This family educates their 4-year-old while traveling

Carol Tan, Rakcent Wong and their son Atlas have traveled through 23 countries since the start of 2024.

Courtesy of Rakcent Wong

“You won’t be able to travel after you have children.” Carol Tan, 36, and Rakcent Wong, 35, were often given this age-old advice before having their son, Atlas – but they were determined to prove the naysayers wrong.

The Singaporean family took a sabbatical from work to attend World School with their 4-year-old and have traveled from Switzerland to Denmark to Nepal, through 23 countries since the start of the year.

What is the “world school”?

Simply put, “world schooling” refers to creating the world in a classroom.

Sometimes it’s parents who choose to embark on a “family gap year” and take their children out of their hometown schools and introduce them to different parts of the world, helping them learn through immersive experiences which quench their innate curiosity.

While some families take a more structured approach by enrolling their children in schools abroad or creating their own curriculum, similar to homeschooling, others take a more flexible approach.

Tan and Wong traveled across Southeast Asia on motorcycles.

Courtesy of Rakcent Wong

How the journey began

After meeting in 2011, Tan and Wong fell in love and quickly found a shared passion for travel.

“Our travel style before we had Atlas was a bit of an ‘off the beaten path’ type,” Wong told CNBC Make It. From going to Iceland in a campervan and motorcycling through Southeast Asia to sleeping in the desert in Egypt and exploring a safari in Sri Lanka, the couple loved being adventurous in his travels.

“We realized that after each trip, we always gain something: we experience some kind of growth and transformation, both personally and as a couple,” Wong said.

If we put our child in preschool – from morning to night, we truly lose the most amazing part of our child’s journey – as a father, I want to be there, I want to see his firsts.

Tan and Wong decided that they would not only continue traveling, but also take Atlas with them. “We (knew) that traveling would be very beneficial to him, especially during his formative years before going to primary school,” Wong said.

“We believe that as parents, if we put our child in preschool, from morning to night, we are really losing the most amazing part of our child’s journey, because that is where they learn well “many of his first things,” Wong says. “As a father, I want to be there, I want to see his premieres.”

The couple decided the best time to take the trip would be when their child was between 4 and 6 years old. During these years, although their child would be old enough to absorb the world, they would also be too young to begin any formal activity. primary school, which is compulsory in Singapore.

Atlas, 4 years old, is experiencing a global school adventure with his parents.

Courtesy of Rakcent Wong

Atlas and the world

Over five years of saving and investing, Tan and Wong accumulated enough money to help them take the big leap of faith.

“People always think that Singaporeans are rich and Singaporeans are well-off, but in reality, we are not,” Tan said. “It’s really just hard-earned savings,” Wong said. The couple often wondered, “How much (can we) spend comfortably without going hungry in a month?”

In January 2024, Tan and Wong began their sabbaticals, pulled Atlas out of school, and the family traveled to their first destination: Greece. They did not want to share their job.

We believe that the basis of learning should be based on curiosity.

The family travels to a new destination almost every week, and in between all the explorations, they teach Atlas using three fundamental principles:

  1. Arouse curiosity
  2. Encourage problem solving
  3. Socialization by immersion

“We believe the foundation of learning should be based on curiosity,” Wong said. “Then the second part is the drive to actually discover the solution.”

“Equally important, the third would be (learning to) be social, because alone you can know a lot, but together you can do a lot more,” Wong said.

Through his travels, Atlas learns to make friends with the local children.

Courtesy of Rakcent Wong

Much of Atlas’ curriculum centers around play. Tan and Wong create many opportunities for their son to experience and immerse himself in diverse environments.

Whether it’s playing with Montenegrin children who speak a different language or learning to share with new friends at local playgrounds, Atlas meets children from different backgrounds and cultures.

The couple also teaches him by modeling behaviors. Whether it’s modeling the “learning mindset” by asking questions when they don’t know something, Wong said, or modeling how to resolve conflicts on the road – Tan and Wong learn alongside Atlas throughout their journey.

The impact of the “world school”

After embarking on this journey in early 2024, one of the biggest changes the couple has seen in Atlas is that he has become more open to new experiences.

The child went from being a very picky eater to eating a variety of foods. “I think at first he eats to be alive,” Wong said. “Now he’s ready to enjoy it – I think he enjoys the food more than we do.”

Atlas has also become more curious about the world and is learning to ask more and more specific questions.

“Initially, he simply asked: what is a cable car?” » said Tan. “And now he’s going to ask things like: How does a cable car move? Does it produce electricity?”

“He has this willingness to learn,” Wong said. “The information isn’t pushed to him, but he wants to know more.”

Now the family wants to extend their sabbatical to two years. “We think the world is so big and we don’t have (enough) time if it’s just a year, so why not go for two years at most?” » said Tan.

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