If you have children and are planning a move abroad you’re probably concerned about their schooling. For us this was not a very big concern, because we homeschool our daughter.
We’ve always had the desire to move to a foreign country, and homeschooling makes for good mobility. We prefer homeschooling for many other reasons as well.
We Were “Homeschoolers” Before Moving to Ecuador
We are from Nova Scotia, Canada and their rules are very simple. We choose the curriculum and have it approved by the School Board, then at the end of every school year we send in a progress report via email.
When we moved we brought two years worth of curriculum with us. And now we ask our family and friends to bring the next years curriculum for us when they visit. We can also order online and have it shipped directly here to Cuenca.
What About Learning Spanish?
You may be wondering how our daughters Spanish is progressing because she’s not in the school system here. Well, I’m jealous!
Her fluency blows mine out of the water; children learn language so much faster than we do. She is 9 and does a lesson in Pimsleur Spanish everyday. (Get a free Pimsleur lesson from Audible) I include Spanish lessons in our curriculum, and we have Spanish books that we read and discuss together.
She also picks up an incredible amount just from being out and about and with her Spanish friends.
This is a concern for most expat families as they plan their relocation.
If you’re into homeschooling you don’t have to worry about your child picking up the language, they’ll pick it up faster than you will.
There are many private schools here as well. But if you do homeschooling make sure to look up the laws regarding homeschooling for your province or state before moving.
Is Homeschooling Right For My Expat Family?
When a family starts thinking about extended travel or moving abroad they may start thinking about homeschooling.
Homeschooling can be a hot topic. A lot of people have strong opinions about it.
If you are thinking about making the switch to homeschooling, don't be put off by negative remarks.
Homeschooling For Expat Families?
I can make positive, well-informed comments about homeschooling because we home school our daughter. She has never been in the school system, and it has been a wonderful experience for our family.
I saw an interesting video not long ago where a young man was talking about his positive experience being home-schooled.
I've shared it here to encourage and support families that are thinking about it. Logan LaPlante does not live abroad, but you can get a good idea about the wonderful possibilities open to home-schooled children by listening to his TEDx Talk.
Why Homeschooling Makes Him Happy
It's so true that our main goal should be raising children who are (and will be) happy and healthy adults!
That's not to say that children who go to traditional schools can not be happy healthy people, but there is more than one way to educate a child.
Schooling is one of the challenges faced by expat families.
Is Homeschooling Right For My Expat Family?
It is for ours.
There are many different ways to home school an expat child.
When we started we bought the curriculum books ourselves and I sat next to Drew, teaching her five days a week. I viewed it the same way as if I were going to work, it took self-discipline as does any other worthwhile routine.
Now we do what is called distance education, she does most of her school work online with a private school in the States. This has not hampered her language learning because the majority of her social time is spent with Spanish speakers. So while she studies at home, she isn't technically homeschooled because she is enrolled with an accredited high school.
Many families like to have things very structured and others don't like structure at all. It all depends on what is the best education style for each family and each child. Many traveling parents homeschool, while others hackschool, unschool, or worldschool.
The goal is the same: to take control of their child's education.
Some people will say things like “home-schooled children aren't socialized,” or “home-schooled children miss out on so much!” Those statements are only true if the parents don't do a good job of homeschooling their children.
Parents should take an active role in making sure their children have good friends and interesting things to do.
Homeschooling made for a smooth transition when we moved from Canada to Ecuador. And it helped as we moved around a bit, settling into life here. Our daughter's schooling stayed the same which was less stressful for her.
Like the young man in the video above, our daughter is very well socialized, makes friends easily, and has had a very interesting life so far!
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The following is a first-hand account by an American expat living in Cuenca since 2007.
Schooling Your Expat Kids: Our Experience in Ecuador
Since we are the parents of two school aged children, education is a concern that my wife and I had to address before we moved to Ecuador. What educational options are available to expat children? Should you enroll your child in a local school? Are classes available in English?
