top of page

Our First Fairytale Worldschool Prom!!

Updated: May 2

Where in the world did we come up with the idea for a worldschool prom? I have to admit, it wasn’t my idea, but someone casually mentioned that our worldschooled kids really needed a prom of their own. After thinking about it for a moment, we decided that this was something we could fit it into our platform of pop-up events.

Rachel, Jasper, & Kemaya before the graduation ceremony. We don't have a full family picture. We thought we'd see him afterwards. But...Whoosh! He was out of there!

2023 Prom Ready!!


A Little Background Info: What’s a prom?

A prom is a fancy dance commonly held in the springtime for US high school students (roughly 16–18-year-olds). In other countries it’s known as a Spring Formal. This may be one of the only times in our kids’ lives that they get fully dressed up for a posh event of their own!


Worldschooling isn’t without its challenges and one of the criticisms is that our kids miss out on these special opportunities because they don’t have a school-based community. The same issue arises with homeschooled children. Often, unless you’re invited to someone else’s prom as a date, homeschoolers and worldschoolers are left out of these experiences.


The first step was deciding if other worldschool kids felt the need for a fancy dance… so I put out some feelers to see who may be interested in attending an event of this sort.


As soon as I asked the greater community if our teens would enjoy a prom, the overwhelming response was, YES! And not only that, but because we’re all traveling and aren’t tied to the high school gymnasium for our venue, we could host a prom anywhere and anyhow we liked.


One of the very first comments I received was that it would be incredible if we could host a prom in a castle! Oh man, now we are thinking… a fairytale prom in a castle? Why wouldn’t we challenge the norm?

Final hat toss at graduation in June 2023

Challenge Accepted! Here is our 2023 Normandy Pop-Up Crew!


Now I’m not going to lie, I had a lot of help to pull off this event, but it was still time-consuming sorting all the details: location, pricing, programming, decorations, etc, etc, etc. Thank goodness for my worldschool friends and connections, it does take a village.


Just as we were beginning our research for a castle with an event space, I received an email from a worldschool family I haven’t met in person yet. Coincidentally, they had just spent a month at a co-living castle in Normandy France, loved the whole experience, and had already talked to the owners about setting up some sort of worldschool gathering at their property.


I reached out to Katia at Chateau Coliving in a quiet area near Utah Beach. From my first communications I knew it was a perfect fit… she and her husband are digital nomads and have set up their accommodations to support those who travel and work online. Not only did she understand our unusual lifestyle, but she also mentioned how much she is impressed by the traveling families and their children. She was super excited to meet more worldschooling families!


Having Katia on board as an enthusiastic collaborator was invaluable. She & I had never run an event of this sort before, so we needed to work side-by-side to negotiate the details. Once we crunched all the numbers, it became obvious that the most rewarding experience was to privatize the castle for the entire month!


Super exciting, but also super stressful: I gave a personal guarantee that our worldschool pop-up families would cover the castle’s monthly expenses… other than buying a home, this is the largest chunk of change I’ve ever committed (ha, please don’t tell Lance, thank goodness he doesn’t read my blogs)!


It was decided: I'd find families to stay a full month at the castle. Those families would arrive in Normandy first and spend two weeks together before we started our “official” one-week pop-up. The pop-up families would find off-site accommodation and join us with whatever timing worked well for them (families often stay longer than just the pop-up week). Finally, at the end of the pop-up we’d host an epic Worldschool Prom!


Ok, so the next step was sorting how to manage where the resident families would stay on the castle grounds. Chateau Coliving has a number of double rooms, single cots, plus an assortment of apartments and studios.


I need to give a hat tip to the castle – one of their employees had a phenomenal idea: The top floor of the castle is the former servants’ quarters with smaller, more budget-friendly rooms. Instead of having families use those rooms, we could make a teen floor so all the kids could congregate upstairs (and don’t worry, Katia’s quarters are also on that floor, so she volunteered to supervise, thanks Katia!).


We weren’t quite sure how the rooms would sort, but fate stepped in and we filled every single room and apartment (special thanks to the families who rented shared apartments or rooms bigger than they personally needed). These thirteen families covered the lion’s share of the castle’s expenses for the month (phew!) and among us we had twenty-three children.


Coliving at the Castle and Exploring Nearby Attractions

 

Chateau Coliving is accustomed to accommodating groups of nomadic travelers and once a week they have a “family meeting” to keep communication lines open, organize activities, etc. At our very first family meeting Katia warmly welcomed us and shared that the most children they’ve had on the property at any previous point was three! Oh my goodness, just three! Talk about a lot of trust in our families, 23 kids, and me.


