In the centro of Xela, Guatemala. An average 'field trip' for these kids


Don't forget about the book that is coming along nicely and will be released soon.


This post is continued from Stability Comes From Staying in One Place (and Other Ridiculous Myths).

According to one commenter, our kids will never be able to go to college or get a job as a result of our nomadic lifestyle, right?

Well, that's our hope anyway.

Let me explain, lest you think that we're anti-education, pro-vagrant.

The world has changed. The formula that used to work - the same formula that millions of people have followed - go to college, get good grades, get a career, build your resume... well, it is not going to work anymore.

That was a formula for the Industrial Age. Now we're in the age of Information and Connection. The rules are different. If there are any rules.

This new Age creates 22 year old billionaires, appoints blogging as a viable career option, and makes 24-hour-around-the world connections a possibility. In the words of Ken Robinson, from Out of our Minds:

No matter where you are or what you do, if you are alive and on earth, you are caught up in a global revolution. I mean this literally, not metaphorically... I know this is a bold claim but it is justified...What is distinctive now is the rate and scale of change. The two great driving forces are technological innovation and population growth. Together they are transforming how we live and work.

New technologies are revolutionizing the nature of work everywhere... New forms of work rely increasingly on high levels of specialist knowledge, and on creativity and innovation...

Everyone will need to adjust to a world where, for most people, secure lifelong employment in a single job is a thing of the past."

So, how are we preparing our children for this?

By traveling with them and exposing them to a multiplicity of experiences, cultures, people, lifestyles and options. And giving them a solid, mentor-style education with an emphasis on relevant, hands-on learning. And teaching them (through word and example) that the world is open to them. The sky is the limit.

The most important things for our kids to know are:

  1. Learning is absolutely awesome, and something you do everyday of your life - not just on weekdays or 'school' days.
  2. Where to find the answers if you don't know them (all-powerful Google is a good place to start)
  3. How to think and solve problems
  4. Dreaming is a good thing
  5. How to work
  6. How to give back
  7. How to live on purpose
  8. How to be an expert

Some people believe that our children won't be able to 'fit in' because of our nomadic lifestyle. Well, we hope they don't fit in. Fitting in is not our goal. As Mark Twain once said, "Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it's time to reform"

We want our children to desire lifelong learning, to express themselves, and to innovate. We don't want them to be concerned with 'testing at grade level', getting good grades, scoring well on the SAT or attending a good college.

That's not the formula we want them to follow.

Becoming an expert, a 'thought leader', indispensable, irreplaceable - that's the new formula for success in today's Age. Having the gumption to come up with an idea and then risk all to making it happen - that's what's valued in today's global economy. Not how many accredited degrees you hold.

Ken Robinson, in Out of our Minds says,

We are living in a world that is changing faster than ever and facing challenges that are unprecedented... As the world spins faster and faster, organizations everywhere say they need people who can think creatively, communicate and work in teams: people who are flexible and quick to adapt.

Too often they say they can't find them.

In order to [do so], we need to run... our education systems in radically different ways."

My children are learning open-mindedness and respect for all cultures and people, a highly valued skill it today's global economy.

Businesses and the world today want and need people who are experts - who know how to think, take initiative, have vision. They aren't looking for people who know how to follow directions and take orders - not unless they're willing to work for peanuts, or live in India.

For the most part, the skills of creativity and innovation aren't being taught (at least to the degree that they should be) in traditional educational institutions, even college. They weren't skills that were necessary for the Industrial Age. Following directions and working within this system, that's the skill set that was valued. And that's what the schools system was created to teach.

Preparing our children to 'fit in' to that antiquated model, will only hinder, not help them to succeed in this changing global economy that we currently belong to.

Now, so that we're not misunderstood, if my children want to go to college to pursue a passion, we're totally supportive of that. But in our minds (one of which has a degree, and one which doesn't), college is becoming obsolete (and more of a money making business than an institute of education).

It used to be that if you wanted to connect with great ideas and great minds, you would have to go where they were - which was at a university. They had the library with all of the books, and the professors who could mentor you to greatness.

