Homeschooling is something we talked about on and off over the years, but nothing we acted on. Mostly because we had two great jobs that we genuinely enjoyed and our kids were enrolled in a superb school district. All three kids were thriving academically and we had no reason to change. Occasionally, we talked hypothetically…if we home-schooled, we could do this or that. Mostly it was about being able to travel more freely and not be confined to the school calendar. As the kids got older, we saw how school got in the way of the kids pursuing their passions. For valid reasons, school is generally inefficient, but admittedly, the inefficiencies are what kids like most and what our kids would later miss most. From my perspective, when a family has multiple children, it becomes increasingly difficult to manage each child’s interests amidst a school schedule, while maintaining sacred family time, leading some children to have a singular interest vs a diverse collection or families in constant divide and conquer mode. I know because we were there.
Our goal for our children is to develop curious, confident, and innovative learners that crave knowledge and experiences. We are not setting out to have professional athletes or musicians, but we were seeking a lifestyle that allows them to practice their multiple interests outside of academics and enough time to experience success with those interests and activities.
When we decided to move to Costa Rica in pursuit of a simpler life with more family time and travel, homeschooling was an obvious choice for us. Having my husband, an educator guiding us, I felt confident with our ability to provide them an academic framework based on the curriculum and standards of their peers at home, so we could slip back into the school system later if we desired. We were excited to help them pursue their passions in the newfound spare time. We knew it would be an adjustment for everyone, but we remained optimistic. We started homeschooling in September 2016, four months before our move to Costa Rica. Our oldest was the most skeptical. He worried that he would fall behind and all the kids missed being with their friends.
After a routine was developed and the kids realized they could set their own schedule and somewhat direct their own learning, they began to appreciate the benefits of home-school. Our daughter immediately saw the benefits because she was able to triple the time she previously could spend on her horse hobby. She was able to be at the stables, working and riding, while other kids were at school. Tucker was quickly assured that he was not falling behind, but rather could move at a pace that was challenging and intrinsically motivating for him. If something really interested him, he could explore it further by reading and researching the topic. Both boys took piano lessons and Elliot took voice lessons, as well. In a short amount of time, we saw Elliot gain a new level of self-confidence. I attribute some of his confidence from his lessons, but also credit learning and succeeding alongside his older siblings. He always loved to perform, but was too shy to do it in public. He is now singing at our church in Costa Rica and was not afraid to try out for a local theater production here.
Marc and the kids experimented with several different learning management systems (LMS) before selecting Edify, a LMS developed by our home school district and an ed-tech company, called Kickstand. We are fortunate to have Marc’s expertise due to his involvement in the product, as a project manager and course/curriculum developer. It is a standards based individualized learning tool. They also use Khan Academy for math. The kids have daily and weekly learning targets following common core standards, with access to a variety of resources including videos, lessons and links. The LMS tracks their progress and their achievements in mastering concepts and alerts us to how and where the kids might need additional assistance.
The thing they like most about homeschooling is setting their own schedule and having flexibility in their day and week. As we become more settled here, we can’t wait to start tackling our Costa Rica bucket list and incorporating our adventures into our learning. On average, the kids work on school 12 hours per week and this includes current events, fitness, art, and music, as well as the core subjects of math, science, reading, and English language arts.
The common myth with homeschooling is that kids miss out on socialization. If our goal for socialization is preparing our children for the world – providing them the ability to interact with people from all races, religion, ages and backgrounds, we are able to do that through our travel to a new culture and through homeschooling. I have been impressed by the way our children have proactively reached out to people of all ages to share their ideas and learn from them. Our kids definitely miss their friends from home and the fun they had with them at school, but they are not missing out on socializing due to being home-schooled – it is just different. Homeschooling removes some of the negative pressures kids can face, instead we are able to directly work with them on treating one another kindly and working on the relationship they have with one another without a lot of the “noise”. We recently have been introduced to other home-schooling families in our area we are looking forward to getting together with them. Also, our kids can participate with sports and extra-curricular activities at the nearby international school. Right now, they all are involved in a community theater production of Jungle Book and meeting a lot of great kids and learning a lot!
So…I can honestly say, all is well in our world. Pura Vida!