Many parents have a dream of moving overseas with their kids. Millions of families across the globe are already doing this, so we all know it is possible. But one of the biggest hangups for parents considering a move overseas is how they will educate their kids. There is a real fear of dropping the ball here, and doing your kids a major disservice in the process.
It can feel overwhelming and even scary to consider moving your kids overseas and stepping beyond your comfort zone for their education. It’s different than just sending them to your neighborhood school, which is the safe, comfortable option. But is it the best option? Not necessarily, even though the rest of the crabs in the pot will tell you that is the case.
Luckily, when it comes to educating your children while living abroad, there are numerous options available, many of which may even be preferable to your current schooling situation at home. Today we are going to talk about the two main options: homeschooling and international schools. Each option has its own pros and cons, so it’s up to you to pick and choose what works best for your family.
No matter where you end up in the world, you usually have the option to homeschool your kids. Homeschool can take a variety of forms and allows you to choose the curriculum style and delivery. There are usually some reporting requirements to prove you are adhering to the particular rules of your province/state and to show what your kids are learning.
These rules differ from place to place as does the level of funding you can receive for educational materials, so make sure you have a good understanding of what is required before committing to this option.
There are infinite different homeschooling styles, running the full spectrum from highly structured to completely unstructured. You can choose to take some classes online if that works for your family. You can play games, do work in your community, and travel as part of your curriculum. Homeschooling is basically like a buffet where there are a ton of options available and you get to pick and choose what you want for each child, making it a truly personalized experience for each individual.
It is important to note that homeschooling does require a higher time commitment from parents, who will assume the role of teacher in most cases. But homeschoolers tend to be great at building community so, if you decide to go this route, make sure to connect with other homeschoolers in your area for support, friendship, and fun! (Yes – your kids can still socialize without being forced to go to school for 6 hours a day.)
A sort of hybrid option is online school, where kids can receive teacher instruction online for all their classes. This still involves them being at home, but it provides more of a typical school structure. While you get the benefit of access to teachers and more of a plug and play approach, it is less flexible and requires a lot of computer time for your kids, which isn’t a fit for everyone. But it’s another option to consider!
Moving along… I’ve heard many times over that what we parents experienced in 2020 was not, in fact, real homeschooling. So, if you were one of the lucky parents who was trying to teach your child the school curriculum while said child was crying and storming out of the room, you can rest easier knowing that what we went through is totally different than what actual homeschooling is like in practice.
If that was your experience, as it was mine, don’t let it scare you off homeschooling altogether! Take the time to do your research and speak to other homeschoolers so you can get a better feel for if this option might work for you. There are many YouTube videos, Twitter accounts, and social media groups you can follow to get a better understanding of how homeschooling could work for your family.
Pros and Cons of Homeschooling
- Curriculum can be tailored to your family’s values and to your child’s interests
- Lots of flexibility in what to learn and how to structure your day
- Relatively inexpensive, especially if your province/state provides funding
- Children can learn at their own pace and pursue their interests
- Self-directed learning fosters independence in children
- No commute to school
- Requires a high time commitment from parent(s)
- Regulations in your province/state may not be homeschool friendly
- Extra effort may be required to ensure kids are getting the opportunity to socialize with peers and make friends
International schools are another option available to parents who decide to move their families abroad. Much like with homeschooling, there are a litany of choices available, allowing parents to tailor their kids’ education to their needs, albeit not to the degree available with homeschooling.
International schools are great if you want your kids to attend an actual physical school outside your country. They usually offer instruction in two languages: English and the country’s official language, which can be a huge plus for kids and something that is very useful if you intend to live abroad for a long period of time.
International schools can have all kinds of different philosophies and curricula. Some may have a focus on sports, while others may focus more on technology or the arts. Some have a Christian or other religious perspective, while others have no religious affiliation at all.
Probably the most important thing to consider when looking for an international school, is the type of credentials your child will earn from their schooling. That is, what curriculum do they use and are they an accredited institution? Some of the most common curricula you will find are American, British, Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB).
Surprisingly, in my research on this topic I actually found that there were schools in over 20 countries teaching a Canadian curriculum, which I did not realize was available and thought was very cool! It’s kind of comforting to know that if we decided to bug out to Mexico if things in Canada got too crazy, we could still have the kids continue with their same curriculum through an international school.
When you are searching for an international school, always make sure to check that the institution is currently accredited and legally authorized to teach the curriculum. This is fairly simple to do by checking the governing body’s website (i.e. to check schools teaching the Alberta curriculum, I went to the Global Affairs Canada and Government of Alberta websites). This step will ensure both the school and earned credentials are legit.
Finally, we can’t talk about international schools without mentioning two very important factors: location and cost. Since these schools are location dependent, you either need to choose from what is in your area, or move specifically to an area that has the schools you want. Depending on where you are, your options may be quite limited.
From a cost perspective, international schools can be very expensive, as they are private schools. The cost will be a function of the location, curriculum, and any other specific programs/services offered by the school. If you want to check out an interesting chart with some more information on international school tuition, head over to the International Schools Database website. Be prepared for some sticker shock!
Pros and Cons of International Schools
- Wide variety of programs, curricula, and philosophies available
- Great exposure to other cultures and languages
- Access to high-end educational resources and facilities
- Much less of a time commitment for parents
- Potential to continue your home country’s curriculum abroad
- Can be very expensive
- Limited selection of schools depending on your location
- Less control over what your kids are learning
- Less flexibility
- Commuting to and from school is required
What would I choose?
Let me preface this with a quick storytime:
Back in 2020, I was horrified at some of the rules and restrictions some schools were implementing. I wasn’t sure what my school’s plan was as things were constantly changing, but I was not about to have my kids confined to circles drawn on the tarmac and not being allowed to play with their friends at recess. That spring I did a lot of research into homeschooling and, when it was clear the Covid hysteria would be continuing into the fall, I decided I was going to homeschool the kids. Yes, even after our disastrous spring session of “school at home” (in French immersion!!!).
Luckily, as it turned out, our school did not implement any of the crazier restrictions I had been fearing. So, midway through September, I decided to send the kids back to school. I believe it was the right choice overall, but I’m still thankful for all the research I did and have a much greater appreciation and understanding of homeschooling because of it.
Now, what would I choose if we were to move abroad? Honestly, with the costs of the international schools I think I would likely choose the homeschooling. BUT, I would be open to an international school if the tuition was reasonable and I loved the school’s philosophy and curriculum and thought it would be a good fit for my kids.
Suffice it to say, I’m open to all the different options on the table!
Which option is the right fit for you?
The most important thing I’m trying to get across with this article is that you have options. Naysayers will play on your insecurities and tell you that you are doing a disservice to your kids by moving abroad and taking them out of their current school.
But the educational options are diverse and plentiful and, no matter which one speaks to you and your child, you can absolutely still ensure they get a good education anywhere in the world. As parents, we worry a lot about failing our kids. But I think sometimes we use that as a convenient excuse to not do things that will push us out of our comfort zones.
It will take a lot of research, planning, and trial and error. But millions of families are living internationally and if they can make it work, so can you.
I hope you found this article helpful in building an offshore plan for your family. For more helpful insights from offshore experts delivered straight to your inbox, make sure you subscribe to Escape Artist Insiders magazine.
Thanks for reading and have a great week!
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