What is Worldschooling + How to Afford It

What is worldschooling? Learn all the basics about how to take your child's education on the road.

What is worldschooling? 

Whether you’re experimenting with the idea of homeschooling your kids, or you already have 10 years of experience with morning circle time under your belt, the term worldschooling probably came up during your research.

If the idea of taking your family international and learning together through travel sounds appealing, I’m happy to report that you’re not alone.

There’s a huge community, and a growing movement, waiting to embrace you.  People who have been doing just that thing for years.

Think year-round travel is for people without school-aged kids?  I’m here to tell you that there’s no better way to travel than with children.

But so many people give up on the idea before they even start.  Why?

Because they think they can’t afford it.

International travel?  Full time?  THAT sounds expensive.

But I’m here to tell you, not only can you probably afford to travel full time with your family, you might even find it’s cheaper than living at home.

In this post, I’ll show you what worldschooling is and how to afford it.

What is worldschooling?

Worldschooling is an education based on the premise that the world is the most effective classroom.

Local, regional, domestic, and international travel make up the cornerstone of worldschooling.

Many worldschoolers live abroad part-time or full-time.  Some frequently move from country to country, whereas others stay for extended periods of time.

But an overnight trip to the closest historic battlefield also counts as worldschooling.

What is worldschooling?

Worldschooling Begins at Home

It seems contradictory, but your worldschooling adventure ideally begins at home.

Laying a solid foundation for your upcoming adventures dramatically enriches the experience—for both you and your homeschooling students.

How to worldschool when you're stuck at home.

Worldschooling Specialties

No two worldschooling families approach a global education in the same way.

But in general, worldschoolers tend to emphasize the following.

Foreign Language

Learning a foreign language is a niche feature of many worldschooling families.

Living abroad offers a unique opportunity for kids to achieve fluency in a second, third, or even fourth language.

But if your worldschooling family travels more locally, you can still teach your child a foreign language even if you don’t speak it.

Geography

Teaching kids geography orients kids to the world around them.

Knowledge of international geography primes children for a holistic understanding of complex matters like international affairs, history, and politics later in their education.

Multicultural Reading

Worldschoolers often place an emphasis on multicultural folktales, legends, and morality tales when teaching reading.

You can easily begin to lay a foundation for an appreciation of other cultures this way even with a child’s first baby books.

International Arts

From kung fu lessons to Frida Khalo, worldschooling families often engage with the arts of other cultures deeply.

An appreciation for theater, dance, fine art, and music, both while traveling abroad and in international communities at home, is a beautiful gift to give any homeschool student!

World History

The US public school system tends to place a heavy (dare I say, overloaded?) emphasis on its own national history, and world history often gets the short end of the teaching ruler.

Worldschoolers tend to invert this and prioritize a more global approach to history.

International Cooking

Nothing brings a culture to life like tasting and learning to cook foods from that culture.

Tasting a variety of foods from around the world makes for less picky, more adventurous eaters and inspires a love of cooking.

If you think about it, cultivating this love of different foods benefits international and regional travel in many ways.  Kids are less likely to complain or refuse local specialties and get a richer cultural experience.

They may even develop a love of cooking dinner.  🙂

As a bonus, kitchens make perfect science labs and a practical place to teach STEM lessons in any Airbnb in the world!

Common Approaches to Worldschooling

Worldschooling families take different approaches.  Many of them combine several of the methods below or change their approach according to their financial or family situation.

Here are a few of the most common ways to worldschool.

Regional/Domestic Worldschooling

Some worldschoolers travel primarily within their regions or their country of residence.  This is totally valid.

You can literally spend a lifetime exploring your own geographic region’s special features.

In many ways, limiting your travel to a particular region or country forces you to become more creative about destination ideas.

The countryside offers lessons in nature, agriculture and camping skills.

And cities provide a wealth of options for learning about the arts, politics, history and infrastructure.

Many worldschooling families begin regionally and move on to longer-distance travel.

Part-Time International Worldschooling

If the idea of educational international travel with your kids appeals to you, but you’re not ready to leave your home behind and live out of a storage locker in New York for the next few years, part-time worldschooling is a great option.

This may involve living overseas for several months out of the year (such as during the summer).

Or, perhaps you decide to design a whole quarter worth of lessons on Asia, and then go to China for a couple of weeks, supplementing your travel with several regional trips in between large international ones.

Like regional worldschooling, this approach works well if you or your partner have a full-time job that is location dependent.

Full-Time Worldschooling

The full-time worldschooling family lives abroad most or all of the year.

Typically, parents employ themselves via the internet.

Full-time worldschoolers tend to stay in a country or region for several months at a time, then move on.

You might decide to focus on one continent, or region within that continent (such as Western Europe or Eastern Asia).

Most people give up on the idea of worldschooling before they even start.

Okay!  I’m in!  But how do I afford worldschooling?  I’ve got bills, girl.

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of how to afford a worldschooling lifestyle, let’s lay the foundation with a few core concepts.

Generally, full-time worldschooling is more affordable than part-time.

It’s counterintuitive, and it varies from family to family, but as a rule, full-time worldschooling is actually more affordable than part-time.

This is because full-time worldschoolers are able to:

-Leverage their real estate (see below) if they own a home.

-Stay in long-term rentals (much more affordable than weekly rentals and hotels).

-Take advantage of flexible dates, last-minute flight deals, and other travel bargains that require extreme flexibility but save thousands of dollars.

Your worldschooling expenses differ from your at-home expenses.

Many people either over-estimate or (much worse) underestimate their budgets for long-term international travel.

Both mistakes come with risks.

If you overestimate, you lose time you can never get back saving more than you need.

If you underestimate, you’ll find yourself in a very anxious spot when it’s too late to do much about it.

