Natural Life Magazine

Raising Our Children Around the World
By Kaia Roman

Worldschooling: Raising kids while traveling around the world

My daughters were born at the Mullumbimby Natural Birth Centre on the far north coast of New South Wales in Australia. My husband and I settled down, bought a house, renovated it, filled it with furniture, and planted a garden. We had two daughters twenty-one months apart. We lived near idyllic Byron Bay, and our life was perfect. Except that I was miserable. I know that sounds ungrateful, I should have been thrilled to bits and I really tried to be. Honestly. I was a full-time mom, I had a gorgeous family and a beautiful home, but I felt like I was in prison.

The truth is, I am happiest when I am travelling. Before I had children, I had never lived in one place for more than two years at a time. I had been to thirty-six countries. Give me a backpack on my back, the smell of exotic food in the air, and the chatter of another language in the background and I am in bliss. I grew up with parents who moved frequently so perhaps it is in my blood. But I thought my restless spirit would be tamed when I became a mother. I thought my nesting instincts would kick in and I would be happy settling in to one place, especially somewhere as beautiful as the North Coast of Australia. Alas, I am too far gone with the travel bug, and so my husband and I had to make a major decision…

Stay in the home we had chosen and the life we had settled into, with me unhappy, or take a leap of faith and hit the road with two kids in tow, with me ecstatic. As we were grappling with this decision, a series of events took  place in rapid succession—a sick parent overseas, a lost job, the breakup of a band my husband was in—and we took it as a sign.

We sold the house, gave away the furniture, and dusted off the backpacks. When our girls were two and four, we headed to the United States where we traveled for two years. Our daughters learned how to swim in Florida, learned how to surf in Hawaii, learned how to read in California, and learned how to play violin in New Mexico. And as a family, we learned that home is wherever we are together. We have turned the everyday life on the road into school—“worldschooling” or “road- schooling” as we go. There are opportunities for learning everywhere! History, science, math, spelling, art, music, spirituality—it’s all around us all the time.

We got lucky. We realized my particular affliction early enough that our kids were too young to know the difference. They haven’t ever known the stability of the same home, the neighborhood friends, the school down the street. Their parents are their stability, and their relationship with the ever-changing world around them remains, unwaveringly, full of joy and awe and wonder.

Am I depriving our children of those stable benchmarks of most childhoods, just to indulge my own wanderlust? Perhaps that is similar to asking if other children are being deprived of seeing the world because of their parents’ desire to stay in one place. Ultimately, every family must form their own ethos, make their own traditions, and find what works for them.

This is what works for us: having a happy mommy. I realized that I am the most difficult member of the family to please, my husband being quite flexible and easy-going, and the girls thinking that everything they do is the best thing they’ve ever done and every place they visit is the best place they’ve ever been. I am a bit trickier. I like change.

Worldschooling in Bali

Green School in Bali is an international school with a curriculum focused on environmental studies, awarded the “Greenest School on Earth” by the United States Green Building Council Center for Green Schools. The school is the focal point for an amazing community of entrepreneurs and world travelers. Perhaps there, in a paradise setting in Bali, amongst like-minded families from fifty-five countries, surrounded by sixteen thousand other islands, I will finally feel like I have found somewhere I can settle down for a while. But probably not.

We have dreams of teaching the girls Spanish while living in a beach hut in Costa Rica. We think that if the kids could learn to speak Mandarin it would really give them a great advantage in this world, so perhaps we should spend some time in China. And I just can’t stop thinking about my wonderful experiences riding trains all across Europe many years ago, and still long to get back. So the world is calling.

You might be wondering how we pay to keep travelling around the world with our kids. We do not have a trust fund. We did not cash out on some great investments nor do we have some amazing skills that people pay us a lot of money to do. We are just creative and resourceful. We do what we can wherever we are and it always seems to work out somehow. You would be surprised how little money you need when you don’t have to pay a mortgage, house bills, school fees, or in general buy “stuff.” We buy the essentials and certainly have to eat, but our kids read books from libraries and make toys from sticks, and wear second-hand clothes. We choose to spend our savings on plane tickets instead of backyard trampolines and name brand clothing.

Who will our children become with this kind of upbringing? Perhaps they will be acutely aware of the oneness of all beings, having experienced so many cultures, and will be international leaders in their own right. Perhaps their “green” education while we are at Green School in Bali will influence them to become the next inventors of the solutions to global warming. Or perhaps they will be curious seekers like their parents, ready to throw on a backpack and go out into the world and explore at any opportunity.

Or maybe they will rebel against our gypsy example and settle down in one place as soon they turn eighteen and never leave. Whatever they become, they will know how to make friends anywhere, and keep in touch across distances, they will know that most people in the world are good and kind, and they will know that they don’t have to have a lot of possessions and material things to be happy.

How to Worldschool Your Children In Ten Steps or Less:

1. Avoid going into debt at any cost.
2. Sell or give away most of your possessions and live simply.
3. Come up with a skill that can make you money wherever you are—especially anything over the Internet.
4. Pack solid shoes, appropriate clothing for the climate you are going to, a good first aid kit, and a couple of comfort items for the kids.
5. Start with your first destination; you don’t have to know what’s coming next. It will unfold naturally if you just take the first step.
6. Live like the locals (within or even below your means).
7. Make friends everywhere you go—say hello to strangers in their own language.
8. Swap and trade for services. Teach someone English if they teach your kids wood carving. Make a website for someone in exchange for goodies from their garden. You get the idea.
9. Join up with other groups, clubs or homeschooling families wherever you are to share the education of your children; they need the influence of others. Make sure you give them plenty of opportunities to play and interact with other kids wherever you are.
10. Laugh a lot and be silly. If you’re having fun, you’re on the right track.

Kaia Roman is on a slow trip around the world with her husband Dan and their two daughters—paced to last another ten years or so. She makes money along the way by doing PR and marketing for clients based all over the planet, from anywhere she can get an Internet connection.

This article was published in Natural Life Magazine in 2013.


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