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Education options for the kid if we move overseas


Our current plan is to reside in the US until Mini RB40 starts college, then we will live part time overseas. I would like to live in Thailand and then South America for a few years each. RB40 Jr. will start college in about 16 years and we will be 56. We won’t qualify for Medicare until 65, so I want to take advantage of the lower cost of healthcare overseas while exploring the world at the same time.

Right now, we are in a pretty good school district and Jr. will attend the local public school until he graduates from high school. Of course, 16 years is a long time and who knows what can change. One of our readers asked what our education options would be if we move to Thailand before he finishes high school. Since this is a possibility, why not explore it a bit? Our current goal is for him to attend a good university in the US.

International School

Ahh… I love the internet. I just looked up the Chiang Mai International School and here is the standard annual tuition.

Grade Level       

  • Pre-School: 194,000 baht (~$6,258)
  • Grades KG thru 6: 242,000 baht ($7,806)
  • Grades 7 & 8: 263,000 baht ($8,483)
  • Grades 9 through 12: 330,000 baht ($10,645)

Additional Fees

  • Pre-School Enrollment: 10,000 baht ($323)
  • New Student Enrollment: 70,000 baht ($2,258)
  • Returning Student Fee: 10,000 baht ($323)
  • Capital Improvement Fee: 20,000 baht ($645)
  • ESL/EAP fees: 48,000 baht ($1,548) – If the kid needs English as a Second Language.

Holy crap! I knew it was expensive, but I didn’t think it was this much. The exchange rate is about 31 baht for 1 US dollar. OK, I added the US price in parentheses. It looks a little better now, but it is still quite expensive for regular people like us. Unless we’re really rich in 10 years, I don’t think this is a valid option. Even if we save on cost of living and healthcare, the education cost will just cancels it out.

This is the best option for kids whose goal is to attend college in the US or other first world countries.

Note: There is a significant discount for nonprofit organization employees and missionaries at this school.

International schools in Bangkok is much more expensive – Steve.

International School Bangkok (ISB) – Registration fees come to THB 265,000 ($8,548) and tuition for high school aged kids is THB 803,000 ($25,903!).

The American School of Bangkok – Registration fees of THB 300,000 ($9,677) and tuition for high school aged kids is THB 545,000 ($17,580)

Wells International School – Registration fees of THB 104,000 ($3,355) and tuition for high school aged kids is THB 350,000 ($11,290)

Thai Private School

Here is an option that I didn’t know about until now – bilingual schools. There are private schools in Thailand that teaches the Thai curriculum in English and Thai. We’d have to teach him US history and civics, geography, and a few other things ourselves.

The tuition is much more affordable at $1,500 to $5,000 per year depending on the school. Another good thing about this option is that he’d be able to make friends with local Thai kids (most likely well to do kids whose parents can afford these schools).

This sounds like a good compromise, but I need to do more research. I’m not sure if the kids from these schools can get into a US college or not. I suppose you can go to a US community college for two years and then transfer if getting accepted is a problem.

Another problem is the rote learning system in Thailand. Kids have a ton of homework and they are driven pretty hard. I remember lugging a huge backpack to school when I was in 3rd grade. I like the US system better because we emphasize critical thinking and creativity more. The goal of the Thai curriculum is to get accepted into a Thai university and that’s not really our plan.

This is a good option for kids who plan to live and work in Thailand for the long term. They should be able to get into a Thai university and function well in Thai society.

Home Schooling

Home schooling is not legal in every country, so you need to check for yourself. In Thailand, it is fine to home school your kid. We would follow our state’s requirement and use the US based curriculum. From my minimal research, testing is required at grades 3, 5, 8, and 10.

If we relocate to another country, it would mean that we’re both not working a regular job anymore. We would have time to educate our kid. I don’t it will be that difficult if we split it between two people. Socialization might be a problem though. It would be really tough to make friends in a foreign country when you don’t go to school.

