In Buffalo, New York, Amanda Dixon was a second-grade teacher at Kings Center Charter School, and her 38-year-old husband Solomon was a writing instructor at middle schools all across the state.
When the couple’s three young children—then 4, 2, and 1—were 4, 2, and 1, respectively, Amanda, 43, had the notion, “I’m spending all day teaching other people’s children and doing all the things that I wanted forever to do with my own children, with other people’s children.”
She still liked teaching and wanted a job, but she couldn’t see how to change. They made the decision to become “world-schoolers,” which is a group of families that educate their children while opening schools and traveling for months or even years at a time. Some families choose to travel for short periods of time.
The parents could not envision themselves homeschooling because “we wanted our kids to be around other kids.” The more adventurous of the two, spoken-word artist and poet Solomon, who spent his childhood moving between foster homes, proposed starting a school abroad.
But Amanda couldn’t see how they could relocate abroad, start a school, and take the kids on the road. “It seemed impossible,” she recalls, and went against her upbringing: “You go to college, you get a good job and you get your pension, you stay there.”
After doing some investigation, the couple discovered that many other dissatisfied families were leaving the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada to begin their own educational journeys. People are doing this, the pair reasoned. How can we replicate their actions while doing it differently?
What world schooling is – and what it isn’t
Loosely referred to as “world-schoolers,” the rising traveling community of parents who educate their kids abroad can be categorized in a variety of ways. Although it is unknown how many families are traveling, one of the most popular Facebook groups devoted to the practice has more than 62,000 members.
The desire for a traveling community, a shared philosophy of education and lifestyle, and a desire to feel as though one is living somewhere rather than merely passing through are the key themes, though. World-schoolers use a variety of remote jobs to pay for their travel, such as online teaching, investing in real estate, and stock trading. In many other nations, the cost of living and healthcare is typically far lower.
The global epidemic sparked an increase in U.S. families’ interest in homeschooling, which increased by 30% between 2019 and 2022. However, even as the world gradually transitioned back to face-to-face instruction, this interest hasn’t subsided. As parents “increasingly interested in non-traditional learning options for their children,” the libertarian Reason Foundation’s analysis found that the number of homeschoolers has doubled since 2019 and is continuing to grow.
Children have a variety of educational possibilities while families travel. Many families in the United States and the United Kingdom enroll their kids in the state’s homeschooling program. The decision on how to educate their children will then be left to those families. Some students split the year between studying domestically and overseas. Others adhere to the unschooling philosophy while traveling for lengthy periods of time. Others go on vacation while enrolling their kids in official online courses.
Terra Horton, a family therapist in Los Angeles, traveled for around a year with her husband and their three kids, who were then 14, 9, and 6. She enrolled her children in a home-school charter school because she knew the family would return to Los Angeles after the journey, and while they were on the road, all of the kids took part in an online education program called “Time4learning.”
As the family traveled, the kids studied at their own pace, according to Horton. They have been back at home and in school for two years. Horton claimed that initially, the kids “were a bit behind but they quickly caught up.” She claimed that the family frequently discussed their travels and cited them as one of their best “life experiences they’ve ever had.”
How do world-schoolers travel around the world with their families?
Approximately a dozen “world schooling hubs” have emerged globally over the last three years. Parents largely run some programs. Others are more ad hoc and emerge spontaneously when a sufficient number of individuals congregate in a place or region. Attending a less formal “hub” can cost anywhere from $250 and $900 each month, without counting living expenses or travel expenses. In Egypt, world-schoolers can rent a three-bedroom property with a pool for $600-700 per month, and meals can cost as little as $10 per day. Although more formal hubs can cost hundreds of dollars, they often include all related expenses.
Egypt, Spain, Thailand, Morocco, French Polynesia, Peru, Colombia, Portugal, and Bulgaria are among the locations of hubs. These centers often host brief, 4- to 6-week classes that involve the whole family. Children typically participate in structured educational activities for a few hours each day, which gives parents the necessary time to work from home. The hubs organize family-friendly activities in the afternoons and evenings, and on the weekends they organize outings. Many hubs strive to foster a sense of community among visitors, and some hubs even host events exclusively for adults.
