Tammy is a fourteen-year expat veteran who calls Panama home. She homeschools her bilingual, third-culture kids in the jungles of Panama.
American Homeschooling Overseas: Deciding to Homeschool Expat Kids
First, give yourself some credit. You've taken the gamble of moving to a foreign country with your family in tow. The naysayers have shared their views, and at this point, I bet a little part of you is wondering if you made the right decision to live overseas. On top of that, you're worrying about homeschooling overseas. Relax, you've got this.
Being an expat and raising expat kids is a great choice. Honestly, if I had to do it over again, I would; I'd just skip the mistake of trying public schools in Latin America. Trust me, the benefits of homeschooling really do outweigh the downsides. But still, there is probably a part of you that is scared that it won't work out no matter how meticulously you've planned. Don't worry. It may not be perfect, but it will work. You just have to learn to be flexible.
Before you move overseas, you need to make sure you pack the right items, have your paperwork in order, and have an educational game plan. Sound daunting? Don't worry. In this article, we are going to go over the things you should do in the days and months before and after you arrive in your new home.
Find a Curriculum That Works for You
First, I should tell you that I embarked upon our homeschool journey overseas without a curriculum. Yes, you read that right, no boxed curriculum, no books, no real idea of how or even where to begin.
Then I read The Well-Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise.
According to the inside flap: “The Well-Trained Mind will instruct you, step-by-step, on how to give your child an academically rigorous, comprehensive education from preschool through high school.”
I was sold. I knew that with this book in hand, I could successfully accomplish homeschooling. This was a plan I could follow on our educational journey. If you haven’t heard of this classical form of education, I encourage you to give it a read.
Resources to Help You Get Started
You will need educational resources, and if you didn't pack them in your suitcases, chances are they will be difficult to find. Here is how I went about piecing together our on-the-fly educational plan, finding textbooks, and finding reading materials.
- Research: First, print out your state's educational standards. Use this as your curriculum guide. It is the core of what your child needs to learn and know about for their grade level. I recommend referring to these standards often and using them as a pacing guide during your school year.
- Textbooks: Start with an internet search for free textbooks. You will need resources, worksheets, and textbooks to get started. If you didn't pack them, don't worry, textbooks can be found online. Here is the simple search formula I use to find the needed materials, "grade 5 math textbook pdf." Simply replace your grade and subject with the grade level and subject you are searching.
- Libraries: Get out your library card because, believe it or not, your library's digital catalog is a gold mine for home educators. Yes, there are textbooks, primary reading sources, magazines, online courses, and great documentary videos for free. There are also free courses and homework help applications. Your library's digital catalog is an excellent place to find non-fiction historical novels, science-related novels, and fiction primary reading sources. Do a quick search for math, grammar, writing, and reading. You might be surprised to find workbooks and textbooks.
- Language Studies: Study languages online. We use Mango Language to study Latin, French, and German. All classes are free with our library card number. No textbook is required.
- Educational Sites: Pinterest, Teachers Pay Teachers, and other educational sites are good starting points. I was trying to keep our homeschool overseas free or low-cost. Let me be real; it is almost impossible to find any craft items in Panama.
- eReaders: Invest in a Kindle, Nook, or tablet with the Kindle app. Being stuck in the jungles of Panama without a bookstore or a library that first year of schooling was a nightmare. Thank goodness Grandma bought the kids Kindle eReaders. Armed with an Amazon Prime account and a library card, we had plenty of books.
Education Standards in the United States and Other Countries
I believe curriculum choices are personal. Your selections might not meet the approval of others, and that is okay. As long as they meet the legal requirements of your state and make you happy, go for it. Isn't that why we homeschool overseas? So we can lead a flexible and relaxed lifestyle?
One more thing, take a bit of time to get to know your new country before making your education decision. Remember, the education of expat kids is not an insurmountable obstacle.
Yes, there are many top-notch international schools around the world. If you have access to one in your new country, by all means, check it out. Many offer rigorous academics and are worth paying the high enrollment fees. I personally know many happy expat kids and parents enrolled in these types of schools. However, our little Panamanian town does not offer schools of this caliber, so that wasn't an option for our family.
Is It Legal to Homeschool Overseas?
Be certain to investigate the local homeschooling laws in your new country of residence. A good place to start is the Home School Legal Defense Association. Their services are invaluable in assessing local laws. We used them ourselves when researching our move to Panama. Homeschooling laws vary by nation, so make sure it is legal to homeschool your children.
Finally, when moving to a foreign country with children, whether you decide to homeschool or enroll in a more traditional school, living as an expat in a new country is an educational experience every single day. Life as an expat child is an endless classroom.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
firstname.lastname@example.org on September 22, 2018:
Hello! New to homeschooling and living in Qatar. I am following the state standards from Ohio where we are from in the US, but they did not allow me to submit paperwork through the school district there where we have a permanent address unfortunately. I have already created my own curriculum but now need to figure out how to get it bonafide - have paperwork, assessment that will help us get into a school at a later point which will be likely even in Qatar. Thoughts? Experience? Thanks! Cheryl
Alicia on September 12, 2018:
The Ministerio de Educacion of Ecuador has all textbooks for free online. Just FYI for those homeschooling in Spanish.
TJ Rogers (author) from David, Panama/Knoxville Tennessee on July 05, 2018:
Thanks! Glad to help.
Sarah on July 05, 2018:
She has a great complete guide on how to homeschool overseas available on Amazon Kindle. I read it in less than a half-hour and now I have an idea of how to get started once we arrive in Ecuador!
Beth on June 27, 2018:
Moving to Boquete Panamá soon. Thanks for the on the ground perspective of homeschooling overseas.