As I sit here in early March planning my curriculum for next year I’m struck with all the challenges that we encounter when homeschooling abroad. I’ve been doing pretty minimal homeschool for the last two years since my kids have also been doing local school (of some kind or the other), I’m a big advocate of play for little kids, and I’ve had a baby/toddler as well. But next year we’re going to step it up a bit. I’ll have a 3-year old, a kindergartner, and a 2nd grader. So I’m trying to figure out where I can combine subjects, what has to be separate, what we can do with Raye awake and what needs to be done at nap/rest time and so on. It’s proving challenging.
1) I can’t ditch my curriculum choices mid-year if I decide I don’t like them. I can’t just pop onto Amazon and order something new if what I choose isn’t working for us. I’m planning now because I have to space out my orders so that various tourists (my husband operates a tour business) can bring my materials over from the States. I’m constrained by weight and baggage restrictions, as well as fragility and size. I need to make good decisions and can’t take many risks. It’s frustrating.
2) Online resources don’t always work here. Something about IP addresses and so on that I don’t really understand (my background is in child development, not computer science). While there are many awesome resources online for homeschooling parents, many of them aren’t an option for me.
3) There is a lack of (what we consider to be) simple school supplies for younger children here. Yes, we can find glue and pencils (without erasers, mind you), but things like construction paper, poster board, and colored file-folders, are nonexistent. Even if they are available they are often only sold at one store on the other side of town, which means I never make it over there (because I have three small children and my husband usually takes our car), or if I do make it over there then they are likely to not have any left. There is no “dollar section” at Target where I can find cheap craft supplies, no Michael’s with wooden bird houses or holiday activities, no spiral notebooks to be found, and no loose-leaf paper. There is no room in my homeschool for wasting precious school supplies that we bring from America.
4) Locals truly believe I am crazy if I let my kids do something like stomp in mud puddles, climb trees, or collect snails. I am constantly shamed when out of our apartment for my children doing things they “shouldn’t” be doing, them not being dressed warmly enough (meaning hats and winter coats if it is under 60 degrees), and of course for them not being in school. Many days I don’t want to take my kids outside simply because I don’t want to have to tell them “no” to doing things that are not acceptable here, and I don’t want to be griped at by locals if I do let them do these things. A balance is tough to find.
5) I don’t have access to a library. I can’t preview a book before I buy it unless one of the other expats in our city has it. And then I won’t likely buy it even if I love it because of the difficulty of getting materials here: we’ll work out a borrowing system instead, unless it is main curriculum that two families would be using at the same time. I can’t expose my kids to dozens of books on various American holidays or famous people due to the lack of a library. Instead I’m forced to scour the internet looking for the ONE perfect book (that I can’t preview) to describe Martin Luther King Jr. Day, or the 4th of July, or any president. My 3-bedroom apartment does not have room for a huge library of books that we will only read one week of each year.
6) Local culture is so last-minute. I have tried to go to the gym on a holiday only to learn when I arrived that they must be closed (or opening late) for the holiday. But there’s no notice, no announcement, nothing. It’s something that’s probably understood and a given by locals but about which I, being a foreigner, have no idea. Classes get changed or canceled at the last minute and everyone adapts. Meetings are scheduled for that day and everyone drops what they’re doing to attend and I am expected to as well. It is extremely frustrating when trying to plan out a homeschool schedule/routine or when trying to get your kids to attend local activities/sports.
So there are a few of the things mulling over in my head as I think about the upcoming year. I’m ok with these challenges…I accepted them when we moved overseas almost seven years ago. But they are still frustrating and deserve a voice. Educating our kids ourselves is tough. Doing it overseas? More challenging in many ways. I’ll get to a post on the things that are easier one day but for now…I’m consumed by the challenges.