“You expect me to send thousands of dollars to someone I’ve never met, who isn’t even on the same continent as me, to virtually receive coaching that will change my life!?!”
Gaining trust, establishing a reputation, getting that invoice paid, and growing your client list is never easy. But eight, five, even two years ago, selling your service as a location-independent, 100% online business was astronomically tougher.
Of course, virtual work isn’t new. And for all the crushing restrictions brought on by the pandemic, it also liberated us from having to make selections based on proximity.
Everyone realized (and embraced) that you can learn ballet from a teacher across the world or choose a therapist you click with and enjoy sessions in your pajamas, etc.
Even something sensitive like telemedicine – one correct rash diagnosis later, and it’s bye-bye skepticism, and hello trio of convenience, global accessibility, and progressive efficiency. In fact, you’ll probably see your doctor for an appointment you would’ve otherwise skipped because (insert busy life reason).
It’s my pleasure to welcome you to a new 5-part series highlighting expat topics that are untold, taboo, or just plain underdiscussed.
This week, Chase Eskelsen and Julie Taylor join me to kick it all off by discussing education options that often go under the radar – right when we need them most. Digital education, not the imposed patchwork kind you and your kids have muddled through the past 16 months out of necessity, but rather a well-established, internationally connected alternative to traditional learning.
Chase is the Chief Learning Officer at Verano Learning Partners, and Julie is the Headmaster of The Bridge School. Today, we’ll explore this lesser-known yet equally proven system designed to help parents out of a lurch and meet children where they are, supporting them beyond their academic success.
What You’ll Learn in this Episode:
- The COVID Slide
- Solutions for fly-in, fly-out parents
- Getting a quality education in a country that doesn’t offer one
- Emergency distance learning vs. prepared digital education
- Protecting your child from undue stress
Listen to the Full Episode
Featured on the Show:
Mini-challenge alert! It’s all about YOU, so tell me what topics you want to hear discussed on Expat Happy Hour. And if I pick your idea, you’ll win a small prize. The suggestion box is open, so give it a shot right here!
- Wisdom Fusion 6-Week Learning Series
- Sundae’s Facebook Business Page – Sundae Schneider-Bean LLC
- Sundae’s Facebook Group – Expats on Purpose
- Verano Learning Partners
- The Bridge School
We’re delighted by our nomination to the global Top 25 Expat Podcasts!
Full Episode Transcript:
Hello. It is 10:00 am in New York, 4:00 pm in Johannesburg, and 9:00 pm in Bangkok. Welcome to the Expat Happy Hour. This is Sundae Schneider-Bean from www.sundaebean.com. I am a solution-orientated coach and intercultural strategist for individuals and organizations. I am on a mission to help you adapt and succeed when living abroad and get you through any life transition.
Straight talk. That is what I promise you.
And I am committed to highlighting aspects of our globally mobile lives that we are NOT talking about.
We have just completed an amazing series on intergenerational relationships, focusing on what happens when women learn from other women across the generational lines. I promise to share more on that as we go but for now we are going to turn our attention to topics that zoom in specifically on our globally mobile lives….specifically those that do NOT get enough attention.
So this episode kicks off a 5-part series highlighting topics that are either too little known, taboo or simply behind the curtain.
I am doing the opposite of what some marketing specialists might recommend, “talk about what is popular.” Not this time. Because what gets overlooked can be powerful.
Because I want you to know you’re not alone. And I want you to have the resources you need at your fingertips that you didn’t even know existed.
So to get us started, it’s a situation many families get in that feels like being stuck between a rock and a hard place. And I know you know that feeling.
The worst is when you feel like you know what you want, but you’re stuck between two seemingly conflicting needs, especially when you are trying to pursue your work, raise kids, and live abroad.
You know what I’m talking about? You want to stay in the country that you love and meet your child’s unique learning needs. You want to keep your daughter in school that she adores and you want to help your oldest pursue her dream of professional basketball. You want to be there to support your aging parents, when they need you the most and you want to keep your kids on track in school. You want to accept that job abroad and offer your children stability.
