I recently bumped into an old friend whose daughter is the same age as mine. We had a quick catch up which included a conversation about preschool options locally. She informed me that she and her husband, who’s an expat from the Netherlands, have decided to home school their daughter because they both want the option of living part-time in the UK and part-time in the Netherlands.
This led me to have a think about my many expat friends around the world and how many of them home school their children. The majority do. The ones who have the most internationalised lives and who have relationships with expats from different nations for example, they all home school. And their children all seem to benefit significantly from this approach to their education for multiple reasons.
A round-robin email later and I can bring you the findings of my albeit limited survey, which shows that the main reasons for choosing home schooling include distrusting the local education options, and discovering how easy an approach it is nowadays thanks to the internet! There are some cons to be aware of however, and in the interests of balanced reporting I’m going to mention these too!
If you’re hankering after a new life abroad, or you’d love to spend some time travelling or living between nations but you think you’ve left it too late because now you’re lucky enough to have a family of your own, you may be able to think again if you consider making your children’s education as portable as possible.
Alternatively, if the nation you’d really like to live in doesn’t have education standards that are acceptable to you, or there is some other challenge relating to schooling your children that’s preventing your relocation, it may significantly benefit you to think about home schooling.
Having corresponded with my friends on this matter, who live in nations as geographically and culturally far apart as Mozambique and Argentina, New Zealand and Cyprus for example, I can tell you that every home schooling family is currently pleased with their choice.
The main benefits listed include your child being able to work at their own pace, thus advancing in subjects where they excel quickly, and having plenty of time to go over and over any subject areas they struggle with. And on this point, it’s important to mention the fact that with the right home schooling programme it’s easy to schedule and pay for a tutor when their help is needed. Help can be given via Skype for example, or an interactive programme such as TeamViewer.
I was advised that home schooling programmes available nowadays are cost effective, tie in with internationally recognised examination outcomes (e.g., international baccalaureate, A levels etc.,) and that the older your child gets, the greater their own personally developed sense of self-discipline that’s established thanks to home schooling.
The reasons given by my friends for their choices included one that was universal – i.e., they all felt that home schooling was a better option for their particular children compared to the education options available in their current location.
Additional specific choices were governed by language issues, bullying in school, lack of facilities in school and by needing to keep education flexible because of a family’s own requirement to be internationally mobile.
In terms of the cons cited, parents commented to me that they have to make a concerted effort to ensure their children get out and socialise actively with other children in order to establish friendships. Also, invariably the home schooling discipline and guidance fell to the mothers, and they felt this ate greatly into their time.
Rather than being a complaint however, I just felt this was a comment that each needed to make, and it’s certainly a consideration that you will need to have in mind as you consider this approach.
Having a child in a conventional school setting usually allows parents to work around that – either in paid employment, in the home or on their own leisure pursuits for example. What’s more, parents can benefit from having children in a conventional school environment when they are new to a location because they will be enabled to meet other parents, with whom they may then establish connections and build their own network.
Other cons mentioned included the fact that the approach carries a cost, is frowned upon by some family members back home in the UK, and requires an additional level of consistent encouragement of a child’s engagement with school work. As one friend said to me: “Some days I feel all I have done is nag my son – to get up, to get dressed, to get to work, to concentrate, to take a regular break from the computer…And I hate feeling like that. I’m working with him to find the best approach that positively encourages him to get through the work so that he can have as much free time as possible. Home schooling is certainly not the easy option!”
Other concerns raised by my friends which were notable include the fact that children in a conventional school setting usually advance in terms of local language skills much more quickly, and they achieve more embedded integration.
Probably the most positive finding I can share with you though, courtesy of my home schooling expat friends, is that every one of them said they were happy with the standard of the programme they’d researched and chosen. This is hugely encouraging. It means that not only is there a solution out there for anyone who needs a portable, international-proof education for their child, but it doesn’t have to be a compromise in terms of the standard of schooling they receive.
As articulated, home schooling isn’t the easy option though – for the child or the parent. But it is a viable, high-standard, flexible and relatively affordable option for anyone who wants to live anywhere in the world and not be restricted.