Our 13 resident families spent roughly a week together before the other families started trickling into the area. This beautiful corner of Normandy has so much to explore and the history is rich: the castle itself was originally a Viking fortress and also was occupied by the Germans during WWII. We enjoyed a few day trips to explore the area but found that all we really wanted to do was hang out with one another: playing games both indoors and out, sharing meals, and getting to know each other. We quickly formed connections as many of us feel the need for confidantes.


As the pop-up families arrived, they also became part of our community. We planned outings both on and off castle grounds. One of the stipulations of our agreement with the castle is that the off-site families would pay 25€/day per family to utilize the castle grounds including the lawns, outdoor tent, BBQs, fire pit, and toilets. It was great to have the option to use the castle as a base as well as have free meet-ups at the beach, farmers’ markets, museums, movies, and other attractions.


Hanging with the Friends in Normandy


When the pop-up began, we had a total of 35 families and 66 children! Normandy was a fantastic location for our families – plenty of outdoor activities, Mont Saint Michel, historic homes, WWII history, the nearly 1000-year-old Bayeux Tapestry, cathedrals, scenic towns, and more! And on top of this, we had BBQs and community meals, Spike Ball competitions, day trips… and of course the main event: Our First Worldschool Prom!


I must thank all my volunteers who organized decorations (we handmade crepe paper flowers and brown paper bag tree trunks & vines plus mixed in fairy lights, LED disco balls, and some psychedelic swirling shapes YouTube videos projected on the white screen), snacks & refreshments, make-up & hair styling, photography & videography, music playlists, slide show of pop-up photos, last minute purchases, MCing, and keeping the timeline on track! It was a homegrown community effort that created a beautiful space for our teens.


Our Beautiful Prom Space, Pre-LED Lights

 

As prom day approached, the buzz got buzzier… I think the kids and adults shared the same anticipation. Decorations hung, outfits ironed, styling stations prepared, snacks planned, food trays arranged. We were all so thrilled our kids would have this experience.


Prom night started with a Dance Party for the kids who didn’t meet our prom age cut-off (prom was reserved for teenagers ages 13+). For the younger ones, it was hard watching all the big kids get ready for the formal dance, so we made sure these kids had their time to dress up and enjoy the beautifully decorated space. Our photographer captured moments with the tweens and younger children just as she did with our teen attendees. Such special memories.


Younger Kids' Mini-Prom


While the younger kids were enjoying their party, the teens were putting the finishing touches on their outfits, makeup, and hairstyles! Normally teens would go out for a fun dinner ahead of the prom, but with all the preparations being done on site, I think we just fed them something easy (can’t have it all, kids).


Hair & Make-up in the Tent


Prior to prom, we needed photos (thank you volunteers)!! We had such beautiful weather and the colors popped right before sunset, golden hour for the win. I cannot tell you what a pleasure it was watching these kids (some who’ve known each other for just a few weeks or less) share all the bubbly energy of dressing up, with peers who understand this lifestyle, for a castle prom.


Aside: If you’ve followed us for some time, you’ll know my youngest is quite partial to a hooded sweatshirt. Even in hot, humid weather – he is committed to his fashion statement (or maybe not combing his hair). The only time you’ll see his locks is when hats are not allowed or when swimming.


Our popup groupies know this, so whenever we go into a cathedral all the friends pull out their phone to capture shots of his lion’s mane when the hood is dropped (seriously, you have no idea, he has the best hair in the family). Everyone speculated what he’d do for prom and our family even joked about buying a wig so he could remove hoodie and have knee-length hair! The ushanka hat won!


Snapshots of the Teens -- Dressed Up and Ready for the Party!


And what about the parents? I think we were beside ourselves, soaking it all in. Of course it’s fun to live vicariously through our children, but it’s beyond amazing to observe them, in the moment, at a special time when everything has lined up perfectly for their happiness.

 

Man, this article keeps going on and on… I had no idea I had so much to say…


Where was I? Ah, the dance: Oh my word… when the dance started, these kids DANCED! I think they jumped for 4 straight hours. The castle’s workspace is on the 1st floor and our friend in the apartment below said Gangnam Style sounded like it was going to come right through the ceiling!


I give my kids some serious credit for compiling a perfect party playlist. They had a teen group chat beforehand to collect songs which included a little bit of everything and loads of familiar lyrics: show tunes, ABBA, pop music, 80’s classics, disco, memorable movie soundtrack songs, line dances, the Danish birthday song (way more fun than Happy Birthday), and a pop-up cult classic from My Little Pony The Next Generation Sing-Along Version (Danger Danger). When prom was half-way done, they opened up the playlist so teens could slide their recommendations into the remainder of the songs.


Even the adults were whisked into the excitement and had ideas to make this event as memorable as possible. Katia had a special surprise for the kids – after the first hour of hard-core partying, they secretly broke out the fog machine!! Talk about a party atmosphere – just fill the space with fog and LED lights!


Castle Prom!

