Three families share their “worldschooling” adventures.
The term “homeschooling” indicates that learning takes place at home, but for some adventurous families, the absolute opposite is true. “Worldschooling” is the combination of education and travel. This method allows families to provide an educational experience for their children by experiencing and interacting with the world around them. Now may not be the time to start traveling the world, but the Central Florida families interviewed for this article began their worldschooling journeys long before the COVID-19 pandemic. We’re sharing their stories here as inspiration for families who may be considering all of the possibilities that exist for nontraditional education in the future.
Living Off the Grid in the Southwest Desert
In the middle of the New Mexico desert, Ann and Mike Buoy and their two boys, Bryce, 13, and Brooks, 11, are social distancing in their 340 square-foot home, a recreational vehicle (RV). This high-tech home-on-wheels, which they affectionately named ChronicNomadness, allows the family to live, work and adventure from anywhere. In addition to typical RV campgrounds, the Buoys often “boondock” by camping off the grid on public lands such as national forests.
The Buoys weren’t always worldschoolers. Up until 2015, the family lived in Altamonte Springs, Florida. The boys were attending public school, Ann and Mike had a thriving photography business, and by all accounts, their life was good. But then things began to unravel. Ann was in a terrible car accident, diagnosed with fibromyalgia and then suffered a serious medical scare. After healing herself naturally, Ann decided to change careers and earned her certification as a holistic health coach. Mike works in instructional technology and design. During this time, Brooks was suffering with headaches 90% of the time, and Bryce started asking to be homeschooled. Knowing that Mike could do his job from any location, the family decided to take the leap and hit the road. They sold their house along with most of their belongings, purchased a truck and RV and began their adventure. This was a new world for the Buoys — they had no experience RVing or worldschooling, but they knew it was the right decision for their family.
Ann does most of the schooling as Mike works full-time remotely. The family has an assortment of technology and gaming devices with parental controls in place, and both boys are voracious readers. They have plenty of time to read books of their choice. The boys are different in their interests and learning styles, so the family started out using a mix of resources, including Easy Peasy, Minecraft Homeschool (now called GamED Academy), Khan Academy, IXL, BrainPop videos, TED Talks and educational apps. In 2017, Ann enrolled both boys in Florida Virtual School (FLVS). Bryce enjoys being able to work at his own pace, which allowed him to complete 7th and 8th grade science in one year. He usually finishes his FLVS schoolwork in just a few hours each day.
Living nomadically is rewarding but can have its challenges. The Buoys need to find locations with reliable internet so Mike can do his job. Sometimes things break and go wrong. In the beginning, Ann struggled with getting the boys to respect her as the teacher. When they pick up and move to a new location, the boys don’t enjoy having to say goodbye to their friends. In their current location, the Buoys are completely off the grid with no power or water. They generate their own power using solar panels and must drive 15 minutes to fill their RV’s water bladder and buy supplies every week.
The Buoys have gotten good at “unplanning” and don’t map out their location in advance. Sometimes they choose a city and figure out a specific location later. But no matter where they are based, the Buoy family loves to adventure, taking lots of day trips to explore the local area. They enjoy being active, whether it’s hiking, paddle boarding, snowboarding, rock climbing or mountain biking. Even though they can’t visit national parks or other public places right now, they always find time to get outdoors and enjoy the scenery. Ann has lots of helpful advice for parents who are considering homeschooling or worldschooling their children. “Be sure to take breaks. Go outside. Give yourself some grace. Homeschooling isn’t bringing the classroom to the home. It’s about creating an environment that facilitates your child’s love of learning.”
You can learn more about the Buoy family and their nomadic lifestyle at OurBasicEssentials.com.
Family of Seven Learning on a Full-Time Field Trip
Johor Bahru is the southernmost city in Malaysia and the place Regina, Tom and their five children, Txanton, Trevor, Trace, Tucker and Tyleigh, currently call home. Ranging in age from 7 to 16, all five children were born in the United States and have been homeschooled since day one. Tom and Regina decided early on that homeschooling was the best choice for their family. Their original plan was to buy an RV and travel the states. They kept putting it off because it never felt like the right time. Regina started researching international travel and what it might look like for her family. What she found led her to a life-changing moment. “I realized that we can travel the world full-time cheaper than we can live in the United States.”
Regina and Tom both had a yearning to travel the world. About two years ago, while living in Central Florida, Regina and Tom began investigating ways they could fund travel for their family. Tom owned and operated a handyman business, and Regina had an education background. They thought long and hard about the transferrable skills they already possessed that could help them make their travel dream a reality. First up, an opportunity in Thailand to do work exchange. Tom was able to use his handyman skills to rehab a house that was sitting empty, and the family was able to live in the house during the project. Regina says that work exchange and bartering are ideal for finding a place to stay. Next stop, Egypt, where Tom utilized his handyman skills while working for a street dog rescue. In Spain, they traded babysitting for housing by working as live-in nannies. Regina and Tom also have steady income earned through renting their home back in Florida on AirBNB.