But today? Any book you need can be found online or ordered from Amazon. MIT has over 2100 courses available for free on their website. Any great professor, speaker, teacher or presenter? Probably has a website, or their own channel on YouTube. Either that, or they're speaking on TED, or teaching for KhanAcademy. The options are endless.

But a belief in college as becoming obsolete doesn't equate into a belief that our children should not be studying. My husband constantly says, "There's no graduation from education." Our children will be encouraged to study, and learn and grow and develop - intensely, passionately - for the rest of their lives. Then use the knowledge they gain and apply it to their talents and passions in a way that will add value to the world.

Mother's Day in Xela (a.k.a Quetzaltenanago), Guatemala

On a recent trip, we visited Xela (Quetzaltenango), Guatemala, and then drove to visit the Fundacion Salvacion, an orphanage in Huehuetenango.

It was a celebration day for the organization - solar panels had been donated and installed, which would result in cutting their electric bill in half.

Besides spending time with the children and being moved by their lamentable stories, I was inspired by a dynamic, handsome young man who assisted in much of the work going on.

He had followed the usual formula. He'd gone to a great university, got good grades, graduated as Valedictorian, and had his career and life planned out.

But then something changed. During spring break he visited an orphanage in Guatemala, and was deeply changed. He decided that all his plans of a 'normal' life didn't matter, when there were children with tragic stories who needed love and hope for a future.

 Atlas sitting with some of the little ones at the orphanage

Now he's moved to Guatemala, is living at the orphanage, has started a non-profit to raise funds in the States (, raised $30,000 in just a few weeks, and broke ground on a new school for the kids. He's a change-maker, an innovator, an initiator. He's doing work that will impact generations.

He's not going to look for someone to give him a job, or be content with punching a time clock for the next forty years. He's making a difference in the lives of orphaned children.

This is the type of future I want for my kids. It comes from travel and experience, exposure to people and cultures and problems, not from time in a classroom or following 'the formula'.

I'm sure this young man will use the knowledge he gained at school in the work he's doing now. His university experience wasn't a waste. But I don't believe it was a pre-requisite either. Being a change-maker can happen to anyone (college degree or not). But it most often happens to those who get out and see what the world is really like, and then decide to do something to change it.

I'm not interested in whether or not my children can get into an Ivy League school, become an engineer or the CEO of a Fortune 500.

If they decide to do those things, or they want to be a doctor or lawyer, then great. I support that. When the time comes, we'll find out what they'll need to do, which hoops to jump through, what tests to take, and get them there if that's what they want.

But I believe that preparing them to not do those things gives them more options than if we focus all our efforts on preparing for college and career, no matter what. And I believe that mostly because, the rules have changed.

If you don't think so, if you're still hanging on to the Industrial Age formula, then you need to read Linchpin by Seth Godin, or his manifesto about the antiquated school system - Stop Stealing Dreams. (Or any of the books I have listed below.)

There is a place for college. Some people may need it, or find it beneficial. But that may be changing.

In the words of Abraham Lincoln, fresh and applicable for our day:

The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate for the stormy present... As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew."

"We all live our lives guided by ideas to which we are devoted but which may no longer be true or relevant. We are hypnotized or enthralled by them. To move forward we have to shake free of them." 1


Here's a few books to expound on the subject. I haven't read them all, but their on the list:

Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative



DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education


Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About Colleges



Turning Learning Right Side Up: Putting Education Back on Track



Thinking, Fast and Slow




The Innovative University: Changing the DNA of Higher Education from the Inside Out



Rethinking Education in the Age of Technology



A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change



The Art of Possibility: Transforming Professional and Personal Life




Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling



The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything



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39 Responses

  1. Karen

    Thumbs Up!!

    quote “His university experience wasn’t a waste. But I don’t believe it was a pre-requisite either. ” I agree. College/Uni is neither necessary nor obsolete. There’s WAY more viable and (possibly) better options out there. We aren’t (nor previously had been) gearing our dc towards post-secondary education, either, although our eldest is currently taking uni-courses by correspondence.

