3 Ways Homeschooling is Fantastic for Families Living Overseas

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3 Ways Homeschooling is Fantastic for Families Living Overseas
S. family, Sonlighters from Brantford, Ontario, serving in the Philippines

We're missionaries living in the Philippines and have been using Sonlight almost as long as Josiah has lived. We couldn't imagine life without it. The full grade packages give us peace of mind, that we can really do homeschooling and make it work around our busy lives.

We travel to many countries, and we always have a special bag for Josiah's school books. The Instructor's Guides save us much time and energy as we just have to follow the clear instructions. Josiah loves the geography and learning about different tribes and cultures and praying for other people groups.

Jeffrey S. in the Philippines

When I was nine years old, my family moved across the country. Two years later, we moved to a third state. A year after that, we packed up once more— this time into suitcases only—and moved about as far away from my birthplace of Michigan as it's possible to get while remaining on planet Earth.

Each move brought upheaval into our lives. At various times, we lived in a 1970s era motor-home, in a big farmhouse in the countryside, and in a 1000-square-foot apartment in Southeast Asia—a tight fit for a family of nine. We had to start over in each new home: making new friends, building new family traditions, eating new foods. This was a great deal of change for my siblings and me to process at young ages.

One thing didn't change, however, no matter how many different places we called home: the school we went to.

Sonlight Laid a Foundation Even Before We Went Abroad

Because we were homeschooled with Sonlight long before our adventures around the world began, I had already read many of the books in Sonlight's Eastern Hemisphere HBL F. These tales of Asian history inspired curiosity about life far from where I was born.

Granted, some of the books I read may have given my imaginative mind an overly dramatic picture of modern-day life in Asia. However, given that my family actually has ...

  • done battle with monkeys that invaded our home
  • seen territorial battles between 5-foot monitor lizards on the playground
  • run from a tsunami wave that destroyed 11 homes in our neighborhood

... maybe what I imagined about living in the rainforest wasn't all that far from reality.

Based on my childhood experiences, I can tell you that homeschooling, especially with Sonlight curriculum, helps families living overseas in three main ways.

1. Homeschooling Brings Consistency to the Upheaval

While everything else in our lives turned topsy-turvy with each new transition, because we homeschooled, these three things remained consistent:

We moved to Southeast Asia on a Friday in August. On Monday, school began!

But there were no first-day jitters. There was no cross-cultural stress of trying to adapt quickly to a whole new grading system or educational style. We weren’t stymied by having to learn a new language before we could comprehend lessons. We had moved across the world, but we were able to continue our education without these bumps in the road.

Moving your children across the world to live in a place you've never laid eyes on isn't easy. Taking your school along with you, packed in suitcases, removes one level of extra complexity.

Kids handle big changes like international moves far better when some level of familiarity and consistency remain. When they are able to spend some time in familiar waters, they will gradually feel more comfortable diving into the new world that surrounds them. This bit of familiarity makes the initial adjustment easier for the parents as well, as they also aren’t laden with the additional responsibility of finding suitable schools for their children.

2. Homeschooling Allows Children to Connect to Their New Community

In many countries, expatriate children simply aren't allowed to attend public schools. That leaves private international schools the only option. Such schools are an excellent choice for many families, but because attending these schools is time-consuming and because most of the students are expatriates themselves, it is more difficult for them to send down roots in their host country.

Although they quickly make friends with expatriate classmates, they often miss the chance to get involved in their community and make friends of the locals. Homeschooled students simply have more time to spend in the local community and more motivation to develop a local peer group (if they want to know anyone other than their own siblings, that is!).

I credit homeschooling with the fact that my siblings and I were able to build a deep relational connection in our new home. We had lots of time to spend running around with the neighborhood kids. Our friends taught us their own language. We developed a multi-generational network in our local community. In high school, I could count on having older "aunties" from the neighborhood go tattling to my mom if we were seen roughhousing.


In this photo, Ellah (7) reads from Frog and Toad All Year, a favorite from her HBL B Readers. The O. family, originally of Lititz, PA, serves in Telavi, Georgia.

We are missionaries who live without access to a public library, which is one of our most favorite places to go when we're in America. We love all of the books incorporated into the program. I have to pace my daughters' reading or they'd be done with the books way before school is finished for the year. We love Sonlight!

The O. family has been Sonlighting since 2010.

3. Homeschooling Makes Life Overseas More Affordable

Living in parts of the world far from the land of your own citizenship is a fantastic opportunity for families to travel together. But if much of the family's budget is devoted to paying tuition to pricey international schools, funds will quickly dwindle.

Many families living overseas choose to send their children away to boarding schools in order to get a high quality education. Our family was fortunate. We were relocated to an island with an excellent international school that used American curriculum. But affording tuition for seven children?! That simply couldn't be done.

Sonlight curriculum, on the other hand, can be used with multiple children at once and uses real books that last for years upon years! The cost for workbooks and Sonlight curriculum for all seven of us for one year of homeschool was less than half the cost of sending just one of us to the international school.

Our family has visited Angkor Wat in Cambodia, swum in the clear waters of the Andaman Sea, and toured Hong Kong, Singapore, and Kuala Lumpur. None of these exciting (and educational) adventures would have been possible if most of my parents’ income was devoted to paying tuition to a pricey international school.

Being homeschooled made living overseas a much better experience for my family than it would have otherwise been. Being homeschooled with Sonlight allowed us to have an education with a curriculum that meshed well with our own Christ-centered values, taught us both how to think critically, and encouraged us to engage with the cultures and histories of the whole world.

Whether you are homeschooling in your home country or abroad, Sonlight makes your days delightful and easy. Learn more.

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