We have always homeschooled our children and when we first moved to Ecuador we had all intentions of continuing our homeschooling routine. However, we were erroneously led to believe that we were required to have our kids enrolled in a school here.
We learned of a private school that would accept our children and quickly, albeit reluctantly, enrolled them. Imagine us trying to explain to our wide-eyed kids that they were going to have to attend a “normal” school for the first time in their life.
Many questions raced through our minds:
- Would our kids be able to understand the teachers?
- Could they make it in a school with an all-Spanish curriculum?
- Would they fit in with the other kids?
I am proud to say that our kids adapted to the challenges of going to school in a foreign country and actually came to enjoy going to school here.
Despite the fact that they did well in their studies here, after 6 months we made the decision to take them out of school and returned to our home school routine.
Why did we decide to return to homeschooling?
The main reason had to do with teaching methods and the use of time and energy. The school our kids attended relied heavily on memorization and did not use any textbooks.
A lot of emphasis was placed on things that we felt were irrelevant to a good education, such as the wearing of certain uniforms on certain days and the seemingly endless copying of lessons in notebooks.
If the kids did not copy their lessons with a certain color pen in a particular type of notebook, they were penalized. What difference does it make if you use a black or blue pen? Apparently, it is a very big deal.
They were also required to do what we call busy work, such as the cutting and pasting of drawings and the endless memorization facts and dates. Also, as parents were called to attend meetings that seemed to have no purpose other than to be in attendance.
I don’t mean to sound critical of the education system here. I’m just stating the fact that we found the teaching methods used in one particular school here very different from what we feel is best for our children.
The Ecuadorian educational system obviously has its merits since most all people we know here are literate, creative and well-spoken people.
Many have asked us if there are schools here that offer an English curriculum for non-Spanish-speaking children. If they exist, they are not well-publicized because we have never heard of such a school here in Cuenca.
I recently searched the internet looking for schools in Ecuador that offer an English curriculum and my search turned up nothing. I have asked a number of Ecuadorian and expat friends about the matter and no one has reported having heard of an all-English school here.
There are many schools that include some English language instruction, but apparently, there are none that offer an education exclusively in English.
What we do know is that there are many internet-based home school options for expat children. Our daughter is enrolled in the first year of high school and when she finishes will receive a diploma from the State we lived in.
Some states offer online schooling via the State board of Education that is free. The course we use for our daughter’s high school is through a private college and the cost is very modest. All of the lessons are available on line and they are reviewed by a certified teacher.
Aside from the internet homeschool option, there is also a seemingly endless supply of printed material and programs available, especially for the early grades. Each state in the U.S. has its own standards and requirements for homeschooling.
Before moving to a foreign country with school age children, it is best to be informed about the requirements of your particular state or province. Some states require homeschool parents to keep monthly attendance reports. Others require tests to be taken from time to time.
If one has an internet connection or access to printed material, the educating of expat children need not be an insurmountable obstacle when considering a move to a foreign country. Also, if you move to a country popular with expats, such as Ecuador, you may find retired educators who are willing to offer tutoring services to expat children.
There is one factor that should not be overlooked when one considers moving to a foreign country with children.
Whether you home school or enroll your kids in a brick and mortar institution, it is good to remember that living in a foreign country is an education in itself. There are many lessons that a child can learn living abroad that cannot be taught in a classroom.
Younger children become bilingual almost overnight when they are immersed in a foreign language and are forced to speak it in order to make friends. Also, most expat parents have much more time to dedicate to their family and when parents are actively involved in the education of their children the results are always positive.
Life is a classroom and we are thankful that we have the privilege to live in a culture-rich country that is full of unique and interesting people and places.
Are you a homeschooling expat family? Have you thought about homeschooling? What's your opinion? Please share by commenting on this post.
Hi, I'm Dena Haines. And I'm co-founder of Storyteller travel. I love to cover food, animals, and destinations around the world. I also blog about photography at ClickLikeThis.