Online Schooling

Oregon has a Free Online School program – Oregon Connections Academy. This sounds like a great option because we’d be able to follow the standard US curriculum. I’d have to check with them to make sure expats can enroll, though.

There are also many other internet based public and private homeschooling programs. From what I understand, most of these programs are tuition free or have a minimal cost.

Thai Public School

Of course, Thailand has public schools too. From what I read, this is not a good option for expats. The class size is huge and the quality of education is questionable.

Stick with Plan A

We plan to stick with our plan A as of now. RB40 Jr. can attend public school here and then go to college next. After that, we’ll live part time in another country to enjoy a better standard of living on a budget. However, we could also relocate earlier if the stars align. Perhaps if we live in Thailand for 6 months/year, then we can go with a combination of online and homeschooling. He can attend school here for a semester and then we’d home school for the other semester.

If you have kids, would you relocate to another country?

photo credit: flickr SEE TEFL Teacher training

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Joe started Retire by 40 in 2010 to figure out how to retire early. He spent 16 years working in computer design and enjoyed the technical work immensely. However, the job became too stressful and Joe retired from his engineering career to become a stay-at-home dad/blogger at 38. Today, he blogs about financial independence, early retirement, investing, and living a frugal lifestyle.

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{ 56 comments… add one }
  • SavvyFinancialLatina October 18, 2013, 8:22 am

    If we have kids, we have decided want to live abroad. We want them to experience other cultures and learn many different languages. Of course they’ll learn Spanish (my 1st language) and English.But I want them to learn other languages. I don’t want them to grow up having just an American perspective.

    • retirebyforty October 18, 2013, 2:10 pm

      Really? I want to travel internationally and send him on an exchange program, but not live abroad full time. The education expense is just one reason.

  • getrichwithme October 17, 2013, 7:18 am

    I would move to the South of France or Portugal tomorrow if I could. If I ever get to the position of earning $2,000 a month from my sites then I will.
    I have an 18 year old and a 13 month old – the 18 year old thoroughly approves the 13 month old has no choice!

  • Fab October 17, 2013, 4:59 am

    Hi Joe. Great topic.

    What if you son wants to attend an university outside the US? Have you estimated the impact of that scenario? I am wondering how the funds saved in a 529 could be used at all then.

    • davidmichael October 18, 2013, 11:02 am

      Our grandaughter is paying about $7000 a year for attending the university in Vencie, Italy (plus flights home to Boulder.) She teaches English part-time, to give her extra travel funds.

  • papadad October 17, 2013, 12:00 am

    We are expatriates and live in China. Been here for 6.5 years. We have 2 boys – 11th grade and 8th grade now. Our two boys have attended a large international school for what is now their seventh year (very rare in expat world where the transient nature has new students coming and going frequently). We have debated moving on to other locations but now it’s the kids (not so much the job) that is keeping us here, at least til the eldest graduates. The younger one will have to make a transition before starting grade 10 — not sure where we will go next, maybe back to hilbilly USA (but hey…free education) Difficult to move in the last 2 years of highschool. Things like SAT’s etc are all part of the plan with eventual education for both back in the USA at a US university.

    I wont lie — it’s damn expensive and we would not have done this for so long had the company not helped cover some of the tuition expenses. It works out to about $32K USD per student per year. Yea…pretty much rediculous but it’s what the market will bear. It’s true capitalism. It is what I consider to be a “very good” education – probably equivalent to what they would get at one of the top public school districts in terms of teacher caliber and curriculum, facilities, etc. But it ain’t no harvard and that’s about the cost of tuition per kid per year. Keep that in mind… About 98% of the graduating students go on to university somewhere, and about 80% of those eventually graduate from a 4 year university with bachelors degree in hand

    All that said, there are many pro and con aspects to living abroad and giving your children a global education – it extends way way way beyond the classroom (language skills, culture, world view, etc etc) and to me, it has been worth the hard work to be in this position/assignment and it is certainly one of the benefits of being abroad. I would do it again in a moment because it has helped mold my kids in positive ways and i see the long term benefit of having this kind of experience early in life.

