Our family of eight has been in Morocco for three months now. Next week we fly back to Europe. Wow, time flies!
Before we go, I wanted to take a few minutes to explain some of the things we do for education — the approaches we take, specifically with ‘worldschool/homeschool curriculum’ — when we are traveling to other countries.
These are things that you could apply to all aspects of life — you don’t have to travel to foreign countries to use what I describe below. It is an approach to learning that can work for following any interest that you have in life. It is something that you can use for anything, not only with travel.
So I want to share with you the specific ‘homeschool curriculum’ that we have used while we’ve been in Morocco, but first, I want to share the strategy I use to do worldschooling in our (nomadic) home.
I will take you through the process I go through when we are getting ready to go to a new country (or when we develop a new interest as an individual or as a family). For example, I used this process when we were preparing to move to Morocco. But I also used it when my son developed an interest in ‘outdoor survival’.
So here it is. I start with:
As founders of WorldSchool Academy, the primary thing we teach is that parent example is (one of) the most important ingredients for the successful education of your children.
How do kids learn to walk and talk? By watching and mimicking our examples. Reading and writing can also happen this way. If we want our children to have — or keep, since they are born with it — a love of learning, then we need to model it by being in love with learning ourselves.
I know that my children learn from my example, plus, when I learn about something, I can spark conversations and discussions. We can communicate about it around the dinner table, during devotional time or when something related comes up during story time or other conversations. When they ask a question, I’m ready with an answer. When they take interest, I’m prepared to add fuel to their fire.
It is usually more useful when I can talk to my children naturally about a subject, than If I am reading to them from a book or giving them a lecture on it.
Doing your own studying and learning ahead of time helps to keep your mind active and engaged, and to prepare yourself mentally and emotionally to grow and develop as your children do. It prepares you to have meaningful discussions with your children about tough life topics — things such as race, prejudice, poverty, war and terrorism.
It prepares you to be a powerful Parent Mentor.
2. Research & Connections
After deciding to learn about a topic or a place, I next go to the internet to do research — specifically about a country, if we’re traveling there — the area, the things to do there, the history. What are the important things, places, events that stand out?
Most importantly, I’m looking for connections. We’re all selfish people in some way, and children are especially. They aren’t really concerned about what happened hundreds or thousands of years ago — unless it is connected to them in some way. Then, suddenly, it becomes very fascinating.
My kids don’t care about the Muslim influence on transporting produce from Asia via trade routes where they introduced it to the Western world.
But they do care that some of their favorite fruits — watermelon and mango — were brought to the Americas (where we ate it in abundance in Guatemala & Costa Rica) because Islamic Civilization (aka Morocco, where we’re currently living) discovered it in India (where we lived in 2010) and brought it via camel caravans and trade routes (we went on a camel ride in (almost) the Sahara Desert) and introduced it to Europe (a place we’re returning to next week).
History becomes interesting and relevant because it’s connected to their life, things they already know and have an interest in.
Is there a time and place to learn about things that our beyond our selfish interests? Of course. It’s necessary if you want to become truly educated. But that happens as usually for youth and adults, during what we call ‘Scholar Phase’.
3. Resources & Books
After doing initial research, and searching for things that connect to our life and the things we know, I go to something like ‘Amazon.com’ and start looking for books and resources — even games, toys, puzzles, models — anything which is related the topic.
While we were in Germany I purchased a puzzle about the famous landmarks in the country that we did together. We also visited a museum about the Titanic, and bought a model ship for my son who likes to ‘build things’.
(Expat note: Of course, sometimes you don’t have access to Amazon, in that case I sometimes use BetterWorldBooks.com, which has free shipping worldwide, although it does take several weeks to arrive.)
Essentially, I’m looking for Resources in a few different areas, in order to get the most out of learning about a topic. (I have specifics books for Morocco below).
Story Books for children & books to read aloud
Resource and Reference books for older children or teens
Books for adults — historical fiction, non-fiction, biographies, etc.
Books of cultural importance — spiritual or classical literature
Hands-on projects, games, toys, etc.
4. Language Learning
We believe that learning languages is critically important. Knowing more than one language actually makes your brain work differently (aka makes you smarter). It helps you to view things from another perspective, to understand another culture or group of people, and it increases your comprehension.
We have been learning languages (starting with Spanish) since we adopted our oldest daughter in 2002 when she was five days old. My husband already spoke Spanish, and he started speaking to her from the start.
As we travel to new countries, we try to pick up at least a little bit of the language — Tamil in India, German in Germany and now French while in Morocco (with a couple of Arabic words thrown in for good measure). We also studied Latin, which helps your understanding in all Latin based languages, like French, Italian, Spanish, even Romanian.
There is always some sort of connection to language, no matter the topic your studying. Even this morning, my daughter asked why ambulances are called ambulances. I had no idea, so we looked it up.
Turns out it comes from the French hôpital ambulant, which is literally — walking hospital — originating from the Latin ambulare, which means ‘to walk’.
Taking time to learn these connections to history, countries, and places through language is an important part of holistic learning. It helps us (and our children) to see how interconnected all of life really is.
Children will learn languages easier, and be more motivated to do it, if mom and/or dad are learning them. Depending on her mood, my (almost) two year old will say, “Danke”, “Gracias”, “Merci” or “Tank you”. But she knows they all mean the same thing.
She’s also inadvertently learning another important lesson. A rose by any name is still a rose — or the things in our world can have many different labels, but that doesn’t change who are what they are. The words are simply symbols which cultures have created to label and talk about what is all around us.
Some of our favorite language learning tools are:
- Fluent Forever: How to Learn Any Language Fast and Never Forget It by Gabriel Wyner (this has a different approach to learning languages that I really like)
- Help Your Child with a Foreign Language: Teach a Foreign Language Naturally and Easily from Home by Opal Dunn
- Duolingo (this is great for elementary age to adult. And it’s free! We do it almost everyday. Some of us are studying French, others German, even Portuguese.)
- Grammar and vocabulary books for the language, as well as dictionaries
5. Using the World Around Us (WorldSchooling)
Finally, the last thing that I really like to do when we go to countries, or we’re pursuing an interest, is to look around at what is available ‘in the world around’ us (worldschooling, as we define it at WorldSchoolAcademy.com).
What is going on — in the country we’re visiting, or that’s related to our topic of interest — and how can we participate and learn from it?
For example, while here in Morocco, we found a pottery class, so we have been taking pottery every week and the kids are loving it, making things out clay made right here in Morocco.
There is also a Taekwondo class and they have been going to it three times a week and they love it — although it’s very intense (and taught in Arabic!).
It wasn’t my intention to sign my kids up for Taekwondo or pottery, but because it was available nearby, I took advantage of it.
I also look in stores to see what resources I can use and integrate them into our homeschool — workbooks, games, and crafts — (specific examples below where I share our Morocco curriculum).
Also highly helpful are museums, gardens, castles, parks, ruins and other field trips, where you can pick up brochures, pamphlets and books with interesting information.
This is pretty much the process I use whenever we develop a new interest or plan to travel to a new country. I learn what I can beforehand, I try to take resources with me, but I also love to incorporate what is there, what is around, that can be utilized as part of our homeschool.
Now this is obviously not a complete homeschool program or approach. There are a lot of the other things that we are doing as well — music, science, history, literature. But that is explained in further detail in our Step-by-Step Homeschool Course that anyone can follow.
Here is the specific ‘homeschool curriculum’ we used while in Morocco.
Morocco is a Muslim country, Arabic and French speaking, so while planning our trip to Morocco I looked for what I could find about the country, Muslims, language or people related to those things. Because I couldn’t have them sent to Morocco, I ordered books before we left and I had them mailed to Germany and then we brought them here in suitcases. This can get expensive, but to me it’s simply the cost of worldschooling my children.
I like to get books that are colorful, beautiful and tell simple stories.
- Muhammad by Demi (a book about the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) << my Muslim personal assistant transcribed my video and added this phrase. How cool is that!)
- Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns: A Muslim Book of Colors by Hena Khan
- Muslim Child: Understanding Islam Through Stories and Poems by Rukhsana Khan (my kids really loved me to read to them from this book)
2. Resource books for older children & teens
Reference books are not something that you can necessarily sit down and read through like a story, but I can read through them over time and it provides insight and trivia that I can share in meal times or during discussions. I can say, “Hey! Did you know that mangoes were actually brought from India by the Muslim civilization to the West?”
Even though these books may be for younger audiences, they still work great for me, especially when you are learning about a new subject, that it just breaks it down to a younger level of understanding and easier for me to get it and easier for me to share it with kids, so I love things like this.
Reference books are also good for giving assignments. During mentor meetings, when I ask what my daughter would like to study for history, reference books make great ‘assignments’ because you can read a little bit from them everyday during study time.
- 1001 Inventions: The Enduring Legacy of Muslim Civilization by Salim T.S. Al-Hassani (tons of great trivia in here)
- 1001 Inventions and Awesome Facts from Muslim Civilization (National Geographic Kids) by National Geographic (similar to above, but for middle age kids)
- The Genius of Islam: How Muslims Made the Modern World by Bryn Barnard (I really liked this one, although it’s for ‘kids’)
3. Books for adults — historical fiction, non-fiction, biographies
I obviously want to buy specific books for me to read, usually based off of personal interests. One book I bought is written by a man named Tahir Shah who bought and refinished a house in CasaBlanca. (And because we read the book, my husband recently went and interviewed him at his house — watch for that interview soon!)
He tells about his experiences in a way that give you a glimpse into the nuances of the culture, and helps you to get a feel for what the people are really like. Reading things like this are really awesome.
The purpose or goal is to get an overall understanding — the ‘big picture’ — so I can share with my kids in conversations and discussions and we can all feel like we know more about a people and place.
- In Arabian Nights: A Caravan of Moroccan Dreams by Tahir Shah
- Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits by Laila Lalami
- The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho (I’ve read this before, but reread it again while here and really connected even more, after actually visiting an oasis like in the book, seeing the desert, and riding a camel)
4. Books of cultural importance
Although we are Christian, and daily study from our own scriptures, we believe that it’s very important to learn about other religions around the world.
The best place to learn about something is from ‘the source’, rather than reading interpretations of interpretations. That’s why reading classics are preferred to reading summarized textbooks, unabridges is preferred to abridged.
Reading the original religious texts helps us to discover first-hand universal truth, which we believe can be found (at least in part) in all religions of the world. We have studied the Bhagavad Gita (Hindu), The Dhammapada (Buddhist), the Qur’an (Muslim), Old Testament (Jewish), New Testament (Christian) and Book of Mormon (Latter-Day Saint).
- The Qur’an
5. Hands-on projects, games, toys, etc.
Due to space constraints, I did not bring many projects with us to Morocco (compared to Germany where we did puzzles and model ships, science fairs and castles).
But I did take advantage of what was offered around us, which included:
- Jardin Marjorelle
- Berber Museum (at the Jardin Marjorelle)
- Zip-lining and Accro-Park (Ropes course)
- Pottery class at Arterre
- Taekwondo classes
- Camel Ride in the (almost) Sahara Desert
- Math workbooks (in French) from the grocery store
- Baby board books in French (& Arabic) from the grocery store
- Handwriting workbooks for cursive
- Walks through the souks (markets) and medina (old walled city)
I hope that this helps your family, or at least sparks some ideas.
If you want to learn more, or to see more videos like these, make sure to subscribe to your YouTube channel and to visit Worldschoolacademy.com, where you can find a free course to take that explains our whole philosophy to education.
And please leave me a comment below the video if you have any questions! I love to hear from you!