Many families can enter the country on tourist visas because these programs are often one to three-month educational enrichment experiences. Each nation has its own visa policies, but some, like the Dominican Republic and Egypt, have overstay fines that visitors can pay as they leave. If visitors register once they are in another country, they may prolong their stay.
What children and families can get out of heading abroad?
In 2021, Louise Marie Morris and her two young children moved to Egypt from Portugal and established the One Family Luxor Worldschool Learning Hub. After delivering her second child, she felt she wanted something different for their lives and left her job at the BBC in London.
Morris recognized an opportunity when she arrived in Egypt. She wanted tourists to be able to play football with local youngsters and see the temples and tombs in the area, including “King Tut’s tomb.”
Morris started the center with 10 families in the courtyard of a nearby hotel. “We were completely unprepared,” After constructing a classroom and garden, Morris’ hub now draws approximately 25 families for each six-week session. Children and parents have also made an Egyptian-style oven at an old farm, traveled to the Valley of the Kings, and taken a trip down the Nile. Families rent homes from local families and join neighborhood sports teams, and because they stay for a while, they really gain a sense for Egyptian life’s rhythms.
Morris stated that “we have people coming and going from a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds and everyone is thrown into this new environment” – not an easy task since many families moving from the West will experience genuine culture shock. But she added that it is from these connections that “comes the most valuable moments.”
Businesses have started to offer an organized form of global education. Sam Keller and his family relocated to the French Polynesian island of Mo’orea in August 2020 for a year. Living on the island, according to Keller, allowed them to slow down and spend more time with their children and family members. “It was so profound for us,” Keller remarked.
Soon after, Keller established “Working without Borders,” a travel agency with a Californian basis that designs month-long educational adventures for families. Peru, Colombia, and Mo’orea have all hosted programs.
During Jace’s summer vacation, Jamie Neilans, 46, of Honeoye Falls, New York, took him with her on a business trip to Peru because she wanted him to have the experience of living overseas. When Neilans was younger, she spent six months living in Mexico, an experience that “changed her life.”
The single mother desired for her kid to undergo an analogous experience in order for him to comprehend “the important things in life,” which in her opinion do not include “a big, beautiful house or expensive car.” She explains that she wished for her son to understand that “you don’t need all this, you can be happy with the people that you’re with and who you are.”
Neilans, a self-employed independent medical biller, put money down for months before embarking on the journey. Neilans claims that their joint month-long experience in Peru strengthened their relationship.
Neilans recalled crying while watching the local school’s thanksgiving ceremony for the visiting students on the last night of their month-long stay in Peru. She believed that her son had learned from the experience that there is “another way to look at life and the way things can be.”
What can world schooling look like?
The Dixons relocated to the Dominican Republic in September 2020 in order to open their own school, “Forever Wild Children’s Garden.” To support their lifestyle until their school expanded, the couple opened a food truck with the money they had saved. The couple has decided to close their Dominican Republic location and is preparing to travel with 12 other families throughout South Asia. Three years and another child later, they have welcomed a second child. The family will visit six different places, including Kuala Lumpur, Chiang Mai, and Bali, while traveling and learning together.
The final family joining the Dixons and their four children were narrowed down after months of interviews. Each stopover will last for a month and include structured programming followed by a specialization camp.
Before relocating to the next place, families get two weeks to travel on their own. Before settling down in a new area, where they will create another hub for three years, the family intends to travel for ten months. They intend to remain in this state for as “long as possible.”
“World schooling didn’t exist when I was in college 22 years ago,” Amanda remarked. “I believed I would stay in one place for all time.” It is impossible to predict what the upcoming 20 years would hold, she claimed.
The couple stressed the importance of having the flexibility to adapt to whatever comes next. Solomon stated that “our spirit and our desire to educate children and our unique way of doing it” is the only resource they can bring with them.