Briefly describe your family (who you are, ages, where you are from, backgrounds, profession(s), etc.)
We are an Australian family of 6: Dylan and Sarah both 43, Violet 12, Miles 9, Arthur 7, Peggy 5. Until last year Dylan worked as a corporate accountant and Sarah has always been home, actively parenting and unschooling with the kids.
Describe your worldschooling travel style. (how long you’ve been doing it, how it works and briefly where you’ve been)
Our travel style is much like our ‘normal’ lifestyle! We don’t plan ahead too much, preferring to take up opportunities as they present. We’ve had a rough European itinerary which will see us use the UK as a base as we all have British Passports via ancestry.
We left home in May 2020, with very little set in stone apart from a few weeks in England to connect with family and to set up some administrative stuff. In that time we bought a 9 seater van, as for a large family, it made sense to have the flexibility that driving would allow us and, you know those cheap European airfares that people talk about? Turns out cheap travel stops at 2 passengers!
We are evolving into fairly slow travellers (we spent much of last year in Spain, barely leaving Andalucia!) with plenty of home days. Most of the time, we’re just living!
Describe your worldschooling – education style.
We’ve been unschooling for around 2 years with a fairly tenuous relationship with school prior to that. I often say my kids were born unschoolers – it just took us a little longer to catch on!
We really don’t do anything different now that we’re travelling to how we approached learning before – the kids really drive their experience and we follow their lead. Sometimes a clear passion/path will emerge and other times they just want to play or talk. Travelling can change the view that’s for sure and conversations about culture, politics, history, language, anthropology, religion, etc can take on a slightly broader flavour than when we were at ‘home’.
The biggest clear learning opportunity that strikes us as different as travellers are those things that push us out of our comfort zone pretty much constantly (it’s one of the reasons those home days are so important to the kids!). Particularly because we’re not travelling as tourists (although sometimes we do partake of touristic things), need to navigate changing homes often, meaning the kids get used to different places/different beds/different food etc and as adults we encounter things like understanding local parking rules, car maintenance etc. We are all learning where our limits are, what we need to stay sane and what our family dynamic can be like when we get it wrong – this is incredibly important for us to surrender to as well as it can be an easy to fall into the trap of thinking that this life is perfect all the time.
Why did you choose this learning path?
Our children really pushed us into challenging our thinking – not just on learning and education but on many things we thought we had figured out about being human!
I don’t know that we consciously ‘chose’ this path but it sure chose us!
The main influence for me as a mother was spending the early years at home with the kids and living a pretty slow life with lots of opportunity to just be with them with little agenda. I very quickly realised that being able to observe our children just as they are is an absolute gift (I have been slow to catch on to many other things but the universe presented this gem to be early on!).
What I saw in each of my children, as well as other kids, is that they learn everything they need to function really well in this world, with very little explicit instruction. Babies instinctively know how to get their mothers attention and to suckle and feed; infants work out how to crawl and move independently with no help; toddlers all walk and talk just by observing their grownups doing those things and interacting with them. In fact it makes sense, that all learning in young children is really done by being with their people, being loved and cared for and living in an environment that is conducive to learning and that is one that is free from fear, shame and manipulation. Once we figured that out, it really wasn’t hard to extrapolate that to all learning.
They did start in traditional education by attending kindergarten and then school (our youngest has never attended either and my third went to school for only a few weeks) but it never felt right for us and the kids always pushed back. Because we had made a habit of listening to our kids it seemed wrong to continue pushing them through a system that doesn’t suit them and which I believe is fundamentally and deeply floored. Unschooling was really just the next logical step for us as we strive to live authentically and in partnership with our kids.
What are the greatest gifts (benefits) you’ve experienced as a worldschooling family?
TIME!!!!! This is a big one for us as leaving our old life has meant that Dylan is not currently working and we have time together as a family to just sit with things.
My days have changed in that I can share the parenting and unschooling load with him and he has been able to see first hand what being with his kids 7 days a week is really like – and I’m pleased to say that he doesn’t want to work in a traditional 9-5 job again! The kids have the benefit of having 2 parents around to meet their needs and it means that often we can all spend time doing things that are important to us individually rather than everyone having to tag along.
We have literally hours a day to just talk and when kids are relaxed and not bound to a schedule or time constraints, all sorts of things come up – and conversations, like all learning, are usually not linear! We might start with what a particular street sign says in another language, move onto whether ants have bottoms and end with climate change.
BOREDOM!!! This might seem strange but with more time on our hands we have time to do nothing. This can sit uncomfortably to start with as our world has told us for hundreds of years that we have to be obviously productive at all times – the busier the better!! In particular for Dylan, this has given him time to think, time to reflect, time to respond and not be constantly reactive and time for healing which is a vital element in a parents unschooling journey! Boredom is also great for kids as they can dig deep to find creativity and inspiration when their time is unscheduled – it also means that they have time for big feelings to come to the surface and we can be with them while that happens.
What are your greatest worldschooling challenges (education, travel, health, work) and how have they played a role in your worldschooling journey?
