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Is homeschooling a smart choice for expats?

Today, I’m thinking and writing about the subject of homeschooling, delving into its legality and the question of whether it’s a good thing for you and your child. Join me in the discussion of this emotionally charged subject…

Homeschooling is a big decision that all members of the family need to consider

Earlier this week I wrote about finding a school for your child before you move overseas. In that article I touched on the problem many expat parents face when they can’t find a school that matches their education expectations for their child, which leads them to turn to homeschooling.

I briefly homeschooled during an 8-month “gap” when we took our children out of their school in Spain to travel in Central America and Mexico. I followed various textbooks, but primarily focused on reading and maths and teaching by experience, such as going to a butterfly farm gave me the opportunity to teach them about the biology of metamorphosis! Before leaving Spain, my children attended local schools, but I taught them to read and write in English, with the occasional help from an ex-UK primary school teacher, because the level of English instruction at school wasn’t high enough for English-speaking children.

I could have chosen full-time home-schooling in Spain (it is legal there – see below for more about legality), but I needed to work and wanted my children to learn Spanish (and Catalan) by immersion.

Would home-schooling be a good choice for you and your children? Because it really is about your children AND you. It is a big, full-time commitment that will have lots of implications, including, if there aren’t other local homeschoolers, limiting your social life. Think hard before you commit, and try to talk to other parents on Discussion boards who have decided to go ahead.

Why do some parents choose home-schooling?

There are many reasons for wanting to home-school children. Recent research by the US-based National Home Education Research Institute (NHERI) suggest the following six reasons are the most common motivators for parents:

  1. Dissatisfaction with the available schooling and the desire to customise their child’s education
  2. Cultural or religious differences
  3. Bullying and lack or special needs teaching support
  4. A desire to strengthen family relationships
  5. To teach a set of values, beliefs and worldviews to their children
  6. To provide a safer environment away from the influence of drugs, alcohol, violence, racism and differing sexual values.

Young boy writing on a blackboard

Is home-schooling (aka home education) legal?

According to a BBC report a couple of years ago, home schooling in the UK rose by 65% over the previous six years. In many countries, including the UK, USA, Australia and Canada home-schooling is completely legal, though parents must provide a suitable education.

The legal status that parents enjoy in those countries is not, however, available to parents in every country of the world. In some countries, such as France and the Netherlands, homeschooling is legal in some situations, but parents must jump through a few hoops before they can begin. In other countries, the homeschooling status is unclear, so parents do it and run the risk of possible prosecution (perhaps that should read “persecution”?). That appears to be the case in Cyprus where the picture is very confused, with some sources saying expats who do not have Greek citizenship (both parents), can homeschool their children, while other sources say they cannot.

On an Angloinfo Cyprus Discussion board about homeschooling in Cyprus, several parents write about their confusion, with different stories being told by different people. The last comment is a real eye-opener:

“I posted on here a few years ago about my friends who home-schooled. About 2 years ago someone from the Min of Education knocked on their door and told them it was illegal. They wouldn’t even look at all their official US curriculum documents which proved it was official. They were given a month to get their youngest child in a licensed school or face prison! Neither parent is Cypriot so they were shocked and had to put their daughter in Greek school until she reached 14.5yrs, so she had a hard time adjusting to school in Greek until old enough to go back to homeschooling again. So, if you are homeschooling in Cyprus be careful. The law about Cypriot parentage doesn’t always seem to apply…” Do you homeschool in Cyprus? If you do is it now legal?

In several countries that are popular with expats, such as Germany, Malta, Sweden and Croatia, homeschooling is illegal and parents who practice it will be prosecuted.

You can check the legality status of homeschooling in over 30 countries on this Wiki page. Note, however, that homeschooling information changes quite regularly, so it’s advisable to check the legality status directly with an in-country governmental education source.)

Resources on homeschooling:

Articles on homeschooling:

As I noted earlier, the decision to home-school is a lot more complex than merely being fed up with the local offering. Would you do it? Are you already homeschooling and have some tips for your fellow expats. Please do comment below.

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