It’s like you see the big picture, but you’re missing a puzzle piece to make it happen and that piece is often tied to our children’s education. And that is exactly why I have invited two experts in education onto Expat Happy Hour today. So it is my absolute pleasure to welcome Chase Eskelsen, the Chief Learning Officer at Verano Learning Partners and Julie Taylor, the Headmaster of the Bridge School with us today on Expat Happy Hour. So thank you for being here.
Chase: Thanks so much for having us. We are so happy to be with you today.
Julie: Thanks, Sundae. It’s great to be here.
Sundae: Okay. So I’m going to, I need to brag on you guys a little bit and I’m going to tell a little bit more about what you do. And then I’m going to let you take over and help us understand your expertise that could really add value to the globally mobile families. The first thing I want to say is we all met. I think, right around lockdown last year and your company, the combination of Verano Learning Partners and the Bridge School reached out to me because you really wanted to deeply understand the challenges of expat life. And I just wanted to give you kudos for that, because I know a lot of organizations that work with globally mobile families, but they are not as committed as your organization was to really understanding your community.
So I just wanted to say that’s amazing and that is why I’ve actually asked you to join me today because I learned so much when we were working together that I thought, “Hey, more people need to know I know this.” Because I see these challenges all the time happening with the women that I work with. With the ones on expats assignment with accompanying partners that people are often stuck in that double bind. And actually, the ironic thing is that there are solutions for challenges that they think are not solvable. So, thank you for joining us today.
Julie: Yeah, thanks Sundae so much. I agree. I think that at the time we were able to really understand the mobile market and understand the problems that mobile families are having across the world. And I think that with the pandemic, when we first met last year, it really took education in a tailspin along with the entire world. And what was maybe a taboo or not widely accepted is online education or fully virtual schools has now become something that was born out of necessity. And many schools had to improvise and pivot on the fly. While, you know, the Bridge School and the Bridge School students were able to continue learning and not have that gap. And so it’s been such an incredible learning experience this year.
Sundae: Well, I want to sort of bring in the audience for a second when they’re thinking, “Okay. Online learning.” Our people are probably sick of hearing the word “online learning” right now because so many schools were unprepared and you’ve been doing this for decades, right? So the parents have been feeling the brunt of unprepared schools having to pivot. And thankful your students didn’t have to do that. Can you help our audience understand what are the unique problems that expat families face that you solve?
Julie: Right. Well, we understand that expat and mobile families when they are living abroad in other countries, many times they want to be able to allow their kids to get into the culture of that country. We understand that they want to dive into that school. So we know that we, as an online option, we’re not the choice for every family and we’re not trying to be the choice for every family. But we too, like you said, we know that there are some problems that expat families face. And some of those problems are where there is a fly-in, fly-out family member, and they are home for a short amount of time. And the children are faced with having to go to school while one of their parents is home for a short time. One of the things that we offer that is fantastic is that we allow our families to take a short break within their semester. They can take a two to three week break while their family members are all together and then they can jump back into their semester after their parent has flown back out.
So that’s one of the ways that we’re able to help solve some of those expat issues.
Sundae: Right. Fly-in, fly-out is a really big deal. And I know that there are some people who are working. I know I learned about fly-in fly-out life when I was in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso with the mining community. So I’m sure there are some listeners here who hear fly-in fly-out, and they are sick to their stomach, because they get sick of it. But, what you’re saying is so families who are feeling like the continuity that their face in person school currently offers doesn’t allow for those unique windows when other family members come in, in person. So that’s a unique approach I didn’t even know about.
Julie: Yeah, yeah, that’s oftentimes what we see. And we also see families that the family member, the parent might be wanting to take a job in another country, but there might not be a strong school system in the country that they are wanting to move to and that’s limiting their career choices. And so partnering up with an online, virtual school allows the student to get a quality accredited education while living in an area that might not be able to provide that type of top-notch education.
