Homeschooling your expat child
When you are an expat family with children, you want to ensure the best possible education options are available to you in your new home. Home-schooling can be a great option for those who are moving from country to country, or participating in volunteer work. It can also be more consistent for children who do not want the potential trauma of constantly moving schools and adapting to new social environments.
You need to be highly motivated to educate your children from home, and prepare to follow different restrictions depending on the country you are relocating to. There are even some countries where homeschooling is outlawed completely. In this article, we take you through the practicalities and different pros and cons of homeschooling your expat children.
The pros and cons
For some parents, homeschooling their children is a great way to avoid confusion of moving from school to school in different countries.
Dan*, who spent his childhood in Singapore, remembers how the expat community at his school would have a very high turnover rate. “Every month or so my friends would leave and move elsewhere.” By homeschooling your child, you can give them more consistency and less upheaval than enrolling in a different school for each location. You have the potential risk of a child being incredibly unhappy in a specific school environment, especially if they have had to leave behind their friends again and again.
However, this isn’t always simple as there are many places where homeschooling is heavily restricted or outlawed completely. In this case, you will need to weigh up your options and decide what is best for your child’s emotional wellbeing as well as their education.
For example, Sweden and Germany restrict homeschooling, which has caused some families to relocate in order to be able to practice this. If you are considering moving to Sweden or Germany, you might want to consider whether relocating to one of these countries is actually suitable for the educational needs of your child. In this case, it may be worth making an exception and enrolling them in public education. Sweden and Germany have very good education systems and there will be international schools available in larger cities.
This Wikipedia page provides a more comprehensive list of the legal status of home education in different countries, but your best bet is to check on the appropriate government website for guidance. You could also contact the embassy in your country for more information, if this is available to you.
In countries where education is expensive or not of a high quality, homeschooling may also be a better prospect for your child’s future.
It all depends on your location, so draw up a list of the different pros and cons of your options. Ensure that you know what is non-negotiable, whether this is your child’s social opportunities, quality of education, or practicalities of fitting homeschooling around your employment. With defined priorities, you will be able to make an informed decision.
How practical is it?
Homeschooling also suits parents who work freelance or from home, or if only one parent is working outside of the home.
Despite the fact that you can guarantee quality education for your child and monitor their progress, home educating can be very labour intensive. You need to weigh up whether you feel that homeschooling is worth it if it will cause too much stress or potentially family tensions. Ensure that all parties are comfortable with the situation you decide upon. There is nothing worse than an unhappy and unfulfilled child, and forcing the concept of homeschooling on your child when they want to make local friends and learn the language is unfair. On the flipside, forcing a child to start a new school when they would be more comfortable with learning flexibly at home can also have a damaging effect.
Moving countries is never easy for children, so you need to make sure that their mental and emotional wellbeing is a big factor in their education.
Setting a curriculum – or not
Setting the curriculum can also be a challenge. If you want to follow the curriculum of your country of origin, make sure that you can realistically do this. You may find that you will have to follow the educational guidelines in the country you have moved to and your child will have to sit exams externally to get qualifications which can transfer to other countries. You don’t want to jeopardise their chances of getting into their dream university because their education was compatible with the application requirements.
Weighing up your options and deciding the pros and cons of education in the country you are moving to is one of the most important things to consider when relocating.
Of course, your child’s input will be a deciding factor too. Some children may be keen to learn at home, while others may feel as though they will miss out on making friends and experiencing the culture while learning at home.
You will have to balance the experience of homeschooled children with finding clubs and social activities for them to avoid isolation. Connecting with other homeschooling families and creating a social group will also help. Sharing this experience with other expats will be a great way to make connections, and you can also share advice on what works and what doesn’t when homeschooling. If a network for homeschooling parents and children doesn’t exist, why not make one yourself? Advertise on expat forums, social media and notice boards in your locality. This will not only help your child, but help you too. If you are working from home or are the non-working parent, support and friendship will undoubtedly benefit your own experience in a new country.
Help with home education
You don’t have to do it all! There are a number of online schools and tutoring services that you can use to help your child. These are especially useful when your child is older and needs to work towards official curriculum exams. For example, for the US curriculum, you could check out International Connections Academy.
You can also use an online school like InterHigh Secondary School and Sixth Form College, providing an excellent form of education for expatriates around the world
Home educating your expat child is a highly personal decision which can benefit all the family in many ways. However, it may not work for all, especially if the country you’re moving to doesn’t support your choices. Be prepared to change your decision if you find it’s not working out for any member of your family.
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*Not his real name