Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Tuesday Topic: School choices

Oops! I had this set for May 30, not April! At least I checked to see what was going on before the end of Tuesday.

A reader asks: How did you personally make your schooling decision for your children? What were your primary criteria when choosing the route/routes that you have? Have you ever switched schooling methods, and if so, what was the reason? It seems that no option is perfect, so I'd love to hear some of your favorite things about what you've chosen and maybe some of the downsides if you'd be willing.

(If you have a “Tuesday Topic” question, please email it to me at fylliska@gmail.com. Provide your blog address if you would like to be linked to, or specify if you would like to remain anonymous. Thanks!)


  1. we've tried several things: home school, local language private school, tutors, on line classes, English language international school for expats...

    There is no "formula" we've followed for our children other than no option was off the table and no option was written in stone. after that, we observed our kids, talked to their teachers, evaluated what was going on with them at home, watched their progress, looked for signs of stress... and then tried to encourage them in the different settings we had chosen. as they've gotten older, we've given them some say as well.

    we loved having our crew in french language schools because fluency in a 2nd or subsequent language is a gift. and our older children love languages and find them fascinating. it opens doors for ministry that they've thoroughly enjoyed, as well. one child with a learning disability we kept in the french program and it was the right choice for her. another one, with a speech and language issue, we've pulled back into english and it has been the right choice for him.

    the other thing i think we have to consider is that we aren't going to find the perfect fit for all of our children. part of our job as parents partnering with schools or as parents educating our children is to help them learn skills to cope and still do their best even when it is the best possible environment for them... to give them skills to live in the real world... sometimes we make decisions as to what is best for our family as a whole... i clearly see that coming into play regarding the timing of home assignment years.

    i never share our experiences as a "this worked for us, you should do it" sort of thing. rather, i hope that people see we've tried lots, some has worked, some hasn't, sometimes we were right, sometimes we were wrong, but i think how we parent our children through those times, how they see us lean on God and trust Him as we've prayed as a family about what to do - those are all good things that have resulted.

  2. We're just in the beginning stages of all of the schooling decisions! We had our minds perfectly made up before we started our kids in school.... now we're not so sure! =) We chose to start with public Russian school because one of our personal strongest values was language learning and being a part of our local community. Though many aspects of it have been good, there are some definite down sides. The school has no provision for kids who aren't fluent in the language our daughter's teacher rather than giving her extra help just doesn't expect her to participate. She doesn't get in trouble for not knowing everything, but there is no assistance in getting her caught up to the rest of the class. I can also see very much how our oldest is well-suited for some of the unique challenges, whereas I worry that it won't be a good fit for our more sensitive second oldest when he starts 1st grade. We have one more year before he goes, so I'm not sure where we'll end up. I think we'll be making our decisions based on individual kids and the opportunities available. We might end up having to move to a different part of the city eventually to find a education option that will suit us.

  3. I found you via Chrysti's family blog and I think I'll be spending some time here. :) My situation might be a little different from some here--we've only been overseas for almost a year--but I happened to blog a few weeks ago about why we homeschool and how we came to that decision. It's kind of a long story, but if anyone's interested you can read it at http://cockingfamily.com/blog/2013/03/20/the-reluctant-homeschoole/

  4. We make our decisions based on a combination of what is best for each child as well as what is best for our family situation (however, like Ashley, we are just at the beginning of the phase of having school-age children). I like what Richelle said about no option being off the table and no decision being set in stone. That is generally how I have tried to approach it as well. Here are just a few examples of decisions we have made and why:

    1) When we lived in Portugal for nearly 2 years and were studying Portuguese, we put our then 4-year old in a private Portuguese-speaking preschool. We wanted him to have some exposure to the language as well as an opportunity to make friends his age. Also, as my husband and I had our language classes in the morning, this turned out to be a cheaper child-care option than paying for baby-sitting. We sent him for half a day, 5 days a week. When he was old enough for kindergarten, he started going to the public school just down the street from our house. One benefit we found to having him in school was that it gave us opportunities to meet people and make friends within our community.

