For the 2020/2021 school year, we’ve decided to go the homeschooling way for our son. This is something that many people in Romania (and probably all over the world) opted to do, pushed by the uncertainty of the situation caused by the coronavirus.
In today’s article, I will share with you all my thoughts about the process of homeschooling in Romania and hopefully help those interested in following the same route, no matter if they are Romanians or foreigners looking to move to Romania and homeschool their kids.
Why Choose Homeschooling in Romania?
This is a route that we always considered taking, ever since our son was born. The main reason behind this is that we like to travel and a worldschooling route seemed very attractive. But we always ended up concluding that the traditional system, despite its flaws, is the better option for our son.
Sure, getting him out of school was very convenient for us, allowing us to travel as we wanted, but he would’ve had a hard time with it. The main reason behind this was the fact that our son only speaks Romanian. It would’ve been difficult for him to make new friends – and even more so if we only stayed a month or less in a place. So eventually we decided to follow the traditional school system, mainly for the socialization aspect.
But the truth is that from an educational standpoint, we were never fans of the traditional system – one that we consider outdated. Actually, a study revealed that 42% of kids up to the age of 15 are functionally illiterate, even though they went or are going to school.
Growing in Romania, we know that the system needs to be revamped, the teachers need to be better instructed and, overall, everything has to be changed in order to make school something that actually matters and makes a difference. But at the same time, we always feared that us as parents won’t be able to offer as much as a teacher (even a bad one) would. Plus, the most important part so early in life: socializing with other kids, would’ve been even more difficult, as none of our friends have children of the same age as our son.
He is sever, so he already went to school for one year. In 2020, he was supposed to be a first grader, but he already had a bit of experience with the Romanian state school system. And, truth be told, he hated it.
He hated it because the toilets were dirty and horrible (he actually developed a phobia of going to the school toilets – which is really bad and sad for such a young kid), he didn’t like most of his colleagues because they had different interests, he was getting extremely bored at school (since they were doing stuff that he already knew) and, unfortunately, he wasn’t a big fan of his teacher either.
We were surprised when, one day, he told us that his favorite teacher at school is the Religion teacher (who was actually a priest). While we’re not atheists, we’re definitely not religious and were surprised to hear that from him. We did want to let him attend this class (in Romania, you have the choice not to if you so prefer), but decided to let him hear all sides of the story.
Either way, he was a big fan of this class, mainly because of the teacher. He was kind and never yelled. His regular teacher? Well, she got mad at all times – once so bad that she smashed a ruler on her desk and broke it. The English teacher? She never did anything with them (she would have them draw things to leave her alone). The Sports teacher? He was too stern (our son is far from being the sportsy guy, to my disappointment).
Welcome to the Romanian school system! It ranges from awesome to terrible. Make sure to read Stuart’s Romanian school experiences for some nice stories on the topic!
And the last drop came from the new virus. We’re part of those who want to stay away from it as much as possible. We know that most of the other people here – and especially most of the parents of the kids in his class believe that “we all have to get it one day” and it’s up for “God to decide who lives and who doesn’t”. Well, no, thank you!
With all these things in mind, we decided to choose homeschooling for at least one year. We decided that, at the worst, he will “lose” one year of school and will have to do it again. Which will probably not happen, because (I might sound like I’m lacking modesty, but this time it’s really the truth) our son is not just really smart, but already worked a lot at home with his mother and is at third grade level based on the Romanian system.
I do believe that we’ll actually have to stretch this to two years because I doubt things will get back to normal for the 2021/2022 school year, but fortunately our son is still young and we have no problems teaching him everything that he needs to know (as I said, he already knows everything he’s supposed to know for this year).
Is Homeschooling Legal in Romania?
Like it is the case of many other countries, Homeschooling is in the grey area in Romania. While not illegal, it’s not really legal either. In other words, you can’t choose “homeschooling” as the way to educate your children.
Also, school is mandatory for kids up to the age of 18 (or until the 10th grade – whichever comes first) so you can’t just take your kids out of the system and homeschool them.
But there are options to homeschool your kids in Romania without breaking the law and we’re going to talk about them below.
How to Homeschool your Kids in Romania?
Just like in many other places out there, you have the option to enroll your kid in a so-called umbrella school. To put it short, this is a (usually) foreign school that allows you to homeschool your kid, while also offering you all the legal cover to do so. It works like a regular school on paper, but it’s the parents which are usually responsible for deciding how to teach their children.
With the world situation being as it is, I am sure that more and more such schools will pop up in the near future. I am also sure that online learning and other alternative educational methods will become more common. But until then, in Romania, the offer is limited.
Most umbrella schools that we found were private schools based in the UK or the US. But we also found the first (at least based on what we know) such school that’s based in Romania. It’s called Cerehard and functions as a British International School, offering some nice advantages to parents that choose them. It’s also relatively cheap compared to others, at just 300 Euros per year (but the price does go up if you choose some extras).
It doesn’t really matter what school you choose though: as long as that school is authorized to function and can offer you the required paperwork the Romanian government might require to prove that your children are in school, it’s all good.