Sundae: That’s really interesting and that would also help companies with recruitment, I think, if they’re having a hard time getting the right people for those jobs that would be a great way to bridge that gap.
Julie: Absolutely. Yeah, Chase and I have actually worked a little bit with a few recruiters, global recruiters on allowing parents to find these types of options and not just the local option. So that is definitely something that if you have that as something that’s in your wheelhouse to talk to a HR recruiter, find out what options are available and not just the local options.
Sundae: I’m also thinking about binational families, right? I have clients who are living locally, I don’t know, let’s say East Africa. And one of them is let’s say America and the other person is Tanzanian and they want their kids to have an education that would prepare them to go back to the US, they want their kids to be raised dual culturally and they’re already living in Tanzania. But that would be another option for binational families to have that duality of education so they are prepared to go, let’s say to a university.
Julie: Yeah. Absolutely. Absolutely. So we actually provide our students with an American-based diploma and what’s really neat about that is we have international students, we have American students. And so we have students who have very recently applied to American universities and been accepted, and we have students who have been accepted universities in Spain, France, and Holland. So that’s fantastic when you’re looking at where you want to go. Or where your students want to go after high school.
Sundae: So interesting.
Chase: Sundae, I think there’s a really important note to make here: when families are looking for an international school, it’s really important to consider things like accreditation. It’s really important to look for things like, if you’re a sports student, look for NCAA eligibility, if you’re planning on coming to The States to play higher level sports. But there’s different pieces that families should definitely be looking into when making that decision.
Sundae: Say more like, what are some factors that people need to be thinking about?
Chase: Well, they definitely need to be thinking, what the overall experience is going to be like. So for instance, one of the things that we have learned through our time with you and with these global mobility recruiters, there’s a lot of different options when it comes to international schools. Some families are looking for that big beautiful old building, and the students are in their classes with their 300, 500, 600 students and all the extras that come along with that. The extracurricular activities, the camps, that happen throughout the summers. And that might be something you want to look at for your student.
Some families, however, are looking for a little bit more flexibility. When you look at why people choose to be expats, one reason is they want to go and experience the world around them. They’re in a new country, they’ve got new foods. They’ve got new museums. They’ve got all these great things they want to experience and so you might want to look for a digitally-based program that really allows that flexibility to go and to do these things, perhaps during the day when other students are in their brick-and-mortar schools. I would never say there’s one school that’s the right fit for every family but there is a right fit for every family if you know how to go look for it.
Sundae: And like you said, it’s not for everybody but it was important to me to share this because I don’t think this is an option that a lot of people know about and I want to just really make sure if I haven’t said it already that there’s we I have no affiliate relationship with with the Bridge School or Verona Learning Services. I just wanted to share this because I’m thinking of three or four personal cases in the last year, in my community, where people were really stuck between a rock and a hard place. And every single time I’m like, “Hey, did you guys know about this option? Because this could help your struggle.” And can we talk about something that I think is, I’m going to say “The elephant in the room,” international schools are expensive.
Here’s what I’ve noticed over the years, international schools and I’m not saying that’s a whole other topic but they’re expensive. And if your job situation changes and you are now in a position where you’re expected to pay for the international school privately, it can be really prohibitive. Not everybody has access to corporate support or governmental support or whatever it is to afford an international school education. Or they did and something changed. And now, they’re there for us with this situation of like, “Do we have to find our way back to our home country,” which maybe they haven’t even lived there for 12, 15 years, “or can we stay where we’re at?” At least until the shock dissipates, right? Whatever life situation has happened, that they’ve lost that connection through the corporate organization, or government organization and it’s an opportunity. Because it’s a lot more affordable than a classic brick and mortar international school.
Julie: Yeah, absolutely. So Sundae, I remember shortly after we met and I think you were almost in a situation with your own children where you didn’t know if you were going to get back to Africa in time for their school to start.
Julie: So there’s been situations where because of travel or because of job loss like COVID, we know we know that families have lost jobs because of COVID. And so because of those situations you are exactly right, sometimes even if there is a viable school solution in a certain area, it can be really expensive and if you have lost that job, you might not be able to afford it. So I agree. 100%.
