Frequently Asked Questions
Most families living in a culture that is not their passport culture live a very transitional lifestyle. They tend to travel more, make more frequent moves to new locations, and experience more influences on their lifestyle than the average family living mono-culturally. This transitional lifestyle can have a significant effect on the education of children. Having a well-considered plan A with a plan B ready to go can prevent or alleviate stressful decision-making during times of transition. Your plan should include your philosophy of education, your long-term goals for each child, an understanding of the learning style of each child, an awareness of each child’s potential and bent toward specific areas of ability and interest, an awareness of weaknesses in a child’s ability to learn that might need to be addressed and a tentative academic path each child could take to get to the goals you have set. SHARE would be happy to provide you with information and resources to help you formulate your family’s plan.
Most often the challenges of home educating children while living cross-culturally have to do with isolation from the new culture and language, isolation from other home educators, lack of available printed resources and issues of time management due to a busy and transitional lifestyle. All of these challenges can be lessened by having a thoughtful annual plan that deals with each challenge intentionally. An annual review of the plan is important so that adjustments can be made as needed.
There are many factors to consider when selecting curricula for your family. Here are a few to consider:
- How much time does each parent have available to devote to planning and execution of the curriculum? If you cannot ensure that you will have several hours a day to plan and to interact with your children in a dedicated learning environment, you may want to reconsider home education as the best option for your family. Placing a curriculum in front of your child while you do other things will not necessarily produce a well-balanced student who can interact with the world around him. Plan to model the learning process for your children and lead them into the joy of learning.
- How confident are you in mixing and matching learning resources and activities to the needs of each child? Beginning home educators may want to select a more structured curriculum while experienced educators may choose to incorporate materials from many sources or write their own. Know yourself and your own children and don’t necessarily go with what your friend is advocating. Choose materials that are interesting and enjoyable for you as well as for your children. If what you choose is a drudge to implement, you’ll have difficulty sincerely motivating your children to follow through with assignments.
- How does each of your children learn? Curriculum selection should always take learning styles and learning struggles into account. For more on learning styles and learning struggles, see other articles on this website.
- How old is each child and how can you move him or her toward more independent learning based on his age and ability? The sign of a good curriculum is that it guides each child in a growing process of learning how to learn for himself.
- If you have more than one child, does the curriculum you are evaluating make it easy to teach some subjects or topics in a multi-age group? Learning in a group teaches important skills.
- Ask your friends what they are using and how it’s going. Consider how their children and situation are similar to or different from yours to help you evaluate whether the same materials might work for you as well.
- Does the curriculum you are considering meet your long-term goals? Does it meet the requirements of the country where your child will attend university? Does it include the “normal” scope and sequence of academic subjects and topics that your home country (or state) indicates is appropriate? To check this out, go to your home country or state’s education website and look for education standards.
- Go to one of the many home education websites and see what the message and bulletin boards are saying about the various curricula. Be careful of the publishers’ sites as they are understandably biased. However, some of those sites have public forums that are great places to ask questions. To get started, try Cathy Duffy’s site listed below or just google “home education” or “homeschooling” and continue to link to other sites as you go. See SHARE’s Educational K-12 Links as well.
- Is the curriculum I am examining culturally biased? Some curricula are so focused on one culture that they may frustrate your culturally-sensitive children.
- Will I be able to get the supplies that are needed for a particular curriculum? Some curricula are more adaptable to a transient and cross-cultural lifestyle than others. Since the needed supplies may not be as easy to acquire in your cross-cultural setting, decide if you can get enough of them without extraordinary effort.
- Are there other families nearby who might wish to share some of the learning experiences? What curricula are they using for the subjects or topics you might share?
Learning in a second language has both benefits and challenges. Research shows that exposure to other cultures and languages is most often a great benefit. Children and adults who become “balanced bilinguals” (able to function almost equally well in either language) experience multiplied benefits in both languages. However, one challenge is that it may take longer than expected to become a true bilingual. Some researchers believe that it may take as many as 5-7 years to become academically fluent. Though children often sound conversationally fluent after 1-2 years, they continue to experience the deficits of not having the years of cultural knowledge and language that native speakers have. Therefore, it is not recommended that children in the later elementary years and older begin to study full-time in another language unless it is for a limited time and purpose. Students who have been diagnosed with learning struggles are also not recommended for entry into a high stress, second-language academic environment. However, research does show that students with learning issues may benefit from learning a second language in a low-stress environment. For more information on learning in a second language, see related articles on this site.
There are several good websites that give basic information about the standards and expectations of national school systems. This link is a good place to start for countries within the European Union. Beyond these basics, your best source of location-specific information comes from families who have used or are currently using the system. If your agency does not have families already on location, contact SHARE for assistance.