Tammy is a fourteen-year expat veteran who calls Panama home. She homeschools her bilingual, third-culture kids in the jungles of Panama.
I have a confession. My expat homeschool was a mess not so long ago. I had a plan in place when I first started my expat homeschool. I envisioned laughter, classical music playing in the background, and Latin flowing from their mouths. But that never happened.
What did happen is we looked blankly at each other across the kitchen table for hours. My homeschool plan was falling apart before it even started! I needed to make changes, fast!
I spend hours searching the internet, texting friends back home, and crying to my mother-in-law, the one person I knew who could fix my problem. She is a retired teacher, I thought, so she has to have a solution! Her advice was to play. Then she told me to find a teacher's manual.
1. A Book Saved Us
I spent the next weeks—okay months—scouring the internet looking for that guide. I never found a magic web page with all the answers. What I did find was this book: The Well Trained Mind A Guide for Classical Education at Home.
I read it from cover to cover. It had the answers I was seeking. I knew that with this book in hand I could provide my children with an academically challenging homeschool program. I asked my dear mother-in-law to ship it down to Panama
Thank goodness she did, because it is my go-to guidebook to this day. I use it for yearly planning and educational advice based on children's ages. I love it so much, in fact, that I buy new schooling moms a copy as a gift.
2. Start the Day With a Read Aloud
I am fortunate that my children are readers. That is why we read together every morning. We choose books from our real aloud list and take turns reading. Everyone reads aloud, including mom. I find most of my lists on Pinterest (thanks homeschooling moms for pinning!) Sometimes I let the kids pick, but most of the time I do the choosing.
Reading aloud in the mornings provides a calming start to the day. Children increase their reading fluency as well when reading out loud. Check out Newberry Award-winning books if you are not certain where to start. Johnny Tremain, Call of the Wild, and Gary Paulsen's the Hatchet were among our firsts to read aloud.
3. Use Spiral Notebooks as Portfolios
I am a bit of a neat freak. During those hours of internet searching, I came across moms who use notebooks to organize their days. The idea is simple. Buy notebooks for each subject. Write your student’s assignments at the top of a page and hand to your student for completion. All your student’s work is kept in one place, instantly creating the homeschool portfolio many are required to complete.
We use these notebooks for our interactive journals, virtual field trips, writing journals, science lab reports, and history timelines. I let the kids decorate the cover and call it art class. But for me, it means no more loose papers and easy record keeping.
4. Listen to Podcasts
I stumbled across homeschool podcasts by accident. I wish I had found them earlier. I use them to supplement our history studies, science, and composition programs. We load up our little mp3 players and listen while driving, relaxing, and during free time.
These little education gems are liberating! I often find my son curled up in his bed listening to a science podcast while doodling. He enjoys those by NPR the best. Most podcasts are less than 20 minutes long and are great when used as supplements to topics you are teaching.
5. We Do Physical Education Daily
Yes, we do phys. ed. daily. My kids are competitive swimmers. They train at least two hours a day. They are getting rid of all that extra energy early and our school days are better. The swim team is also their social outlet and time away from mom.
Look into joining a competitive or noncompetitive sports team in your area. Investigate your local Y as well for kids-only gym classes. Don’t forget your local park where many homeschooling meetups take place.
Never be married to your home school plan. Adjustments, refinements, and changes mean you are molding them to your children's needs. They will benefit the most from your flexibility.
— an expat mom
For my family, a successful year isn’t about meeting curriculum standards. It is about bonding and growing together through our educational journey. These five changes we made to our school simplified our day and produced more joy than tears. What changes have you made to your schooling plan?
Homeschool Veteran on September 18, 2018:
One program I highly recommend that can work particularly well for expats is Sonlight. It is a literature-based program filled with great books: living history, inspirational biographies, and classic poetry. Though it was originally geared toward missionary families living abroad, it works just as well for non-missionaries. And since you can order math, history, language arts, science, and optional enrichment programs like art and music from a single source, it arrives with everything you need in one big box. No, I don’t know the people who own the company, and I don’t profit from sales. I’m just a mom who has used Sonlight.com for most of my homeschool needs from K-12. (I pursued different resources for high school science and math, but continue using their core history package and language arts programs.)
Janice on June 17, 2018:
Spiral notebooks are a great idea for keeping paper organized. Might give those a try.
TJ Rogers (author) from David, Panama/Knoxville Tennessee on June 17, 2018:
Thanks! Glad to help.
Sam on June 16, 2018:
Thanks for listing these. I especially like the podcast idea.