As time goes on, you mention a need as an unschooling family for greater community. How did this need become apparent for you?
This is such a pivotal question which has guided our experience in the most profound way. Thank you for asking it.
We never set out to be an unschooling family, actually didn’t even know there was such a thing before we left on our travels in 2009. Though our own process of living, traveling and learning naturally, we discovered there was a name for what we were doing, and that we were indeed “unschoolers”.
As a parent, I took my role in the process seriously, being the best facilitator for my son, listening to his cues, offering support, providing resources and committed to learning right along side to him. We were conscious about this choice and took on the task of learning intentionally.
We made joint decisions about our lives, deciding where to go, when to go and how to live. We have been living in true partnership and both of our needs were being met as we learned to compromise and make adjustments along the way.
But as Miro moved into his teen years, community started to become a greater need for him. A couple of years ago, we were invited speak at an alternative education conference. We flew back to the States to make our presentation and received great feedback and support. But the greatest outcome from that trip were two points of clarity for Miro.
First, Miro realized that he was hyper sensitive to the commercialism which was a part of everyday American life. It is difficult to recognize that when you are living within the culture, but when you are away for a number of years the sensation seems stronger. Also, Miro perceived that people seemed very busy, interactions between strangers were more formal and disconnected. Miro reflected that he felt a great sense of freedom within our lifestyle and preferred that pace. Miro concluded that he preferred our life of travel and had no interest in returning to the States to live. At least for now.
But his second epiphany took me off guard.
During the conference, Miro connected with many other self directed learners (unschoolers) for the first time, in-real-life. Yeah, he had friends when he attended primary school in the States, with nothing more in common than being the same age and living within the same geographical area. He does not describe those friendships as deep in any way. But finally, as a 13 year old teenager, Miro came face to face with his peer group, an intelligent, quirky, liberal minded, self-directed group of teenage learners. “Finally”, he thought, “my community, my people”. And that experience alone, left an impression on Miro which changed the course of our lives.
We flew back to Peru, and furiously started to make plans to shift the focus of our first planned immersive family retreat into a learning community specifically designed for teens (which it is now). http://projectworldschool.com/
A lot of our readers ask how-to & mindset questions about affording the time and money necessary to live the unschooling lifestyle. In general terms can you share how you and others you have met on a similar path accomplish this lifestyle from a financial perspective?
We live day to day. I’ve become clear that “working” is no longer my life’s purpose as it once was. To go from earning $10,000 a month to living off of that amount per year, didn’t happen over night.
We made adjustments about what we valued. If Miro and I did not adapt an attitude to “collect memories” versus to “collecting things” we would not be able to live the way we do. So the first step of living within our means is changing our relationship to “stuff”.
As Americans, I had to relearn how to live within my means. I recognize I was privileged before, where I had the ability to buy whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. I would put things on the credit card and have anything I desired in a fraction of a moment. Instant gratification in terms of purchasing and adjusting that relationship to money took some practice. My life before was completely different, that’s for sure.
Now, we have no credit, no savings, no safety net to fall back on. I don’t have a boyfriend or husband to help. Miro’s dad doesn’t contribute at all either. My family (although I’m certain they won’t let us starve and have certainly helped us in the past) does not support us in any way. Without credit cards, both Miro and I have to always be acutely aware of what we are spending and what we have in that moment. Without a savings account we cannot plan ahead. Without a permanent source of income we become grateful for each day. And because we don’t know what is going to come in each month, so we have had to learn to be comfortable with what we have, no planning for the future and always living in the moment. For many, I suspect that’s the most difficult obstacle.
Is living on a shoe string the most difficult part? No. I think the “uncertainty” is what prevents many from taking on this lifestyle. And I’m not going to lie to you, it’s not stress-free.
Not intended to scare you, but we have had the experiences on three separate occasions over the past five years of completely running out of money. Are you surprised? We had under $10 in our bank account without any idea of how we were going to earn more money. And this happened on three separate occasions. Did I freak out? Maybe a little. But each time, we were able to find a solution.
The biggest lesson we’ve learned from becoming self sufficient while traveling is creating multiple streams of income. Not one is consistent and our income varies from month to month, some months, close to nothing comes in. The key is to diversify. Here’s how we’ve managed up to this point:
- web advertising
- freelance writing
- freelance consulting
- income from our retreats
- small profit from Miro’s sales from his store
The funny thing is, we always seem to have exactly what we need. It was possible, because we did rethink everything including the way we participate in this world. And creating multiple streams of income seems to be the solution.
Every time we thought we were stuck in the world without money, we’ve magically been provided for. And living with the knowledge that we are always going to be ok was a shift out of fear that is more valuable than any stream of income.
I’ll say that again.
The most valuable asset we have is living without fear and knowing that we will always be ok.
But I know that takes time to get there.
Besides the financial aspects, what are some of the other considerations needed to maintain your unschooling / travel lifestyle?
Our story is not just about unschooling or traveling. It’s about a total lifestyle makeover including travel, simplifying our lives by choosing to be present and living from inspiration. I could not give you an example that could be replicated in the US. In fact, I could not provide a formula that would work for anyone else other than ourselves, since everyone’s paths are unique and individual. But what I can share are some of the areas we focused upon in hopes that it sparks your own unique paths of inspiration..
