Finding Homeschooling Flexibility in Belgium

(This guest post was written by Robert Nelson of My International Adventure.)

Perhaps the most important benefit of homeschooling is the flexibility it provides your family. With no rigid school schedules to follow, it’s education at your pace. The Opstrup family discovered homeschooling’s schedule flexibility when they needed to balance family life, sports and education soon after moving to Belgium.

Christi Opstrup, 40, and her 45-year-old husband Kevin, who works for the U.S. Department of State, moved three years ago to Waterloo, just outside the capital city of Brussels. Prior to their Belgium posting, Christi and the couple’s three kids lived with her expat parents in the south of France while Kevin served in Iraq. They also had posts in Georgetown, Guyana and Bucharest, Romania.

While in France, their 10-year-old son Keaton, 12-year-old daughter Kiya and 14-year-old daughter McKayla were enrolled in local Sanary-sur-mer schools. In Bucharest, McKayla attended an international school and Kiya a Montessori school.

I was looking for an American-based curriculum when I did my research before moving to Belgium,” Christi Opstrup said. “When we arrived we tried out the international school for about a year. It was not a good fit because all of the kids swim competitively, but schools in Europe tend to offer sports very late at night. Often the kids were in the pool until 10 p.m., which makes it a little hard to get up by 7 a.m. and get going. We needed a more flexible solution that would fit our family needs better.”

That’s when she started exploring a homeschooling option. “I talked with my friends – both in the U.S. and expats – who are homeschooling, reviewed all of the programs they were using and studied a wide range of curricula because I am not an educator and did not want any holes in my children’s education,” Opstrup said.

After several months of research, she called the state of Maryland (they own a home in Maryland) and the U.S. Embassy in Belgium and asked them for recommendations. They settled on Calvert Education because the website was easy to navigate, Calvert answered all questions to her satisfaction and she could easily understand the program. “I was especially thorough because when you are responsible for teaching three kids at once you need the best support you can get,” she said.

The family is very pleased with Calvert because it offers an American curriculum that matches the U.S. system. “They have precise standards, objectives and a program that lets us know exactly what to do each day,” Opstrup said. “You follow a step-by-step process and even have videos to help you out. There are 160 lessons to complete for each grade level. If they are completed in less than a year, you can move on to the next grade level.”

In addition to the American-based curriculum provided by Calvert, Opstrup augments the children’s education with a French tutor and participates in a local group called the Brussels Homeschool Christian Cooperative. “We get together on a weekly basis for drama classes, extra math help, debating, some science experiments, field trips and other activities that cannot be offered through the Calvert program,” Opstrup said. “Each mother teaches a specific class. It is a good way to socialize the kids.”

All three kids participate in swimming and one other sport. “With homeschooling, the kids are finished before 5 p.m. and then can go to their swim club and other sports activities immediately after,” Opstrup said.

For the Opstrup family, the key advantage for homeschooling is flexibility. “We get to travel whenever we want,” said 14-year-old McKayla Opstrup. “If you are having a bad day, you can start and stop whenever you want. And if you are sick, you can keep up without having to do a lot of makeup work because you are on your own schedule.”

Robert Nelson is Co-Founder of My International Adventure, the adventurer’s guide to moving, living and working abroad. MYIA brings you a broad range of timely, truthful and trustworthy information that can help you simplify the time-consuming and complex planning process required for you to move, live and work abroad.