But you may be pleasantly surprised to discover that you don’t need nearly as much money to live comfortably in your destination country as you do at home.

Do your research.

Find out exactly what you can expect to pay for:

-Airfare.

-Accommodations.

-Passports/visas.

-Meals for your family.

-Transportation (both intercity transport and daily transport).

-Medical care (in case you need it).

-Insurance.

Get answers to questions like:

Is public transport a safe, realistic option for a family of my size?

How much does it cost to do a typical load of laundry?

How much should I expect to pay for a simple meal for X number of people?

Is the water safe, or will I need to purchase bottled?

How much does it cost to rent a car seat? 

How to finance a worldschooling lifestyle.

Okay, you’re on board.  You want to do this.  You’re ready to start down the path of worldschooling and do all the things.  But you’re still stuck on that one question.

How can I afford to live abroad with my kids and still pay the bills?

It’s totally doable.  Let’s take a look at how to make it happen.

How to Afford Worldschooling

Start saving.  Now.  Like, today.

Here me on this:  Procrastination is a dream killer. 

Most of the things that pass you by in life come down to some form of procrastination.

As soon as you get even a little tiny inkling that you maybe-might-possibly-just-kind-of-perhaps-potentially want to worldschool, start saving money.

Give up coffee.  Give up Netflix.  Give up time-sucking, money-wasting shopping trips to Target for crap you don’t need.

All those little things add up to plane tickets, rentals, and hikes through the Amazon rainforest.

But—and this is crucial—set a deadline.

Pick an exact date on which you will pull the trigger and purchase whatever airfare/accommodations you will need to get where you’re going and then fight hard to make sure you have enough once the time comes.

Find work online ahead of time.

Online work is available for almost any skill set—particularly if you speak and write fluently in English.

If you think your skills can’t be leveraged online, you either haven’t looked around, or you haven’t thought about it enough.

Not sure where to start?

Take a look around an online gig site like Fiverr.  Type in a skill you have (like photo editing, copywriting, or SEO) to get an idea of what your skills are worth on the open market.

Then, start building a client base before you leave.

Online income is the most common way worldschooling families support themselves, and it’s easy to see why.  Working online is usually location-independent, comes with flexible hours, and can be scaled up or scaled down quite easily according to your needs.

Leverage real estate.

If you own your home, you can rent it out for a steady income while living abroad.

This works especially well if you plan to worldschool in a country where the dollar is strong and the cost of living remains low (such as South East Asia or Central America).

Of course, you need some rental equity.  In other words, ideally, you want the amount you can get from renting the property out to far exceed your monthly mortgage.

However, even if the income from renting out your home isn’t profitable enough to live on exclusively, the home will continue to build equity while you’re gone, and you won’t need to worry about carrying the mortgage.

Work locally.

Here’s a crazy idea.  Get a job working in the country you plan to live in.

Of course, knowing the language makes this infinitely easier.

But even if you don’t, some jobs are available to those with the right technical skills.

And you can definitely teach English without knowing the local language.

Live locally.

Worldschooling is not a vacation.  It’s a life experience.

Of course, if you go to India for 6 months, definitely spend the money to take your kids to the Taj Mahal.

There’s no sense in going somewhere if you plan to skip what makes that place amazing.

But taking your kids to premium tourist experiences daily just isn’t fiscally sustainable for most people.  It’s not even desirable.

Just as you wouldn’t take your homeschool kids to a Broadway show or a high-end sushi restaurant every day, you don’t need to make every day abroad a spectacular, over-the-top experience.

In fact, you’ll find you and your worldschoolers actually learn the most from the little moments.

Like how getting a haircut in Thailand is a very different experience from the Snip ‘N Trim at home.

Or buying fruit at an open market in Brazil is quite literally a world away from picking up some apples at the supermarket in Idaho.

The daily experiences of living in another culture are exactly what makes worldschooling so special.

By the way, camping and hostels aren’t just for college kids.

If you plan to stay in a country for more than a few weeks, you definitely want to find a longer-term rental.

But for transitions or shorter country stays, many campgrounds and hostels welcome children and families.

They’re typically much more affordable than hotels or even Airbnbs.

As a bonus, “roughing it” in these environments teaches kids resourcefulness.  Whenever possible, learning to live with a little discomfort pays dividends later.

Just book with caution.  Check the reviews and make sure your hostel has a good reputation.  Some hostels are located in low-rent districts, which often (but not always) suffer high crime rates, poor water quality, ect.

Also, campgrounds may not be worth the reduced nightly rate when you factor in the cost of renting a tent and gear, as you’re unlikely to want to carry all that around if you’re on a long-term international trip.

Have an emergency fund and an exit strategy.

When you’re young and traveling solo, taking risks and living on a shoestring can be a thrilling part of international travel.

But as a worldschooling parent, you’re traveling with kids.  Prioritize securing them safely with a proper exit plan.

Absolutely, at all times, make sure you have access to enough money that you could definitely get back to your country of origin in a hurry.  Or, at least to a stable bordering country.

In the unlikely event that you need to evacuate due to social unrest, an impending natural disaster, a sudden change in immigration policy, or, (as some of us learned the hard way in recent years) a pandemic, you do not want to be scrambling to come up with airfare.

(Remember, by the way, that airfare and ground transport spike considerably during an evacuation).

Additionally, trip insurance may not be as reliable or iron-clad as those sales reps want you to think it is, especially during “acts of God.”  Even if you’re covered, it can take months to get your money.

Know how much it costs to get home in the worst-case scenario, and keep your eye on that number.

If for any reason you dip below it, it’s time to come home.

Ready for your first trip?  Check out Preparing Your Worldschooler for an International Trip.

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