    There are certainly lower cost options, but I’ve seldom seen good education abroad cost less than about $10K USD per year. If you plan to live abroad, do it either on someone else’s dime, or be prepared to pay for education, or wait til the kids are off to university and then make the move.

    • retirebyforty October 17, 2013, 10:43 am

      Thanks for your comment. We probably can swing it for a few years because we only have one kid. It would be nice to get a company package though. $32k/year per kid is ridiculous.
      A global education sounds attractive to me too. It will be a chance for our kid to see the world. Most kids in the US have no idea what the rest of the world is like.

  • sylvia October 16, 2013, 10:31 pm

    We just returned from Geneva, Switzerland after a 2 year stay. Our 2 children, now ages 6 and 9, went to public school there. It was a bit of a shock for them, but they did well and learned French (they went there without knowing ANY French). I wouldn’t recommend this for older kids, though.

    • retirebyforty October 16, 2013, 11:41 pm

      That sounds great too. Did you go there for work? It must be difficult to immigrate to countries with great educational system.

  • davidmichael October 16, 2013, 7:46 pm

    During my junior year in high school I went to the International School in Athens, Greece.
    It was definitely the highlight of my high school experience unlike the Jesuit High School I attended in Washington, D.C. I can’t say enough positive things about schooling abroad. One of our granddaughters spent a year in Sardinia, Italy for her junior year in high school, and now is a college student in Venice, Italy where she is majoring in Mandarin Chinese. (She already speaks Italian, Spanish and French fluently.) She’ll spend her junior year in college in a Chinese University. The American International School system, located in many capitals of the world, is outstanding in my opinion.

    • retirebyforty October 16, 2013, 11:40 pm

      That sounds amazing. I wonder if there is an international exchange program for high school kids. That might be a good option.
      Wow, going to college in Venice must be like living a dream. It’s so beautiful there.

      • Pat October 17, 2013, 12:54 pm

        Have you heard about AFS ? It is a wonderful program for high school kids to live and study in foreign countries for a year. http://www.afs.org/

        • retirebyforty October 17, 2013, 10:49 pm

          That sounds like a great program. I will check it out. Thanks for sharing.

      • davidmichael October 18, 2013, 10:50 am

        Rotary International does have a wonderful exchange program for high school students. My daughter went to France for a summer and lived with a family there, and we in turn accepted a French student to live with us. Her highlight was going crabbing off the Oregon coast! My granddaughter, as described above, was an exchange student for the year in Sardinia with Rotary. I can’t say enough good things about Rotary programs.

        You might think about having a Thai student stay with you for a short time so your son can get an idea of being a student in Thailand. One of the most important things I learned in my professional years of travel (over 30) is that the USA is just another country struggling to create a future for its citizens…not necessarily better or worse. It seems that every place I travel believes it is the best place or people from the Masai in East Africa to the Republicans in the US Congress. It’s all illusion of course, and frankly I have been most impressed with the resurgence of northern Europe since WW II. It seems what they have gained, we have lost from healthcare, education, retirement, and meaningful work. The problems with most Americans is that barely 20 percent have travelled out of country and only a few percent have actually lived in another country. Being constantly lied to with misinformation and progoganda is not an answer to a healthy and meaningful lifestyle or successful democracy.

        In short, I believe that every American family should send their children, one time or another, to live in a foreign country. The benefits to a young person are infinite (imho).

  • krantcents October 16, 2013, 5:54 pm

    The overseas private education was not expensive compared to the U.S. Education is super important and determine one’s success.

  • Steve October 16, 2013, 4:00 pm

    Thanks for mentioning me Joe 🙂

    To those who thought the tuition was reasonable, I want to mention that tuition for Chiang Mai is far less than tuition for schools in Bangkok. Here are three Bangkok international schools that teach to the American curriculum:

    International School Bangkok (ISB) – Registration fees come to THB 265,000 ($8,548) and tuition for high school aged kids is THB 803,000 ($25,903).

