Why are we doing this year away?
And what does it mean to worldschool?
Yes, hello again, my friends.
Why did we decide to go away and do this worldschooling thing?
We have some goals for the year:
Try out school and teaching methods for our 8-year-old daughter. We’d like Beanie to be a curious learner who can step outside of the systems and institutions she finds herself in and analyze them from the outside.
We are looking for schools that will work with us in teaching Beanie that school itself is an institution, and something she can decide to participate in or not. When I was her age, school was my whole world. I didn’t have close friends outside of school and, even if I did, going through the traditional school system, whether public or private, was the thing everyone did; I didn’t know there were alternatives and I definitely did not have choices.
Learn through living in cultures different from our own. Again, it’s only when you step away from the surroundings you’re used to that you can see how others do things differently.
Sparking interest—Beanie’s especially, but also ours—naturally from seeing amazing things live. It’s hard not to be fascinated by Mayan civilization after seeing a Mayan ruins in person.
Perhaps participate in community living—some worldschool hubs have community housing (either shared housing or private homes that are located close together) and group activities—to see how we get along with that.
Scope out places we like enough to put down some roots. In the long run, we’d ideally like to split our time between a few different homes.
Get out of the distorted Bay Area bubble and recalibrate. Being in Collingwood, Canada, for the better part of a year, despite its similarity to the US and its tourist-destination-not-even-close-to-dirt-cheap costs, was still different (and still cheaper than Bay Area) enough to change our perspectives.
We started our first “worldschooling” experience by accident.
After several months of pandemic Zoom-schooling, it was clear there was little learning going on, and a lot of kid-corralling. Beanie’s first-grade teacher spent a good portion of class time trying to get everyone to pay attention. As with every classroom, there was one child, Naziyah, who was especially distracting/hilarious. I would eavesdrop, and every day was a variation of:
“Any questions?” the teacher would ask after explaining a math problem.
Up would go Naziyah’s hand.
“Naziyah, is this question about math?”
“OK, Naziyah, what’s your question?”
“My dad bought me a bunk bed!”
I very much enjoyed Naziyah’s participation, but lessons in this kind of virtual chaos were going slowly, and Leila was bored. As an only child, she was not interacting with any children at home either.
That summer, Taz and I brainstormed solutions, first considering learning pods near home, then realizing that with Taz and Beanie being Canadian citizens, the whole wide country of Canadia was open to us also. I don’t recall how we got onto the forest school idea—probably because the outdoor nature made it a safer choice—but I investigated forest schools in British Columbia and Ontario, and finally landed upon Taz’s hometown of Collingwood, and Red-tailed Hawk Forest School.
This was perhaps three weeks before the start of school. We hustled to get ready quick. We made it out there before the school year but had to quarantine for two weeks, so Beanie joined the class late, but the micro school size and welcoming staff made transitioning easy.
There was a little cry that first morning at drop-off, and then all was well.
That winter was cold and snowy; I did not always like it but Beanie did. Every day was a play-outside day, even in the winteriest of winter. We stayed until school wrapped up in June.
So now we’d gotten a taste of what it entailed to pick up and go, and doing it once made it feel much more possible to do it again. We came back to the Bay Area in 2021 and cast our thoughts ahead to the following year.
So what does it mean to worldschool?
At its simplest, worldschooling is treating everywhere and everything around you as a classroom. Some parents do the teaching themselves, taking advantage of museums, foreign languages spoken around them, and play time at the park with local children to enhance their curricula.
Sometimes they use online schools, such as Galileo, for structured lessons and support. Galileo even has affiliated ‘dojos’ in different parts of the world where students can get together in makerspaces to work on projects together and socialize.
Similarly, there are worldschooling hubs where families gather. Some are ad hoc meetups, and some are more formal summits or regular locations with educational and housing resources, though not necessarily a formal curriculum.
Then there are permanent worldschools as well as ‘normal’ schools that welcome worldschoolers—not many, but a growing number. We are headed to one of the latter in the fall: TIDE Academy in Costa Rica. The majority of their students are full-time, but they welcome students for part of the year as well. If students attend another school regularly elsewhere, TIDE even works with them to stay current with their regular school curricula.
And the Boundless program is an example of a permanent worldschool; Boundless is a new and fast-growing chain of schools that has ambitious plans to spread to many locations in the next few years. They offer one- or three-month sessions and they provide housing and a co-working space at each location, all within walking distance to their school. It’s a built-in community.
I’ve spoken to a Boundless staff member and will write in more detail about their program at a later date. I’m also putting together a list of worldschools and hubs that I plan to keep as a living document—the list is ever-shifting, as hubs come and go.
We don’t have an overarching worldschooling plan. Our 2023 is wide open. It’s a balance between allowing serendipity to play a part, and waiting too long to sign up for the most popular programs.
If Beanie really takes to TIDE Academy, we might stay for the whole school year. That wouldn’t exactly be “worldschooling” or my ideal scenario, but that’s OK. The top priority is Beanie’s growth, not a fixed ideology.
I also recognize the limitations of a worldschool experience, and I don’t have delusions of becoming a local by spending a few months somewhere. As transient residents, we might find a community, but it’ll likely be one that includes other transients. We may not reach the higher levels of trust and entrenchment that real immigrants gain by living somewhere long-term. Especially if we don’t speak the local language.
In exchange, worldschoolers do get to be on the outside looking in to many cultures, seeing how people here and there do things, taking note that what they thought was the way to do things is only one way to do things. Perhaps even growing fonder of their own homelands, as they appreciate the things that they took for granted and left behind.
Some families live this way for years on end. I don’t think we’ll want to; bouncing around rentals in Canada last year taught us we still long for a real home. We enjoy coming back to our nice little neighborhood in the East Bay, and our families in the Bay Area. We aren’t ready to give all that up for good yet.
Pretty Good Things
Ukraine and Russia through the lenses of ordinary citizens
Nowadays, citizen content creators give access to worlds that are usually just words on a page to most of us. Since the Russian invasion, I’ve been watching many Russian and Ukrainian vloggers who are showing us how the war and sanctions are affecting life on the ground. They include:
It’s amazing that we get on-the-ground reporting from ordinary folks. Just yesterday I was watching Pavlo’s video showing a supermarket in Kyiv, and I was astounded at how well-stocked and organized it was, in the middle of a war zone. I don’t know what I was expecting, but not full shelves that looked like any Safeway where I live.
What bloggers and vloggers do you follow? There are videos for every niche, and I love it. Some of my Youtube niches—that I wouldn’t have dreamed would be large enough to be catered to—include cooking with miniature food, Asian homemaking, food history, and living in the polar north. What have you found that’s good?
Good books for 7 to 9 year olds who read above their grade level
It’s a challenge finding suitable books for kids who read above their grade level. When the writing is at an appropriately challenging level, the content is aimed at older children who are able to handle more mature themes.
Two books we’ve found that are beautifully written, emotionally resonant, yet not too difficult for a 7-to-9 year old to grasp are When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead and Hello, Universe by Erin Estrada Kelly (our 8-year-old also really liked Kelly's You Go First, though she joked that it was an elaborate ad for Scrabble).
We enjoyed reading these books together with Beanie, and she reread them several times by herself.
Keep a running document with all the funny/interesting/cute things your kids say and do. I love reading the notes we wrote years ago, so many of which I wouldn’t remember otherwise. You think you’ll remember everything, but as your child grows into different versions of themselves, the three- or four- or five-year-old little thems are gone and the pictures in your head become very fuzzy. Those notes will delight the future you.