The biggest challenge – for most parents – would be to actually do the teaching. But this is something you probably know about already since you’re considering homeschooling, so hopefully it won’t be a problem.
The bright side here with all the crazyness in the world today is that more and more online courses and options – including one-on-one teaching – are becoming available. So if you’re overwhelmed or simply not knowledgeable enough to teach your child (in some areas or all), there are options.
Our experience with homeschooling (so far)
I was never the biggest fan of homeschooling because it lacks (at least in our case) the social interaction. This is the only thing that our kid lacks – friends and interacting with kids his age. So from this point of view, with all the bad things it came with, traditional school was good.
With all the drama you have to go through – from bullies to making friends and learning to solve problems yourselves – the social aspect is what prepares you for the rest of your lives. Not spending all your time with your parents.
But there are two important things that made me change my mind:
1. This year, the world went to hell and back. Well… not back completely and I wasn’t ready to take any chances. The so called “Second wave” is here in Romania and we’re getting record numbers of new infections just weeks after the school has officially started. I don’t want to go through that.
2. While the learning to solve problems aspects are nice and letting your kid go through some less than ideal situations is good training for life, it’s also potentially damaging if it’s nothing than a constant struggle each day.
Our son pretty much hated everything about school. It bored him to death (our teacher always told us he finished first every assignment and even recommended not to do extra work with him at home because he’s too advanced and disrupts the class). There was the bathroom situation with him not going there because it was so dirty it made him feel like puking (his words).
Also, he didn’t really make any friends and didn’t like to play with the other kids. With the risk of sounding like that parent who thinks his kid is the best in the world, I will say that he was a bit more mature than most kids. During the breaks, he preferred to do math for example instead of playing with the boys (for most of the time, because he sometimes felt like playing). He doesn’t really like the loud games people play and, despite his love for math, is very creative as well. He just had a different style than most of his kids.
Sure, he had found some likeminded people in the class – including a Minecraft fan like himself – but for the most part, he hated school and always came back home frustrated and angry and bored. I am not really sure this was doing him a lot of good.
So we started homeschooling. We’re less than a month in (officially) but in reality, we’ve been doing this since he was born. My wife actually handled most of his education and she did really well.
The only difference now is that we have to follow a specific curriculum and be a bit more organized – but this is actually better for us all. Our son told us that he likes it better than regular school.
He also admitted that he misses his colleagues – so it wasn’t really that bad after all. Or, at least, some good parts are still there. And this is what upsets me and saddens me the most. The fact that he can’t interact with other kids his age.
However, this is not necessarily a problem of Homeschooling itself – you can be a part of groups and have kids take part in all sorts of activities that encourage interaction. The problem is just caused by the current situation in the world – we can’t really let him interact with other kids because we know that most kids (or their parents) don’t really try to protect themselves against the virus.
We only found one other family that is homeschooling in our city and while we connected online, they are also reluctant to meet in person – which is totally understandable now. But as I said, this is only temporary and I personally hope it’s worth it in the long run.
It’s just an year. An important one, because he’s so young and it’s now when the foundation of his future self is created… but it’s the only option that we believe we have considering all the risks (not necessarily to his health if he’s to get this bug, but risks to close family members).
As one friend was replying to somebody who was saying that forcing kids to wear masks will traumatize them: “Knowing that they bring home a bug that kills one family member wouldn’t be even more traumatizing?”.
Sure, this is a bit exaggerated, but we decided to treat this with all seriousness from the beginning and we don’t want to hit the brakes now when the situation in Romania is much worse than it was when we started taking these precautions.
Back to homeschooling… how was it so far? Surprisingly well! We’re following a “traditional” school schedule, with classes starting in the morning and ending at 12. We follow the Romanian curriculum and actually using all the materials that they would at school, but we’re also slowly starting to implement some of the elements in the British Curriculum because that is the official one that he has to follow.
We’re also working hard on getting our son to learn English – his biggest problem so far. I am his teacher and – as you probably know by reading my blog – I am not the best English speaker in the world. But with the help of course books and other programs, we’ll make it work. And when he will be as close to fluent in English as possible, he will have so many more options available. So we’re pushing hard in this area.
Homeschooling is definitely not for everybody. If both parents work, I would say that it’s nearly impossible to do because it is a full time job. Fortunately, my wife doesn’t work and is patient enough to be a good teacher – at least at this level. I’m trying to help as much as I can, but with a full time job on the side, it’s not easy for me.
But we’re doing this and so far, it is working well. The stress levels are not as high as they would’ve been if he had to go to school. At least for me, because we’re trying to keep him away from all the Corona-talk and fear. Even homeschooling is presented as an experiment that might or might not work.
But so far, it works well. Surprisingly well and better than anticipated – but we’re still just at the beginning of our journey and there’s a lot of it left.
I realize now that this article ended up less organized and more personal than I initially envisioned it. But for some reason, I started writing and couldn’t stop to think about technicalities. I just let it all out and probably it’s not the most coherent, nor the most useful article about homeschooling in Romania. Maybe that state system that I was part of, the one that produces 42% of functionally illiterate people is at fault. Ha!