Taking the Kids Overseas?
Earlier this week, I was recording a Belize podcast with Fergus Hodgson, the editor of a 47-year-old newsletter geared towards educating its readers about unique investment opportunities primarily revolving around gold, precious metals, resources, and more recently, international alternatives. He and I met last year at an investment conference in New Orleans, where we did a quick recording with a few other internationally-minded gurus regarding the future of cryptocurrency.
We started off this Belize podcast reviewing standard questions, including why people are considering Belize, how to get to the country, the economy, cost of living, etc. As we continued to engage deeper in the back-and-forth, he asked me a question that I had thought about but had never been asked directly… Would I consider raising a family on Ambergris Caye?
The reality is that starting a family hasn’t been at the top of my priorities lately, so it took me a few moments to really process this question. My mind immediately raced back to childhood memories — splashing around in muddy puddles in matching ponchos and colorful rain boots during rainstorms with my siblings. Building a secret treehouse in a mushroom-covered tree in the backwoods with my dad. Setting up tents and camping out in the yard with other neighborhood children and friends. It was a time when our parents encouraged us to play outside and not come home until dinner was ready (and not be a minute late). Cellphones were non-existent so we only had ourselves to depend on. And despite what would today be referred to as laissez-faire parenting, my siblings and I made it through childhood alive. My brother with more broken bones than my sister or me, but all of us with a good head on our shoulders.
From a quick overview of those memories, I realized the three factors I found important when it came to family life:
- Interaction with others
In summary, a place where kids can be kids. Does Ambergris Caye meet those criteria? From the surface, yes. Much more so than most places in my home country. But because I don’t have a family, I can’t say that with 100% certainty. That answer will be determined in due course, but what Fergus’s question reminded me is that people aren’t just bringing Fido and their furry friends across the border, they’re bringing their young children, too. With increased job flexibility, younger families are relocating overseas for lower cost of living and new cultural experiences.
If you are considering moving abroad with children, you and your spouse should identify what is important to the both of you. Do you want your children to go to a top-of-the-line private school, or is homeschooling a consideration for you?
Are your children going to be using public transportation, will you be shuffling them around, or will you have a driver?
Do your children need a backyard/outdoor space?
Will your children need to learn a new language?
These rhetorical exercises just barely touch the rest of the questions that are probably on your mind. If you’d like to connect with a few expats families to further discuss their jump to overseas living, let me know and we’ll do that email introduction. In the meantime, below you’ll find a few notable schools to consider if you’re thinking about making the move to Central America. Please note that these schools are merely suggestions, and it is recommended that you coordinate a face-to-face meeting with the director to see if the school aligns with your goals and values.
The Island Academy
The Island Academy is a private school catering to children between the ages of 5-14 in San Pedro, Ambergris Caye. What makes the Island Academy unique is the low student-faculty ratio, the cutting-edge and hands-on teaching methods, and the student personalization. All classes are taught in English.
Phone: +501 226-3642
Director: Lady Dixie Bowen
The students at Island Academy performing during the town’s Christmas celebrations.
American International School (Pre-K – 12th Grade)
This school consists of 214 students and is located in Cariari, Heredia. Classes are taught in English only and the school follows the United States calendar and curriculum. English (ESL) and Spanish (SSL) as second languages are both offered. What distinguishes the AIS from other international schools is its family-oriented environment and the acceptance of all siblings, including those who require special needs. Two diplomas are offered at AIS, the National Baccalaureate (MEP) and the United States Diploma.
Telephone: 506-2293-2567 / 2567 Fax: 506-2239-0625
Director: Charles Prince
Blue Valley School (Pre-K – 12th Grade)
Comprised of 670 students, Blue Valley School is located in Escazu, close to Multiplaza. Classes are taught in English, and Spanish is offered at an additional fee with private tutors. What distinguishes Blue Valley from other international schools is that they run on both the Costa Rican and the United States calendar. This school does not offer the United States Diploma, but it does offer the prestigious IB (International Baccalaureate) and the MEP (National Baccalaureate).
Director: Marie Gutierez
British School (Pre-K – 12th Grade)
Students classes are taught in English; however, ESL and SSL are offered only at the primary level. Eighty-five percent of the students are Costa Ricans, while the remainder is made up of students from many other nations in Latin America, the U.S., Europe, etc. What distinguishes the British School is the International Primary Curriculum, the (IB) International Baccalaureate, and the International Certificate of Education it offers.