Apart from the big one that comes up for most families – how on earth can we make this a financial reality for the long term – our biggest and almost only challenge as a family is how we work through the big stuff as it comes up ie what system or model can an unschooling family use to help us make sure everyone is heard and has a genuine voice in decision making. Because our children have a great deal of autonomy, it can be hard for them when they don’t feel that we are listening to them and that, in turn is hard for us as it puts into question our very reasons for striving to live in partnership with our kids rather than in a traditional parent/child paradigm.
Our kids really want a homebase and have a hard time understanding why we gave up what to them was the perfect life, including the home they were all born in. And so this has been confronting to us as parents as we have to listen to them through a lot of anger and sadness about that as well as the expected stuff like missing friends. They feel somewhat displaced and this is pushing us as a family to think about how we can live in a way that suits all of us – we are really being held accountable by our kids and this is a massive part of unschooling.
Why did you choose to worldschool?
To be completely honest, the decision was driven strongly by us as parents because of a deep desire to live differently. We felt like we’d already been pushing the limits of normality for a long time and without making a big change, we couldn’t see how much more we could do to challenge the status quo, challenge ourselves and challenge our kids. We needed to give up our comfortable,suburban life!
Because we were already living an unschooling life, the school stuff just wasn’t an issue in terms of how to make schooling while travelling work – Worldschooling was the next logical step!
We have long held that our style of parenting, learning and living is activism – for me as a mother in particular. Trying to live in partnership with our children is challenging as everything comes to the surface and must be faced – for our kids as well as for us personally. What was coming up for me as I went deeper into my own journey as a mother and as a woman, was that I was no longer feeling fulfilled living in our own relatively safe and privileged bubble. We both felt a strong drive to push us all out of our comfort zone. We could have travelled in our own country but wanted to really explore other cultures and have BIG adventures alongside our kids!
Actually our particular style of ‘worldschooling’ isn’t so different to our normal life so it probably was that drive to explore, live a little on the edge, live spontaneously and say YES to adventures that pushed us beyond our own shores!
Share a big powerful worldschooling “aha” moment ( an inspiring story from the road)
So hard to pick just one moment that has inspired me but I have noticed a strong theme that comes up for us a lot and it’s to do with living with an open heart, resting in the moment, saying YES to opportunity and speaking your own truth – some people call it ‘manifesting’ and it happens to us a lot, most often by way of connection with others.
My family has always needed connection with others (all humans do – some more than others!) and since we’ve started travelling we have had the most amazing people stand directly in our path. The kids have made deep friendships with others and so have we (it’s been great watching my husband have time and motivation to make friends also and he’s loved the male to male connection that he’s discovered!). But there has also been short, chance encounters which have been important in the moment and have brightened our day – meeting a Danish couple in a café in Spain as we were on our way to Denmark for Christmas and they were on their way to Australia; being asked for directions in foreign countries where we don’t speak the language and actually being able to help (and this has happened in some weird places!); connecting with a Danish friend who is moving to the same small and slightly obscure town in England where my dad grew up; my daughter making true heart connections with 2 English girls met in Spain- the kind of relationships that have positively impacted our whole family….I could go on as there are so many instances of exactly the right people being put in our way at just the right time!
So my AHA moment is really a series of moments that have affirmed for me that human connection, in all it’s many forms, is life changing and life giving and that however my family continues to incorporate travel into our life, it will continue to place relationship and humanity as the highest priority.
What would you say to other (hesitant) worldschooling families that may be considering this journey?
I would say a resounding DO IT!! No cautionary tales from me!!
If you are feeling hesitant then maybe you’re needing to work through some fears to help you move forward – things like schooling, finance, logistics like HOW will we do it and where will we go etc can hold some people back from taking the leap. I would encourage you to name your concerns so you can dig deep and work out where those feelings are coming from. It might be that you have some perceived truths to break down around how you SHOULD live; how your kids SHOULD be schooled; how you SHOULD earn money etc. Often we hold things as true that society has told us that simply aren’t true for us.
But don’t wait for all of those ‘loose ends’ to be tied up before starting your Worldschooling adventure – in my experience, there are always things that will come up for us in life and travelling can actually bring up new things that haven’t been an issue for you before! In same way as there’s never THE perfect time to have children, there’s probably no perfect time to start your worldschooling journey!
Sarah is a road trip loving unschooling mum of 4. She’s currently working on ways to be something else too but for now, raising a bunch of anarchists keeps her busy and inspired enough!
Her worldschooling journey really began when she made her transformation to motherhood 12 years ago – although it would be some years before the travelling part was a reality! For more than 11 years she lived what many would consider a fairly suburban life (literally – she lived with her family in the inner city suburbs of Adelaide in South Australia), raising kids, baking cupcakes, making bookweek costumes, making trips to the park….all the while, feeling like there just might be something more. More to explore with her kids, more to learn, more freedom!
Since travelling and working throughout the UK in her early twenties, overseas travel had taken a backseat to career, children and, arguably, stability. Sarah has been taking camping trips with her family within Australia for the last few years and this has been an important element in their unschooing life. And so now Sarah is an unschooling, worldschooling mum of 4 with many more adventures to come! You can find her @radicalthinkingradicalliving.com
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