If you’re just joining us for this series, be sure to start with “Getting Mentally Prepared”. And don’t forget to share this series with anyone you know that is preparing to move abroad!
When we planned our move overseas, the school question wasn’t even a question. I was going to homeschool our two preschoolers. I’d home-preschooled the older one for over a year already, so I figured we’d simply continue.
Then we arrived in our new European home.
We arrived in winter to a 2-bedroom apartment, no yard. It was too cold to go to the playground and difficult to communicate with the other children we saw out with their mothers on grocery-store treks. I tried to ignore my feelings, which grew steadily more concerned with our lack of social interaction.
As we met other expats in our English-speaking community, we found that, almost universally, kids over two or three went to school.
I had a very social four-year-old and a very active two-year-old climbing the walls at home. Signing them up for preschool seemed like a great option, except that I’d planned to homeschool!
The accusations rolled in. Enrolling them in school is giving up! I told myself. You’re just being lazy! You don’t need to spend that money! Then I realized I’d become snappish from having so little adult interaction and was increasingly dependent on movies for the little ones to have a some time to myself. The boys had taken to staring longingly out the window during recess time for the school next door. And I decided to let go of my plan. Maybe God’s plan for this season of our lives was different than mine.
If you’re moving overseas and thinking about school for your children, go ahead and make a plan for your kids’ education. Run through these steps and figure out which makes the most sense for your family. But do it again once you arrive and can actually see the options for yourself.
Assess the situation. You’re in a new set of circumstances. Maybe, like mine, your new community doesn’t provide as much opportunity for playdates outside of school. Maybe the schools near you aren’t known for providing quality education.
Figure out your family’s educational goals. Does your high schooler need to be in American-style education? Do you need to be able to take your kids out of school for traveling opportunities? Do you want them to have lessons that you may not be able to provide at home, i.e., swimming or music lessons? Is having your preschooler away from you five days a week too much? Are you willing to commute to get your children to school? Ask yourself these kinds of questions and write down the most important needs. Then consider each school based on that criteria.
Take a look at the options. Don’t be afraid to ask each school how they can work for your family. Sometimes high tuition costs can be brought down a bit or classwork assembled to take with your son or daughter on trips. Perhaps you find that though you’ve never considered homeschooling, there’s a veteran homeschooling mother close by who’s willing to mentor you, or even a whole community to provide support. List out the pros and cons of each option.
Pray over the decision. Lay them all out, and ask God which affordable option will be safest and most beneficial for your children and your family. If you don’t have peace about the one that looks the best on paper, ask Him to give you peace or show you a better choice.
Decide, and give yourself grace. If you planned to homeschool but ended up choosing to send your kids to school instead (like yours truly), don’t beat yourself up for “not being able to hack it.” Sometimes our best-laid plans are not the right ones, and the decisions we make back at home before the move don’t stand up to the actual experience of being in-country. Give it a try. If it doesn’t end up being the right fit, you can make a change.
We ended up enrolling our boys in local, part-time preschool that offers them opportunities to play with other kids and have music and swim lessons on a regular basis. It gives me time to meet and actually get to know some other women. We still get lots of family time and I can teach them without feeling so much pressure. It isn’t the what I thought we’d be doing, but we’ve found it’s a good fit for us right now.
Did you choose local school, homeschool, or private school for your TCKs? Did you felt pressured to choose one option over another, or did you even have a choice? Have you had to change your child’s school and how did that work out?