    The American School of Bangkok – Registration fees of THB 300,000 ($9,677) and tuition for high school aged kids is THB 545,000 ($17,580)

    Wells International School – Registration fees of THB 104,000 ($3,355) and tuition for high school aged kids is THB 350,000 ($11,290)

    As you can see, the price range is quite broad and in no case is it cheap. There are also additional fees at each of the schools for uniforms, books, transport, lunch, extra-curriculars, etc. That being said, having lived in Bangkok for 3 years already, if we were to stay here once my daughter reaches first grade, there is no way we would send her anywhere other than one of the international schools. As it turns out, we are planning on coming back to the U.S. for her education no later than first or second grade (she is 3 1/2 now). We feel there are just too many benefits of living in the U.S. for her to not take advantage of them. We will likely come back to Thailand for extended vacations as she grows up and she can make her own decision where she ultimately wants to live (she is a dual passport holder).

    • retirebyforty October 16, 2013, 11:38 pm

      Whoa, that’s really ridiculous. Who the heck send their kids to these schools?
      I think living in the US is much better for the kids too. It’s good to expose them to other cultures, but I like the US education system better.

  • [email protected] October 16, 2013, 12:36 pm

    My wife grew up in Central America and she went to a bilingual school there (and they actually did teach some US history). I think many families intended to have their kids attend school in the US. My wife did go to school in the US. I think it is doable…and whether he is accepted will probably be based on SAT scores.

    • retirebyforty October 16, 2013, 2:08 pm

      Don’t they take a different test? The English portion of the SAT would be tough for most foreign kids.

      • [email protected] October 22, 2013, 9:43 am

        I think there is an option to take the Toefl or something like, but I think you have the option to take the SAT as well if you feel comfortable with that.

  • payitoff October 16, 2013, 11:27 am

    thank you so much for this post!!! my husband is convincing me to move to Hawaii in 3-4 years and im quite worried with their school system there, i heard even the private schools there is bad, anyone here have that experience/knowledge? kids will be in middle school by then.

    have anyone considered moving to Hawaii at all here? thoughts?

    cost of living is kind of in los angeles or new york, houses cost about the same as here in CA, plus its paradise 😉

    • retirebyforty October 16, 2013, 2:07 pm

      You should email Sam from Financial Samurai. He knows more about the Hawaii system.
      Homeschooling? Maybe you just need to find the right school. I would love to move to Hawaii at some point too. Maybe after we’re tired of traveling. 🙂

  • Mom @ Three is Plenty October 16, 2013, 11:22 am

    Considering education as an expat would be interesting. We live in what’s considered one of the best school systems in the country, and we’re trying to stay in the county until Daughter Person turns 18, then it’s up in the air where we go. I would lean towards sending her to whatever the local school option is – whether that’s public school, private school, etc. I have many friends who are not US natives that applied and were accepted in US colleges, and I know they didn’t attend an “international” school. I don’t know what the stats are, but anecdotally, it’s not an issue.

    • retirebyforty October 16, 2013, 2:06 pm

      US colleges love international students. They pay a lot more tuition and help the diversity.

  • Pat October 16, 2013, 11:08 am

    We have moved 3 countries in the last 10 years. My son starts Early education from 20 months to 2.5 years old at the international school on Borneo island . We are now living in the US. We might move back to Asia again in near future( we looked at Beijing) My son Would attending an international school there . We are planing to end the last posting in Europe so, our son would spend his adolescent year there before heading back here to College in US.
    From what I have seen in public education here compare to what I saw in international schools I am much prefer the later.

    • retirebyforty October 16, 2013, 2:05 pm

      Is schooling part of your package? International school just seems so expensive.
      I prefer international schools too, but it might be out or reach. Perhaps in 10 years we will be able to afford it with no problem…

      • Pat October 17, 2013, 12:49 pm

        Yes, the company paid for school and housing etc.

  • wallet engineer #1 October 16, 2013, 10:51 am

    I really enjoyed your thoughts as this is a variable I’ve waved my hands and covered up in most of my calculations.