  2. Jill

    I couldn’t have said it better myself! I love all of the information and arguments here, and I think there is a growing trend in this thinking. I and a few other of my close friends are off traveling the world, discovering our bit and how to make a difference, risking everything we are and “could be” in the old model’s way of thinking so that we might really succeed. I am happy to report that one by one, people are “waking up” and now trying to live to their full potential, not just for a pay check for someone else. I think this is the healthiest mindset people can adopt and I am absolutely enthralled by it. Thank you for this piece. I’ll be passing it along.



  3. Michael

    No need to address the people who disagree with you. See Swiss Miss’s rule # 7.

    Swiss Miss – Tina Roth Eisenberg

    TYPO SF: The Importance of Side Projects

    1. Find What You Love.
    Don’t stop until you find it. You’ll know when you do.

    2. Don’t Be A Complainer.
    Make things better.

    3. Trust Your Intuition.
    Your gut is always right.

    4. If An Opportunity Scares You, Take It.
    Being scared means you’ll learn and grow

    5. Find and Connect with Like Minded People.
    Make sure they are a respectful and good bunch

    6. Collaborate
    Only good will come of it.

    7. Ignore Haters
    They deserve none of your time.

    8. Inspire Others
    Be someone’s crazy aunt.


    Timecode 24:20
    This brings me to the same rule for my work environment.

    I worked out of my bedroom and realize very quickly that was a bad idea.

    We systematically overestimate the access to information and underestimate our access to each other.
    – Clay Shirky

    I realized I need to be surrounded by people, like minded people, just to like fuel my you know excitement for things in the world and how much can you talk to a fridge?

    And I looked, I first rented desks in other spaces, and I realized quickly that they were just renting the desks for the money. They just wanted to, you know, compensate part of the rent. I realized that it was not the right environment for me. So I looked for a space that was too big in Dumbo (Brooklyn – an acronym for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) and found it, and I built it out. What started out as a four people office space, has turned into a massive thirty people on the taking. We’ve been breaking through walls on each side.

    It’s now called

    Some people have called this an elitist club. That brings me to rule # 7, Ignore Haters

    It has taken me a long time to realize this. Haters are gonna hate.

    It has taken me well into my thirties to differentiate people who are going to hate on you and people that just criticize respectfully and have the best intentions. And I will teach my kids as much as I can to stay away from people that are fond of disliking things. Because that’s not the people you should surround yourself with. And Chris Shiflett put it beautifully in the intro speech of Brooklyn Beta last year.

    “If you can learn to be a fair judge of yourself, you won’t feel the need to rely on other people’s opinions.”

    • Rachel

      “If you can learn to be a fair judge of yourself, you won’t feel the need to rely on other people’s opinions.” – Very true!

  4. Justin

    Well done!

    If college was THE means to success, then everyone who succeeded in college would be successful.

    The prerequisite is education. How you get that education varies – especially in today’s world. Great post!

  5. Sheila

    This is exactly how I feel. We don’t have children yet, but my husband and I are discussing about how we should raise our future children. We still disagree upon this aspect, but I’m hoping to change his mind. I want to raise children who challenge their minds. Who aim to be creative and love to learn outside the classroom.

    Getting a college education is over-rated now. Most college students end up with thousands of school loan debt for a degree they will never use. Work in jobs they hate and are over qualified for because thats the only thing available.

    Many people look down on vocational school, but I support that. If my child wants to be a skilled laborer then I will support that dream. I want them to believe they can achieve whatever they set their mind to and to be the best they can be.

    • Rachel

      I think you’re right – far too many college students just end up being slaves paying for their debt, and without a job that pays well enough to repay it (not to mention that they hate the job).

      • Andy

        @Rachel: And even if you do make enough to repay your debt, you are often still suck doing something you don’t enjoy. It’s a horrible idea to take out massive loans on the prospect of possibly getting a job you don’t know whether you will like. I have many colleagues that feel this way.