Sundae: And it is scary, I remember, because when you were saying that my eyes were darting left and right left and right left and right, because it made me think about that decision process we were going through. Like, “What if we can’t get back? What if they’re not going to go online? What if?” And we could have sent our kids to a local Swiss school, but then it would be a completely different education system, right? And even though they speak Swiss-German, they would have to now, get used to being in a Swiss-German dominated school environment and then learn math and all those other things in high German. And they would have been completely smashed for six months with that overwhelm. And that sort of temporary solution and my heart just races, when I think about that. That would have put my kids under really undue stress. Yeah, that makes a difference.
Chase: Well as educators, one of the things that is really unfortunate from my perspective, I’m sure I can speak from Julie on this as well as throughout the COVID situation, we’ve seen one of the biggest most quickly removed benefits from expat packages has been that education allowance for the students. And this is a real problem that a lot of people are dealing with right now. That was one of the first things that they stripped out of the package. And so now, the question is, how do we pay for this? How do we ensure that our students still get a great education?
And that is one of the benefits I believe of digital education is there’s no buildings that we have to pay for. There’s no facilities costs. Now, sure, there are a lot of costs from our perspective on the back end because you still have to have server space, you still have to have all the infrastructure in place. And I think Sundae, what is different between what a truly intentionally built digital program looks like versus what everyone else out there, that’s throwing a digital program together, last minute out of necessity, I like to call that emergency distance learning that’s not true digital learning. They’re completely different.
Having a curriculum that’s built and it’s rich with media and exciting things happening throughout the school day versus looking at a PDF all day. These are very different things. But the benefit of a digital program is without the cost of those buildings and things, the cost is reasonable. It’s something that people can actually afford to get into, which is great for families that are going through unprecedented times and oftentimes stress related to the financials of lost jobs and lost packages and all those kinds of things.
Sundae: And abrupt transitions and expected transitions. And here’s the thing, we’ve been through a couple unexpected transitions and I have a hundred percent location independent job. So for me, I’m cool. My husband, if he has to stay back somewhere, I can solo parent the kids. But it’s like, where do they go to school, right? The education is the biggest factor for families and maybe I’m wrong, but that’s my gut instinct. When you are in those abrupt transitions, you want to make sure that education remains consistent.
I learned a lot too. When we were working together about students with really unique, I’m going to say unique needs like ballerinas and basketball players. Children who are really excelling in sports and parents want to support that career choice. But it’s hard to do both. So can you say more about that? Because that was brand new for me and I know there are people in my audience who have that situation.
Julie: Absolutely. We actually have a really high population of student athletes. We partner with a couple of sports leagues. So one being the Houston Ballet and another being a basketball league in Ireland, where these students are looking for professional careers, in their future in sports, and their training schedule is sometimes 60 hours a week in the peak seasons. And so, we partner up with these schools and we allow students to do school when they’re able to fit into their training schedule. We don’t have set days and hours where they have to be at school. So this allows them on their down times or during the day, they can spread it out through all seven days a week if they wanted to and just do you know, bite size pieces throughout the week. They can focus on just two courses at a time if that helps them, stay focused instead of the standard 6 course load.
But then similar to what we can do for those fly-in, fly-out families, when the ballet company is in their peak season and they’re getting ready to perform The Nutcracker for two weeks straight, they can take a break in their schooling, when they are at that peak and then come back after that season is over and dive back into their school work, when they’re not in those 50 to 60 hour work weeks. So that is really a great thing. And Verano specifically, so Chase has a lot of different ways that Verano can partner with existing schools in a similar way and maybe Chase wants to talk about that a little bit
Chase: Yeah. Verano Learning Partners, we’re a non-profit and education non-profit based out of the state of Arizona here in the US. And one of the things that we really value is creating partnerships that meet the needs of students where they are. So, as Julie mentioned, we have some performance partnerships, we have some sporting partnerships. But, through the Bridge School, we’ve also been able to create a partnership with the Island Academy down in Roatan and Sundae, I’ll be happy to volunteer to go down and visit them anytime they need.