    2) Now, we live in Ecuador, and we are doing a combination of homeschool and private Spanish-speaking school 3 days a week. We made the decision to homeschool based on our desire to have a flexible schedule. My husband takes frequent ministry trips to the jungle, and I wanted the kids and I to have the option to go with him occasionally and not be locked into a school calendar and schedule. Ecuadorian schools do 200 days a year as opposed to the U.S. 180, so there are not many long breaks. The decision to homeschool was also based on what we felt would be best for our kids. My oldest, who is now 7, is very bright, but has difficulties sitting still and paying attention, and would be labeled a problem child in a traditional classroom setting. I am able to give him the attention and extra help he needs since I don't have 19 other children to teach at the same time. It is also important to me that my kids receive an "American" education, so that if we ever return to the States and enroll them in school, even temporarily, they will have an easier time adjusting. Also, that is likely where they will attend college, etc., so it makes sense that they be able to integrate well into that educational system.

  5. Continuation of previous comment:

    3) The 3-days of private Spanish school was an opportunity that came about through another missionary family who had made similar arrangements for their son. The reasoning behind this is to help him really learn Spanish well. He does English homeschool with me the other 2 days. We have been doing this since the end of February, and I'm not sure how long we will continue... probably at least through the end of next school year. He is already speaking Spanish well, but I would like him to have the basics of reading and writing in Spanish too. The other benefits, besides learning Spanish, are he gets to participate in sports, especially swimming and taekwando, and make friends with kids his age. It has not been a super-easy adjustment (see #2 above about his difficulty sitting still and paying attention), and the school has already asked us to have him tested for ADHD, but we are going to keep trying this arrangement for awhile to see how it all shakes out.

    4) I am not sure what we will do with our second son, who just turned 4. He is not nearly as social as his older brother, and much more timid and sensitive, and when I ask him if he would like to go to school, like Alex, he always emphatically says no. I am not sure how much I want to (or should) push him. I would like him to have the exposure to the language as well as the opportunity to make friends his age, but if he is emotionally not ready, it may not be the best thing for him. He has always had a more difficult time with change than his older brother, so my thinking has been that after we had been in Ecuador a year, we would see about putting him in preschool. We have now been in Ecuador a year, so maybe in the fall? That would give him a year of Spanish preschool, and then he could begin kindergarten homeschool. I am still trying to discern what would be best for him.

  6. Language is super important to us, and I thought in the beginning that we'd probably do some school, just for that. However, we also started speaking Russian in our family when our first was born, so by the time he was school age, he definitely didn't need school just for language.

    Why do we homeschool? Because we like it. :-) I like the flexibility, I like having our children with me, I just enjoy it! I think maybe I come from a slightly different perspective, just because I was homeschooled myself, so that is more of the default for me. It just works really well for our family, though.

    I do think language can be the main downside of homeschooling overseas, but I have seen families get around it. Either by going "extreme" like us, and completely switching the main family language. (And, no, I was not fluent when we started that.) Or by taking advantage of whatever other opportunities the community offers: tutors in the home, extracurricular lessons in the local language, etc. It takes creativity and being intentional, but it is possible.

    So, main criteria? What we like, what works best for our whole family, and language.

    Oh, about the third part there: language. At this point, I need to homeschool to be sure that our children catch up in English! That's usually what I tell people here, too, when they ask about why we homeschool. Often the question comes phrased like, "What? Aren't our school any good?" I can honestly say that, yes, they are, but I want my children to learn English from a native speaker (me) and get a bilingual education, instead of English as a foreign language. :-)

    1. Phyllis, I would really love if you wrote a post sometime sharing about how you have made Russian a main language in your home and how you have done homeschool in Russian! I really admire that and would like to learn more of how you have made it happen.

    2. Oh, my! Okay... I'll think about it. Honestly, I don't know what I could share. It may seem strange, but that's been one of the most controversial and even personal decisions that we've made as a family. I could probably pull together a post about it, though.

    3. i'd love to hear about it, too. we thought the controversy hard just choosing to put our kids in a local private school and had had many (who, in my opinion) had no business volunteering their advice, opinions, etc.