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Nikolaj Astrup

Homeschooling Insights from a Digital Nomad Family


In a rapidly evolving world where traditional norms are being challenged, individuals are redefining the boundaries of work, education, and lifestyle. One such remarkable individual is a Danish entrepreneur who has embraced the digital nomad lifestyle, seamlessly blending work, travel, and homeschooling for his family.

Meet Nikolaj Astrup, a self-employed visionary who has embarked on a captivating journey that spans continents and cultures.

Their journey began with a stroke of luck. Back in 2012, Nikolaj quit his job and moved to China with his girlfriend, who was pursuing her Master's degree there.

While they were in China, they met an American journalist who had a strong desire to explore life there while working remotely. He asked his company if he could give it a try. Surprisingly, it worked out well for him!

Meanwhile Nikolaj was freelancing, and this unexpected meeting had a big impact on him. It opened his eyes to a whole new way of life without being tied to a specific location.

When they returned home from China, the adventure bug had bitten them hard. Just six months later, they packed their bags and jetted off to Barcelona for an epic six-month stay.

And guess what happened next?

They couldn't stop! For over four years, they became true nomads, exploring new places, meeting interesting people, and creating memories that would last a lifetime.

Throughout their travels, Nikolaj discovered the immeasurable value of creating a community of like-minded individuals who shared their passion for exploration, learning, and freedom. This realization led him to build the Traveling Village — a project that gathers 20 families of digital nomads and homeschoolers/unschoolers for four months of immersive travel.

Together, they build a community where kids can learn, play, and make friends, all while discovering the wonders of the world.

In this interview, we delve into Nikolaj's learning philosophy and his amazing project, exploring how he reshapes education and creates unforgettable experiences for families.

Can you tell us a bit about your experience with unschooling your children?

Our kids are small, almost 2 and 5, so it's still limited experience, but they have been home with us all the time.

Before having kids we were both critical of the school system and our experience with full-time travel also gave us the idea that there are so many different ways to live and a life separated with our kids 8 hours per day Monday to Friday was not something we dreamed about.

I really believe that it's mostly about not getting in their way of learning. Learning is so natural for kids, but if we demand that everyone learns exactly the same at exactly the same age, then we do more harm than good.

How do you asses your children's progress and ensure they are meeting educational milestones?

I'm not really focused on educational milestones or progress per se. I just want them to be active, curious, and natural learners.

What are your thoughts on higher education for your children? How do you plan to prepare them for the transition to college or other post-secondary educational options?

Personally, I regret spending too much time in the school system in the years when I had a choice, but it may be very different for my kids. Maybe they want to do research or work with something that requires a degree, like becoming a doctor. So I would be fully supportive of going in that direction, but we will not push them.

I'm sure their basic knowledge and skills will be at least up to standards. Maybe they need to spend a bit more time close to applying to learn something very specific to pass tests to get in.

From your perspective, what are some of the key differences between homeschooling and traditional schooling? What benefits do you believe homeschooling offers to children?

First of all, it's just a different way of living. It's not necessarily better, but it is a better fit for us.

What we really want to focus on is to have a big love of learning, be curious, know how to find answers, and be free to work and play with stuff you are interested in.

I also think that one of the potential upsides is a good internal compass, where it gets more difficult to accept toxic environments (like bullying), working on stuff that is not meaningful for you, and so on.

How do you address concerns about socialization for homeschooled children, particularly when they are constantly on the move as digital nomads? How do you ensure they have opportunities to interact with peers?

I don't think it's good for kids to be constantly on the move, just with their family and not a bigger tribe. That is why we also have a base in Denmark and just do smaller trips (max was 6 months).

The school doesn't have a monopoly on socialization, even though many believe kids can't be social without it.

Over the last few generations, we went from living with extended families to relying a lot on institutions. So if you opt out of that, then you really have to be proactive and build a community yourself.

We are surrounded by families and friends which makes it easier.

What are some of the challenges you have faced as a homeschooling parent while traveling and working remotely? How have you overcome those challenges?

When you are traveling with kids you are really living as a nuclear family to the extreme. We are also living like that in Denmark, but many times per week we see family, friends, neighbors, and so on, which you often don't have when you travel.

We try to travel mainly with friends and we are trying to build a new project, the Traveling Village where 20 families travel together for 4 months.

In your opinion, what are some misconceptions or myths about homeschooling that you would like to debunk?

The main reaction we get is "What about socialization?". Many people also think we are directly hurting our kids by not having them in school. Even people who experienced bullying didn't learn a thing in school and are deep into their 30s are still working on themselves from the negative results of school, simply believe school is the only way. It's a norm to such a degree that people can't fathom a life without it. It's kinda funny.

Could you share some insights into your project, the "Traveling Village"? What inspired you to create this initiative?

Before having kids we were asked by a friend how we would continue with a free lifestyle when we had kids and they needed to go to school and so on. Our answer was just that we would just travel with a big bunch of friends and simply be a group of families traveling together.

That said we do appreciate our life in Denmark, but we value having shorter and longer periods where we travel. The Traveling Village is the answer to our own needs. It's not just to make use of the new world where remote work is possible, but also to look back and see some of the stuff we are maybe missing a bit today in our modern world, mainly community. That is why we really wanted to make something that is about the community, but where you really commit to it and spend some resources on it.

On the "Traveling Village" website, you mentioned that children learn through play and exploration. Can you elaborate on how this approach fosters their educational development?

Kids simply learn through playing and trying stuff out. It's how they learn everything when they are super small, but we have simply come to believe that at age 6 that simply changes and they need to learn a different way.

Mainly play helps them do what interests them and then learning comes naturally.

As a homeschooling parent, what is your go-to resource or source of inspiration for lesson plans and educational activities?

I think there are many different ways to approach this and my approach is more unschooling than homeschooling. I really believe that learning happens everywhere and I don't have to have lessons planned out.

If we see our son having some interests, for example, the last year he has been really interested in letters and also quite a lot of numbers, then we just try to help create new play or challenges with that. But actually, we never push it, and it's probably 9 out of 10 times initiated by him.

Who are three (or more) homeschoolers or education experts that you recommend people follow and learn from, and why do you find their work valuable?

I don't really follow so many experts or highly profiled people. I just prefer to have people who have a bit of the same philosophy and thoughts around me.

Who are three (or more) homeschoolers you would recommend as potential interview subjects, and why?

Yourself :)

I also suggest Irene Genelin and Andy Cotter, who world-school their daughter. They have done some interesting projects, had a big farm, and traveled the world with unicycling. They have been one of the founding families creating the Traveling Village.

Irene just started the podcast The Worldschooling Space. Irene's Facebook

Could you provide some advice or tips for parents who may be considering homeschooling their children? What are some essential factors they should take into account?

Find people who are already doing it and who are strong in beliefs. Your peers and family will likely not understand and in many cases be super negative about it, so you really need someone else in your community.

Where to find Nikolaj?


Twitter: @nikolaj_astrup

Instagram: @nikolajastrup

Traveling Village:

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