Special Feature: The World is Our Classroom

By Bevin Clare

Bevin is a professor at the Maryland University of Integrative Health. She homeschools her two children while wandering the globe.

Bevin and her children at Yanar Dag, Azerbaijan

“Oooh, you better get travel out of your system before the little one arrives!” This is a common phrase spoken to those of us who are expecting a baby. That was never my plan, and I was convinced I would show them how wrong their assumption was.

I booked international flights to Vietnam,Cambodia, Ireland and Hungary with the plan to travel with my expected baby. Thirteen years later, my 9- and 13-year-olds have visited 93 locations on the TCC list and consider the world to be their classroom.

There is no agreed-upon definition for “worldschoolers,” but thousands of us wander the globe while educating our children. Technically, children are homeschooled, but the name is less appropriate if you are rarely (or never!) home. Pop-up gatherings all over the globe allow us to socialize with other similar families, and (like other avid travelers) we have the joy of repeatedly running into people. We’ve run into people in Oman whom we previously met in Sri Lanka, and dined in Malaysia with people whom we traveled with in Chile. Social media platforms like WhatsApp help us maintain these strong connections, meaningful friendships and educational strategies around the world.

Some vacationers pity my children as they see them thick into algebra at breakfast in some exotic location while other kids are in the pool: “Oh, those poor children having to work on vacation!” This is life, not a vacation. The core didactic subjects (math, sciences, reading and writing) are managed not unlike a typical school program with a curriculum and tutors. My son adores math, science, chemistry and aviation, while my daughter is passionate about law, human rights, food and culture. With only one focused pupil, it’s only an hour or two per day of online classes, and their most meaningful and fruitful learning comes from the world around them.

So much more is learned while traveling. There are small things like converting exchange rates or learning new words to engage locally. Big lessons abound such as seeing the majesty of whole cities created in another time, the residual impact on communities where half of their population once was taken into slavery, or witnessing the joy and contentment demonstrated by those who have so much less than we do. They make friends who don’t speak a word of shared language but are fluent in the language of play shared by children on playgrounds and in swimming pools. We visit museums, get lost in medinas, haggle in markets, make mistakes, leap into oceans, and spend our days together living fully. They might miss their prom and the school cafeteria, but they gain so much more.

When we have children, exposing them to new, different, and often uncomfortable or unusual circumstances develops them to become resilient. Children learn by doing, seeing, eating, playing, laughing, breathing, and celebrating in the ways that all people (especially children!) do around the world — a life that can only be experienced through the joy of travel.

TCC members hoping to create engagement opportunities for your children or share your stories, please reach out to the club. The club is exploring this topic for future articles.

Bevin and her children in Tarangire National Park, Tanzania

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