Wednesday, September 19, 2012

How to Support Your Third Culture Kids in Local Schools?

School finally started this week in Turkey, so my home schooled kids can no longer feel sorry for themselves because they have to go to bed at a decent hour and get up to study from 8:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. while their Turkish friends play in the park all day and night. Every year we start a few weeks earlier than the local schools do, so it’s a relief when school starts, and my kids’ friends have to study just like they do.

One of the biggest challenges of overseas life is education for the children.

We were blessed to arrive when my kids were small. I sent them to public pre-school for one year, so they had a crash course in Turkish. Since then, I’ve homeschooled, but they’ve continued language learning over the years.

Although I’ve chosen the home school route, I also respect families who have chosen local schools. This is common especially in elementary levels, when it’s easier for mom and dad to help the kids with homework. 

Here are some advantages to local schools:
  • The children learn the language and adapt more quickly.
  • They make friends more easily.
  • Mom has more time to do language study or engage in ministry.
  • School provides a door into the community for the whole family.
 In our country, there are also some disadvantages:
  • Education based on memorization
  • Lots of homework
  • Stress on the child

How to overcome the challenges? 

I asked some of the cross-cultural workers in our country how they help their children overcome some of the challenges of being in local schools, and here is a summary of what they said: (Direct quotes are in blue.)

  • Don’t push them too soon.

Don’t feel you have to enroll them in school the moment you arrive.  Give them some time to adjust.  They won’t suffer academically from losing a few months. 

  • Lower your academic expectations during the language learning phase. 

Kids need a few years of Turkish school/Turkish in order to function at a competent level academically.  Parents, don't think that your kids are behind, not learning or not trying.  They will get it and move ahead with your support, not with constant pushing for good grades.  We experienced this with three of our kids here who have all gone on to U.S. universities and done well.”

  • Be present and develop relationships at the school.

 “Be a presence in your kid's school; show up unexpectedly; have tea with the teachers and principal.  Get good relationships going, and that will help considerably.”

  • Support and encourage your child during the adjustment phase.
“The kids are always curious about the foreign student and can be overbearing or aggressive in their behavior.  Talk with your kids about these things, love them, encourage them and tell them it will get better.  It almost always does.” Talk to the teachers or principal if the situation doesn’t resolve itself.

  • Remember kids have problems in school no matter where they are
  • Pray and trust God with your kids.

How many of you out there have your kids in local schools?  What is it like? What suggestions do you have for someone whose child is struggling?


Nancy said...

"One of the biggest challenges of overseas life is education for the children." So true! I thought I would be prepared since I had several years of home schooling under my belt before we moved overseas, but it just isn't the same. There are always problems with the internet/computer, issues with finding supplies and curriculum, people knocking on your gate, electricity, etc. We are experiencing both, one is home schooled and one is in an American school here, and they each face different challenges. Sounds like you've met your challenges with wisdom and grace!

Annmarie Pipa said...

your kids are getting an education by just living there!!
good luck!
we believe parents are the primary educators of our children no matter who ends up teaching them. some of the things they learn in school has to be retaught at home...especially social/moral issues like birth control is wonderful for girls because it makes their faces pretty and their breast larger and also helps the whole world by having less babies.