By Elizabeth Ballard, M.S.
When parents move overseas with school age children, they don’t often relax into the adventure until they have a solid plan about how they will continue with their children’s education.They also want to know they can help their children through the process of making new friends, fitting in, staying interested, active and happy. A happy child equals a happy parent.
When my little family moved overseas, our son was only nine and, being only half way through the third grade, was still learning to read fluently in his native language, English. How was he going to continue in a language he didn’t even speak? And how were we going to ensure he would remain the happy, confident, run-around kid he was?
Boquete, Panama, is a “hot pick” for places to retire overseas. But we weren’t retiring! We were only a handful of families moving with kids and we had fast decisions to make about how we would handle school once we arrived. Because, while our destination was peppered with gated retirement communities, it was and is essentially a farming town. No movie theater. No skate park.
In the beginning, we were one of just a handful of expat parents muddling through the tears and trials and triumphs, holding each other up with strong shoulders, good advice, creative solutions, and a fair amount of wine.
We had decisions to make about homeschooling vs. enrollment vs. online study; about language school vs. full-immersion. Looking back, our adventure has been a great success. Today, my son is a thriving young man who moves with ease between the two cultures and languages he embodies and embraces.
Parents considering a move abroad with school age children probably won’t ease into the adventure until they have a solid plan of attack when it comes to their kid’s education and general happiness. Let’s face it: A happy child equals a happy parent. Or at least a more relaxed one.
Bringing up children in a bi-cultural environment is exciting. It broadens their minds and offers experiences that will expand their world view. But it is important not to lose sight of the fact that expat kids face challenges particular to their situation, and they don’t necessarily possess the tools necessary to process the changes and the losses in a short span of time.
Helping Expat Kids survive Thrive: Advice on schooling, making friends, fitting in” http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00SKBWU0Y%20is both a helpful primer and a personal account. It takes a candid look at what worked —and didn’t work so well—for my family the families around us. It is full of suggestions, tips and checklists for the people considering a move overseas, with kids.
There are many ways to approach educating children abroad and the options abound. But this can be overwhelming. Helping Expat Kids survive Thrive: Advice on schooling, making friends, fitting in” is available on Kindle. To view it and read the first few chapters FREE, follow this link.