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How to Pack Like an Expert for Your Homeschool Overseas

Updated on June 23, 2018
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Tammy is a fourteen-year expat veteran who calls Panama home. She homeschools her bilingual, third-culture kids in the jungles of Panama.

Expat Homeschoolers Never Have Enough Books

I didn't know I was going to homeschool while living in Panama. I didn't make that particular plan when we decided to move. I left the USA thinking Panama would at least have one decent private school.

I was wrong.

When we decided to bring our son home to school he was in second grade. A year behind his USA classmates and was struggling to adapt to Panama's education culture. He needed saving and fast.

We pulled him from his failing (yet expensive) private school in a matter of days. He was home and we needed to school. We sat across from each other and I handed him my kindle.

Schooling our expat child in Panama became real at that moment. I wish I had packed more books; Yes books. I certainly could have enrolled him in an online school. There are many great ones to choose from. But as I watched tears roll down my son's face, I knew he needed one-on-one instruction.

Thankfully my sister-in-law was scheduled to visit in 2 weeks. I frantically emailed her, told her to ditch all the toys and gifts she had packed and fill that space with books. I scoured used homeschool books sites and filled my cart. Shipped them off to my sister-in-law and awaited her visit.

Two weeks later I had books!

The lesson here is to plan for the unexpected. Your good intentions might be to enroll your child in an expat or local school for cultural and linguistic assimilation. Great plan, hope it works, but be prepared for it to fail. Pack books and curriculum for that "just in case this doesn't work" scenario.

Afraid you will be stuck with books and unused materials? Don't be. The private school your child is attending does not have resources, a school library or decent English books. Donate your unused curriculum to the school. You can even post it to many buy-and-sell boards of the local expat community. Trust me, those books will be put to good use!

Our move to Panama would have been a mess without Plan and Pack for Your Overseas Move. It made the difference between being well packed and just, well, packed!

If You Plan Well It Will All Be Ok

A successful homeschool's foundation is planning. Certainly, it means getting all of your ducks in a row with curriculum choices. But homeschool is more than curriculum. Homeschool is about tailoring your child's education to best meet their needs.

Case in point, my son has a passion for reading. We pack books on visits back to the USA. My daughter has a passion for arts and languages. We pack sketchbooks, an array of drawing pencils and teach yourself Latin books.

It works because I plan ahead. If I see an interest growing in my child during a particular course I start researching hands-on activities. Sure, it means lots of planning time on my part, but the pay off later is worth the effort.

Take a moment and jot down the favorite activities of your child. Does your son love STEM projects? Does your child want to keep a specific field journal? Gather those supplies now in the planning stage. More than likely when you are planning a science experiment you will not find that specific must-have item at the local store.

Your rough planning outline will at least give you a fighting chance to have those items on hand. One of my most trusted packing and planning techniques is the dollar store. Fill your small voids in your suitcases with dollar store items.

Here's a list to get you started.

  • Google Eyes
  • Pipe Cleaners
  • Glue Sticks
  • Foam Paper Sheets
  • Glitter
  • White Board Markers
  • Plastic Paper Clips
  • Dice
  • Small Dominoes
  • Playing Cards
  • Pencils, Pens and Sharpeners
  • Markers

No doubt making the move overseas is scary. Add in the idea of schooling your kids at home it makes the decision even harder to make. Rest assured that with planning and dedication your expat homeschooling experience will be a success.

Have packing secrets or an expat homeschooling experience you would like to share? We look forward to hearing from you in the comments below!

Would you move your family overseas if it meant a better education?

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