5 Years of AfterSchoolPlans.com!

A little over five years ago, I started this website and began fumbling my way through building a business based on education, history, and the mobile family. At the time, I had a new baby and three other small children. My life felt like it consisted of cooking boring food, training little people to use the bathroom, and answering a million questions every day. I also played with dolls and matchbox cars a lot.

I had my children later in life, so I had already had a career. I started off working in higher education, ultimately working as the Director of Hoyas Unlimited at Georgetown University (the athletic alumni association). From there, I earned a degree in elementary education and began teaching. My final job, teaching U.S. History to middle schoolers, was my favorite job ever.

When my husband joined the Foreign Service and we moved to Tbilisi, Georgia, I plunged into parenting and exploring our posts. There, I taught a U.S. History course to high school students in my dining room. We talked about the our history, our world, and connections between what we were learning and what my students had seen in their expat adventures. We ate brownies, read books, and had wonderful conversations. I realized how much I missed teaching. Then, my family moved to Ecuador where then to Ukraine. I loved being at home with my kids but I missed teaching and creating and thinking about the world outside.

I had continued to stay involved with students by writing learning plans, lists of books, games, and websites to challenge, inspire, and motivate them. I created a website to provide the plans on a wider basis and then also started to create U.S. History programs to provide a resource for expat students in international schools that didn’t provide American history courses.

Finally, I had found my place. I loved writing curriculum, reading books, finding resources, and pulling together packets of materials to inspire and motivate students. I loved trying out my lessons on my kids and getting feedback from friends. For the last five years I have continued to add to my offerings and to expand my website.

I also love working with other entrepreneurs, sharing ideas and brainstorming about best practices. I’ve met some amazing people and dear friends through my business. I have been able to stay at home with my children and do something I love. One day, I hope to return to teaching and I’ll be able to show that I was involved with my subject every day. I feel lucky to have a job I love and that I can do no matter where I live.

There have been challenges, for sure. I have been made aware of many glaring weaknesses in my approach and my efforts. I’m not a great businesswoman, my marketing and advertising is pretty basic, I spend my time creating instead of selling. But, I’m working on my weaknesses, celebrating my strengths, and growing every day.

Thank you for your support. Thank you for your business. Thank you for reading.

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Education Allowance for FS families

The Supplementary Instruction Allowance, Tell Me More!

What is it?

The Supplementary Instruction Allowance provides up to $4,100 annually, per child to help foreign service and military families cover gaps in their child’s education while living overseas. Full details are in the DSSR 276.9, but here’s a quick summary of what’s covered:

  • U.S. History, Literature and Civics courses: Applicable when the child’s school at post does not offer academic subjects generally offered by public schools in the U.S., such as U.S. history, civics, American Literature, computers, English grammar, AP or IB Courses.
  • Foreign Language Learning: Applicable when the child’s school at post offers its curriculum in a foreign language which the child does not know well enough for progress in the curriculum.
  • Remedial Tutoring: Applicable when the child’s school at post requires additional instruction to enable the child to (1) enter a grade, remain in the same grade, or complete a grade in the school; or (2) successfully complete an academic course in order to progress to the next level in the sequence of courses. Also, when the child’s school at post documents that a child returning to post following authorized/ordered departure/evacuation requires additional instruction to successfully complete the current school year.
  • Gifted and Talented Programs: Applicable when the child’s school at post does not offer a Gifted and Talented (GT), or equivalent, program. Funds can be used for a GT academics-only. A letter from the school or results from a standardized GT test must be provided.

Who Qualifies?

Foreign Service Families posted overseas with DoS, USAID, and other agencies that qualify under the DSSR. Military Families posted overseas with children attending non-DoD schools qualify through the Non-DoD Schools Program (NDSP). Double-check with your Embassy FMO, USAID EXO or DoD NDSP liaison to ensure eligibility and pre-approval of expenditures.

Need More Info?

We’ve written this article as a baseline of information to use when approaching the proper stewards of the allowances. Check out this great FAQ page from DoS or talk with your FMO, EXO or NDSP liaison at post. You can also contact the Office of Allowances or NDSP Administration directly. They are all wonderful resources for figuring out how the allowances apply to your unique situation!

Authors:

Leah Evans is an EFM on her fifth post abroad in Mexico City, Mexico. She is certified in elementary education and in middle school science and social studies. She offers American-History-in-a-Box courses for expat families at www.afterschoolplans.com.

Christianna Pangalos is an EFM with a background in International Development. She has nearly eight years of experience in Education and has taught early readers in low-resourced schools and middle and high school students in History and English. She created Twiga Tutors and you can find out more at www.twigatutors.com. She currently lives in Africa.

Summer Travel with Kids: Hide the Screens & Engage

As parents, we all know that iPads, Kindle Fires, and other mobile devices can be lifesavers while traveling with our children. We use them to save our sanity during long flights, unexpected delays, and to end whining, bickering, and fighting coming from the back seat.

But obviously it’s a good idea to put away the screens at times and engage. Not only will you give your kids a better sense of place (by pulling them back into their surroundings) but you can even sneak in a little education.

Here are 5 areas for engaging your children and putting a little education into their summer travels.

GEOGRAPHY If you’re visiting a new location, talk about place. Ask your kids how the climate and topography affect housing styles, food selections, and outdoor entertainment options. How does the weather influence the way people live? How does it differ from where you currently live? Visiting national parks? Ask them about the natural formations they see and to guess how they were formed.

Screen Shot 2016-01-04 at 12.40.40 PMMATH Yes, math can be fun while traveling. On a plane? Have them calculate how long it will take to reach your destination based on speed and distance. On a cross-country road trip? Explain how division can be used to determine how many times you’ll likely stop for gas. Also, make your kids calculate how much change to expect during a purchase.

SCIENCE Here it’s best to observe, classify, and compare. What kind of plants and animals do your kids see? Compare what you see around you with where you live. Visiting a children’s museum or science center? Talk about the exhibits and how science plays a role in our daily lives.

LANGUAGE ARTS Find books about the places you plan to visit and read them to your kids before your trip. If possible, try to seek out some of the sights you read about. Teach your kids a new song to sing together in the car or play a soundtrack from a favorite musical. When age appropriate, ask everyone in your family to keep a journal.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

HISTORY Before your trip, look up some of the historical events that took place where you plan to visit. See if you can connect those events with what was happening in the U.S. (or your home country) at that time. Talk about what life was like during that period. Ask your kids how geography and location might have impacted major events in history.

Children will learn while on vacation no matter what you do. But you can help them think about their surroundings, solve problems, and make connections to what they’ve learned in school through active — but fun! — interactions. And while there may be a time and a place for screens, they should never replace real-world engagement.

So whether you’re on home leave, R&R, or summer vacation in the coming months, hide the screens and engage your children. And when you’re on the verge of losing your sanity — give them back.

American History for Expat Kids!

American History in a Box Level IIAmerican History in a Box is a standards-based elementary course on major American History themes and concepts. With four levels for different age groups, (grades K/1, 2/3, 4/5, and 6/7) the boxes include historical fiction, non-fiction, games, puzzles, supplies, and an activity book based on the Virginia Standards of Learning and the National Common Core Standards.

This overview provides a framework for future learning for Foreign Service/expatriate children who are not in standard courses offered to students living in the U.S. More information about the boxes here.

The course is intended to be fun, easy, and student-directed as many students will complete the box while attending school or during summer.

American History in a Box is reimbursable for some  families posted abroad with the U.S. government. Email us for more information and a reimbursement approval request form for your Financial Management Officer.