When my husband and I moved overseas 17 years ago, we had been married for one year and kids were not on our immediate horizon. Three years later along came our firstborn with our number two arriving 16 months later. Life changed as we knew it.
It was important to us that our kids adjusted well to our host culture, so, though re-evaluated at the end of each year, we committed to having them attend a local school for their first four school years (the local equivalent of primary school). This saw them well adjusted to the culture and fluent in both English and the local language.
As they approached their teenage years, we chose home schooling as a better learning approach for us as a family. Home schooling provides the flexibility of being able to travel when needed, there is a greater variety of courses available and we can instil critical thinking into the learning. The latter is missing from the local system (which uses a rote learning style). Courses can be tailored to the kids' interests and their learning styles. We also considered where our kids may end up attending university and home schooling got them back into English as their learning language to prepare them for their futures.
There were some significant adjustments all around as a family. Mum took on the roles of overall supervisor, teacher and curriculum chooser, with Dad covering a couple of subjects. Thankfully there is a company set up to advise parents who are overseas workers on how to make sure their kids' education is well covered. Each year we consult with them about suitable curriculum and make sure all the requirements are being met. This is an invaluable resource and provides much confidence when we may sometimes question our choices.
Some of the biggest highlights to date for our kids has been having home school helpers come for different lengths of time. One person was on a gap year and came for three months. Another, a professional teacher, offered us some time in addition to being a full-time helper for another family. These helpers provide fresh faces for the kids, but are also awesome cross-cultural experiences for the helpers. Outside of school time, they can experience the host culture, along with meeting and doing life alongside cross-cultural workers and all that it entails.
After she completes her high school years, our oldest plans to do a gap year and be a home school helper herself; she thinks it's such a worthwhile thing.
Can I encourage anyone who likes kids/teens, is flexible and wants a cross-cultural experience, to be a home school helper? You will be a massive blessing to that family and your life will never be the same again. SOS Send more home school helpers!
N is a Mum of two teens who has been a cross-cultural church planter overseas for 17 years. She never considered herself an academic and yet in God's humour, now finds herself home schooling their two kids abroad!