Temporary Home Education for International Families
By World Family Education and Rebekah Conklin
Sometimes an international family finds itself in a situation where it needs to homeschool for a summer, a semester, or a year, but expects to return to traditional schooling. This can be a daunting proposition, but at the same time, a great opportunity. Home education offers the time and proximity to grow closer as a family and become personally involved in a child’s learning.
Several scenarios can lead to temporary homeschooling, such as:
Your family needs to withdraw temporarily from a school. This could be for personal issues, travel, academic remediation, among other reasons. Your school may or may not support learning during this time away.
Your child’s school shuts down temporarily and continues education remotely. This is usually done with an online platform that enables teachers to stay in touch with students and continue the learning process while students are at home.
Your child’s school shuts down, either temporarily or permanently, and cannot continue education remotely. You’ll need to continue the learning process without the school’s help.
This sudden change will be a big transition for your family. Even if you’re not in a new location or community, you’ll need to prepare for and process the adjustment to home education. Prioritizing relationships in your family as well as the mental, emotional, and spiritual health of all its members is key to thriving in any transition.
Whether or not your school is providing you with curriculum and teacher support, you will need to take initiative and responsibility in your family’s learning experience. Taking proactive steps to prepare for this new experience will lead to successful outcomes for your family.
If your school provides most of the tools your child needs, your supervisory role will be critical. You will also need to supplement with activities in the arts, physical education, home/life management, etc.
If your school doesn’t provide curriculum resources, your role will expand to design the learning experience. You will need to develop a plan that considers all of your child’s needs — academic, social, emotional, spiritual, etc.
Take control of your family’s learning experience by:
prioritizing family relationships and health. This temporary, and perhaps open-ended, situation will be stressful, and your child will respond to your stress. They may mimic your response, try to protect you at their own expense, or internalize their emotions. It is important that you as a parent stay healthy physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Make sure that educational decisions are made while considering your child’s health in these areas as well. A healthy child can learn in difficult situations, but an unhealthy child struggles to learn even in the best situations. When it is all over, the biggest impact on your child won’t be the academic outcomes, but the emotional and relational outcomes. Read more at World Family Education’s Caring for Your Family in an Ongoing Crisis page.
staying realistic. Remember that this is a temporary solution, so your goals and expectations should reflect that reality. You are not attempting to replicate a long-term traditional homeschooling experience, so resist the temptation to compare yourself with those who are seasoned homeschooling families.
determining what you want to accomplish. Is your goal to be at a particular place academically by the end? Get through the experience with relationships intact? Stabilize the family by maintaining a schedule and maybe accomplish some learning?
identifying your hopes and dreams for your child’s education in general. It might seem trivial, but it’s a good idea to know how you feel about education and its purpose. This will help you make decisions as you proceed. Start by reading World Family Education’s articles on Perspectives on Education and Approaches to Home Education.
narrowing your research on homeschooling/home education. Internet searches will open an overwhelming amount of information and advice. There’s a lot to learn about managing your child’s learning at home, but choose your sources carefully. Choose information sources that best match your family’s situation and needs. You can get a good introduction by reading World Family Education’s articles on Home Education and Getting Started with Home Education.
investing your own time in your family’s education. Especially at the onset of the journey, when your family figures out how things will work, clear your schedule and focus on actively helping your child. If at all possible, both parents should play an active role in the family’s education. The amount of time you will need to spend depends on the age of your child, and this will decrease as you work toward more educational independence.
recognizing resources you have on hand. Take a realistic inventory of your educational materials, learning environment, technology, time, and family relationships.
listing resources you will need to accomplish your goals. Once you have this list, look at specific resources that fit your needs, which are included in the next section.
Find Learning Resources
Whether your school provides educational materials or not, you can support the learning process with additional resources.
If you need supplemental resources online, or like the challenge of piecing together a learning experience from free materials, check out World Family Education’s list of Free Educational Resources Online.
If you need to use online education, a great place to learn about the formats and options is World Family Education’s page on Online Education Options.
If you have time and opportunity to order books internationally, World Family Education has a few recommendations on their Buying Books Internationally page.
One of the best strategies is to keep kids reading. This can be a challenge if you are mobile or isolated. World Family Education has a list of Apps to Keep Kids Reading.
As you transition to temporary home education, time management is critical for creating a safe, consistent environment for your family. Rebekah Conklin has had considerable experience in educating while in transition, and she offers the following tips:
Keep a consistent schedule as much as possible. Maintain bedtimes, mealtimes, and wake times. As tempting as it is to throw the school day schedule or routine out the window, this is not holiday time. Sit down with your child and get their input on the schedule. Older children can take more responsibility in this process. This will help them have ownership of their schedule and keep on track with their learning.
Break the day into chunks, and plan movement breaks. During the school day it’s normal for children to change activities regularly. Depending on the age of your child, changing tasks or activities every 30-45 minutes will help them. Practice math facts, take a rest, do some exercise, read, have a snack, then do some more school work. Gonoodle.com has a huge collection of videos to get kids moving for fun brain breaks.
Stay connected with teachers if possible. If your child’s teacher is involved in the learning experience, make sure that your child does what the teacher has assigned or suggested. The teachers have the big picture in mind and have worked hard to plan activities for students. They expect parents to facilitate or monitor the child’s learning.
Focus on reading. For younger children, read aloud to them, and listen to them read aloud to you. For older children, ask them details about what they are reading. Ask questions about the deeper meaning and themes of the stories. If you are not comfortable reading aloud in English, then read aloud in your home language.
Enjoy the time with your child. You may not have chosen the situation you are in, so you will need to be intentional about staying positive. Enjoy the different routine and get to know your child better. What makes them unique? What makes them smile? What is a skill they want to learn or a meal they want to cook? Learning takes place in lots of ways.
Manage the multitude. If your family is large, or the ages are spread out, take time to make a plan. Find a place to do school for each child based on what works for them. This could be a bedroom, kitchen table, or couch. If you need one-on-one time with a child for part of a lesson, try strategies like having an older sibling play with a younger sibling. Combine subjects or have siblings join in on each other’s lessons when possible.
Use screen time wisely. Online learning means more screen time for learning, but monitor the extra screen time, and resist the temptation to use screens as babysitters. Pull out the board games or card games and have family game times. Get creative with building blocks, clay, and other art supplies.
Meet with others when possible. Schooling alone from home can be difficult for social children. If possible, plan to meet with friends to either do a school lesson or for some play. If you are not able to meet in person, try to do a video chat with classmates or friends so your children can stay connected.
Rebekah Conklin is a trained teacher who has lived in southeast Asia for many years. She has homeschooled her children and transitioned them into an international school. Rebekah loves helping international families thrive in her work as an educational consultant for Asia Education Resource Consortium.