Have you ever thought about travelling overseas during the homeschooling year for a few months or even longer? Wondering whether you should homeschool overseas or put your children into the local schools? Making the decision to include a school program to your unschooling curriculum can be a difficult one. Hearing about why others have chosen to send their precious homeschooled child to school while overseas, or why they chose not to, can help make your decision a more informed one. So, I thought I would share my reasons for why I decision to send my kids to a private school while overseas.
For the past year, my family and I have been in Morocco. I have been an eclectic unschooler for over 10 years. While I was in Canada, I used to put my children in hifz classes, tafseer courses, and started Arabic language playgroups. Basically, I would find programs that taught subjects that I am not able to teach myself – like Arabic language classes since I don’t know the language myself. I figured that my children would learn more from attending a class with a first language Arabic teacher and it would be a much more enjoyable time for them than watching me struggle through teaching them.
When deciding to travel to Morocco, my intention was to homeschool my kids in much the same way I did in Canada. Since Morocco is an Arabic speaking Muslim country, I figured learning Arabic should be easier for my kids over here, and that it would be really easy to find good Quran classes at the local masjids. Other subjects such as English and math would continue to be taught at home.
Well, after some major convincing from a friend of mine, who happens to be married to a Moroccan and her kids have been going to a private schools here for 5+ years. I decided to put my children into the private schools system in Morocco. So far, I have only been able to get my 5 year old in. Getting my 10 year old in is proving to be difficult due to some governmental red tape. But hopefully, that will work itself out too.
Some of the reasons why I have decided to put my children in a private school while overseas:
HAVING PERMISSION TO REGISTER YOUR CHILD IN SCHOOL
First thing is first, find out if you have the right to send your child to school in the country that you are going to and what documents you need to produce in order to get them registered into a school. If you are not able to register your child into school there isn’t much of a reason to spend time deciding on whether to homeschool or not.
Not all of us find ourselves in a country that our parents or spouse grew up giving us an inherent right to live there permanently and send our kids to school there. If you are moving to a country because you’ve gotten the permission to work there then you should have permission to send your child to school in the country you will be going to although it may be limited to private international schools and not the public school. Depending on where you are the cost of private schools can range from really inexpensive to very expensive. Either way, you’ve got to look into these schools if you are considering to supplement your homeschooling with conventional schooling.
If you are like me, a visitor to a country in which you picked off of your whims and desires then your ability to send your child to a school depends on the laws of the country that you are going to. So you should look into this before you make you final decision about where you want to go – if you are open to sending your child to school while overseas.
NO HOMESCHOOL OR SOCIAL NETWORK
I have not been able to locate an active homeschooling network or support group in Morocco – neither with locals nor foreigners. This may be the number one reason why people decide to put their children in school while overseas. The reason why I am not able to locate the homeschooling network is due to that fact that I don’t know how to speak the local language – Arabic. Even though I am able to speak French, which is Morocco’s second official language, the general population in Morocco mainly speak just Arabic. So, in order to really find a homeschooling network or even a social group for myself, I would have to learn Arabic first. If you can speak Arabic then I guess you’d have better chances of finding the “hidden” homeschooling society here.
Before I left Canada, I did come across a homeschooling blog by Maroc Mama, and expat living in Marakkesh, Morocco. Her blog made me hopeful that homeschooling was possible in Morocco. I would be happy to meet up with her one day. After coming to Morocco, I found out that Marrakesh is two and a half hours away from Casablanca by car. I do still want to visit Marrakesh for a mini vacation one day – so there’s still hope I might bump into Maroc Mama.
ADAPTING TO LIFE OVERSEAS
One of the easiest and most inexpensive ways of helping your child adjust and adapt to the new country you’ve brought them to is to put them in school so that they can learn the local language. When your kids learn the language they can integrate into the Moroccan society with ease. They will be able to communicate with relatives (if you’ve moved to a place where you have extended family) and make new friends at school, and with your neighbours children. It is similar to when foreigners come to Canada with their children and they put their kids in school. The children assimilate to the Canadian culture and in turn this aids the children in identifying with Canada as being their “home” country.
