EER152: Putting Kids in Local Schools While Traveling

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For some families on the road long-term, putting kids in local schools while traveling becomes an important component of the journey. No, I’m not talking about fancy (and often expensive) international schools, although those can be a good option for some.

What I’m talking about are just the regular local schools of a city or country. With local kids speaking and playing in the local language. There are a number of benefits, and it may not be as difficult to do as you think.

EER152 Putting Kids in Local Schools While Traveling nelly's first school uniform

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Putting Kids in Local Schools While Traveling

As many traveling families know, travel and education go hand in hand. There are hundreds of ways to approach education when traveling, but one you may have not thought about before is putting your kids into the local schools of the country you’re traveling in.

This isn’t for everyone, and it doesn’t work everywhere. That said you may be surprised at how easy and useful it can be to put your kids into a local school outside of your home country.

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ABOUT

  • Names: Stephen Lead, Gloria Tong, and their daughters, Penelope & Clementine
  • Hold passports from: Australia & the UK
  • Type of travel: Long-term travel
  • A few places they’ve been: Japan, UK, Ireland, Switzerland, Spain Sevilla Mexico Guatemala, Panama, Chile

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Putting Kids in Local Schools While Traveling

Mexican school EER152 Putting Kids in Local Schools While Traveling

In this episode of Epic Education Radio, I talk with Stephen Lead, an Australian dad who has been traveling with his wife and two young girls for a year. They’ve put the girls into local schools in both Spain and Mexico so far. When we met in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, Stephen and I went out for drinks and soon the topic turned to our experiences putting kids in local schools while traveling.

We’ve done it, and so had Stephen. In fact, there are many episodes of this podcast with guests who have put their kids in local schools. I’ve had a few requests for more info and Stephen was keen to talk about it, and that’ show this episode came to be.

TLDR: Main Points of Putting Kids in Local Schools While Traveling

  • Enrolling in local schools can be quite cheap and easy in many countries
  • There are opportunities for local schools in Spain, Mexico, France, Malaysia, New Zealand, India, the Dominican Republic, and more
  • In general, the younger the child, the more opportunities for enrollment
  • Short-term enrollment is easy for primary school-aged kids and younger.
  • Some schools require some paperwork, such as a birth certificate (or a copy of one), while others require almost none.
  • Don’t over plan or stress over the preplanning. Some schools work out, some don’t.
  • Book accommodation based on convenience to town or whatever you’re interested in, rather than accommodation close to the school.
  • List of other episodes with parents putting kids in local schools at the end of the post.

Benefits of Putting Kids in Local Schools While Traveling

3 kids EER152 Putting Kids in Local Schools While Traveling

When I suggest putting your kids in a local school, your first question may be “Why?” For many families, the routines of school and work are part of the reason for traveling in the first place.

I get that. And I’m not suggesting this route for everyone. That said, both Stephen and I have learned that it added to our travels and relationships in positive ways.

Below I break down a few of the reasons why putting kids in local schools can be rewarding:

Make Local Friends

Kids sometimes need other kids. Putting your kids into a local school gives them an opportunity to interact with children their age. When kids are young (say, 9 or younger), it’s much easier to play and have fun without the need for verbal communication. And yet, as they play, your child will be picking up the local language much faster than any textbook could give them.

Language Learning

Attending locals schools can be a great way to learn a new language. I won’t say it’s easy at first, but being around local kids is a huge boost to language learning. Sure, kids are sponges and they’ll soak up so much from being in a class where only the foreign language is spoken, but it’s the playtimes where real progress happens.

Time Apart

If your family is traveling long-term, then you see a lot of each other. Whether it’s for a summer or a year, long-term travel families are with each other 24-7, and that can be draining.

This goes double for guys like Stephen and me, who are still working full-time as we move around. Sometimes you need a few hours to knock out a deadline. Sometimes you want to have a leisurely lunch with your wife. By the same token, sometimes the kids need to play games with other kids.

Stephen’s Experience Putting Kids in Local Schools While Traveling

Stephen and Gloria have two adorable daughters, and the oldest, Penelope, was starting school and going to be the youngest in her class. So what Stephen and Gloria decided to do was take a year to travel, studying Spanish along the way.

