Raising children overseas is reality for us. We said “goodbye” to our home country (USA) and moved to the land-locked country of Paraguay, South America almost 11 years ago with the purpose of serving in a tribal location. When we came to Paraguay, we had two small children and immediately settled into the capital city to learn Spanish and began raising our children here in this beautiful bilingual country.
Raising children overseas means that our children’s home is not their passport country. Paraguay is home. It is where we live. It is where their beds, stuffed animals, legos, bikes, and special treasures are. It is where their school books are for homeschool. It is where their pet dog is. It is where our church is. It is home. And I can tell you right now that if you can ask any of our children “Where is home?” they would first say “Paraguay.” Then they would try to explain like all missionary kids that when they are in the USA, home is in West Virginia, Missouri, and Florida.
Raising children overseas means they are thousands of miles from their relatives. Our children do not get to run over to their grandparent’s house for sleepovers, yummy snacks, learn a new musical instrument, or go to the beach. Now, thanks to the digital age, we can Skype, share pictures on Facebook, and use MagicJack for local phone calls, yet there is nothing like being together in person. Being thousands of miles apart also means we do not get together for family reunions or holidays. One blessing is that my husband’s siblings and their families also live here in Paraguay, and we are able to get together with them once in a while.
Raising children overseas involves new languages. It requires that we have lots of flexibility, dependence on God, and a learner’s attitude. Paraguay is a bilingual country, speaking both Spanish and Guarani, and there are also many foreigners with their languages that are spoken in the country like German, English, and Portuguese. In our home, we speak English, yet we encourage and provide a variety of contexts for our children to learn Spanish. There are times when our children long for everything to be in English, and we as parents have to be sensitive when they need some time to rest.
Raising children overseas means learning new cultures. The Paraguayan culture is unique. We love the value placed on family and relationships. We love the Paraguayan people, the Spanish language, the traditional foods, and the late nights. We love spending time drinking Paraguayan tea called yerba mate and also how important it is to greet each person either with handshakes, hugs, and kisses on the cheeks, and how it makes you feel important.
Raising children overseas means education decisions are harder. Here in the capital city, there are many options. Our children attended a private Paraguayan school for three years. Then, we decided to homeschool them. As a family, it gave us more flexibility to travel and to focus on their English studies. Our children love homeschooling, and as a mom, I enjoy the daily opportunity to invest in their lives and education.
Raising children overseas means there are times when our children miss things from their home country. They miss playing in the snow, eating Reese’s Peanut Butter cups, Life cereal, their Sunday school classes in English, and their friends. What do we do when this happens? We walk through the rough times with them, and together we focus on the things we are thankful for here — like the creek and beautiful waterfalls that we visit two or three times a year, our pet dog and how much fun he is, and the various trips and adventures to tribal villages.
Raising children overseas is a blast, and it is hard. Yet, I would not trade it for anything else in the world.