If your children are on the younger side, grade 1 to grade 3, than you don’t really have to worry about your child being “corrupted” by the “bad” (misbehaving or mean) kids in school. Most really young kids are really just kids being kids. If your children are older, grade 4 to grade 6, you should note that the general behaviour and attitudes of our kids in Canada (or other westernized countries) are quite different from that of kids in Morocco or other developing countries. It could be just me, but I find that (elementary-aged cultural) kids in Morocco are not like the kids in Canada. And the difference in the attitudes and behaviour towards adults and family are a welcome change in my mind.
If your child is in grade 7 or 8, then you should really look into the prospective school, the neighbourhood kids of similar age and your child’s personality and inclinations prior to sending them to a school overseas. It might be better to homeschool them and get them a private tutor to teach them the local language for the one or two years until they get to grade 9. By grade nine, they can start an Ontario based online high school.
FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEARNING
Aside from just learning the local language, I am a huge fan of foreign language learning. I really believe that the younger you introduce language to a child the easier it is for them to learn it and be completely multilingual. It wasn’t until I actually left Canada and started travelling when I realized how important being able to communicate in more than one language can be. It is humbling to be half way across the world and find that there are people, who according to western ideologies are considered “uneducated”, can speak 3 or more language fluently – this includes the elementary school kids.
Classical Arabic, French, and English language is taught in all the schools in Morocco starting from kindergarten. Private schools also teach Spanish and German.
ADVANCED SECULAR CURRICULUM
It’s no secret that the Canadian curriculum is not as impressive as we’d like to think. I am sure you’ve heard of one or two cases where public schooled children were considered “behind grade level” in math and English. Morocco’s math and science curriculum is ahead of the Canadian curriculum. It is right up there with China, India and Pakistan. English is being taught as early as grade one. And you can rest assured that the controversial Ontario “health curriculum” is NOT being taught in Morocco.
With a good understanding of math, English and science while studying overseas is that once your child reaches grade 9 they can start VLC an Ontario based high school for homeschoolers without much complication. (I am planning on posting about homeschooling high school shortly – stay tuned).
EVERY SCHOOLS IS AN ISLAMIC SCHOOLS
Morocco is a Muslim country, I would be surprised to find a school that doesn’t teach Arabic, Quran or Islamic (history) studies. Unit studies on Muharram, Ramadaan, Eid al-Fitr, Eid al-Adha and Hajj would be well placed in any school curriculum here (and if not, well then the Islamic culture of Morocco would take care of that). The curriculum here is similar to sending you child to an Islamic school in Canada except that you get much more Quran, Arabic and Islamic studies content.
NO TECH SCHOOL ZONE
The use of internet, computers, calculators and other digital devices to complete school work is not required in or outside the classroom – at least not for elementary school. I am not a fan of screen time, and I have heard the excuse of “I have to use the internet do my assignment” one too many times from my older children who where public school before I pulled them out to homeschool them.
AFFORDABLE LOW PRICE FOR PRIVATE SCHOOLS
You get big bang for your buck in Morocco. The cost of private school is relatively inexpensive compared to what we’d be paying in Ontario. Even with the exchange rate, you are getting a great deal on private school education here. The class sizes are fairly small so you get individualized attention as well.
FAMILY TIME BUILT INTO SCHOOL DAY
Here’s something new – students in Morocco get a 2 hour lunch break! Man, when I was working I would have loved a 2 hour lunch. This long lunch break allows you to have a good home cooked lunch with your child, get in a quick nap and still be able to attend the afternoon prayer at the masjid. On the down side, school hours are longer, the morning session is from 7:45 – 11:45 am, the lunch is from 11:45 – 1:45 pm, and the afternoon session is from 1:45 – 5:30 pm.
PARENT RELIEF TIME
I guess it goes without saying that when your children are in school you have time to do things that is best done without having your children under toe. This is especially important when settling into a new country and in the case where you don’t have any family or friends that you can leave your children with when you are running your errands. While you children are in school you can visiting government offices to complete your residency papers, go to the bank to set up a foreign bank account, apartment hunt, go shopping to furnish and decorate your apartment or just do your weekly grocery shopping.
Those are the major points I used to help me make my decision. I hope it helps you when deciding whether to homeschool your child overseas.
What country would you like to travel to? What things are you concerned about before you make your move to a foreign country? Have you had any experience with schooling or homeschooling in a foreign country? I would love to read your comments and see the responses from all of you on homeschooling overseas.