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The Challenge of Homeschooling Overseas

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By Wendy L. Hawksley

The Ultimate Homeschool Resource

As a military family, homeschooling overseas presents a wonderful opportunity. At the same time, it also presents considerable challenges - not the least of which is finding materials.

On the one hand, meeting new people, living in an exotic location, and immersing your family in a foreign culture is extremely rewarding.  For many people, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.  These rewards, however, are balanced by unexpected issues.  There are so many things in the U.S. that we take for granted, but when moving overseas, it is important to be prepared for.

A factor that contributes to the challenge of living overseas is the language barrier.  If you live in a non-English-speaking country, you cannot simply drive down to the local book store for what you need.  There probably will not be a store that caters to homeschoolers, as homeschooling is still a fairly fringe concept in many countries.

Because we are a military family living in South Korea, I rely heavily on our BX (Base Exchange) for supplies, but the selection is very limited.  The BX tries to cater to a wide range of interests and simply cannot be expected to carry specialty items like the latest edition of The Well-Trained Mind, a huge variety of children's books or educational materials.  While they do offer some books, workbooks, and school supplies, there are just as many things that simply cannot be found at our BX.

We have the choice of visiting the shops downtown, the local mall, and even making the trip to Seoul to look for materials and supplies in country.  However, the odds of finding a book in our native language that will be of use in our homeschool are fairly low.  There are plenty of books for English speakers, but they tend to be the more popular ones on the market; not educational, and definitely not homeschool-specific.

This is when the internet becomes a homeschooling family's best friend, if it isn't already!  That which cannot be found in the country where you are stationed can usually be ordered from any number of websites.  Whether you shop through a mega-site that sells everything from books to DVDs to software and more, or a site that caters to homeschoolers, a specific program, or curriculum, this is the way most materials will be obtained for the new school year.

As a result of this reliance on internet shopping, planning becomes even more essential for the military homeschooling family than it might in the U.S.  Back home, it was easy enough for me to make last-minute decisions and run to the local discount book warehouse, mall, or other store to select what I needed.  It was also great to simply browse through the book store and find something on sale that could be used in the present or future.  Now, while I am overseas, I do not have that luxury.

Instead, all homeschooling purchases must be carefully planned ahead of time.  This is important to ensure that the curricula are ordered in plenty of time to start our new school year, as well as to assess whether or not everything can be ordered all at once or should be spaced out over a few months for budgeting purposes.  I need to keep a closer eye on what we already have as far as materials, and check through things periodically to see what can be of use.  Like many homeschooling families, we do not have unlimited financial resources.  Living overseas can definitely add a bit of an extra monetary burden when you consider that many things must be ordered online – shipping and handling adds up quickly!

In being prepared for and expecting these inconveniences, you can better appreciate the positive opportunities presented by living overseas.  Some of our very best homeschooling experiences have been the direct result of living in South Korea. 

My son has dined in traditional Korean style, sitting on the floor and selecting from a huge assortment of food (including eating a whole, raw minnow!).  He has seen the cherry blossoms.  When we walked downtown for his Junior Black Belt test in Tae Kwon Do, he experienced the adulation of the Korean men who applauded him for participating in their national sport.  He has seen a number of traditional demonstrations of Korean dance, music, and military tactics.

Living overseas is very different from living in the U.S., but if you come prepared you will adapt more quickly than you realize.


Author Bio

Wendy L. Hawksley is a homeschooling mom, writer and genealogist currently living in South Korea with her husband and son.

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