Almost Fearless

Reasons Why We Are Considering Not Homeschooling

The view from Drew’s desk. (iPhone pic by Drew)

Two months ago, I wrote similar post about the reasons why we were considering homeschooling. We stil are. But we’re also considering not.

1. Friends. Since turning three, Cole has become obsessed with other children. He talks about it all the time. We do what we can, we meet up with other traveling families, we bring him to the mall’s indoor playground, we stop at McDonalds so he can play, we go out at night after 8 PM when the local kids come out to ride their bikes. He loves it. Yet, we struggle to keep up with it. And there isn’t always kids around — they are often in school or at home. So we drive around like some kind of weird predators, looking for children for our son to play with.

2. I set up a straw man on my last post. I noticed this in the comments, more than one person indirectly called me out on it. I don’t need ALL the schools to be awesome, just one. The one my child attends. The fact that some schools do a terrible job, well that’s not really a problem unless he attends that school. I set up the straw man, the imaginary bad school, then I shot it down. The truth is that there are programs that are doing amazing things.

3. It’s also not: Homeschool or Live in the US. We could live abroad. If I don’t like some aspect of the US culture, we could live overseas. We already do. We could just do the paperwork to get more permanent residency, and that can be achieved a number of ways — from Thailand to Europe to China to Bali. Especially if our child is attending school and we’re not working locally, then it’s even easier. There are always ways.

4. Mommy separation anxiety. Maybe, and this is a little raw and hard to admit, but maybe, I don’t want to watch Cole go to school with a big backpack on and wave goodbye as he gets on the bus. Maybe I’m not ready for that and homeschooling is a way to avoid that moment. Drew doesn’t even fully get why this wrecks me, but if you’re a mother, you know. I want to hold on to my baby forever! I’m working through it.

5. Formal Instruction. As my child gets older, the right school could give him formal instruction in the arts, music, science, mathematics, the classics, etc — if any of those are interest areas — that homeschooling can not. If Cole is really into science, he can go to a science-heavy high school. Or art, or dance, or whatever. The one-sized-fits-all approach is true of many schools but not all, and there are specialized programs we can choose for him as his interests begin to show.

6. Writing and reading in a foreign language. One really big thing about being bilingual is learning to read and write at a high level in that language. Going to school in a non-English environment could cement his bilingualism in a way that I could never compete with at home — he’d be getting 30 hours a week of intense immersion for years. It’s a really big incentive.

7. If we do continue to live overseas, maybe school will help him better fit in. It will be hard, as a kid, for Cole to be “The American”. Especially if he’s also the “Homeschooled American with Weird Interests”. Not that fitting in is all that grand, I love travel because I love being an outsider. But as a kid, I craved that feeling of belonging. Maybe it’s better to give him that opportunity to decide what he likes on his own.

8. It’s reversible. Maybe it’s easier to go from school to homeschool than the other way around. I’m not sure, but it seems like it would be an easier adjustment to say, pull Cole from school if it’s not working, than to say, stick him school for the first time when he’s 10.

We’re still thinking. Cole is about 3 1/2 years old. We have two more years. But I am considering experimenting with preschool to see how he likes it. He’s so little, but already his personality is coming through, and it’s a very social one. Maybe my daughter Stella will be completely different. Maybe we’ll do different things for each child. I don’t know. Thanks to everyone who commented on the last post, much food for thought. These posts are a work in progress, so bear with me, I’m still working it out.

Christine Gilbert

I’ve been dragging my husband around the world since 2008 always with the promise that, “Yes, Drew there will definitely be hammocks there.”



  • You know what’s fantastic about family life and raising kids? There’s no formula. There’s no “right” way. There’s no “one” way. There’s your way, and your way can change as your family grows and changes. You’ll find the best way for you, for Cole, for Stella, for any given year or phase of life… no need to be “all in” from the beginning on any “philosophy” of parenting, schooling or otherwise. Learn as you go. Together. No one is more motivated than you are to make sure your kids get the best education possible and no one is better positioned to define what that means for your individual children than you are.

    • That’s true to an extent but I’m also debating staying put for a bit — I feel like we have to make some big decisions this year. Keep traveling, get permanent residency somewhere, return to the US, homeschool, go to school, unschool, etc. I’m beginning to feel like homeschooling + constant travel is not going to work. At least for us. So now I’m left with: okay now what? Do we settle down somewhere? Do we enroll in schools for six months at a time? What are our options? And some of them involve a lot of planning — months and months of planning — to accomplish if we’re not going to just use tourist visas to hop around the globe forever. So we might change our minds later, and I will happily flip flop, change course, do whatever needs to be done for my kids, but right now I’m sorting through probably one of the bigger choices I will have to make.

  • I dealt with this same issue when we left the comfort of our suburban life behind in silicon valley california. We tried homeschooling for a year with all three of our kid ages 4 to 15 at the time. i failed miserably or so I thought and felt like a failure about it.
    Now, almost a whole 2 years later we decided to put the kids in school and stay put in one place in France so the kids CAN go to school and while we experience all France and Europe has to offer. We still homeschool on different subjects but putting them in school while living in France was the right choice for us. They get the best of both worlds this way. Everyone has to make the right decision for them and not feel pressured or depressed because you can’t educate your kids one way or another.

  • Dear Christine, I think from a child’s perspective, no.7 is one of the most important reasons to consider in this discussion. It may seem uncool for us adults, but it is very important for children to feel integrated; they do need structure to be able to understand their little world, otherwise it can make them very insecure. Parents should not underestimate this point. I am writing from my own experience: my mom decided not to send me to Kindergarten when I was little, which would not have been a problem because she was a Kindergarten teacher herself and I always had friends to play with. But we were a very small hippie-group inside a more conservative community and when I was finally sent to school at age 7, I struggled very hard to find my place in the “system”, even though everybody was nice to me, I always felt like I had missed something, like there was a “code” that everyone but me was using. My little brother did not have these problems, because he attended Kindergarten when he was 4. I know there are a lot of factors and pro/cons; I just wanted to suggest that you try and speak to people who were homeschooled as kids, to better understand a child’s perspective on all of this. However, your lifestyle is amazing and your kids will gain a lot from it, I’m sure.

    • I’ve heard other homeschoolers say this, it’s something I do worry about. For better or worse that is part of what you learn in school.

  • I’m a third culture kid and I loved growing up like that. But what always helped in a new place was having school – a place to make new friends and learn new things about yourself. I went to 6 different schools but I love that aspect of my childhood and am glad I had such a variety of life experience so young. I highly recommend international schools (especially Bangkok Patana) because then everyone is the so and so from each country. But going to a local school when they are young is such a great idea ♥

  • Hi Christine, One interesting thing that we’ve learned about schooling in Costa Rica is that if your child is Tico (he was born here) and he enters the education system, then you cannot pull him out for homeschooling if you continue to live here. The CR gov’t doesn’t recognize homeschooling, so once he’s in the system, he must stay in the system to complete the minimum educational requirements. Not sure if there are similar regulations in Mexico, but I wanted to highlight the fact that sometimes you are subject to local laws when it comes to education.

  • Ugh – it is so hard. I have been battling the same with my five-year-old, but in varying ways. I am an introvert and love having him around me while I work. But while I am an introvert who is very comfortable and satisfied with limited socialization, he is the opposite. He is an only child (since my husband died when he was 24-months-old) and craves being around kids – any kids – all the time, so he loves school. It is a tough choice but I think you are approaching the decision the right way – exploring any and all possibilities and realizing you can change them if they don’t quite work out as planned/hoped.

    The good news (and consolation for those of us who have a hard time letting them go off to school with the big backpack and barely a kiss on the cheek as they run out the door) is that you can, in a way, have the best of both worlds. Even while my son attends a formal school (part-time last year and full-time this year) we spend time learning whatever he wants to, depending what he’s in to. I feel very satisfied that he is learning the basics in school and I get the chance to spend out time learning other extra fun stuff.

    Good luck as you work through the decision.

    • Sounds like my son! I was 100% ready to homeschool until this year when he just started lighting up around other kids. Hmmm it’s hard to know what to do!

  • I just stumbled across your blog and I want to second the international school option. I am from Ohio, but my family lived in both Malaysia and Thailand where we attended international schools. It can be pricey, though, if your work isn’t paying for it. :-/

  • I’m nowhere near having kids (so don’t know what I’m talking about), but living in Thailand and seeing the different school options and expat families has opened up my perception about what’s out there for whenever I do have kids. I have friends who work at incredible international and Buddhist ‘alternative’ schools that are so intriguing!

  • The world is your classroom when you homeschool. 🙂 You will find the pros will far outweigh the cons. This resource may help you with your decision.
    I began just “testing” out the concept when my son was four and I taught him for preschool. Even though I had taught 35 children in a classroom for years, I was worried about teaching my own child. Go figure! Anyways, the rest as they say is history. After my trial year of homeschooling and a total of five children and 15 years later, I absolutely love homeschooling. ♥

  • The international school idea is a good one. But unless one of you teaches there, any decent one is not cheap. The int’l school where I teach art p/t in Beijing costs 30K/year. Some of my students come from families where 4 kids attend! Of course they’re US embassy kids, so the US gov’t pays for everything. If we do have a kid (and even if we don’t), I’m considering getting a teaching qualification to give us more long-term visa options for the future. The school would fly me & family out, pay for housing, and a good salary for a 2-year contract.

    There may be other hybrid options that are more affordable, especially in areas where there are lots of foreigners.