For many parents, schooling is pretty straightforward.
Children start school between the ages of 2 and 4. They attend classes five days a week, for about 12 to 15 years. They learn specific subjects and pass traditional exams.
But for international families, school can sometimes take different forms. In educational circles, there are three common alternative methods parents can choose to educate their children abroad: homeschooling, unschooling, and worldschooling.
Homeschooling, or home education, is taking what children do at school, and doing it in the home instead. Many homeschool families use regular textbooks and children are taught by parents or tutors. Homeschooled children typically enrol in other activities to foster socialisation, and many studies have confirmed the academic excellence of children who learn at home. Unschooling, a term coined by John Holt in the 1970s, is more of a complete rejection of the compulsory school system. It puts total trust in children to learn through natural curiosity and the use of adults as facilitators. Worldschooling is harder to define, but usually involves elements of outdoor exploration and travelling. Worldschooling seems to be a combination of homeschooling and unschooling, where parents allow children to be free of the constraints of school while still nudging their learning and monitoring their progress.
Naysayers proclaim that children need more structure and socialisation with peers than these methods allow. They also worry that if children pick and choose their passions, they may miss out on core subjects needed to pass university entrance exams and excel in the workplace later in life.
Proponents of these alternative methods say that children learn the most when learning is natural. Children are spontaneously drawn to topics in their environments, whereas school curriculums are one-size-fits-all. Many parents who choose to forego traditional schooling say that they don’t want their children to experience stress and pressure and that they hope to show them how to learn more than what they need to learn in order to pass a standardised test.
Some parents are turning to these methods in response to the high costs of international schools in Vietnam. International school fees start at $6,000/year for half-day kindergarten and go to more than $28,000/year for grade 12.
No matter how you decide to educate your children, experts agree that parental involvement is a high indicator of success. Homeschooling, unschooling, and worldschooling are evolving options that allow parents to interact with their children positively on a daily basis.
Shannon Brown works in international education in Ho Chi Minh City and has a background in social work, public heath, and early childhood education.