Watching an occasional elephant lumber down the street, throwing water at anyone on the road during New Year, and having our school books delivered on the back of a motorcycle was my life growing up as a homeschooler. I grew up as an MK (missionary kid) most of my life as my parents served in 3 different countries, including the Philippians, America and Thailand, so we chose to participate in international homeschooling. As an adult looking back on our international homeschooling program, I realize how much it shaped my worldview, and how many unique opportunities I was able to experience because of it.
Most of my memories are from Thailand where I lived for nine years from the age of 9 to 18. We lived in Chiang Mai, the second largest city in Thailand. My parents choose to homeschool me and my siblings all the way through high school. Though I didn’t have what you would call a typical childhood, I never thought it was unusual or strange. When my family would come back to visit the U.S people would often thank me for the sacrifice I was making. I was always so confused. Sacrifice? Living in Thailand was not a sacrifice for us kids! It was our home and had become the culture we were most familiar with. It was warm, the food was good, and the people were some of the nicest, warmest people you will ever meet. It was home.
Growing up I thought I had a relatively normal homeschooling experience. It was only when I came back for college that I realized how different my experience was! Though I may have studied the same historical facts and completed the same math problems, my life experience was so different than anyone who had grown up in America. I was recently talking with a girl from Germany and asked her what was different between here and Germany, her response was “everything”. She couldn’t give me an A,B,C answer of what was different, it was just different. I knew the feeling, people often ask what was different or what it was like growing up in Thailand, which I never know how to respond to. For me it was completely normal and completely different all at the same time.
International Homeschooling Benefits
Our homeschooling life was traditional in many ways despite our international homeschooling. Our curriculum and schedule looked pretty much the same as everyone else. We ordered it from America, followed the American school year (well…kind of) went to a homeschool co-op, had the opportunity to get involved in theater and participated in sports through the local international private school. Because of this I didn’t feel deprived, rather very enriched!
Looking back now I see how homeschooling in Thailand was unique and different. I was friends with homeschoolers from all over the world. Missionaries flock to Thailand because it is a safe and friendly place for mission organizations to base their headquarters and for families to live. Because of that we had a homeschool co-op with over 25 families, from all over the English-speaking world. I not only got to experience Thai culture but also got a glimpse into the culture of New Zealand, England, Canada, France and more!
Some of the same perks of homeschooling in America applied to international homeschooling as well, despite our location. The flexibility of being homeschooled was a perk; often we took “summer” break during the fall when we came back to visit and raise support in the states. And my parents took advantage of these trips like any other homeschooling family! While we traveled all across America visiting supporters my parents made sure we were still learning by visiting all sorts of historical and natural landmarks.
International homeschooling also gave us to get involved in my parents ministries. My dad had several small business ventures throughout our time in Thailand as a way to provide visas for some of the missionaries. I was able to help him with different aspects of business from selling at local craft fairs to visiting factories and artisans. It inspired me to start my own little business selling wreaths and cookie jars at craft fairs. My mom started several different English clubs for local children and we were able to help her plan and run those, gaining teaching experience and making new acquaintances with the neighborhood children.
I loved the opportunity I had to homeschool internationally. It is an experience I would not trade for anything. If you are planning or considering moving internationally I would say DO IT! Living overseas and participating in an international homeschool program gives the opportunity for your children to travel, experience a different worldview and live a life full of adventure. And with the ease of travel and the internet you can give your students a top-notch education half way around the world!