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Little did I know when I started home-schooling on the road that road-schooling and world-schooling were a thing. I didn’t learn about either when I was in graduate school for education, surprisingly, despite the fact that I had studied countless progressive education models. I did know that people were teaching their children through experiential education, place-based education, and all sorts of other things that have actual names that are recognized by the world of education academia. But the terms road-schooling and world-schooling were brand new to me, only discovered by the sheer grace of Facebook group suggestions. Let’s pause and reflect on where we would all be without Facebook. *sigh*
What is World-Schooling?
While you are pondering an alternate universe sans Facebook, lets get back to the point. What exactly is road schooling or world-schooling? Well, road schooling is just a more specific way of saying world-schooling (it generally means learning while on the literal road, such as living in an RV). As far as I know, the term road-schooling hasn’t really taken off to be an identified and studied concept. For that matter, you could say walk-schooling (learning while walking) or boat-schooling (learning while boating) but that doesn’t really have the same ring to it. But all those things would definitely fall under the larger umbrella of world-schooling.
The Origins of World-Schooling
World-schooling was a term coined by Eli Gerzon who defined world-schooling as “… when the whole world is your school, instead of school being your whole world”.(Gerzon, 2007) Gerzon followed the principles of unschooling, another far more studied concept in education which could be considered the basis for world-schooling. Now this one I have studied at length. Unschooling is essentially the practice of learning through life and through learner chosen activities, rather than through a prescribed curriculum. This self-directed education concept was developed by educator John Holt in the 1970’s and remains a widely practiced philosophy among progressive educators today.
The Definition of World-Schooling
World-schooling as an educational concept was recently studied by Amy Feraro, in a study which appeared in the Journal of Unschooling and Alternative Learning (2016 Vol. 10 Issue 20) entitled, “Evaluation of a Temporary, immersive learning community based on world schooling.”. In her article, Feraro defines world-schooling as schooling that “draws on the fundamental principle of unschooling – child-led learning outside the school system (Holt, 1977) – and extends it to the educational value of situations that emerge from travel.” (Feraro, 2017)
I won’t bore you with the details of the study if that’s not your thing but will just briefly say that the author studied teens on an immersive travel learning experience called Project World School, and concluded that after participating in the experience all teens demonstrated progress in three main areas: social development, personal development, and experiential academics. These findings are not surprising, given the benefits that come from a mind opened by travel.
How do you world-school your children?
But what do you have to do to world school your kids you ask? Well, just show them the world. That’s all. You know, just grab a few ’round the world plane tickets… Not really. You don’t have to be independently wealthy to show your kids a broad view of the world and let them step outside of their own comfort zones and communities through travel.
What travel means to each individual student and family can vary greatly. Some families travel full-time and simply let their children experience the world as they go without any added curriculum. Some families utilize traditional school settings for part of the year yet travel frequently during summers, holidays, or even get permission to do so during part of the school year. Some use online or virtual schools with a set curriculum while they travel while others lean towards an unschooling approach.
Another option some families choose if they are unable to travel is to school through place-based or experiential methods at home, often incorporating a global approach to learning by bringing in travelers from around the world or focusing on global lessons.
I generally do a mix of trying to travel as much as possible but keeping a home base and following a child-led project-based approach to learning.
Meeting compulsory school laws while world-schooling
Laws will vary depending on one’s official place of residency in regards to what must legally be done to satisfy compulsory school requirements. Many families are either registered as homeschool students within their official domicile state and work to meet the state requirements within the world-schooling approach somehow. Others are registered as online or virtual school students and simply follow that curriculum given to them by their online school. Most of these virtual or online schools are really just school-at-home curriculums, meaning, they are following the same state standards as a school would, the only difference is the student is working online at their own pace. This isn’t really a child-led or unschooling approach to learning unless you are piecing together classes online that the child is interested in.
Technically speaking, you must follow the law of where you are, not where you are from. So, when traveling, you are technically required to follow compulsory school laws from the location where you are at that moment. But, most people don’t and one can easily just say that they are on holiday or vacation (which is sort of true anyway) and no one will bother them. So for those traveling full-time, they may not bother with reporting requirements where they are, or where they came from either since they do not plan on returning. Another alternative that’s popular is registering in an unschool friendly state such as Texas, which has no reporting requirements at all. Getting an “official” address in the state will (in most cases) allow you to register your children for homeschooling there, thus eliminating your legal obligation to report any work or curriculum.
My Approach: Open Space Education
Through my graduate work in the education field, I have developed my own method of planning and tracking student-based work that I call Open Space Education. It’s a student-led, project-based program that helps meet state requirements by tracking a student’s “work” in an online portfolio. This “work” is simply photo and video of the interdisciplinary projects your student decides to create, blogs about the trips your student takes, and other official documents like standardized testing (if required) or supplemental work as needed. Students plan their work based around their own interests, and plans for the future whether that be to go on to University or a trade. Open Space Education is more than just an online portfolio for students, it’s also an online learning community outside the bounds of an ordinary school. The site offers the opportunity for collaborating with other students who are doing similar self-designed work throughout the world as well as private student advising. For more info check out my website at: