novelist. He was also a Certified Personal Trainer and ESL teacher.

Our son Christopher is 9. He was born in Japan and is a true Global Citizen/Third Culture Kid. He is an Author and avid gamer. 

Describe your worldschooling travel style. (how long you’ve been doing it, how it works and briefly where you’ve been)

We began our Worldschooling journey with a decade as expats in Japan. I taught independently for a few years, while my husband worked in the local public schools. Then we founded our own international Montessori school, which we operated for 6 years. When I received a once-in-a-lifetime invitation to a private cooking school in Italy, we sold it all to begin our full-time travels.

We’ve been wandering the globe slowly ever since, spending as little as one month or as long as a year in each country. Since leaving Japan, we have lived in 2 different regions of Italy, the U.K., Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Greece, and North Macedonia. We have also made 2 trips back to the States to visit family and friends. We’re currently renting an apartment in Tirana, the capital city of Albania, in Eastern Europe.

Describe your worldschooling – education style.

As a Certified Montessori Educator, our Worldschooling style has been heavily influenced by my training. My husband also completed a certification course while we ran our school in Japan. Our focus is on respectful guidance of learners toward independent discovery. We tend to follow those subjects about which we are most passionate, so many lessons happen in the kitchen, in the gym, and while playing a variety of games.
We probably spent the first year of our full-time travels deschooling (unlearning the mindset of learning being contained within the four walls of our school) before settling into our current lifestyle of Radical Unschooling, learning loads as we live our daily life on-the-go. We enjoy connecting with other traveling families we encounter along the way, as well as making friends within the various communities in which we live. We all enjoy learning new skills and participating in our favorite activities in the local language wherever we go, too!

Why did you choose this learning path?

As a professional educator for 15 years before my son was born, I always knew I wanted to homeschool. When my son was born during our time in Japan, my husband and I decided to create the educational environment in which we wanted to raise him. Our international Montessori school was an expanded vision of that homeschool; we just put it in a downtown building and invited like-minded families to join us!

When we sold it all to embark on our full-time travels, it took a little while to determine what our lives would look like outside of the school we had built. Our daily life and schedule of activities changes with every move to a new country, so this is something that remains very flexible. One of the many things that we love about our Worldschooling adventures is that, no matter where we go, our learning is constant!


What are the greatest gifts (benefits) you’ve experienced as a worldschooling family?

I think the greatest gift that we have experienced as a Worldschooling family is all of the amazing time we get to spend together! As digital nomads, our work is flexible, so my husband and I have the privilege of giving the very best of ourselves to each other and to our son. We are able to prioritize the activities we enjoy most, and we schedule time to do those things (whether together or individually) regularly. We also have the opportunity to take advantage of off-peak hours and/or seasons for our travels and activities, so we frequently get to do the things we love without worrying about fighting large crowds.

What are your greatest worldschooling challenges (education, travel, health, work) and how have they played a role in your worldschooling journey?

One of the greatest challenges we have experienced has been the acquisition of new languages as we travel. Since most of our time has been spent in non-English-speaking communities, we work hard to learn the local language everywhere we go. It can be incredibly frustrating to go about your regular activities not understanding or not being understood by others around you. It is both a daily exercise in patience, as well as regular practice in listening and communicating clearly, that is an incredibly valuable learning experience for all of us!

Why did you choose to worldschool?

I was raised by a mother who is a teacher so, even though I attended public school as a child, there was always learning happening at home and through numerous extracurricular activities. As a child of avid readers and world travelers, our son was born into a family that values exploration and independent learning. Worldschooling is a choice we made long before we even realized that there was a word for the lifestyle we were living. The term has helped us to connect with other families who choose a similar way of learning together with their children by intentionally experiencing all of the richness the world has to offer

Share a big powerful worldschooling “aha” moment ( an inspiring  story from the road)

Our world was turned upside down by making the move from Japan to Italy three years ago. Many friends and family questioned how we could possibly choose to leave the international school we had founded in a place that had become our second home for a decade and uproot our young son to pursue what seemed to them an impossible dream. The first time my son climbed up a handmade wooden ladder into an orange tree in the garden grove of the Sicilian cooking school I attended, I was both nervous AND thrilled at his lust for learning. As he picked a basket full of the fresh fruit and made plans for juicing to supplement the following morning’s breakfast, I smiled broadly and began to relax. And when we all sipped from his creation the next day, I realized that I really had nothing to fear. The way he embraced every aspect of our new life on the road was exactly the way we had always raised him. He was demonstrating the very flexibility we wanted to encourage in him. He was showing us he already had the independent spirit we hoped to nurture. Our new life as global nomads was not, in fact, a brand new adventure in our child’s education. It was simply a new chapter in the family educational journey we’d begun when he was born. It was an opportunity for us as parents to boldly model the very behaviors we’d been espousing all his life. We may not have felt entirely ready, but I knew without a doubt that we were right to have taken the leap! (http://ourkitchenclassroom.com/a-few-thoughts-on-orange-juice-and-education/)

What would you say to other (hesitant) worldschooling families that may be considering this journey?

Start *before* you’re ready! Just like having children, you can study and research for decades. But you will never even know all that you don’t know until you actually begin. You have the entire world to gain and, in our experience, it has been more than worth it!