Homeschooling Expat Children: Perfect Solution Or Missed Opportunity?

Posted on 14. Oct, 2009 by in Blog, Expat Life

Homeschooling children seems to be a growing trend among expats, especially those who live in developing countries.

Educating your children at home can be an attractive proposition, particularly if local schools are substandard and no international schools are available nearby. And I certainly understand being reluctant to ship your kids off to boarding school, or leaving them back home with relatives!

I went through something close to homeschooling (albeit unofficially) for a few years, as I was frequently sick as a child and had to miss school often. Luckily, my parents were both willing and able to help me catch up on my lessons, and they never missed a chance to broaden my horizons way beyond the standard curriculum. I loved every moment of it!


All of that happened in my home country, though, and I cannot help but wonder: aren’t homeschooled expat kids missing out on a lot of what makes living abroad such a fantastic experience?

Expat children who attend local schools have the opportunity to deeply engage with their host country, both by studying the local curriculum and by interacting with their classmates. Those who go to international schools do get a chance to come into contact with students from all over the world.

By contrast, homeschooled children will spend more time around adults – parents or tutors. Even if there are other students in the “homeschool”, they are likely to be the same nationality – at the very least they will all share a common language – thereby reducing the diversity of cultures to which the children are exposed.

Diversity chicks!

I would love to hear your thoughts: do you think that homeschooling is a perfect solution… a missed opportunity… or a necessary evil for expat children?

Do you have firsthand experience with homeschooling? What are the pros and cons in your opinion?

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Images by Mwesigwa (top) and chrisjfry (bottom), both via Flickr Creative Commons


  1. I’m currently just beginning to learn about homeschooling in general. I’m a US citizen married to an Italian man and we’ve lived in Italy for the last 14 years. We have 3 children, ages 7, 5, and 2. They have double citizenship and my older 2 attend the local public Italian preschool and elementary school. I’d very much like to supplement my kids’ education with extra English/language arts material, because I know that if I leave it to the Italian public school system, my kids will not develop good reading and writing skills in the English language. We do not live near any international schools. I hope someone could direct me to some good supplementary English language arts materials that I can use with my own children in the afternoons.

    Comment by M. — November 28, 2009 @ 12:07 pm

  2. Hello M., and thank you for your comment.

    It’s great that you’re willing to devote the time to work with your children on their English skills. I understand your concern – having gone through the French curriculum, I can attest that Southern European countries don’t do a good job of teaching English to children.

    I don’t have firsthand experience with homeschooling materials, so I am putting your question out to my newsletter readers and on Twitter. I will keep you posted as soon as I have some recommendations to pass on.

    Have a great evening / day,

    Comment by Emmanuelle Archer — November 30, 2009 @ 3:56 pm

  3. Hi, I’m a homeschooling father of 4 (soon to be 5)and wanted to chime in.

    The reasons people homeschool are various. Some of the main benefits is that the children are (almost)always dealing with adults who are proficient in communicating and in their given skills. Even in a foreign environment the children will gain a greater knowledge and experience through home education because their involvement will be largely with adults.

    Any homeschool family has a greater opportunity to live an introverted lifestyle, but from personal experience I can say that the introverted homeschool family is the worst stereo type I’ve ever heard. Most homeschool families deal with being too busy (Yes, much more busy than public school families) because they are not constrained by the public school schedule.

    As for supplementary English materials – I suggest just finding English books and spending time reading.

    My best to you.

    Comment by Jeramiah — December 1, 2009 @ 1:41 pm

  4. Hi Jeramiah,

    Thank you very much for sharing your experience with us. It’s always great to hear from people who know firsthand what it is like – and with 4 homeschooled children, it sounds like you definitely have a lot of practice!

    Are there big age gaps between your children? I can imagine that it must be quite the commitment in terms of time and energy to homeschool several children who are learning at different paces and with different materials according to their respective grade.

    Have a great evening,

    Comment by Emmanuelle Archer — December 3, 2009 @ 6:56 pm

  5. Hi again M.,

    An ESL teacher friend of mine gave me a few pointers regarding English language arts materials.
    I am sending you an email with more comprehensive details, but I thought I would post her general advice here, in case other expat parents find it helpful:

    – Contact your local American University. They probably maintain their own resource centre; if not, they can refer you to local bookshops that carry homeschooling materials in English

    – If necessary, talk to several staff members / salespeople until you find one who understands your specific needs and asks enough questions to gauge your children’s level

    – Hire an experienced English tutor to assess your children’s level and tell you what materials to get.

    I hope this helps – all the best to you and your family!

    Comment by Emmanuelle Archer — December 15, 2009 @ 12:07 am

  6. Hello,
    I am currently doing some research into schooling options as my husband and I approach a possible year in Bavaria, Germany. International school is not an option, as we cannot afford the tuition for our two daughters, aged 7 and 9. I have read that homeschooling is not an option in Germany except in rare occasions, but I am very, very reluctant to send them to the local German school since we do not speak German at all. We are beginning to learn it now, but will be nowhere near fluent by the time we arrive. I was wondering if you know what the local German school might do with a child who only speaks English. Do they have programs for German as a second language in their schools? Thank you for this website. I have only just now found it, and look forward to delving into all the material as we approach our year abroad.

    Comment by Brianna — August 19, 2011 @ 7:38 am

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