We left Britain to ‘world educate’ our children in 23 countries

Ian and Nikki Collinson-Phenix with children Raif and Laanii at the Acropolis in Athens – Nikki Collinson-Phenix

When Nikki Collinson-Phenix first suggested to her husband, Ian, that they leave their home on the Isle of Wight to take their children, Laanii, 12, and Raif, six, out of school and travel for two years, he thought she had ‘gone insane’.

But an attack at work made him change his mind. Ian, a trained carpenter and fencer, was working as a prison officer at the time and Nikki, a chiropractor, also had a back injury that left her unable to work for a year. During that time, Nikki reevaluated her life and priorities.

“We dropped the children off at the breakfast club first and then picked them up after they had tea, so we only saw them in the evening,” she says. “We spent our weekends doing laundry and taking clothes back and forth to clubs. By the time Sunday rolled around, I was already preparing to start it all over again as Monday loomed.

Nikki decided that if something didn’t change soon, the children would have grown up and life would pass them by. She had always dreamed of traveling after catching the travel bug in her twenties while backpacking through Asia, Africa and Australia.

“I never really went on holiday as a child,” she says. “I wanted to give my children a different kind of childhood than I did, with a lot of freedom and the experience of different cultures.”

The Collinson-Phenix family during a tour of the MediterraneanThe Collinson-Phenix family during a tour of the Mediterranean

The Collinson-Phenix family on a tour of the Mediterranean – Nikki Collinson-Phenix

Nikki, who runs a number of online businesses including Global Trailblazing, an online youth club and social network for children that she describes as being a lot like a scouting group, started planning their trip and thinking about how they would coordinate everything.

“My husband and I are opposites,” she says, laughing. “I am very organized and describe myself as a recovering perfectionist, while he is disorganized but very practical. We joke that I’m the brains and he’s the brawn.

They started planning their trip in 2019 when their children were two and almost eight. “I wanted Raif to be fully potty trained by the time we left as I didn’t feel like having nappies in the caravan,” says Nikki.

“We also didn’t want to be one of those people who sold everything to finance our travels, so we rented our three-bedroom house to a friend, swapped our old caravan for a new one and agreed to a two-year contract. timescale.”

The family exchanged their parental home for travel by caravan and boatThe family exchanged their parental home for travel by caravan and boat

The family swapped their family home for travel by caravan and boat – Nikki Collinson-Phenix

They planned to leave in April 2021, but the third lockdown slowed things down and they ended up leaving in September 2021.

They started in France before going to Spain, then to Croatia, Portugal, back through Spain, France, Italy and on to Slovenia and the Balkans. In the Balkans, the family discovered they were not as restricted by post-Brexit Schengen visa rules, which stipulate they can only spend 90 days in the same country in any 180-day period.

Nikki says that during lockdown, like many parents, she realized that her daughter Laani would be better off doing online education and self-directed learning rather than trying to be taught by her.

“She gives live online classes for the main subjects, such as English and math, while we both take turns at homeschool Raif,” she says. “I do the morning sessions, while Ian does the afternoon sessions.”

The family has been able to visit ancient sites around the MediterraneanThe family has been able to visit ancient sites around the Mediterranean

The family has been able to visit ancient sites around the Mediterranean: Nikki Collinson-Phenix

They also hold live meetings with local ‘worldschoolers’ once a week, which Nikki organizes through an online group, and live fitness and mindfulness sessions once a week.

Raif is also enrolled in a number of local schools in places they have traveled to, including Romania and Bulgaria. Laani also joined a girls’ soccer team in Croatia and a gymnastics team in Bulgaria.

Nikki says she was largely ignorant about homeschooling before they left Britain, but thinks it has had huge benefits for both children.

“Raif is currently about two years ahead in his math and English skills,” she says. “He’s very smart but also quite lively and I think he might have been labeled as disruptive if he’d been at a normal school.”

The family home is now an eight-metre caravan, bought for £14,000The family home is now an eight-metre caravan, bought for £14,000

The family home is now an eight meter caravan, bought for £14,000 – Nikki Collinson-Phenix

She says that even though they are constantly on the move, their home, an eight-metre caravan they bought for £14,000, and the fact that the children have the same online classmates every day, maintain a sense of stability.

Some of their world education highlights included “magical” trips to Greece, Vienna, and Venice. “My daughter started reading the Percy Jackson books, which are based on Greek myths,” Nikki explains. “She started asking if we could visit some of the places from the books, so we planned a trip around Greece, including the Acropolis, Olympia and Mount Olympus. It meant that the world saw her so happy and in awe.”

Their son, Raif, is also a big fan of Go Jetters, an educational program on CBeebies in which four adventurous superheroes explore places around the world.

“Raif had seen this one episode where they turned all the canals in Venice into roads, and became very interested in the idea that an entire city could be built on water,” says Nikki. “So we put it in our itinerary and went to Venice. He loved going on the gondolas and mapping the city.”

The children enjoyed a gondola ride in VeniceThe children enjoyed a gondola ride in Venice

The children enjoyed a gondola ride in Venice – Nikki Collinson-Phenix

So what’s next for the intrepid explorers? “Hopefully Central America and Southeast Asia,” says Nikki.

However, not all of them are perfect ‘memory making’ moments. “Navigating all the visa restrictions, language barriers and Schengen restrictions has been challenging at times,” says Nikki. “Google Translate is a lifesaver when it comes to overcoming language barriers.”

There is also the issue of ensuring that their children socialize and regularly meet other children of the same age. “We’ve gotten better at finding other families to arrange playdates for the kids, but it can still be difficult in some areas,” says Nikki.

However, she still believes that while traveling the world may seem like a pipe dream, it is actually very achievable.

“I’ve met so many families who would love to do what we do, but they don’t think it’s possible. It is real. We are no one special, we just had a dream that we set a goal and made it happen.”

Nikki Collinson-Phenix has written a book, Wanderlust Calling – The Ultimate Guide To Worldschooling and Full-Time Family Travel, which provides further advice for those wishing to follow her path.

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