travel with kids adventure

The Whole World in Two Tiny Hands: Homeschooling with Workaway

“I always wanted you to have a big world view, even though we lived in a small town.” I’ve heard these words from my mother often. It was important to my mother that my two sisters and I experienced the world not only through a textbook, but with our eyes, our hands, our heart. For that reason and many others, she decided to home school us.

For most of my upbringing, she was not only my mother, but my teacher, guide, and fellow adventurer. Whatever we studied at home, she tried to bring alive. She exposed us to experiences, people, and places that taught us how to engage with the world, as if it were all one big classroom.  As an adult, I blame my insatiable sense of curiosity and thirst for knowledge on these early lessons.

Learning how to make a shelter in the jungle with a local guide in Ecuador.

Revisiting the jungle as a grown-up, learning how to make a shelter in the Amazon rain forest of Ecuador.

As a traveler, Workaway has given me the opportunity to expand on the gift my mother gave me. When I am staying with a family and playing with their kiddos, I can see the same spark of excitement light up in their eyes as we teach each other new words, games, and ways of enjoying life. When we are sharing food around a table, daily chores, and personal stories, the line between student and teacher, family and outsider begin to blur.

"For kids there's no such thing as language barrier. Lena is capering around with one of our Workawayers Yannic from Netherlands." -Photo Credit Ludmila Piasecka

“For kids there’s no such thing as language barrier. Lena is
capering around with one of our Workawayers Yannic from Netherlands.” -Photo Credit Ludmila

Ludmila, a mother of three and one of our hosts from Poland was kind enough to share her perspective on homeschooling with Workaway and welcoming volunteers into her home. 

“Kids are the best teachers of life and to teach kids is both a challenge and an adventure. We have home schooled our children for six years. During that time we traveled a lot, exposing them to varied cultures and lifestyles, yet it was only when we started hosting Workawayers that the dynamics of our homeschooling experience has changed so much for the better.”

"'Senses education'. Lena is really enjoying the icy water of the mountain river." -Photo credit Ludmila Piasecka

“‘Senses education’. Lena is really enjoying the icy water of the
mountain river.” -Photo credit Ludmila

She recounts a favorite memory, “It’s an ordinary Saturday evening. Our fourteen year-old son is explaining the rules of Carcassone (a board game) to a couple of New-Zealanders. They’ve already been talking for twenty minutes and I’m secretly listening to them, admiring the fluency of my son’s English. When did he learn such good communication skills? Certainly not at school.”

“I think it’s cute when our children start speaking english in various accents, sometimes British, sometimes Australian English, depending on who is our workawayer. It never gets boring, that’s for sure!"

-Photo credit Sanni

Sanni, another mom and host from Germany chimes in about homeschooling with Workaway: “I think it’s cute when our children start speaking English in various accents, sometimes British, sometimes Australian English, depending on who is our Workawayer. It never gets boring, that’s for sure!”

Ludmila continues, “Later on, while drinking some wine I talk to my husband. “You know, we have been homeschooling citizens of the world. “One day…” he answers back, “They will stay at somebody’s else family and they will teach them all they have learned.” “Yeah…” I smile. “We have created three new Workawayers.

"Painting with 'real' paints. Kids absolutely love 'real tasks.'" -Photo credit Ludmila Piasecka

“Painting with ‘real’ paints. Kids absolutely love ‘real tasks.'” -Photo credit Ludmila

We decided to open our home for the world and the world opened us. Every Workawayer who stayed with us taught me and the kids something new: how to repair bikes, how to cook vegan food, how to play the flute, how to paint watercolors, how to make the most delicious lemon and ginger drinks, how to build a table, how to play the ancient board game and above all how to share differences and similarities and how to embrace the whole world in two tiny hands.”

"Jaś is enthusiastically playing the role of the "Workawayers' tour guide" on one of the trips to a nearby meadow."-Photo credit Ludmila Piasecka

“Jaś is enthusiastically playing the role of the “Workawayers’ tour
guide” on one of the trips to a nearby meadow.”-Photo credit Ludmila

I can only imagine my mother’s delight if Workaway had existed when we were growing up. She worked diligently to show us the world, and for that I am eternally grateful. Now, I have the chance to honor that gift and bring the world to a new generation of home schoolers, knowing they will one day complete the circle.

