One of the fantastic things about living abroad is the chance to show your child the world. Unlike their peers who spend their formative years living only in their homeland, your child will develop ties to and an understanding of both their home country and any other countries you live in while they're growing up. This can give them a unique perspective on the world. However, raising children as an expat is not without its challenges, and school is one of the bigger hurdles. Take a look at what you need to know about your options for schooling your expat child.
One option you have is to enroll your child in one of the local schools in the area. This is most likely going to be where the native residents in your area send their child to school, so your children will have classes with the same neighborhood children that they play with in their free time.
There are advantages to using the local schools. If you're looking to fully immerse your child in the local culture, attending a local school and learning alongside local children will help your child quickly become accustomed to their new surroundings. Many children in this situation will pick up the language quickly as well.
On the other hand, your children may be seen as outsiders, which can be a difficult position for a child in school, and this could lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness. If your child does not pick up the language quickly, their grades may suffer as a result. Furthermore, if you are not fluent in the language and familiar with the culture, you may have difficulty making sure your child's needs are met in school and participating in their education.
If there is one available in your area, an international school is a great option. International schools are designed for expat children like yours, so your child will be sure to meet other kids with similar backgrounds. They'll also meet children from very different locations and backgrounds, so they'll gain exposure to different cultures without being deprived of their own culture. You may find that the curriculum and teaching styles are quite similar to what you and your child are used to, and you shouldn't have any trouble taking an active role in your child's education.
However, international schools are not always available -- if you move often, you may end up in some places where this is simply not an option. International schools may also have a waiting list, or charge fees that are outside of your family's budget. And it's sometimes difficult for parents of children with special needs to find international schools that have the ability to meet those needs.
If neither an international school nor a local school seems like a good fit, there is always the option to school your children at home using online resources. There are several online programs designed to meet the needs of expat children, or you can create your own curriculum from various sources online, as well as materials that you have at home. You may even be able to integrate local resources, like libraries, into the curriculum. You can choose from comprehensive programs taught by certified teachers, or you can take on the teaching duties yourself depending on your preference.
The online approach works well for families of children with special needs, or when international and local schools are unavailable or not up to the standard that you require. They also work well for families that prefer a homeschooling or un-schooling approach, and for children who work better independently. However, families that choose this route will need to make an extra effort to ensure that their children get the social interaction and physical activity they need.
In the end, deciding which school option is best boils down to deciding what's best for the family, and for the individual child. You may end up using different schooling options for multiple children, or during different times in the same child's educational career. Understanding that each option has its own pros and cons can help you make the right choice for your child. For more helpful tips for expats, follow us on Facebook.