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Mind the Education Gap

Most parents would agree that between class projects and commitments to extracurricular activities, pulling a child out of school for an extended vacation abroad just isn’t worth the added stress.

Fortunately, parents don’t have to sacrifice their child’s education at the expense of their travel plans. In fact, living overseas can help children gain an international perspective that will place them at the head of the pack when they return home.

Here are a few strategies parents can use to help enrich their child’s educational experience while living and traveling abroad.

“If you had a period of traveling around the world as part of your schooling, then you just have something that your peers don’t have.”

— Adam Caller, senior partner at Tutors International

Notify the Home School

Schools tend to be supportive of trips abroad, says Adam Caller, senior partner at Tutors International, an Oxford-based educational consulting company specializing in matching tutors with students who are studying in countries abroad. “We’ve never met a single school who has told a family that they don’t think they should do it,” he says.

Because many schools encourage these types of trips, teachers and administrators are almost always willing to work with families by providing learning materials, lesson plans and assignments, so the children can independently cover all the material they would have missed while abroad, Caller says. In fact, many schools have online grading systems. “Even though they are traveling, they can turn in work on time, remotely, to their schools to be graded by their teachers,” he says.

Employ Educational Strategies Abroad

One of the keys to successful learning abroad is consistency, says Joanne Weiner, CEO and executive director of Private Tutoring Services, a tutoring company based in Boca Raton and Wellington, Fla.

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“If possible, a regular schedule every day and week should be established in order to do school,” she says. “Even if times and places change, school needs to be a priority.”

 In addition, Weiner says it is important for students to stay in touch with their home school while living abroad. “I also suggest a ‘study buddy’ in each class at home, who will send notes from lectures so students stay with the class,” she says.

Furthermore, Weiner stresses that children should have an advocate like a guidance counselor at the home school to ensure the proper information is reaching the student abroad.

And depending on the time-zone difference, this relationship can even lead to students being Skyped into the classroom so they can stay in touch with their peers. Weiner says that this kind of contact is fun for everyone because the student gets the information he or she needs, and the other children are excited to hear about their classmate’s travels.

For parents who are busy during these periods of travel or may not feel qualified or comfortable assuming the role of a teacher, hiring a tutor can be a beneficial option. Plus, using a trusted online foreign exchange service makes it simple to submit payments to a tutor on a one-time or ongoing basis.

“Having a private class with a tutor every session is incredibly enriching,” Weiner says. “Tutors are able to remediate or accelerate a student’s weaknesses and strengths, which is a fantastic way to learn.”

Turn Travel into Learning Opportunities

Rather than being a hindrance to a child’s education, travel can actually provide many new and exciting opportunities for learning. For example, if a family hires a tutor, the hours spent on education are much more productive than traditional schooling because of the one-on-one attention, Caller says. 

“If you can get through in a day what you usually get through in a week in a classroom, what do you do with the other four days?” he asks. “And the answer is that you learn about the environment that you are in. If you are sailing, you might learn about the physics of a sailing boat.”

Being immersed in the environment also includes learning a foreign language and studying other cultures, Caller says. Along with simply learning about these aspects of a new country or area, Caller says educational travel periods also have long-term benefits, such as enhancing a college application.

Travel abroad doesn’t have to obstruct a child’s educational path. By taking the time to strategize in advance, parents can give their child a one-of-a-kind educational experience that they wouldn’t be able to find in a standard classroom.

“If you had a period of traveling around the world as part of your schooling,” Caller says, “then you just have something that your peers don’t have.”

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