How a Canadian Family Fell Into Homeschool Life Abroad

Homeschool Abroad
This is a guest blog post by homeschool mom and blogger Crystal McClean of Castle View Academy.


Before I had children I’d never considered homeschooling. I also never expected to raise my children in a country that was not my home. I spent (over two) years in Northern Ireland working for a bank and soaking up the culture. As I was making plans to leave Ireland, I met Phil. We soon married and bought a house just before the markets crashed and here we are still.

If I had had my children in my home country of Canada, there’s no doubt that our children (Tristan, 7 and Kallista, 4) would be in a public school. In Saskatchewan, Canada, children begin kindergarten in the fall of the year they turn 5, but mandatory education does not begin until the year a child turns 6 and enters first grade.

In Northern Ireland mandatory education begins at the very young age of 4, the earliest in the world!  After my son Tristan was born over 11 weeks premature and I suffered with depression for a couple of years, I wasn’t ready to send him off to a classroom of 30.

Tristan and Kallista showing some sibling love.
Tristan and Kallista showing some sibling love.

I had a friend from a Moms and Tots group that had been a teacher in Northern Ireland. She didn’t send her children to nursery, and she was thinking about homeschooling herself. That planted the seed that public school was not the only educational route!

I originally wanted to teach the Saskatchewan curriculum but I couldn’t access it from Northern Ireland. In Northern Ireland you don’t (currently) have to register or follow a specific curriculum, which initially stressed me out not knowing what to “do.” But as Tristan wouldn’t even be starting kindergarten for another two years at home, we just kept doing what we were doing. Playing homemade games, talking, reading books, and having fun.

Watching baby common lizards while walking by the sea
Watching baby common lizards while walking by the sea

In the end, not having to stick to a rigid curriculum has really suited us. The freedom and flexibility has us using an eclectic style of education.  We pull our resources from several places, including EducentsThe Wise Owl Factory, Currclick, working with the Schoolhouse Review Crew, as well creating our own.

Culture is important to me as there are many different cultures in Canada, and I’d also spent two years in Japan.  The children love to learn about various cultures around the world. They are learning about Japan through our Japanese Society membership as well as crafts and activities we do together.

Obviously, I would like my children to learn about my homeland of Canada, and it’s something they get excited about. We read story books set in Canada, learn about the geography and climate. Tristan even understood about time zones when he was 3!  Most of our meals would be more reminiscent of the Canadian cultural mix than of Irish fare. The children see my family via Skype so are used to the accent, and even do crafts with Nana!

I suppose we don’t yet specifically learn about Northern Irish culture (it’s a mix of Irish and British) but of course the kids are learning something new each time we go to Belfast or take a drive in the country. As they get older we’ll do more “specific” field trips (they loved seeing an archaeological dig at Carrickfergus castle last year), and we’ll all learn together.

Examining 400-year-old clay roof tiles found at Carrickfergus Castle
Examining 400-year-old clay roof tiles found at Carrickfergus Castle

The homeschool life can get a little lonely at times without my family and friends nearby. Homeschooling is still rare here. Fortunately, I’m an introvert and I don’t mind most of the time. I treasure the time I spend with my children and husband and I wouldn’t want to be living any other life!

96e11a81e8cc7e3077997a3858449d04 About Crystal – I am a Mom, Wife, and Home Educator. We love to have fun together while learning and exploring our environment.


It can be difficult to find learning resources while living abroad. Educents has homeschool curriculum at a discount, downloadable worksheets, online lessons, and games for all learning levels.