A WorldSchooling Guide

(Nota: Artículo escrito en inglés, ya que pertenece a un libro que publicaremos en el futuro en dicho idioma).

November 2018 –  Article written for The Girls Beyond Us – A book for our pirate princesses.

Worldschooling or tripschooling means that you use any resource you have at hand to teach and educate your kids (or kids around you) while traveling. Traveling doesn’t have to be only beach resorts, sleep until late (parents know that does not happen very often) or just having fun. Traveling could also mean learning about new cultures and ways of life, discovering nature, human endeavours and use those resources to cover basic educational concepts as well as maths, language, philosophy and religion, music, physics and chemistry, etc.

In traditional schools kids will have a very developed and detailed curriculum. In some countries or schools teachers have a bit more freedom to adapt that curriculum to the specific needs of their students. However there are two key factors that repeat themselves in any country:

  • School classes are over populated, education needs more resources (normally economical resources), and schools don’t have the tools and space they need. This leads to a teaching generalisation. Too many students for each teacher, generic and broad education instead of on-the-spot training, and lack of dedicated attention to those who either need more support or on the other side of the spectrum, those who could over perform with the right stimuli and motivation.
  • Curriculums are biased by the culture, politics, religions and demographics of each individual school, neighbourhood, city and ultimately country. Doing things differently creates alienation or difficulties in advancing through formal education (i.e. University or higher education).

In the last decades, more and more voices raise concerns on traditional education, either alienation concerns or typical pedagogical dilemmas. Class segregation, support, resources and most importantly, methodology. This is not new. Montessori based methods have existed over a century and are widely implemented in most countries. Theories on unschooling (or Deschooling) have been long written by authors like Ivan Illich (see “Deschooling society”). And from there dozens of branches have been created. One of which, according to many, is the worldschooling.

In traditional school curriculum, students will take certain subjects aligned with our understanding of how to divide knowledge, or professions. We will have mathematics, biology, art, music, language and literature, etc… Of course each curriculum will differ but at the end all will have a similar distribution and each subject will be taught in isolation. Perhaps with real life examples but by fully segregating concerns and domains. The more a student advances in his or her education, the more the knowledge segregates and diverges (but also specializes), to the point of writing a thesis on a Doctorate, where the student is supposed to increase the human kind knowledge by writing about a very specific topic on a very specific area on a much wider area of knowledge.

Let’s get a bit more specific on that area and one of the raising concerns of today’s society. Lack of STEM students, specially female ones. We do need more and more professionals in the area of Computer Science, Statistics, Mathematics, Physics and Engineering. The more we advance towards the 4th industrial revolution the more needed will those profiles be. Yet we are unable to motivate (or convince) early students of its value. A vast majority of teenagers will still consider mathematics as a boring, difficult and useless subject. If we want or need to bring up the numbers of STEM graduates, everything starts in the first years of school, and in order to motivate those kids we can’t just show some formulas and pretend that the usefulness of it will appear magically.

Taking one step further: School trips. Depending on schools and countries, it could happen that school trips happen once or twice per trimester. Perhaps is a trip to the theatre, or to a science museum. Regardless of the underlying topic, this provides a real life experience to the students where mixing classroom theory and actual implementations is possible. Experimenting in a science museum together with cool explanations from a proper and trained science communicator, ideally versed on keeping kids eyes open goes a long way. It creates memories that stick and most importantly, raises questions and motivates students to answer them on their own (indeed one of the key traits for STEM students).

So why not taking school field trips to the next level? Why not use your own holidays, road trips or even daily life as the training ground for going the extra mile with your kids, not only in STEM but actually in anything, so then they can decide on their own what they want to do?

To illustrate what I mean by worldschooling I’ll put an example of a recent trip we did with our two daughters, 2 and 4 years old at the time of traveling. We spent 21 days around Taiwan, circling the island and moving every 2 or 3 days, plus another 5 days in Dubai.  (Note: before this trip we experimented in several countries known to us in Asia, Middle East and Africa, so they are very well versed on traveling and cultures!).

This was just a vacation (long, but vacation nevertheless). Meaning that there was an end date and a clear day we would all be returning to our “standard” duties: Work and school. However we wanted to take every chance as a learning opportunity while discovering together an unknown area. Some examples:

  • We learnt about chinese language and basics of communication. Understood why different countries or people speak different languages and how they are different. Compare them with english, spanish and catalan. Review their characters and try to communicate. Learn that communication goes beyond the language or words you use, and that you can get around by using your hands, face, and most importantly, smiles.
  • Learnt about chinese cooking and gastronomy. How the Asian cuisine was generated and how it relates to the one in other sides of the world. I.e. How Dim sum relates to Gyozas, MoMos, Empanadas or Empanadillas, Raviolis, etc. The importance of food and resources in the world and how food can shape societies.  And with little kids, learn to eat and try everything :)
  • Visited a geological park with amazing rock formations from centuries of erosion. Learn the power of the wind and water, and how the tide affects both the earth and humans. Lean the amazing things nature can do.
  • Trekked around amazing gorges in a natural park, where you could see the different layers in the rock. Use this concept to talk about the earth age and about time relativity. How much time does it take to a river to be the way it is now, etc.
  • During hikings, we took time to observe and find. Just watch nature. Find different animal species and identify those you didn’t know they existed. A colourful gecko, a green snail, a big spider, a leaf insect. Talk about nature and adaptability.
  • Attended a Taiwanese wedding. Discuss what marriage means, why people get married and how different are weddings in different countries. How the concept of family changes in each culture (ie. extended family living together under one same roof; economical responsibility for family and extended family, etc)
  • Local religion, beliefs and traditions while visiting local temples (Taoist, Budhist and Confucionist)
  • Visited a Zoo and an Oceanographic institute and learnt about its animals. The pros and cons of the zoos, education and conservation versus exploitation and living conditions. Learn about different animals and habitats.

Those are just examples, and of course the conversations were very very decaffeinated and adapted to, mainly, a four year old kid (and a 2 year old). Nobody expects a full understanding of capitalism, shopping and materialism while visiting a Mall in Dubai, but if this conversations start early and are adapted, and most importantly happen on the spot, it starts creating an educational framework.

We could have just trekked the trail and talk about something else. Or even better, leave the kids at the Kids Club in the hotel. We could’ve just gone to beaches or to the swimming pool and not talk about any of those concepts. We could have skipped reading the explanation signs and videos in the places we visited and just take the photo of “I’ve been here”. But what would be in for them?

On the other hand, this does not mean that we were 24/7 trying to make a class out of everything. (We are not like that!). We did have our leisure time, stayed in the swimming pool or visited theme parks where there was one single goal: FUN!. What it means is just using the opportunities life (and the world) gives you.

One day in school they might discuss about wind erosion. While most students won’t be able to relate that to anything, and thus lose their attention, our kids maybe will remember that trip and will recall those many lines in the rock each representing several millennia. They might have pictures to help them recall, or just faint memories of what we did.

Maybe they won’t remember anything, but… what do we have to lose?

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