By Ann Zeise
On occasion I get asked about homeschooling in a country where English isn’t spoken and that may have little or no information on the web about homeschooling.
“I live in Thailand. Are there other homeschoolers here?”
“My husband’s company needs him to work in Germany. Can we homeschool there?”
“We’re in the military and going to be stationed in the Mideast. Are we allowed to homeschool?”
“We’re a missionary family and going to Borneo. How can we teach our own children?”
This feature is a bit of brainstorming here on what English-speaking homeschool leaders would be wise to tell people who are considering homeschooling in a “foreign” (to the advisor) country where a family lives or will be living. It would be unwise for us to second guess the laws in a non-English speaking country or even in a culture with which we were not familiar even if they are also English speaking.
This list is a work in progress and represents the common-sense advice of many. Please email me if you have any experience in this matter that you would like to add.
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Is it Legal There?
- You should locate the compulsory attendance code of your country either online or at a library. If not, ask at an embassy or consulate, if you will be there on a visa.
- You should look closely at the code to see if there are exceptions to compulsory education, such as tutoring or private schooling, and if parent-teaching is not specifically mentioned, does it seem that it is feasible that the code could be used for homeschooling?
- If so, a copy of the law should be made and taken to a lawyer specializing in family or education law in that country.
- If it doesn’t seem clear that homeschooling is legal, check to see if correspondence schooling is legal. If so, it may be best to enroll in one of these until it is clear that independent homeschooling is OK. There are quite a number of distance learning programs that specialize in international home education. They should be able to tell you if they can help you in the country of your choice, or refer you to another organization that can. It is easier to quit one of these programs if it turns out to be unnecessary than it would be to try to find the best one for you under duress while abroad.
- Check to see what is entailed in opening up a very small private school of your own. You may be able to find one or two other families interested in also being “enrolled” in your school. Most countries have some option for private schools, so check the education code and see if you could qualify.
- Assume that your employer, church or branch of the military has probably heard this question before and ask them! Someone with a title similar to “relocation specialist” should have the resources for finding information about homeschooling.
- Foreign Service families have diplomatic immunity from local laws. A problem can arise when their teenager applies for college in the US. Working toward an International Baccalaureate might be the work-around.
Finding local support
- To locate other homeschoolers, if you have web access, create a simple blog and buddy list and get the major homeschool sites to list your resource. If you don’t, you’ll need to use the print media, or see if librarians are willing to help. So many find fellow homeschoolers at the library mid-day. I would think this strategy would work in just about any country. Give the children’s librarian your contact information and tell her that it is OK to give it to anyone else inquiring about homeschooling. Check also with various recreational and religious resources and do the same thing.
- Organize something fun during the normal school day, publicize it well, and see who shows up!
- Finding support when you do speak the language is one thing, and then it is a whole different problem when you don’t. There may be any number of friendly native homeschool families, but if you can’t talk to them, what can you do? Try to find a translator. Offer to teach English to their children if one of them will teach the native language to you and yours!
- If the loneliness gets to you, do consider joining one or more of the established international homeschool email lists. Virtual homeschool buddies can be better than feeling you are the only family in the world doing this.