Their first main stop was Seville, Spain, where they put the kids in local Spanish schools. Here they attended a local Montessori school. There were a lot of tears the first week, he says. But by week two, both girls were happy to head to school.

As for schools in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, they discovered lots of options once they arrived. In fact, they wouldn’t have known just how many options if the school they planned on fell through (details in the podcast). This helped them realize that when putting kids in local schools, don’t stress out too hard with the preplanning. For example, their entire plan for the Mexican school fell through, but they were able to find another great option once they arrived.

My Experience Putting Kids in Local Schools While Traveling

spain EER152 Putting Kids in Local Schools While Traveling

If you’re new to this blog, then you should know that my kids have attended local schools in Japan, Malaysia, and Spain. And they may soon attend local schools in Mexico, as well.

That said, each is a different situation. In Japan, they were local kids, as well. Both kids were born there and speak Japanese. In Malaysia, they utilized the Distance Learning Program of an international school on the island of Penang. They weren’t actual students at the school, but could use the library and join extracurricular activities.

In Spain, they were really thrown into the deep end. We lived in Valencia, Spain for almost two years, and they attended local Spanish schools the entire time. They didn’t speak any Spanish when we arrived. None of us did! Yet when we left, both kids had loads of Spanish friends and spoke Spanish quite well. It was tough in the beginning, but it worked out in the end!

Related Episodes: Putting Kids in Local Schools

This isn’t the first episode where I’ve talked to parents who’ve enrolled their kids in locals schools. Some of these guests were just visiting, while others were moving there for a year or for much longer. Listen in!

Would You Consider Putting Your Kids in Local Schools?

Would you put your kids into a local school in a foreign country? Where? Have you put your kids in local schools somewhere? What was your experience like? Let us know!

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Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. This means, at no extra cost to you,  we might receive a small commission if you make a purchase or book using those links. My opinions are my own and I only recommend places/services that I believe will genuinely help your travel.

Comments

  1. Hi Jason! Love the blog and podcast. I did some searching but maybe I missed it, but do you have a list of educational resources (like apps etc…) all in one place? I know that might be a lot of work to go back into archives and collect, but I would LOVE to see a post with all of that in one place. If you already did that and I missed it, please direct me! Your blogs a great resource. Thanks again!

  2. Hi Jason,

    My wife and I are looking at moving to a Spanish speaking country next spring with our young children. Our goal is to have the be immersed in Spanish for at least three years. We’re looking at Valencia Spain and several different areas in Mexico. You mentioned not having a car in one of the podcasts which is a goal of ours and honestly has skewed us towards Spain given their public transportation. The proximity of Mexico to the US and lower barrier (paperwork) to entry leans us towards Mexico. Outside of Mexico City it seems as if a car is almost essential but is it? We really want to enroll in locals schools so the kids will make friends and learn all the quicker. Any thoughts or preferences?

    Thanks for providing a great platform for people to exchange information and make the transition a little easier.

    • Hi Jason,

      As you assumed, Valencia Spain is great to live without a car. And it’s flat which makes it easy to walk/bike for longer periods. Public transportation (bus, subway, and bicycle) are great for around the town as well. If Mexico, a car would most likely be needed in many part fo the country outside of the capital, but not everywhere. We rented a car while living in the Yucatan. Some people get by without it if they’re in a downtown area, but was just too hot and spread out for us so we used a car. However, cars are not essential in San Miguel de Allende where we used to live. We lived there over a year and a half without a car and it’s a lovely, safe and walkable town. If your planned departure is next spring (Mar, Apr 2020?), you should start preparing all the paperwork for Spain soon, and you’ll still make it assuming all the paperwork is submitted correctly. Wherever you decide to go, hope everything goes well with your move!

  3. Wow. I had no idea I could do it. We are currently in Portugal, but dreaming of moving on, honestly school is what is holding us down. Being Europeans, educated here made our thinking much more restricted. Wow and wow. I am very impressed by your way of living. Thank you for your inspiration.

    • I’m glad you enjoyed the podcast. And please keep in mind that I have only talked about schools that I know about. I am sure there are more. I cannot promise that any local school will be the right fit for your children/family, but I can say that there are lots of opportunities around the world. Safe travels!

  4. Yes! I strongly agree about enrolling children in schools while abroad. Learn about perspective at a young age. Very important 🙂

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