Regina and Tom have always asked their children what they want in their education journey. Their family typically takes a unit study approach that allows them to anchor their learning to one topic and then customize the lessons to be age-appropriate for each child. The family classifies their learning into three types of experiences: fast travel, which is where they visit a city and do a lot of sightseeing; slow travel, which is where they stay in one place and soak up as much as possible for as long as their tourist visa will allow; and expat life, which is what they did while in Thailand. They enrolled their kids in school, and Regina took a teaching position. This was a much deeper educational experience for the whole family. Regina says that the longer you stay in any one place, the more you know what types of cultural aspects to look for and experience with your children.
While traveling from one destination to another, Regina, Tom and their children have created friendships all over the world. There are some formal organizations that offer worldschooling conferences with seminars, workshops and group housing. Also available are more informal meetups where someone posts a location and others in the area attend. Either way, these gatherings are a great way to connect with other families.
The hardest thing about worldschooling for Regina, Tom and their kids is missing their friends and family back in the states. They stay connected online but wish they could see them in person and give them a hug. As of right now, their family is staying put in Malaysia as they wait to see what the pandemic brings.
One of the best things about worldschooling? Deepening family connections. Because Regina and her family are living differently than they were in the U.S., they have opportunities to connect on a deeper level. They are living in the world in a whole new way.
More than anything, says Regina, “Travel teaches you resilience. You have to be willing to go with the flow. Roll with the changes. Deal with the disappointments. You learn to live with uncertainty. Surrender to the uncertainty. Whatever comes up, you just find a way to make it work.”
Regina’s best piece of advice for families planning to worldschool is, “You only need half of what you are packing. It’s so easy to think that we need all these just-in-case items or need to recreate our homes in our suitcases. Everything you think you will need can be found wherever you go in the world.”
Follow the adventures of Regina, Tom and their children at FullTimeFieldTrip.com.
Turning Real World Experiences into Learning Opportunities
Jessica Perlaza had always wanted to live abroad but felt rooted in Orlando. In 2008, when the recession hit, Jessica and her husband, Mayo, decided to leave their careers in Central Florida and move to Korea to teach English. Once in Asia, their minds were opened to a whole new world, and they couldn’t see themselves returning to their home in Florida. They stayed in Korea for four years and traveled around Asia.
In 2013, their first son, Joa, now 7, was born, and Jessica felt the pull to be near family. So they moved back to the U.S. for a few years, spending their time in Orlando and Chicago. Shortly thereafter, their second son, Tao, now 5, was born. The Perlaza family enjoyed having the support of family members nearby but started to feel like they sacrificed what they wanted for themselves and their children. Their family values have always been to have more time together — Jessica and Mayo never felt that they needed much monetarily or materially. They wanted to go back to their old lifestyle living abroad, but they were filled with fear and doubt about making the right decision for their family.
Then one day while on Facebook, Jessica came across a worldschoolers group. She read through some of the conversations and was inspired by what other families were doing. It gave her the motivation to make a change. Her husband was teaching online, so he could work remotely from anywhere in the world.
In 2017, the Perlaza family embarked on a journey to travel around the world for a year, finishing their trip in Portugal. Their current home is nestled in the mountains, about 30 minutes away from the town of Aljezur (population 5,000). Portugal is part of the Schengen Area, where Americans are allowed to stay 90 days, leave for 90 days, and then return for another 90 days. It can be a bit confusing, but there are apps to help calculate the days and keep track.
No matter where they travel, the Perlazas love having a home to return to. Jessica believes it is important to maintain balance. She admires families who keep moving around continuously, but for her family, it is crucial have a home with familiar surroundings where they feel balanced and can build a community.
Jessica doesn’t like to label how their children learn. Homeschool vs. worldschool vs. unschool — they flow through all of those depending on where they are in their lives and in the world. When moving around, they spend a lot of time outdoors. The boys are very curious and inquisitive. On a recent trip to a nearby river, Tao discovered that he could make colors and write with some of the rocks. So Jessica ran home, grabbed some paintbrushes and paper and turned the experience into an art lesson. Sometimes they will sit at the table and practice more traditional learning, but they try to stay flexible and adapt as needed.
When the Perlazas arrived in Portugal, they looked into forest schools. These are schools where children spend almost all of their time learning outdoors in natural environments. The forest school in Portugal has a small schoolroom that they use in the case of terrible weather, but otherwise, the kids are outside. The school has a tent where children can sit and read; it also has a garden and animals.
When asked what her hope is for her boys, Jessica replied, “My hope is that they will be happy. The most important value in our family is time together. I hope they will always hold onto that.”
Follow the Perlazas’ story through Jessica Perlaza’s photography on Instagram @kindlerofglow.