Homeschooling has become a popular option in Beijing as tuition prices continue to rise at international schools. Homeschooling offers flexibility and the freedom to learn what you and your kids are passionate about. It also comes with the responsibility of ensuring a good education for your children, so you want to make sure you have some great resources. Here are some resources for getting connected, making the most of homeschooling in Beijing specifically, and getting help if and when you need it.
1) Getting connected
The reputation that homeschoolers have earned for being socially cut-off is largely unearned, but in a vast city like Beijing, families must be very intentional about getting connected. Both of the following groups contain people who will be happy to answer questions and point you in the right direction, whether you’re looking for a co-op to attend weekly or just some tips on curriculum. Asking questions is a great way to learn to homeschool in Beijing and get connected with those who have already blazed this path.
Beijing Homeschoolers Yahoo Group
This online support group currently has 153 members and asks that members be living in Beijing and homeschooling (or be planning to move to Beijing shortly and homeschool once here).
Beijing Westside Homeschool Group
This group is specifically for members of the Westside Beijing Co-op, the longest-running co-op in Beijing. As other off-shoots have done, the co-op meets once a week during most of the year, offering classes on various topics for the children taught by alternating parents, depending on the class. Many students also participate in sporting events after the weekly meetings.
2) Making the Most of Beijing
Add Chinese to your school day – However you decide to do it, giving your kids the chance to learn Chinese while living in China is a smart move. In most cases, you'll want to find a tutor, preferably one available during the school day. The Beijinger Magazine classifieds is a good place to start looking for a tutor, though you will definitely want to ask your new homeschooling friends for their recommendations; the best teachers are often found by word-of-mouth.
Get back to the classics – Classic books (think Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, or Jules Verne) are readily available in Beijing for 20 RMB. Though some homeschooling curricula can require many highly priced books, designing at least some of your lessons around the classics will make the most of the low prices here.
Get into the city – Because Beijing is a large city, it has museums of all kinds, several aquariums, a zoo, a planetarium and various beautiful parks and other random gems of discovery. Some of the places you will visit will be really exciting and meaningful, while others will be short stints of Chinese tourism and cheesy displays. Don't assume you know which ones will be which, though; you may be surprised at how well the kids remember the dinosaur exhibit that made you cringe. The idea is to simply try something, experience new places, and enjoy the craziness that ensues. Helpful hint: don't visit any of these places during a national holiday.
Two places that are recommended: the Beijing Aquarium at the Beijing Zoo and the Beijing Planetarium (especially after studying some astronomy so the students can follow the exhibits/shows even when they’re in Chinese).
3) Getting Help When You Need It
Sometimes adjusting to a new culture can take over. Suddenly you realise that schooling has lagged and your kids are behind in their schoolwork. It happens, but don't allow it continue once you become aware of it. There are resources for struggling homeschoolers, including the Asia Education Resource Consortium. For about 90 USD a year, the AERC gives you access to consultants, a lending library system, and other helpful perks. The price might seem steep when you've spent a lot on setting up your home school already, but the importance of getting back on track quickly cannot be overstated.
If you decide you aren't up for being the teacher to challenge your older students, there are also several schools designed to offer online classes for homeschoolers around the world. These include NorthStar Academy, Potter's School, and the Cambridge Academy. Though definitely not exclusively, many of these schools tend to be faith-based, so make sure to find out what kind of background the school has and how they incorporate that into their curriculum before selecting one.
However you decide to homeschool in Beijing, remember that you are not alone and that you have many resources available to you. As you connect with other homeschoolers here, you will gain a valuable network to support you in this endeavor. Many families have successfully homeschooled their kids in Beijing, giving them a unique experience to carry into their lives after high school. You, too, can give your children a quality education if you capitalise on the resources available to you.
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