 

The parents and younger kids hung out by the firepit or lounge chairs at the castle entrance. One of our guests had a projector so we were able to play a movie on the tent walls for the littles. No matter where we were on the castle grounds, we could hear the prom music and screams of delight echoing through night.


One epic moment was when Let It Go came on – these teens sung at the top of their lungs and their voices carried through the forest, across the property. I seriously get goosebumps thinking about it (sorry kids, cringe, I know). But hear me out…


All the adults just stopped talking and paused to hear our kids belting out the lyrics that resonate with a lot of us:


It’s funny how some distance makes everything seem small

And the fears that once controlled me can’t get to me at all

It’s time to see what I can do

To test the limits and break through

No right, no wrong, no rules for me

I’m free

Let it go

Let it go

 

Want to hear them sing? It's at the very end of the video:

Thanks to The 5 World Explorers for the Wonderful Vlog of our Pop-Up & Prom!


One mom said that she felt Let It Go makes a perfect worldschool theme song! Right? All our families living this lifestyle have learned that we need to let a lot go – naysayers, critics, expectations, fears, predictability, conventional thinking – to find our best selves and opportunities.


This lifestyle is not without its challenges (I write about that here in Worldschool Challenges Part I) and for me, connecting with other families and their creative worldschooling solutions brings a whole lot of validation and acceptance for how we’ve designed our life. It’s obvious that our teens also relished the opportunity to hang with other kids who understand them and make some once-in-a-lifetime memories.

 

Okay, okay. Apparently I can go on about this forever, so I’ll wrap up. The last two pieces of info I want to share with you is about our prom costs and a potential future prom tradition.


I won’t lie, pulling together an event like this was a huge undertaking and, though I had help, it was stressful and consumed lots of brain power. There were innumerable hours spent in the background to coordinate, collaborate, communicate, compromise, and get everything into place for our teens.


  • Because we worked out a package deal with Katia and Chateau Coliving the prom space was included with our monthly rental and castle access fees paid by all our participants. Thanks everyone for making this possible for our children!

  • Because we had volunteers and handmade our decorations, bought our own supplies, provided our own photography and make-up, ran our own music, made our own punch and refreshments, etc… the final cost was a sliding scale of 5-10€ per teen! Unbelievable!


I’m so happy to provide this experience for our families – my kids included! I will forever have fond memories of the time my kids went to prom in a castle and everyone was remarkably sore the next day from so much dancing.

 

But also – I want others to know the hours I commit to creating these events. My heart is huge and, as a mom, I want my children to have rich experiences across the globe and enjoy their travels to the fullest. I’m thrilled to share these opportunities with your families because being with your families make my family happy! However, I'm only one person...


It’s so easy for others to look at the final product and say, “WOW, that was so fun! What an incredible experience, where is prom 2024 going to be?” I’ll answer, “I don’t know, where would you like to host one?” And then, crickets. There was no Worldschool Prom 2024.


So here’s what I’m thinking – Spring 2025 will bring Worldschool Prom 2.0, somewhere in Central or Eastern Europe. My kids and their buddies have been asking for another prom, I have some time to volunteer for Round Number 2... but after 2025, these kids will have aged out of it. For the future, we will need the next group of families to step into host-a-popup-with-a-prom responsibility. The Worldschool Pop-Up Hub would love to continue this tradition for our teens!


Note: Spring 2025 prom will be 40-60€ per teen, we’re going to rent a space for their party vs build it into a packaged property.


Lastly, a thank you to the castle staff: Katia, Emmanuel, Heather, Greg, & Rosie. We had a fabulous time and so many amazing memories!


And a special thanks to my lead volunteers: Jovanna, Nicole, Deborah, & Sarah. There are many others, but these ladies took on lots of coordinating, brainstorming, decorating, providing / buying supplies, searching properties, cleaning, hair/makeup, photography, videography, etc. I couldn’t have done it without you.


And of course, thanks to my daughter, Kemaya, for listening to all my yapping and months of stress-induced commentary leading up to the prom. She keeps me grounded with her “Mom, just tell them womp, womp” wisdom. She’s also my fabulous editor & proof-reader, quite an invaluable part of our family and the Worldschool Pop-Up Hub… and I’m not entirely surprised this paragraph passed the final round of blog edits.


So that’s the news – pencil in Eastern / Central Europe for late April or early May 2025. Details will follow once we secure a venue in our short list of destinations. We made the best memories at Prom 2023 and we’re super excited for Prom 2025! I can’t wait to invite your families. Happy worldschooling, everyone!


PS If you'd like to be kept up to date on Prom 2025 and our future pop-ups, please sign up for the mailing list in the footer below!

Evening at Chateau Coliving - Yes, You Can Stay Here, Too!

Recent Posts

See All

Comments


bottom of page