Director: Prevor Davis
Website: www.bscr.ed.cr Email:firstname.lastname@example.org
Country Day School (Pre-K – 12th Grade)
Classes are taught in English; ESL (English as a second language) is not offered, and children that do not speak fluent English are not accepted. On the other hand, this is one of the most prestigious schools in Costa Rica. CDS offers the National Baccalaureate as well as the United States Diploma. Country Day also has a school in Brasilito, near Tamarindo, in Guanacaste.
Director: Dr. Gloria Doll
Principal: Mr. Harry Grzelewski
American Nicaraguan School
The American Nicaraguan School is a private, non-profit coeducational school founded in 1944, located on a 26-acre campus in Managua, Nicaragua. ANS offers an educational program from Kindergarten (3 years old) to grade twelve for students of all nationalities. It is the only school accredited by the Southern Association of colleges and schools (SACS) in Nicaragua. The school offers 80 internet-ready classrooms, 10 administrative offices, wireless internet, a library/media center, technology center, science laboratories, fine arts and music department, and extensive athletic facilities for soccer, tennis, basketball, swimming, baseball, and volleyball. The American Nicaraguan School offers over 20 community service organizations as well as HACIA Democracy, sponsored by Harvard University. ANS is proud to be a member of the National Honor Society and Junior Honor Society.
Frente al Club Lomas de Monserrat
Phone: (505) 2252 7310, 7312
Phone from the U.S.: +17862692117
American Nicaraguan School
Lincoln International Academy
Lincoln International Academy is a Catholic, private, bilingual school that follows the United States and Nicaraguan curriculum guidelines for Preschool, Elementary, and Secondary education. Founded in 1991, it is located on a 12-acre campus in Managua, Nicaragua, and offers 8 pre-school classrooms, 15 primary classrooms, 15 secondary classrooms, 14 administrative offices, a chapel, a library, a technology center, science laboratory, a bookstore, athletic fields, an assembly hall, and a cafeteria. The school is an educational community with a strong sense of Catholic values. Lincoln ensures a strong Catholic presence through the campus ministry and a sense of public service through community work.
Las Colinas Sur, de la base militar Julian Roque 600 mts al sur.
Phone: (505) 2276-3000
U.S. Phone: +1 (786) 467 8457
The Nicaraguan-German School is a bicultural and trilingual school. At the moment, they have approximately 670 students. Around 10% of the pupils, and a third of the teachers, speak German as their native language. Aside from Primary and Secondary schools, they offer families a daycare and formation program for children from 1 ½ years old until Preschool/Kindergarten.
Carretera Sur km 10 ½
P.O. Box 16-36 Managua, Nicaragua
Teléfono: (505) 2298 1000
Telefax: (505) 2265-8117
Pierre and Marie Curie School
A bilingual school – Spanish/English from preschool and French as a third language. The educational experience is built as much inside as outside of the classroom in a multicultural and multilingual atmosphere.
Avenida Pierre y Marie Curie, Las Colinas Sur Managua, Nicaragua
Tel. (505) 276-1611, (505) 2276 1555
Notre Dame School
The Notre Dame School is a bilingual Catholic school whose objective is to provide educational opportunities, similar to those offered in the United States, within a bilingual and multicultural environment. The Notre Dame School offers three types of secondary level programs: High School, the Nicaraguan Bachillerato, and the International Baccalaureate.
The Nordic International School
Their vision is to fuse together the Nordic style of teaching with a U.S. accredited curriculum that will give their students an official U.S. high school degree upon graduation. They offer education from preschool through high school, and the classes are mostly taught in English. Students are also taught Spanish and a Scandinavian language.
The Balboa Academy
This U.S. and Panamanian accredited institution boasts a rigorous and competitive curriculum. Established in 1999, it currently hosts around 800 students ranging from Pre-K through 12th grade. The language of instruction is English, of which Spanish is taught alongside. French is taught as a third language in high school. The Balboa Academy is located in Panama City.
Director: Erinn Magee
Crossroads Christian Academy
Founded in 1997, this Christian Academy provides a high-quality, formal Christian Education. All teaching is conducted in English. This academy is located in Panama City.
Director: Beth Almack
Oxford International School
This institution offers bilingual education to students ranging from Pre-K to 12th grade.
Director: Patricia Palm
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