about

September

2017

Merging Education and Socialization While Slow Traveling

CULTURE, EDUCATION

Socialization While Slow Traveling

Me: …We live in (insert country).
Other person: So, what do you do about school?
Me: One of our kids is in a traditional school and the other is worldschooled.
Other person: Really? Are you worried about socialization?
Me: For which child?

There is sometimes an assumption that children who are educated outside conventional schooling lack social interaction and skills. As a family that has, at times, chosen alternative schooling methods, I can say that there is no lack of socialization opportunities outside traditional educational settings. Sometimes, in fact, we wish there was less socialization. We meet so many amazing people as we travel, and, often, we have to say no to meetups because we are tired or have a lot of work. To put it succinctly, a school setting is not the BEST and ONLY environment in which socialization can happen.

Determining socialization goals

Each child is unique. How they respond in social situations is not always an indication of the educational setting. Let’s face it, not everyone with whom you went to school with was socially well-adjusted? And, if not, how much of that had to do with the school and how much involved other factors? Many things come into play, including experiences, family culture and personality.

As parents, we all want our children to be happy from a social standpoint. How that looks can vary from child to child, however. While we can help children discover what makes them comfortable socially, we cannot determine it for them. You and I both want our kids to find their tribe of friends. This could be one good friend or a whole entourage. We want them to make lifelong connections with people they can always count on. This could be friends since elementary school or friends on every continent made through global travel. We want them to laugh a lot, adventure, and dance like mad with these friends. It could be through after school activities or Skype video calls with others in varying time zones. We want them to learn what makes a good friend and how to recognize when someone is not worthy of their friendship. And, we want them to gain the compassion and respect to be good friends to others.

Whether worldschooled or educated in more traditional settings, we have created the following goals to help our children gain good friends and become the same to others. Overall, we want our kids to:

  • Socialize outside of their genders
  • Socialize outside of their religion
  • Socialize outside of their race
  • Socialize outside of their grade level
  • Socialize with adults
  • Socialize outside of their comfort zones
  • Socialize outside of their first language
  • Socialize when they want and remove themselves when they don’t want

We were very fortunate at our International school in the United States to have all but three of the above goals met. Through travel we have been lucky enough to accomplish all of them. Our goal for our children socially has always been to prepare them for the adult world, which consists of exposing them to a melting pot of varying ages, genders, cultures, religions and languages. We believe that WorldTowning and worldschooling has enabled us to best reach these goals for them.

So, through what types of interactions do we accomplish these goals? Here’s a breakdown of our socialization experiences since becoming WorldTowners.

Natives

I would say this category makes up 95% (or more) of our in-person social interaction. Over the years, native friends have included classmates, theatre/dance/ice skating friends, friends from local homeschool groups, and friends of friends. Playdates are mostly a U.S. practice, at least from what we have seen in the countries we have visited. As a result, the social happens more in a family setting which we prefer frankly. They take the form of birthday parties, field trips, holiday celebrations and weekend getaways. There is a huge benefit to family socialization for us since we all get to partake in it and build community as a unit.

WorldTowners and Other Slow Travelers

While this is our second largest social interaction group, it only involves a handful of families per country. We always make an effort to invite any travelers passing through to dinner or to join us on adventures. We love to swap travel stories, peek into other travelers lives, learn about another culture and make new global friends. However, these people are not as readily accessible as local friends and that is why they make up a small group of our social.

Friends from the U.S.

Of course, we could never forget our friends living in the US. We have been fortunate to have friends visit us in various countries over the past three years. We value these friendships tremendously. Many of our U.S. friends have been in our lives as far back as middle school. They have our backs here, there and everywhere.

Expats

We have only had a couple of expat family connections in our three years of full-time travel. We found them via various Facebook groups and an immediate connection was formed. The definition of expat versus slow traveler varies depending on whom you ask. For us, an expat is someone living permanently in a country—not their birth country—where they seek to experience a different way of life.

We cannot forget that we also socialize with each other within our family. Obviously, the majority of our socialization comes from this. Many people don’t consider the family as part of their socialization, but it is the place of our first and often most prominent social influences.

For the past three years, we have experienced social settings that are very different from our life before WorldTowning. For our children, this means meeting new people often and being able to chat with them without much hesitation. They are not part of cliques, but rather make friends from different social groups. Sometimes they have the opportunity to form a relationship over many months with in person contact and other times they have one day to make a connection. Either way they are learning social skills that branch beyond a traditional setting that will definitely influence their future relationships. I can confidently say that it has been an amazing experience for AvaLar. Watching their ability to socialize outside their bubble and comfort zone has been a huge positive for both of them.

It is going to be interesting to see how this list changes as we continue on our RVing Europe adventure. We are now moving much faster with limited time to connect with natives in each location. I must confess I feel that this part is going to disappoint all of us, but hopefully we can find another way to connect and socialize along the way.

Do you have any socialization tips – whether you live the travel life or not? #WorldTowningSocial

Do you want to socialize in a different capacity? Does WorldTowning intrigue you? We should chat!

Learn More

Go adventure,
Jessica

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