Location Independent But Not Homeschooling? Tips For Finding the Perfect School Abroad
Not all location independent parents are willing or able to home school. For some it might be a question of temperament, for others a lack of qualification, for still others, the desire to have some time to themselves.
If you have decided not to home school, then that has major implications for your life as a location independent parent. Issues to consider include:
- Do you uproot your family whenever you feel like it, taking your child to a different school each time?
- Do you limit your travel to periods in between periods of instruction, staying for longer times in a single location?
- Do you combine the two, having a period of stability each year, followed by a period of travel?
- How important is it for your child to be educated in a single system of education or the system that belongs to your home nation?
- What implications do your choices have for their future education and employment?
Whatever, you decide, if you are not homeschooling, then you will need to find a school in your current or future location. Here are a few tips on how to do that…
Finding A School
There are several options for finding the right school. If you know where you are going to go, a good starting point is the governing body for education in the country, such as Ofsted in the UK or a ministry of education. You can usually get a list of schools from here or search online to find schools in the area where you will be.
Websites giving advice to diplomats may also have useful information on schools, though this is not always up to date. The next step is to check out inspection reports if these exist. Of course, these reports only give an outline of academic results. In order to find out more about what a school is really like, it’s worth visiting forums for expats where people will discuss their true feelings about particular schools. All of this can help you narrow down a shortlist of schools to consider.
If you can, make a reconnaissance visit to see your shortlisted schools for yourself. You can phone or email ahead to make appointments to view the school and talk to the principals or head teachers. If you can’t then plan your arrival well before the start of the school year to give you time to view the school and complete any necessary paperwork. Some countries require student visas for expat pupils and it can take quite a while to obtain these.
Evaluating The School
There are several questions to ask when evaluating a school. As well as the standard ones, issues for location independent parents to consider include:
- What is the language of instruction? Will your children have to learn a new language to benefit from education? If your children are beyond the kindergarten stage, you may have to find a school that teaches in your home language.
- State or private? In some countries the state schools are excellent and you may be happy with this as a choice for your child. In others, you may prefer to take advantage of the breadth of curriculum and additional activities offered by a private school.
- Transferability? Will the qualifications your child gains be transferable to other education systems?
- Start of instruction? Some educational systems start teaching children at just under five years of age, while others leave it as late as 7. This may be an issue if moving from one country to another.
- Examinations? Some educational systems have rigorous testing of pupils at various ages, while others just let them proceed through the system. This may be an issue for example where your child has to take the 11 plus exam, even though this will be of no use later.
- Corporal punishment – around the world there are still hundreds of schools where this is the norm. This may be a deal breaker.
Some Options For Education
For kindergarten and primary age children, Montessori schools provide a breadth of education and encourage critical thinking. There are dozens of these around the world; you can find out if there is one in your local area on this website.
Secondary education can be a minefield. Educational options in schools around the world may not always meet your expectations, though they may sometimes exceed them. Some schools offer an international baccalaureate which prepares your children for university in many countries around the world. Others provide a liberal arts education and style themselves ‘university prep’ schools, though without a specific examination to prove it. If your children already know what type of further study they want to do, you may be able to enroll them in a school that specializes in this area or will prepare them to meet the requirements of the institution of their choice.
Even if your educational arrangements are more flexible than in other households, don’t get stressed about it. Your children will get a view of the world that many don’t have – and that will stand them in good stead for the rest their lives.
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