My son and I left the US in 2009 with the intention to travel the world for 1 year. The first thing I have to share is the importance of flexibility. We have been on the road now, just starting our 6th year and we’ve only traveled throughout Latin America. And we are completely satisfied with our choices, since they are indeed, our choices.
We’ve become intimate with our own inspiration, how it feels in our bodies and what it’s messages are. We now recognize that spark inside of us that ignites our creativity and passion. For both Miro and I, travel inspires us, but so does many other things. And now, we listen as it’s become a huge factor in our decision making.
Like inspiration, this another of those internal gifts we’ve tapped into and have learned to recognize it’s voice. Our intuition keeps us safe, and guides us with gut feelings and acts as our inner guidance system.
This is huge. Trust the world. Trust that we are learning. Trust that we are on path. Trust that our decisions are right for ourselves, right now. We do have trust in these things and more.
Yes, we are unschoolers, and academic information plays a role in our lives too. It compliments the experience and deepens our learning. But for me, as a parent, it helps me understand the dynamics of learning, the process of developmental stages, the nature of being human, how we are wired and how we grow. It is my responsibility as a parent to keep my son safe, support his dreams and allow him the space to make his own mistakes. The internet has been the best library for us for all subjects; academic, health, safety, emotional, spiritual and travel resources. I can’t imagine how we’d manage without it.
Fear is powerful. Fear, as a topic, comes up quite a bit for us now. But not how you may think. It comes up in the form of questions asked of us, seeking the tricks we used to overcome fear in our lives. I’ve thought long and hard about this. We haven’t become ‘fearless” nor are we extraordinarily brave. We’ve merely learned to transform our relationship to fear and prevent it from becoming a dominant force in our lives.
My former reactions caused by fear have pretty much ceased but the lessons they’ve granted us are profound.
Did we transcend fear. The majority of the questions we receive from our readers is “how do we do this?”
But did we really overcome fear? I’d say no. But what we did learn over the last five years was how to identify, demystify and overcome fearful thoughts as they came up.
I wrote about fear in detail here: http://www.raisingmiro.com/2014/01/25/how-we-overcame-fear-10-things-you-need-to-know-about-fear/
Presence directly relates to our relationship with “time”, something we never seemed to have enough of when we lived a conventional over-scheduled life, back in Los Angeles. Now we have time. Now we are present in our lives individually and with one another. We have learned to be present with so many things, our feelings, the mundane, our thoughts and interests, our inner going-ons, the world around us, everything. I can’t imagine life any other way now. Seems like upon reflection, our lives before had a lack of “presence” and we were superficially going through the motions that mimic life. Kind of like living in a matrix, but we had an inkling there was something else out there. In fact, wanting to have “more time” was one of the greatest catalysts for our lifestyle change in the first place.
Along with the practice of being present in our lives, we started to feel appreciation and gratitude for everything around us. The sound water drops make when floating downward in a public fountain, the way my computer hums when it starts up, the sounds of barking dogs in the deep night. Gratitude to see my son wake up based on his own rhythms, the ability to buy fresh food from the markets and shake the hands of the farmers who grow it and the ability to learn something new each and every day. So much to appreciate, so much to be grateful for.
What is the difference between “unschooling” and “worldschooling”?
The definition to both words are not unanimously agreed upon among the practitioners or communities involved.
However a general definition of “unschooling” is to live as if school does not exist. There are deeper philosophies at the foundation of the unschooling movement that include supported self-directed learning as an outcome of natural learning, usually facilitated by the parent(s).
Some even incorporate the “child-led” philosophy into every aspect of the learners life, allowing complete freedom not just focused on learning, but within food choices, bedtimes and hygiene issues. They are known as “radical unschoolers”.
Others incorporate project based learning or other forms of formalized curriculum into the mix and consider themselves “relaxed unschoolers”.
But as for “worldschoolers”, the definition is less formalized.
Some refer to worldschooling as the act of “unschooling” during travel, while others call themselves worldschoolers as expats who enroll their children in local schools throughout the world for full cultural immersion.
There is no wrong or right way to apply any of the “unschooling” or “worldschooling” terminology in my opinion. I believe each family needs to breathe their own meaning into one that works for them.
We consider ourselves “worldschoolers” and define the meaning in this way:
Miro and I have practiced the principles of “radical unschooling” as we’ve moved through our journey together. We didn’t set out to do so, only discovered that was the name for what we were doing after we had been living that way for almost a year. However, when my son asks for support on certain self-directed projects, we use the principles of “project based learning”, where I support him through project management and in that aspect we would considered a “relaxed unschooler”.
My son’s self directed learning has always been interest led….with one clear exception: learning from ideas we are exposed to as a result of our travel experiences.
Since we’ve been living a “travel lifestyle” for over five years, those exposures tend to be daily experiences. In other words, by virtue of being in the world, we are exposed to things, ideas, cultures, environments, history and experiences that may have not been guided by either of our interests, rather guided by travel. But we see it as an opportunity to pursue greater information to place context into our experiences. It’s immersive learning, not necessarily driven by interest, rather driven by experience. Therefore, our self definition is that as a “worldschooler”, versus solely identifying as an “unschooler”.