      • Rachel

        Very true. And I’m sure you’re friends aren’t alone. I’ve heard the statistics are that 80% of people hate their jobs. That’s pretty sad. Life is too short…

  6. Stevie Trujillo

    Wow!!! EXCELLENT POST!!!! We 100% concur! You nailed our sentiments exactly. Pregnant with our first nomadic addition to our traveling tribe, we are thrilled to be continuing our journey around the world with a child. You and your family are an inspiration. We hope to meet up with you at some point on some continent or another. We’ll be in S. America for a couple more years at least, so hopefully we can toast to bold thinkers, compassionate doers, and global culture jammers over a delicious glass of Malbec, sooner than later!

    • Rachel

      Congrats again on the pregnancy! What a wonderful new adventure you’re embarking on. Yes, let’s meet up. We should be there within the next two years 🙂

  7. tereza crump aka MyTreasuredCreations

    The other day, a homeschooling kid asked me if we were going to take a Summer Break from school. I told him we don’t do school at our home so we don’t take a break. We just live life and learn all the time. He smiled weakly, looked up at his Mom with question marks in his eyes. So I added, we don’t do the sitting desk work for 6 hours daily at our house, instead we learn things as we live life. So yeah, we don’t take a break.

    On another note, I like to tell my husband that you can learn anything for free on the internet. And your post rang true to me. We believe the same in terms of college. It’s really such a free concept. 🙂

    And this: “Becoming an expert, a ‘thought leader’, indispensable, irreplaceable – that’s the new formula for success in today’s Age” made me think of Jesus and how Revolutionary He was in his time and to this day!!!

    • Rachel

      My husband says, “There isn’t anything YouTube and I can’t do” 🙂 You can learn almost anything online, it’s incredible!

  8. JC

    Rachel, after learning about your family from Adam Baker over at Man vs. Debt, our family of eight are following your adventures very closely. Waiting expectantly for LIVE DELIBERATELY!

    Just wanted to point out that using a quote from Abraham Lincoln may not be the best support for an article about a family decentralizing and re-individualizing their lives, attitudes, and actions.

    The very well respected Judge Andrew Napolitano shows in several books about the Constitution that Lincoln “replaced a voluntary association of states with a strong centralized government. The president and his party eagerly lifted the floodgates to the modern thuggish style of ruling that the U.S. government now employs. This opened the door to more unconstitutional acts by the government…through to today.”

    The vast majority of such acts are highly destructive to individual thought and action. In fact, it is the very same centralizing mentality which has created the current state of “education” today.

    Just my $0.02…take care!

    Wyoming USA

    • Rachel

      Good job on moving toward a deliberately life. Thanks for sharing that interesting fact about Abe Lincoln. It was the inspirational words I was interested in, which have been attributed to him.

  9. Lana

    Great post!!! Great for that guy! I also went to college, made all As (and thought that was all there was in life), graduated with top honors, and then it hit me one day that my degree prepared me to spend my entire life living in a box when the world was much too big. Got on a plane to Thailand, and the rest is history!

    I hope my kids never go to college either. 🙂

    • Rachel

      Good for you. College prepares you to follow the formula. If that’s what you’re after, then you’ll have to do the college thing. If you don’t want to fit into the formula (the box life), then college may not be part of the plan 🙂

  10. DynaLou

    Well you have a point here actually.. A lot of parents are even in this kind of situation as well and I think this can help them too..

  11. Ella

    Sometimes, there are really instances that we think to not send our kids to college and this explains why..

  12. Anne

    So grateful to have found your blog sharing the life of your family. Warm, supportive thoughts coming from a family who looks upon learning and working in a similar way. I’m slowly working on disengaging us from the current suburban life we’re living. We’ll get there!

  13. julie mcbroom

    I love you Rachel. You have beautifully articulated what i’ve been thinking for years. We are loving being back in Nicaragua. please tell me you guys are headed down here this year.


  14. Nancy Sathre-Vogel

    I’m all about options – I want to give my kids as many options in life as possible. We lived as expats in various countries until they were 7. We spent 4 years traveling the Americas together as a family. Now we’re living in Idaho and our children are going to school half-time, involved with a robotics club building great big basketball-shooting robots, and are hanging out with their Boy Scout troop. I hope they choose to go to college as well.