    • retirebyforty October 16, 2013, 2:04 pm

      The US system is not perfect, but it’s really not that bad. I guess it depends on where you live.

  • C. the Romanian October 16, 2013, 10:34 am

    Wow, I had no idea that education would be so expensive in Thailand where I thought that everything is extremely cheap 🙂 Here in Romania education is free up to the 12th grade but I don’t know if there are any teaching in English. College is extremely cheap too and even though things have gone downwards a little bit, Romania still has an incredible college system: the most expensive is the Medical specialization at about $8,0000 per year and it is full of foreign students. However, general prices are lower – I paid $1,000 yearly for a really good University.

    • retirebyforty October 16, 2013, 2:03 pm

      Ooops. I forgot to add public school. We could go to public school, but probably wouldn’t get a very good education…

      • roxana October 17, 2013, 12:06 pm

        In Romania, like most ex-communist countries, you would not want to put your child in a private school or university. Really, only kids who cannot enter to a public high school end up in a private one. The same with universities, it’s reverse than in West. You have entrance exams for high schools and universities. Proper exams, no interviews. Hence, it doesn’t matter who your parents are, you have the same chances of entering a good university.

        I’ve looked at US SAT tests, and really they are a joke. Yes, they are that easy.

        • retirebyforty October 17, 2013, 10:48 pm

          Really? That’s interesting. I did not know that.
          I thought the SAT was pretty hard. I got good math score, but my English score was mediocre.
          Are you 18? I’m sure it’s different when you look at it from an adult’s eyes. I should take a look at it again.

  • Done by Forty October 16, 2013, 10:13 am

    We are planning to live abroad for a period of time while we have children, but we were thinking maybe only for a year or two. But the best laid plans…

    I have a teaching credential so I think home schooling would be an option, as long as the local laws permitted it.

    • retirebyforty October 16, 2013, 2:02 pm

      A year or two would be great for the kids to experience life outside of the US. Good luck!

  • moneystepper October 16, 2013, 8:49 am

    It seems likes a fairly big gamble to make for your child’s education, but I’m sure that many people have had positive experiences.

    In the education tables from 2007, US was 21st and UK was 31st. I think we have probably declined since then. There are many countries above us with cheaper cost of living.

    Thailand is 71st by the way…

    • retirebyforty October 16, 2013, 2:02 pm

      Where can I find that ranking? Thailand’s public system is not doing very well.

  • Wilson October 16, 2013, 8:25 am

    I would like to spend an extended period of time overseas again in a few years (Europe or South America) but the school conundrum is the biggest obstacle. I just really hate traveling in the summertime, and the only way to get around that would be to go during the fall or spring. I’m not too concerned about the educational systems abroad because our daughter is not quite to the pre-K stages yet, and I think it’s probably not a bad thing to be exposed to another system of learning, plus we would have the free time to supplement her learning. But I do have a concern about getting her back into a school here after being gone for a semester. Most schools and their administrators are too rigid in their mindset about the way kids are supposed to advance that it may end up holding her back, even though in my opinion it would really be a tremendous benefit for her. We live in an area where there is no local school per se for her to go to – everything is a charter school and you have to apply to multiple schools. Most parents send their kids to private schools because of the legacy of ineptness of the local public school board. So getting her back into a good local school is more of a concern for me than where she would go if we went abroad.

    I actually have the opposite problem as relates to expenses. If she can’t win the lottery (yes, there really is a lottery, even if you ace the entrance tests. Who knew 3 year olds had to take a mini-SAT to compete for admission to pre-K?) to get into the few acceptable public charter schools, it’d be cheaper for me to pay for an international school abroad than a local private school.

    • retirebyforty October 16, 2013, 1:59 pm

      Really? I thought kids can be gone for a semester and pick right back up. Ahh, I see about the charter school. Perhaps the internet courses would fill in the gap.
      Wow, your schooling system sounds messed up…
      Good luck!