Chase: Yeah, but we also partner with other schools. So one of the things that we found Sundae, this is come out of a in our notes, you gave one line about digging into what other schools are going through, and we started digging into that and we realized through the COVID situation, a lot of these expat families had to be repatriated back to their home country. And through that these big massive beautiful schools that were once filled to the brim with students in many instances are half capacity of what they used to be the year before, maybe less.
Sundae: That’s terrible.
Chase: It is. It just hurts my heart to think of these beautiful facilities and these wonderful staff members without the students to support them financially. And one of the benefits of Verano Learning Partners at education non-profit, we want to go and partner with them and
say, “Hey, we’ve been doing digital education for 20 years. We didn’t just throw this together last minute last year. How can we help you?” And if that means, we just help you with a digital program with the intentionally designed infrastructure, curriculum, whatever it might be, we are so happy to be able to do something like that. And there’s just not a lot of people out there that have those pieces in place to help schools out. And that’s really, our heart is, how do we just get everyone through the next year or two?
Sundae: So not, you’re supporting families but you’re also trying to support international schools to scramble through this pandemic. We’ve talked about a couple full-time options, but here’s something I find really interesting. A lot of my clients, we’re working on something completely different together, but what I hear in our conversations is the things on their mind that are related to their family, like their senior in high school needs to have help with the SATs or ACTS. Or they’re from a totally different culture but their student, their son or daughter wants to go to an American university. Or they need tutoring on something and they might be, who knows where on the planet and they’re struggling to get the support that they need for their student. And so, these are things I hear in passing. It’s not what they bring into coaching. It’s just kind of side things I hear. So I’m curious, do you do anything that is not a full time support but can actually help parents with these annoying things that weigh on a family and just add extra stress?
Julie: Oh man. Sundae, I’ve got two girls that are graduating this year and I will tell you, it has been stressful. And then last year with COVID, the ACTs and the SATs got cancelled last year so for my girls, they’re going into these applications and it’s totally based on their grades and their volunteers, and their essays that they’re submitting for their applications. So, yes, absolutely, we do offer part-time options with our school that do help meet some of these needs. You might be in a really great school, but they’re not offering either AP courses that you might be interested in or honors level courses that look really good on a transcript when you are applying to a college. And so the Bridge School does offer both honors and AP level courses. Additionally we partner with some folks that are at other entities that help with that college and career counseling. So we have many partners that help with the tutoring aspect, help with the college essay writing, that whole process.
Now they don’t sit down and write the essay for your student obviously, but they do review it. They know what the colleges and universities are looking for so they can help with your outline, they can help proofread and look through that. And then talk to you about what your goals are for your future and what you can be doing now to set yourself up for those goals.
Sundae: I find that interesting because those are things– parents could talk to their kids about the goals and their future. But I know it’s going to look very different, right? Like, if you sit together with your seventeen-year-old, they’re going to talk to you much differently than if they talked to a neutral third party. So I love that value. Something else is coming up for me. I’m curious, can you speak a little bit to the international side? I’m guessing so because I have a U.S. background, this would be really seamless to go to a U.S. university. But what if you’re coming from, I don’t know, South Asia and you’re not a native speaker, but you have high level English competencies to be able to attend online learning. Does this also work for people who are outside of, let’s say, an American education context?
Julie: It does, Sundae. So we do have families — we have students that are in China. We have students who are in Honduras. We have had students in South Korea. So we do have students all across the globe. And I think that what is important is what you’re talking about is that they do have that very high level of English fluency, they’re able to speak and write in English. Now we have teachers who are working with those students. And if there’s pieces that they are not understanding, helping with them and so it is like the dual immersion kind of thing where they’re learning about math but they’re also learning English through it. They’re learning through that course. Now when it comes to the university piece of it, some universities are requiring that students take an English fluency exam, if they are not native speakers. So that is something that some universities I have seen require. But if you are grabbing and getting a U.S. based diploma, like what we offer, the application process to the U.S. schools are pretty seamless.
