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The World is Our Classroom Review by Brittney Rutherford

How One Family Used Nature and Travel to Shape an Extraordinary Education
Cindy Ross
307 West 36th Street, 11th Floor
New York, NY 10018
(212) 643-6816

The World is Our Classroom by Cindy Ross is a book for parents who want to help their children learn through life experiences. With chapter titles like "Learning from Play" and "Learning from Wild Animals" to "Learning from our Ancestors" you get a glimpse into the lifestyle that Ross encourages. Ross was an avid long-distance hiker who earned from this passion, and her writing began to target family adventures as her own family grew. As a travel writer, it was her job to seek out experiences and adventures, and in some ways, she has lived a lifestyle that many of us only dream about, but she takes the time to share how small steps can lead to big rewards in a child’s education.

Within each chapter, Ross gives specific and detailed anecdotes of ways that her family learned about animals and nature through hiking and camping, how they learned history by participating in reenactments, or how they became immersed in other cultures by traveling abroad. She doesn't expect everyone to uproot their lives to live the same type of lifestyle as her family did, but she is certainly encouraging you to give organic learning a try. 

On a smaller scale, she talks about some of the simple ways she expanded her children’s learning opportunities. They purposely met with families of other faiths and cultures to share special meals and connect. They took moonlight walks regularly to experience their world in a different way. They found historic trails and cultural festivals to enjoy as a family. She describes practical ways to save money on big trips, and suggests, when correctly researched and planned, that an international trip is just as financially possible and more enriching than a typical trip to a vacation resort.

One of my favorite features of the book was that she included journal entries and essays that her children had written over the years. It's interesting to get a glimpse into the minds of her children as they embarked on these adventures. Of course, these were picked especially for the book, but the descriptive language and the rich emotions expressed allow you to immerse yourself in their experiences. You can feel their excitement, their wonder, their compassion, and their yearning for a life of continuous learning.

The point Ross is trying to make, is that no matter what type of job you have or where your kids go to school (Ross's own children went to traditional school for several years before homeschooling), you can make it a priority to step outside of your comfort zone without stepping out of your safety zone. You don't have to start climbing mountains or go into debt to seek adventure. Start by offering your family new experiences like visiting local nature preserves, museums and parks, and see what sparks an interest. One thing I've learned as a homeschooler is that one new interest can take you on many rabbit trails, and that can be your doorway to seeking new opportunities and adventures. As a homeschooler who has always desired to provide a similar, if not more low-key lifestyle as Cindy Ross and her husband provided their children, I really appreciated this book. It has fueled that desire to provide those hands-on, interactive, and experiential learning opportunities, and reminded me to be more intentional about seeking a lifestyle that leads to lifelong learning.

-Product review by Brittney Rutherford, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, January 2019