Homeschooling is popular within expat communities and travelling families due to the flexibility it affords them. Whether you have moved to a new country or are passing through, homeschooling your children gives you options that traditional schooling, whether public or private, does not.And if you find yourself in a country such as Costa Rica where the local people primarily speak a language other than English, you may find it easier and cheaper to put in the educational groundwork yourself.
As is evident from the name, a child who is homeschooled is one who is educated at home, usually by their parent(s). The form that this education takes is often more fluid than school-based learning and gives children the freedom to be more autonomous and in control of their own education. For example, a child who is interested in space and planets may follow that path more freely than a child who is restricted by a formal curriculum.
As their teacher, you can explore your child’s interests with them and incorporate these into all their learning, from maths and science to physical education and even cooking – the whole experience can be tailored to the individual child.
Primary school is mandatory in Costa Rica, whereas secondary is optional. Therefore, every child is guaranteed a place in a public primary school.
Public schools are free, but lessons will only be delivered in Spanish, which can be a negative point for some expat families. Also, families who are not planning to stay long-term in Costa Rica may see the Spanish delivery of lessons as an unwanted barrier to learning. Additionally, public schools in Costa Rica rarely offer extracurricular activities, although these are readily available in private schools.
Private schools are plentiful in Costa Rica, ranging in price from approximately $200 per month per child to $825 per month per child. These are either English or dual-language schools, giving expat children a gentler introduction to Spanish rather than the full immersion of public schools. These schools are a viable option for some, but for others, the cost may be prohibitive, leaving homeschooling as the best option for their children.
Costa Rica offers a vibrant ecology with so much for visitors to explore, and homeschooling your children gives you, as a family, the time and space to make the most of this. Formal learning can be undertaken for part of the day, the timing of which is entirely up to you. The rest of the time can be spent soaking up the culture, wildlife and fauna of a new country.
Legally, homeschooling is not recognised in Costa Rica, but that is not to say it is illegal. There are homeschooling communities across the country as well as families who ‘world school’, dipping in and out of various countries on a continuous educational path.
Wherever you choose to stay in Costa Rica, you will be able to find families who are homeschooling and so become part of this wider community. This approach also has the benefit of encouraging children to remain social and make new friends, which is often a concern of homeschooling parents. Extra-curricular activities and classes can be taken as and when desired; there is no shortage of experiences on offer.
If you are homeschooling your children, they are unlikely to pick up Spanish quickly. If they continue living in a predominantly Spanish-speaking country, they may find this presents its own barriers. Both fiction and non-fiction books can be difficult to get hold of in English, which can hinder children’s development as well as negatively impacting on their leisure time if they enjoy reading.
Homeschooling is also hard work, let’s be honest. It is time-consuming and takes a lot of effort and dedication. It probably is not a realistic option for lone-parent families unless those parents can work from home around the demands of their children.
Similarly, without a decent income and/or savings, any expat family will struggle to homeschool their children effectively as it is usually the case that some, if not all, of the income of the parent who is staying home to teach will be lost.
Those with multiple children of varying ages may find it difficult to cater to all of their differing needs (educational and otherwise) in any one day and may also find that their children want to be in different places at different times, which can be a logistical nightmare and a financial headache.
In summary, it is fair to say that while homeschooling may not be the ideal solution for every expat family, it is a good option for some. The benefits of a broad and balanced education will certainly outweigh the more restrictive confines of the public school system for many families. And those who opt to stay in Costa Rica long-term can still send their children to high schools and universities at a later date since each establishment requires entry examinations to be taken before admission rather than having to show proof of school-based qualifications.
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