10 replies
  1. Bonnie McCalister
    Bonnie McCalister says:

    Hello All!!
    I am a Texas mother of two who is returning my two girls back to homeschooling…. In our earlier years of homeschool I had a spinning globe on the table that the girls would spin and pick a country. We would start our day discussing the country and they would follow up with an essay and small presentation about their daily country of choice. I always told them that I am going to give them the world. This planet will be their school, even if it starts with a globe on the table. We have and do travel a bunch but due to job cuts a few years back, they had to return to (clears throat) public school.
    Fast forward 2018…they have asked me to return to their homeschool and I said, “absolutely!” We all miss it.
    I’m not even sure if I am in the right place to inquire but….. Could this program be suitable for me and my two daughters?? Could this, in fact, be a path for us to use the planet as our classroom? I feel integration in other lands, with other cultures and adventures is the most ultimate human experience.
    Can anybody maybe just point me in the right direction to achieve this?
    I, myself, am a chef and have many other skills to offer. I have spent years as a substitute teacher and I am red cross trained. Also, I love to work with special needs, as well, as this is currently what I do. I love my girls more than anything in the world!
    Any ideas? Advice? PLEASE let me know.
    Kind Regards to All,

      • Allison
        Allison says:

        Hi! I was also wondering if there are programs where you can travel with your kids (not host).

    • Wendy
      Wendy says:

      To any homeschool families considering being Workawayers– Yes! I’ve used Workaway to travel with my daughter to South America and we are planning to do it again. I find most people are excited to host a small family, especially other families. Teaching English is usually in high demand, even if it is simply conversation practice. We like to volunteer together–we’ve run a book club in Bolivia and taught English together with kids in Argentina. Kids LOVE to see a teacher come with their own child. They are always so excited to hear that a child is coming.

      We get so many questions about homeschooling because it is unusual in South America, but they never ask us about “socialization” like they do in the U.S. I think that is because South American families expect to “socialize” their children themselves–they don’t expect that from the schools and often the schools are only half a day anyway. Just my own theory, though. We always get asked how she will get into college because they find that a difficult concept. Since my homeschooled son already got in and graduated, I explain how our system works.

      We can usually do these adventures for the cost of our plane tickets (I load up points on a credit card if possible and try to get at least one ticket free) and a monthly spending allowance that is pretty low, compared to the U.S. We save up for our tickets and plan the next adventure 6 months to a year in advance. It is a much better plan than paying thousands of dollars to volunteer through professional programs. I meet lots of people spending that kind of money for the convenience of having it all organized for them, but it really isn’t that difficult to organize, especially with Workaway.

      I always talk to the potential host on Skype or Hangouts, check out the location for safety, reading lots of feedback from other travelers. I would say it isn’t as easy to hop from one Workaway assignment to another if you have children with you. I didn’t have much luck with that. You should mark the box on Workaway for hosts who accept families. I found most hostels weren’t interested in us, but that might also be because I’m older and they seem to prefer younger people to work at hostels. However, I get a lot of response for being an English teacher and projects working with animals often replied back, too.

      Both times we’ve stayed for 3 months. The biggest expense is having our animals and home watched back in the U.S. Once we are in South America, everything is pretty cheap and everyone has been so friendly. I don’t know about expenses anywhere else in the world, but it isn’t hard to find lots of information on Lonely Planet or Trip Advisor, etc.

      I bring my daughter’s necessary courses, like math, and we do it before we volunteer. We’ve done spelling words in coffee shops in downtown Buenos Aires. We’ve dragged Saxon math into parks, restaurants, hostels….anywhere handy. We often work with children and my daughter helps with the craft projects, or helps them practice little conversations in English. It helps her patience. She brings books to read for her own English hours. We study whatever we are near–especially wildlife. She has watched a rainstorm….in the rainforest. She has had an entire Bolivian school come to our door and ask her to play. She’s watched me put all our luggage on the wrong bus. She seen me cry when I can’t communicate properly. I think it is great for her to see me struggle, too, instead of the teacher always being the one who “knows it all.”

      I wish Workaway had been around when she was younger and when I homeschooled my first son, but homeschoolers out there now… must try this if at all possible. Do your due diligence checking on hosts and you will be fine. Happy Travels!

  2. Danielle
    Danielle says:

    Hello everyone!
    I have done workaways before but I now have a 6 month old daughter and I would love to do some again before I return to work (I’m hoping to stay home with her for 3 years). Have any of you had success with work aways with a baby or very young child? I would most likely wait until she is 1 year. I am a teacher and have worked in Europe, South America and Asia, but there’s still so much of the world to explore and I want my daughter to experience it with me, but Ideally I won’t have a regular childminder for her until she goes to mainstream school.
    I would appericate any advice, please and thank you!


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