    I don’t think, for a second, that a college degree with guarantee them a successful future. It will, however, maybe, possibly open up doors that would otherwise be closed. If they don’t need the college degree, they won’t need to use it. If they do, they will (hopefully) have it. Again, it’s all about the options – give your children as much as you can, then set them free and they will use what they want. I don’t want to close any doors for them.

    • Rachel

      I agree with you. Options are very important. I do believe, however, that times are changing, and the nature of college is changing. Not going to college (i.e. a building with a dorm, etc.) doesn’t mean my kids won’t be studying. The approach we’re taking toward education means that they will be studying during those years – very intensely. They may and probably will be taking college classes – online most likely.

      But with the direction things are heading, I don’t see them going to one location and paying tens of thousands of dollars for an education that they could receive for almost free through the internet.

    • SusanVachon

      Hi Nancy, read your book, “What Were We Thinking” and loved it. My husband and I are four months into a year long sabbatical with our two children and were just discussing you tonight at dinner (we are currently in Barcelona). I am just wondering how your kids go to school half time?  Thanks!

  15. Theodora

    I’m curious as to how old your kids are. Y’see, I’m travelling, and have a son who’s 11, and who wants to go to Oxbridge or Ivy League. And, I don’t honestly think enabling a child to get into Oxbridge or Ivy League is something that happens overnight.

    And I think it you’re raising kids in the belief that all they need to do is decide to go to Ivy League at 17, with only hands-on education and one year to go, and then they’ll get there, if any of them do decide to do so, they might be disappointed.

    I fully appreciate the value of travel and the value of learning on the road. We’ve been doing that for over two years ourselves. But I’m not sure that the baseline assumption — that anyone can get a kid into Ivy League, should their kid wish to go — is correct.

    • Rachel

      You are right – preparing for a school like that takes time. And the approach we’re taking toward education isn’t one that would eliminate that as an option.

      We do a lot of hands on, (especially while they’re younger, currently 10, 8, 7, 5 and 2) but we’re also very much into real, hard studying – especially once they get into their teen and early twenties. Not preparing to go to college doesn’t mean they won’t be getting a ‘real’ education. And hands-on travel learning is an excellent compliment to a great education, but in and of itself it’s not enough.

  16. Danielle

    Your response to Theodora on Aug. 26, 2012 – Please tell me how it works – how does the studying you describe and hands-on approach still give them the chance for college? Won’t there be “credit” requirements to get into college that they simply will not have if they should decide later they want to go to college? The tone of my question is not judgmental (as it can be often difficult to read intended tone in cyberspace), rather it is based in true interest as I research to begin my similar journey with my son (single parent).

    Most kind regards,


    • Rachel

      Hi Danielle,

      I’m glad you are interested, and this is actually a topic I was going to be writing more about in the near future (our educational strategy).

      I suppose a students chance for college would really depend on the educational strategy of the home-schooling parents. Our personal approach is very rigorous and extensive, so their preparation would be complete, and will most likely include some college courses (though probably online, or in a mentor/student setting). The hands-on approach is critical for young children, but as they mature, then serious study time gradually increases. Getting into college can ultimately be done with testing, and as long as the education you provide for you child is comprehensive, they should be able to prepare and take any required tests.

      Our ‘opposition’ to college is not based on any dislike for ‘formal’ schooling – at college age there is nothing wrong with a ‘traditional’ classroom approach. Rather, it’s based on the belief that today’s college’s are based more on ‘business’ rather than educational models. Many of them are in it for a profit, instead of mentoring students towards great educations. (Again, this of course depends on what a person’s definition of ‘education’ is. Job/career preparation does not meet our definition of education.)

      Hope that clarifies some.

  17. Bhavesh D

    I could (almost) name all the books you’ve read by reading the first paragraph of your post. Glad to see you’re implementing what you learn 🙂 Your kids have a bright future ahead of them (thanks to you)


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