Home Schooling Your Child in Panama

Editor’s note: Kathy Kress is living in Panama and home schooling her two children through an accredited institution in the United States. This following article can help other parents moving to Panama with questions about Home Schooling.   A Picky Parent’s Journey into the World of Home Education By Kathy Kress  Deciding to move to coastal Panama as a family was an easy decision to make!  My husband and I knew how much our children, ages 8 and 12, would benefit from living in a foreign country and we were excited to expose them to a new language and culture. We also knew that our decision to live far from any kind of international school would mean finding creative ways to educate our kids.     About seven months before our intended move, I began researching homeschooling options.  I am a veteran teacher and I know how to judge the quality of the available programs.  I set out six basic criteria by which I would evaluate the alternatives.  These included:


  • accreditation that would be accepted by US and international schools;
  • rigorous curriculum (not watered down);
  • variety of activities as opposed to a stack of worksheets;
  • secular (not to religious);
  • flexibility in scheduling and location; and
  • fun and motivating for both students and parents!


Now that is not too much to ask, right?  I became a member of several homeschooling organizations both online and in my community and started asking questions of parents that were actually using the programs (I knew that the publishers would claim to meet all my criteria).  The answers were disappointing; most parents felt the programs they were using only met a couple of my criteria.  Yikes!  I was not willing to settle for mediocre so I kept researching.

Finally, I came upon Colorado Virtual Academy (COVA).  I attended an information session and was immediately sold!  COVA is Colorado public charter school (the largest elementary in the state!) that offers students an online education using the k12® program.  COVA students are officially enrolled in public school.  This means that the education is accredited, secular, and free; it also means that students must take the state standardized test.  As I reviewed the program at k12.com I saw that it met the rest of my criteria; it is academically challenging, motivating, easy to implement and very flexible.  My children took the online placement tests while I filled out registration forms and they were enrolled for the fall of 2007.


We were not planning on moving until October, so they kids actually started COVA in the States in August. We declined the free computer offered by COVA, but received shipment of all the rest of the materials (provided at no cost).  I was motivated by the organization and attentiveness provided by COVA and the kids were motivated by the stimulating lessons and watching their progress charts.  It was not easy to initiate the program while closing our home and business in Colorado and preparing for life in Panama, but we managed!  Some of the challenges we faced included:

  • separating and finding balance in our roles as parents and teachers;
  • motivating the kids through their least favorite lessons;
  • having to plan a trip back for the state test;
  • dealing with and planning around power outages and other computer glitches; and
  • not having other kids with whom to learn and play.



The kids just finished the first semester!  We are still convinced that we made the right decision despite the challenges.  We leave in a few weeks for the trip back for the test.  With the flexibility of schedule, the kids have been able to do extra work in the past few months and will actually finish in March.  Then they will start learning the language by attending the local public school in April!

There are 18 states that offer free public programs using the k12® program.  These usually require residency in the state; we simply use a friend’s address and agree to return for the test.  Parents that cannot find a free program that works for them can use the k12® program by paying tuition directly to k12®.  I am happy to help any readers that would like more information (panamacoastrentals@yahoo.com).