International schools, or private schools for the international population, and missionary schools are a great option for many and have the advantages of often a high caliber of education, of many times being taught in English, and having many social and extra-curricular opportunities, not to mention a Christ centered focus if the school is a Christian school, among other things.
Pros: Social interaction with different children, Mom can be “just mom” when kids get home rather than needing to play both the role of teacher and mom as in homeschooling, children in international schools with classmates from other countries gain a broad understanding of different cultures and religions which can help ground a child in what they believe and why, extra-curricular activities and honors programs, quality facilities and equipment, often a high standard of education that can be good preparation for re-entry in home country’s school system
Cons: For secular international schools often there are non-Christian teachers who may teach values and beliefs that are counter-Christian, although it can be seen as a plus as children learn how to interact with non-believers as well as believers; foul language and other less wholesome influences especially in non-Christian schools, often expensive, may naturally place children into a specific sub-culture separate from the majority culture (their group of close friends may be primarily other English speakers, and if in a missionary school, primarily Christians, and it could be difficult for them to engage in the culture and to identify with peers within their community)
Some considerations for missionaries considering intl. schools and missionary schools:
-It may take advance financial planning and saving and additional support raising in order to plan well to fund the education of your children in these options.
-There are often just one or a few such options, if any, in any given area. If you are moving to the field and are planning on having your children attend an international school, the location of your home might be dependent on the location of the school and its accessibility.
-This is often a great option for missionaries who go for shorter long-term assignments, as in up to a few years. This way children don’t have the pressure of struggling through education in a new language that they will use only for a short time, and they can continue in a schooling option similar to what they left and/or that is similar to what they will enter into when they move back home.
-There are many great ways to help children engage in the culture even if attending a school for foreigners. This will take planning and intentionality on the part of the parents though as it might not come naturally. Some such options are involvement at church, participation in sports or other activities, language classes, being intentional to build friendships in your neighborhood and community, involving your kids in ministry, etc.
Are your kids or have your kids attend an international or missionary school? What else would you have to share about these options? If you are looking into either option, what questions do you have? (Those with experience, please feel free to respond to the questions asked!)
Thank you so much to Tammy, Keri, E.B., and Richelle who helped with this post by sharing about their personal experiences with international and missionary schools!
(Other resources used for this post: Campus Crusade for Christ’s 2006 X-track education options resource handbook; Third Culture Kids by David C. Pollock and Ruth E. Van Reken)