The Unschooling Road Less Traveled in Mexico

“It’s nice to meet you! You’re going to homeschool, right?” She said. “You shouldn’t homeschool. You should send your kids to school here in Mexico.”

I was taken aback. However, it ended up being the norm here. I would meet an expat and they would immediately tell me to not homeschool my children in Mexico. The two biggest (and only) reasons given?

Socialization and time for myself.

Word on the street is that it is extremely difficult to meet kids and parents if you are not involved at a school. Homeschooling is legal in Mexico, but apparently not widely accepted. There aren’t many active support groups.

A picture of a kid with pretend airplane wings on his or her back. Unschooling unschool.

Children learn from anything and everything they see. They learn whatever they are, not just in special learning places. -John Holt

It isn’t new and it’s still annoying

When we visited on our househunting trip, the people we came into contact with suggested sending the kids to school here for at least one year because they’d pick up Spanish much faster. They weren’t adamantly opposed to homeschooling, though.

Still, I was feeling the frustration from early on.

As usual, no one says to send the kids to school because the education is SO WONDERFUL. In fact, one person tells me to send the kids to school and the next minute, tells me bad things that have happened to her children at school here.

Another expat said that she had planned to homeschool while in Mexico, but quickly gave up the idea. Of course, she had no desire to homeschool in the USA.

What’s an unschooling mama to do?

We have heard there is a Montessori school around somewhere. My husband asked me to consider it and I said I would. I attended a Montessori school for several years as a youngster in Ohio. It was an enjoyable place.

“I am considering the Montessori school,” I say to another woman at an expat breakfast. “But I don’t know where it is. It’s kind of far away.”

I was hoping she had some inside information, having been in the area for awhile,  being bilingual, and having a child.

“You should go only to the close schools,” this woman was brazen enough to say. It was said much ruder than this. Need I say that she was also opposed to me homeschooling?

A young boy plays with batman toys.

Play is grossly underestimated as a learning tool.

The attitudes here are infuriating. This word and feeling has exemplified this move and the educational situation in which I currently find myself. My confidence in my abilities to faciliate my kids’ educations and their abilities to lead the way are not shaken. However, I am concerned that we will all spend three years friendless. I’m less worried about myself. I have existed and survived in a lonely world with small babies. My children do deserve to have the richest experiences I can provide them. That includes having local friends.

Friends of all ages. And preferably not forced association.

time for myself

Every person needs a different amount of time to themselves (it took me time to realize this). I may even be atypical because I feel like I’m getting close to the amount of time for myself that I need. Before kids, I did need a lot of alone time and downtime to feel my best. And sleep. I needed so much sleep. After kids, I need a lot less of all of these things. My stress level is nearly non-existent. My former work life had me on edge almost all of the time for quite a number of years. As long as I can get some writing and various projects done, I feel just right.

I enjoy time with my children. Part of the reason we moved to Mexico was to have more funds for travel. Another reason was to learn a language and interact with the world in a different way. I wanted to be an American who has lived somewhere else. Or traveled to many, many places. I’m living the former and working towards the latter. Obviously, all of these things are also fantastic educational experiences for my children. My children have spurred on my sense of adventure.

What do I do now?

I am struggling with the enormity of having moved here and facing a lot of negativity for my decision to homeschool. Except, for me, it wasn’t a decision. It is how it is supposed to be. Sending my kids to whatever school violates my principles. Current schooling models are based on force and conformity: You must learn X, Y, and Z at this age and at this time. If you don’t, you will be considered stupid. If it’s uninteresting, too bad for you. In addition, the school year is VERY long here. They start in August and wrap up in mid-July. Barf.

There is one expat with grown children who has voiced support about homeschooling here. She’s moving back in August. At least there is one.

A child's arm is shown, holding a rubber mallet. There is a flattened red mega block about to be hit again with said mallet.

Unschooling/homeschooling isn’t always pretty, tidy, or neat. Kids often have a unique way of experiencing the world.

Decisions

Do I give into peer pressure? Do I march bravely forward with conviction that the friend thing will work itself out?

We chose Mexico in part because it is #1 on this list for being the most welcoming country for expats. This doesn’t mesh well with real time information about difficulty for children and parents to meet people and make friends.

While I still may check out the Montessori school in my area, I’m unlikely to compromise the education of my children based on a few opinions. I’m looking for summer day camps, because I think those will be fun for my kids. They can take dance, swimming, and soccer classes, too. I’m still getting my bearings for the area, but we won’t be isolated and doing nothing. I think people envision homeschooling (or unschooling, in my case) differently than it is.

Moving forward, I am doing my best to keep an open mind. If I get around to touring the schools, I will. If not, I am positive we aren’t going to be missing much. Meanwhile, we are taking private Spanish classes. The teacher plays with the kids and they really enjoy their time with her.

learning doesn’t stop simply because you’ve left a building

Understandably, it’s difficult and scary for us to think outside the box and to be different from everyone else. I have had 27 years of practice being being different than everyone else (I’m older than 27, by the way). I have role models who were unschooling long before I did and have achieved amazing successes and are happy. They are in fact still unschooling, because learning doesn’t end after leaving the building we call school.

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