It’s inspiring to see Miro’s Fair Trade Peruvian Artisan Store evolve. How have world schooling and temporary learning communities impacted Miro as an entrepreneur?
Miro had a desire to contribute to the family and earn his own money. He has decided to do so by sharing with his audience the amazing and wonderful artisan goods that are available around us. He has experienced all aspects of running his own business from establishing relationships, placing orders, marketing, accounting, shipping and customer service. He’s had some challenging experiences through the process and has made some tough decisions about growing his business and has even had some high volume wholesale orders he was responsible for filling. But all in all, the worldschooling experience has gone hand in hand with his venture.
Please tell us about the upcoming temporary learning communities you are organizing in 2015.
Project World School International Retreats- Teens and young adults are invited to participate in one of Project World School‘s immersive learning events in 2015. Designed for homeschoolers, unschoolers and democratic learners alike, we offer immersive multi day retreats formed as a Temporary Learning Community. Each retreat utilizes the enigmatic landscape of each country as the canvas for exploration and discovery.
For the 2015-2016 season we will be producing retreats in Peru, Ecuador, Mexico, Guatemala and Argentina.
Here is the 2015 schedule:
Ecuador – Surfing & Marine Conservation- April 28 – May 22, 2015
A high-octane, 25 day learning community adventure retreat in Ecuador surrounding marine biology with an emphasis on conservation, biodiversity & environmental sciences. Special bonus, surfing, biking, and snorkeling in the beautiful Ecuadorian Pacific coast exploring a little of surrounding jungle areas.
For more information, please visit: http://projectworldschool.com/ecuador-surfing-marine-biology/
Peru- Cusco & the Sacred Valley – June 29 – July 23, 2015
A 25 day learning community retreat centering in Cusco & the Sacred Valley. This retreat has an emphasis on exploring Andean culture, history, archeology and traditional artisan disciplines with a trip to the enigmatic Machu Picchu.
For more information, please visit: http://projectworldschool.com/peru-cusco-sacred-valley-retreat/
Peru- The Amazon Jungle – August 3 -August 27, 2015
A 25 day learning community retreat taking place in the Amazon rain forest, with an emphasis on conservation, sustainability, natural medicines, ethnobotany and biology.
For more information, please visit: http://projectworldschool.com/peru-the-amazon-jungle/
We have not released the 2016 yet.
Every retreat focuses on a specific theme related to each of our host countries. Our learning communities merge immersive learning experiences with personal and social development focusing on global citizenship, cultural sensitivity, developing relationships, through exploring ethics and conflict resolution.
Participants both lead and follow in an atmosphere of dynamic co-creation and immersive discovery. Each day builds upon the last, with every exploration leading the group into uncharted directions.
However, this is not your typical study abroad program. Project World School utilizes the power of a learning community to produce a project driven by goals, knowledge acquisition, and changes in a global perspective.
What are the key elements of a “temporary learning community”? Perhaps you could share some key differences between a “temporary learning community” and a more traditional study abroad program.
A learning-community is defined as a group of people who share common emotions, values or interests and are actively engaged in learning together and from each other. Such communities have become the template for a cohort-based, interdisciplinary approach to alternative education.
Why temporary, you ask? The nature of co-creating a “temporary” learning community is very intentional. It will only exist in a certain point in time, and will rely on all of its participants to come together and breathe life into it. Somewhat within the vein of other temporary communities such as Burning Man, which comes together to form an actual city of a half a million people in the desert for one week. Then it’s gone. The magic happens in a intentional singular point in time, but the effects remain for a lifetime.
The benefits of creating a learning community are countless. The primary distinction is experienced through collaboration influencing the overall learning experience.
We are a true believers of social learning. We have noticed on our travels, when we have shared experiences with a group of other people, everyone spontaneously contributes through conversation, observation and sharing previously acquired knowledge. These social learning experiences are lasting, transforming the “natural learning” into a meaningful social activity.
Our temporary learning communities includes intentional social learning, immersive cultural experiences, teamwork and leadership activities and opportunities for deep interpersonal development.
In contrast, traditional study abroad programs are usually geared towards individual learning which include an inflexible curriculum, which measures knowledge acquisition through testing.
Project World School is clearly different in approach and concept.
What is your highest vision for Project World School?
Our highest vision for Project World School is to be a catalyst for change, transforming individual world views that effect our collective perceptions of humanity. We do this through hosting immersive cultural learning experiences that promote personal development within the context of a global learning community.
We envision a time when Project World School becomes an integral part of self-directed learner’s adolescence. We envision a world where these teens go back to their homes and communities to make changes, share greater cultural awareness, and become thought leaders.
Project World School retreats will become a network of temporary learning communities throughout the world to encourage interaction before, during and after the month long events.
Raising Miro on the Road of Life – Experiencing Global Education through World Travel
Project World School – Inspiring Temporary Learning Communities for Teens & Young Adults
Twitter- @ilainie – https://twitter.com/ilainie