  • Pretired Nick October 16, 2013, 7:50 am

    That’s a lot of baht! You might be able to start with some summertime longer trips there so he begins to learn the culture and you can do some exploring. Once you’re local, it’d be a lot easier to find affordable options.

    • retirebyforty October 16, 2013, 1:57 pm

      I’m planning a 3 months visit in 2 or 3 years. 🙂
      Probably not going to go native though.

  • Justin @ RootofGood October 16, 2013, 7:50 am

    Joe, I love the analysis! We did the same type of analysis when we (mostly just me) were considering the expat lifestyle to somewhere like Mexico or Thailand. Tuition for schools aren’t ridiculous (a few thousand $ per year on the low end it seems), but for us it would add up quickly for 3 kids.

    I’ve never been that interested in homeschooling our kids (maybe I’m too lazy??), although that is always an option.

    In the end, we decided to stay put in the US. Our cost of living is low enough that we wouldn’t save huge amounts of money by doing the expat thing (although the different sights and sounds would be cool and culturally enriching by itself!). Combine low cost of living here with “free” pretty good public education for the kids, and it makes the expat lifestyle (with kids) less appealing.

    Perhaps in 17 more years when the kids are out of the house?? 🙂

    • retirebyforty October 16, 2013, 1:56 pm

      Homeschooling would be the last option for us too. I think our public school is pretty good so that’s what we’re doing for now.
      I’m sure we could live a more comfortable lifestyle on the same budget. We can afford to hire more helps for example. In the US labor cost is just too expensive.

  • aB October 16, 2013, 7:31 am

    I’m in the belief of ‘once they start school, don’t move,’ which just makes home buying all that more difficult.

    • retirebyforty October 16, 2013, 1:54 pm

      I think moving once in a while is fine. People move. Kids need to learn about diversity too. Life is not a bed of roses.

  • Financial Samurai October 16, 2013, 6:46 am

    I see FULL SCHOLARSHIP to UC Berkeley in the future!

    • retirebyforty October 16, 2013, 1:53 pm

      That’s my dream. I’m sure we can use the 529 fund for something else. 😉

  • Jane October 16, 2013, 6:39 am

    Hi Joe! I have kids and also dream about relocating somewhere just for the experience and the adventure. However, I would never think about putting my kids through school in a country whose education system is not at par or better than the US system.

    • retirebyforty October 16, 2013, 1:53 pm

      Not even for a year or two? They would learn a lot from the experience. I’m not sure if the Thai system is inferior, it’s just different. I like the US system better as mentioned above.

      • Ian Fleming June 20, 2016, 1:27 pm

        The USA system is a standard against which you judge all school systems? 4 kids committed suicide in my high school (Pennsylvania)… I would never consider forcing a kid to go to school in America.

        • retirebyforty June 21, 2016, 10:39 am

          Sorry to hear that. The US system isn’t great, but it’s not that bad. I guess it depends on which school you are in. The schools in Asia are pretty crazy. They study like mad over there. If you are still in high school, you should try to go on the exchange program. You’ll get a chance to see how school in other countries are. What would be the alternative? Home schooling? That’s not fun for the kids either…

  • bill October 16, 2013, 6:21 am

    wouldn’t want to take kids away from existing family already here and friends too. those prices seem pretty reasonable, considering what we are paying for private school here.

    • retirebyforty October 16, 2013, 1:52 pm

      How much are you paying for private school? Actually, I heard that international school could be much more expensive. I’ll update the price above.

  • [email protected] October 16, 2013, 5:28 am

    If we didn’t have kids, we would definitely consider relocating overseas. But, I couldn’t stand to take my kids away from their grandparents at this point. I couldn’t live with myself.

    • retirebyforty October 16, 2013, 1:51 pm

      It’s really nice to have grandparents close by. I’m very happy that my parents could visit us for an extended amount of time.

  • [email protected] October 16, 2013, 12:17 am

    No kids here Joe but I would be afraid of the difference in education between countries. If you have good schools in your neighborhood you’re already paying for it.

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