We moved to Mexico as missionaries when our oldest child was only two. Homeschooling was always our plan and it has been both a challenge and a joy for our family, as well as what has become another avenue of ministry and work from home income for us.
In this post, I’ll share 3 reasons we homeschool, 3 unique things about homeschooling in Mexico, and 3 ways we’ve customized our homeschool to fit the life we’ve been called to live as expats and missionaries.
3 Reasons we Homeschool on the Mission Field
1. Schedule – Our travel schedule for ministry and business is often very full, keeping one or the other parent or the entire family on the road frequently. Homeschooling allows us the flexibility to school on a relaxed year-round schedule and pick up and go when necessary. It also allows us to do school in the afternoons or evenings, which is what we’re doing in this current season, so that Mom and Dad have a couple of concentrated work hours in the morning, and kids can be outside in the morning and inside during the hottest parts of our days.
2. Academics – We love where we live, but the schools here do not have academic standards that meet our expectations. We’ve opted to oversee our kids’ education from the home for this reason as well as because of influences. At home we have a 1 teacher to 2.5 student ratio, whereas in the local schools it’s about 1:34, leaving children to learn more from peers than adults.
3. Lemonhass® – Our third reason for homeschooling in Lemonhass®, a literature based homeschool curriculum for Spanish speaking families. In 2012, the lack of materials for homeschool families who do not speak English combined with our Masters in education background and the need to bring in income for our family while on the mission field allowed us to create the Lemonhass® homeschool curriculum. We are better connected to the families we serve, and better understand their struggles and triumphs in education and discipleship of their children because we are also homeschooling.
3 Things Unique to Homeschooling in Mexico
1. Legality – Homeschooling in Mexico is neither legal nor illegal. It is not prohibited by Mexican law, but neither is it explicitly protected. This hole in legislation gives families who wish to, the freedom to home educate.
2. Guidelines – This also presents a challenge as there is no common regulation for homeschooling. No guidelines to adhere to or reports to be made, leaving parents and families open to both freedom to do as they please and also the potential to flail about without any true guidelines to show the way or by which to gauge their effectiveness. Our Lemonhass® curriculum, and others meet that need by providing a teacher’s guide covering all the topics, so that parents have a plan that tells them what to do each day in each subject to complete the year of study in 36 weeks time.
3. Certification – Those who homeschool in Mexico are also not recognized by the Mexican government or school systems as having completed their education unless they have credit or certification. This can be obtained by studying under the “umbrella” of certain schools in the US or through INEA (the Mexican National Institute for Adult Education). Through INEA a child between the ages of 10-14 can present an exam and upon passing it receive the same completion certificate they would have received upon completion of sixth grade in a government school. High school certificates can be obtained in the same way through INEA or through a prepa abierta (open high school) a GED type program.
3 Ways we’ve customized our Homeschool
1. Our own weird method – If it weren’t weird enough already that we are homeschooling in Mexico, most families we meet presume home education is just something Americans do, our “style” or “method” is even weirder.
We are pretty eclectic in the materials and methods we use. While we’re not unschoolers or completely child led, neither are we completely nature or Montessori followers though we do love using literature, nature and hands on activities.
We travel as much as our ministry and finances allow, but probably not enough to be considered “travel-schoolers” or “worldschoolers,” and yet probably aren’t as structured as most “homeschoolers.” Our kids love learning, hate textbooks and usually prove their knowledge and subject mastery by teaching a sibling, or the rest of us what they’ve learned, which we consider to be the greatest proof of learning.
2. Lesson Plans and Records – As a teacher with a master’s degree, I started out using detailed lesson plans but then would feel much guilt when things were not done in the prescribed time frame and much pressure when we got behind my own invented schedule. I have retrained my teacher-brain to instead plan in generality with goals in mind and record what gets done when.
We school on more of a flexible year round basis to accommodate our ministry and business travel schedules, so if it’s a school day, the children know that they must do 1 lesson in math and english, read 20 min, do their copywriting, or writing assignment, plus family school time, and we check off on our attendance sheet and lesson plans the days that this happens as well as any extra activities or special learning opportunities we’ve had.
Our records are kept in a notebook for the year plus a computer file for any reports, videos, photos of field trips etc, that need to be saved. Though I’m not bound by any US reporting laws, I am trying to keep in mind that my children may want to attend college in the US at some point and we’ll need to have the records from which to create a transcript in the future.
3. Our School Day – Our school day looks different in each season of life, but currently starts in the morning with the kids getting breakfast, doing their Bible reading assignment for the day individually, doing their independent work assignments, chores, and then having free time until lunch. We also try not to have the kids out and about town before lunch so as to not provoke unnecessary “why aren’t they in school” questions.
Our family meal of the day is midday where we discuss the Bible reading together (we’re all on the same reading schedule thanks to a calendar plan and the YouVersion Bible app), any Scripture memory we’re doing, and what they’ve learned today. After lunch they get individual help with subjects as needed and we’ll do our family school, which is usually an hour or two of read alouds, science and history, or some combination of those.
Additionally, we’re compiling a “must read before graduation” list of books for our older kids, so they’re completing a book or audiobook each week, and creating one of several different types of reports to document each book and the lessons learned from each.
I don’t believe homeschooling on the Mission Field is much different than it might be if we were not missionaries or expats. Other than that our outings and field trips tend to be mayan ruins cultural centers instead of libraries and state capitals, which we love to do when we are stateside for a visit!
The truth of it is that wherever you are, learning can be fun, and rather than having academic achievement as the only goal, home education should also be tool to build character in your kids and strengthen family relationships through shared learning experiences.
What’s your experience? Why do you homeschool? Or what’s holding you back from trying it?
Katie Hornor has a master’s degree in Education, but that training is nothing compared to the experience of homeschooling five kids while living abroad! As a curriculum writer, author, and speaker, she’s all about thinking outside of the box and focusing on the praiseworthy in every circumstance. Visit her blog, and get her FREE Intentional Praise e-course at ParadisePraises.com.
This article is part of the I Homeschool Because . . . series. Click here to read other articles in this series, download the free eBook, You Can Do It, Too: 25 homeschool families share their stories, and enter a giveaway from Kiwi Crate valued at more than $200.