Welcome to the very first of our weekly feature, Worldschooler of the Week. Just like it sounds, we will feature a new Worldschooling family every week. Maybe you can connect with them? Or maybe you can be inspired by them? Or even learn a travel hack or two? We kick the Worldschooler of the Week off with a twofer, Miro Siegel and Lainie Liberti. They have been the premier Worldschoolers and probably even inspired many of you to take the plunge. Their Facebook group has over 17K members and is the number one place on Facebook to go for all things Worldschooling. They have recently done a Ted Talk and travel around the globe with teens and young adults with their Project Worldschool. Currently they are doing a Project Worldschool in Thailand. So, each week we will ask 8 questions of the Worldschooler of the Week. Here we go:
1: How long have you been traveling?
Miro: My mother and I have been traveling for eight years on the longest 1 year trip ever conceived of. We left the US in 2008 with the intention of traveling for a single year and have not returned for the American life since then.
Lainie: When the economy crashed in 2008, I consciously replaced our rushed California lifestyle with a more meaningful life of travel. After one year of traveling, my son and I decided to adopt an indefinite long-term travel lifestyle. We are now beginning our eighth consecutive year of travel and continue to learn from the world around us.
Miro, who was 10 years old when he started traveling abroad, is now almost 18 and has traveled to 20 countries and has explored many in depth.
2: What kind of schooling do you do?
Miro: Technically we identify as being radical unschoolers but we like to call ourselves Worldschoolers. We let the world inspire our learning and passions.
Lainie: We are unschoolers, life learners, self-directed learners, passion driven learners, who are traveling. Not only is my son learning, but I am too. We are worldschoolers.
3: What is your most memorable travel moment?
Miro: Stepping foot in Mexico for the first time at the beginning of our trip. I’ll never forget how it started: with both of us scared and confused. We figured it out.
Lainie: OMG, that is the worst question ever! How do I decide between the rich experiences the thousands of people we’ve met over 8 years have brought into our lives, the unique places we’ve visited, the mountains we’ve climbed, the jungles we’ve ventured, the landscapes we’ve traversed, the ancient sites and cultures we’ve studied, the vast lands spanning countries and continents we’ve traveled, the boats, planes, busses, trains we’ve relied up, the mishaps, the challenges, the laughter, the tears, the joys and the learning. Oh, the learning. What we know as a reflection of our outer world experiences have impacted who we are within our inner worlds. And I really like the people we have become because of all of it.
4: What is one travel hack you would pass on to fellow travelers?
Miro: Slow down, Take your time. Experience more than what is on the surface. Stray from the path.
Lainie: From my observation, the majority of worldschooling and long term traveling newbies tend to make three common mistakes: 1.) over planning, 2.) over packing and 3.) not trusting that your kids are indeed getting a valuable education
Here’s my “hacks”:
The newbie worldschooling adventurer tends to over plan before setting out. Research is not a bad thing, but the over zealous planner tends to remove the opportunity for spontaneity from the experience, thus not allowing natural curiosity to unfold and take the learner places they never could have planned. In addition to being overly busy, often times the over planner neglects to build in ‘down days’ in their schedule which every person needs to ground and restore.
Hand-in-hand with over planning, one common mistake many newbies make is not allowing sufficient time at each location. Travel is certainly part of the worldschooling experinece but please do allow your family the opportunity to settle into a new environment without the feeling of being rushed. This simple key allows the learner to dig in deeper to ideas and experiences around them that the quick traveler will miss. Remember, longer times at a single location is more desirable than more locations.
There needs to be a balance between planning and unfolding, but achieving this balance takes practice. The only advice we could offer is to set out on your worldschooling adventure with the knowledge and awareness that you will need to balance the two and family communication is the key.
I could write volumes about minimalist lifestyles, travel gadgets and travel necessities, but I will only focus here on the educational aspects. Worldschoolers do not need to bring with them homeschooling workbooks or expensive educational materials. The world around you supplies the best stimuli and conversation starters. Leave behind the heavy toys and bulky art supplies. Toys can be made out of any surrounding materials with a healthy dose of imagination. Art supplies can be bought locally in almost every country, used and then left behind.
The best tool for the traveling worldschooler is a dedicated laptop computer per person. This device has multiple purposes; a reading tablet, entertainment unit, drawing pad, game device, research library and communication tool all in one. I can already hear the objections from parents around the world, “I have to limit my child’s screen time or they will be on their computer all day!” I would remind parents that technology is not something to be limited for the sake of limiting technology as no parent in their right mind would put a limit on “paper-time” (books). Instead reframe the conversation in your own mind to look at technology as a tool that allows us to do many things, including traveling with less.
Whew. This is the key to all of it. There will always be criticism from family and friends that don’t “get” what you are doing. There will always be lingering doubts from the parents since there is no report card to confirm the education process. Instead, there is only involvement and trust.
Learning is like planting a seed. The seed germinates under the surface for as much time as needed before sprouting above the soil. The key is trusting that learning is happening even if the parents don’t see it immediately. Parents must partner with their younger learners too and be engaged in the experience as co-learners instead of that as the role of a teacher. Partnering with our children allows the space for the experience to unfold and natural curiosity to drive the learning. Then, as the parent we must use the tools available to facilitate deeper conversations about the experiences and spark deeper investigations.
5: What does the term worldschooling mean to you?
Miro: It means many things: Being an active explorer, being a conscious learner, letting the world influence your learning path, explore different perspectives.
Lainie: The world is our classroom and each moment is an opportunity to learn something new. We believe once you combine travel and unschooling, we can’t help but to learn from the world around us, amplified through travel. In simple terms, the world teaches.
It’s pretty natural from the standpoint of being an unschooling parent, allowing the environment to guide our learning experiences. Yes, as a ‘parent and child’ who share the world, I have become an unschooled-learner too. But I have made a pretty keen observation recently: Learning happens without the formality of “teaching”, whether a family is unschooling or not. What I mean is that a child develops his (or her) inner-most-core through examples, experiences and the observations of the world around them.
For us, travel has become the expression of that freedom.
Since learning happens naturally, the freedom to be exposed to new interests through travel has literally transformed the world into an interactive classroom for us. We find ourselves stimulated with the newness of our daily surroundings. We have no problems being inspired to try new things and even step out of our comfort zones, deep into the unknown.
But it’s not just about adventure, thrill seeking or superficial travel experiences.
We’ve genuinely been inspired research beyond each experience with a deep desire to know (learn) more.
6: What words do you live by?
Miro: A quote by H.P. Lovecraft (my favorite one) “Life is comic, but the joke is on mankind.” I try not to take myself so seriously and cut loose, and when I do the opportunities present themself.
Laine: “Say yes to everything”. https://youtu.be/bH-kQJ10WWo
7: Do you consider yourselves rebels?
Miro: Rebels to conformity, maybe.
Lainie: Proud rebels.
8: Where can people find you? Websites, Social Media, Podcasts, etc.
Miro: Our blog at RaisingMiro.com, our project at projectworldschool.com, (both of which have Facebook pages of the same names) my mom is an admin of a massive worldschoolers group on Facebook called Worldschoolers, and I write poetry on my tumblr blog at seagulls-den.tumblr.com.
Lainie: All that Miro mentioned above, plus I host a weekly show focused on exploring all aspects of alternative education.The show is called For the Love of Learning, Voices of the Alternative Education Movement. To date, we’ve recorded almost 80 shows! You can see the show archives here: http://fortheloveoflearningshow.com/
You can also find me on twitter: https://twitter.com/ilaini
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