FAMILY FUN: Living abroad with your family

Laura Churchill Duke info@valleyfamilyfun.ca
Published on January 9, 2017

Lisa Speigel, along with her husband Andrew Biro and their children Kaela and Nathan, moved to Australia for five months as part of Andrew's work. This was an experience of a lifetime where they got to explore different things and spend time together as a family. Six years later, they are still talking about and remembering their trip.

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ANNAPOLIS VALLEY, NS - This will be my last Family Fun column for a while because we are moving!

Our family is moving to Northern Wales for five months. My husband is on sabbatical from Acadia University and we will be heading to the University of Bangor where he can do research and a few lectures, while we travel throughout Great Britain and beyond and visit David’s family members who still live there.

We will be homeschooling our sons so every day will be an adventure and educational experience. At ages eight and 10, they are the perfect age to travel with and it will be a trip that hopefully they will remember forever.

There are plenty of arrangements to make, including finding a house sitter to live in our house and look after our elderly dog. We must plan for our taxes, insurance, health care, and registering with the government that we will be homeschooling the children.

Although this all sounds exciting, the boys are less than excited about going.

To help with the move and preparing the boys to be away for a long period, I talked to two other families who have done something similar.

Lisa Speigel and her family lived for five months in Australia and five months in Switzerland when her daughter Kaela was nine and her son Nathan was six.

Lisa Speigel, along with her husband Andrew Biro and their children Kaela and Nathan, moved to Australia for five months as part of Andrew's work. This was an experience of a lifetime where they got to explore different things and spend time together as a family. Six years later, they are still talking about and remembering their trip.
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Speigel says they homeschooled their children because it was expensive given their temporary and international status. It also enabled them to have a lot of flexibility in travelling within Australia and discovering the city. 

“We took advantage of school break, library, and after school activities,” says Speigel, “enrolling them in programs, while we were there, so that they could meet other children.”

Janna Wentzell, Wolfville, moved with her family and then eight-year-old daughter Ainslie to Florida for four months. Because of issues with Homeland Security, Ainslie was also homeschooled.

“There were times she was lonely,” says Wentzell, “but we had lots of company and she met friends through Girl Scouts.” Wentzell also joined a local homeschooling group and took advantage of events at the public library and the Orlando Science Center.

The two big worries for the children while moving like this are falling behind in school and missing their friends. But, Speigel says both can be overcome.

She connected with their teachers here at home and tried to do school projects from afar.

“If, for example,” says Speigel, “they were doing a project on animals at Wolfville School, we did a project on an Australian animal and sent it (the project) back for review.”

By writing a family blog about their adventures, it was a good way for them to stay connected with friends back at home and for the kids to record their impressions, says Speigel. 

Speigel made each child a “business card” with their own specific contact information including name, email, skype ID and blog address. They gave these to their friends at school or family members before they left.

“I also collected the email addresses and mailing addresses of lots of their friends so that we could Skype whenever and send postcards,” says Speigel.

Overall, in terms of mentally preparing her children to be away, it was more just talking to them about what they had to look forward to rather than a discussion of how long they’d be away. They also brought a couple of things from home that would give them some semblance of normalcy, such as Lego. 

We will be following all this advice. We have already signed the kids up for a three-day nature camp, found out about the library reading club, and will register for classes at the recreation centre. Daniel will be making YouTube videos about our adventures, including one for his class project on Roman civilizations when he visits actual Roman ruins. The boys will Skype in to chat with their classes and share videos, all thanks to modern technology.

You can follow our adventures on the Valley Family Fun blog (www.ValleyFamilyFun.ca/Blog) and by subscribing to the Daniel Duke YouTube Channel.

As Speigel advises, embrace it. 

“This might be the only time in your life that you’re going to do something like this,” she says. “There are so many different things and people to see in the world. Get out and check it out.”

By the end of it, I am sure our sons will be begging us to stay longer!