Now, for those students that I was talking to you about before where they are applying to international universities, we’ve had to do things like provide our scope and sequence to the universities. We’ve had to get some documents that have been notarized and sent to their embassies. So we are pretty fluent in that process and we’re able to help the students, no matter if they’re going to an international university or if they’re wanting to go to an American university.
Sundae: I think that’s cool. This is why I brought you guys out because I’m just seeing people struggle. And now I know about you and I wish more people knew about you a year ago when they were struggling through this right? Is there anything that we’re missing that we’ve talked about that we should know about in terms of problems that you can solve for globally mobile families? Or do you feel like we’ve touched on the main things?
Chase: I would say there’s probably one more area that we haven’t talked about that’s probably pretty important specific to the people listening right now. When you think about, the educators we call it “The COVID Slide” and the fact that because so many schools last year, last spring, when everything shut down, they just said, “Okay, whatever your grade was as of mid-march, that’s what your grade is for the semester.” But what that means is that those students didn’t get the remainder of that content to finish out the school year. And then you look at the fact that so many schools either didn’t open or partially opened, or they threw together some kind of digital program for this school year. Or, one thing that we’ve been dealing with a lot and hearing about, is, “Well, my kid had to quarantine for two weeks and then came back and then had to quarantine for two weeks, and then came back and then had to quarantine for two weeks.” There’s just a lot of missed learning that has happened over this last year. And I would say, for the kindergartners, you’re missing a big portion of how to read and how letters work together. Then you get up into the high school, you’re missing these pieces that are so elemental and foundational, specifically, when you get to that college level.
I think that people need to know about digital solutions for this summer. The Bridge School offers, and I’ll let Julie talk about it, but: How do we get our students the right foundational blocks that they probably missed or missed parts of over the last 18 months? Julie, why don’t you talk about the summer school options and the benefits from it?
Julie: Yeah, Chase, you’re exactly right. And I think Time Magazine, their headline coming up is The Lost Year and they’re talking about education and how students have now pretty much lost a year’s worth of learning across the globe. And so we do offer summer school where students can take the courses that they’re interested in just to keep them active and engaged, or they can take courses where they maybe took and they technically pass the course, but that course builds on another course. So they want to retake it just so that they can get that understanding. And so we offer lots of those types of options. We offer recovery credit options for our high school but then we also offer accelerated credits for students who might not have felt like they lost learning this year and they want to get ahead in their learning. So they might want to take some of their courses elective credits during the summer time so that during next school year they can focus on their core courses.
Sundae: I’ve seen it, didn’t even think about that. And like you said, not every family is going to be looking for that. But those families that are, now you know. And what I love about that is that if you were to stay back somewhere because you need to do some makeup work or get ahead, whatever your student’s context is this allows you to maybe go and be with your family if you can fly and see those bases that you missed at the same time. So that’s so interesting. Thank you so much. Like I said, I think I learned as much as you did while we were working together and it’s not for everybody. But for those who are facing those challenges, it’s a great opportunity to know about. So if people want to learn more about the Bridge School or Verano Learning Partners, where can they find you?
Julie: For the Bridge School, they can find us at bridgek12.org and Chase, I’ll let you give the information for Verano.
Chase: Yep. You can find Verano at verano.org.
Sundae: Okay, perfect. And I’m going to have that in the show notes as I normally do. Julie and Chase, thank you so much for sharing that. Like I said, we have no affiliate relationship together. I just wanted to get the word out because you care so much and because you’ve invested so much in understanding the challenges and there are challenges that I see happening all the time. But when you’re in crisis, the last thing you’re going to do is Google the entire internet, to try to find that one missing piece. So I hope I have fast tracked that for some people who are out there and are really struggling because that would mean the world to me. Thank you Julie. Thank you Chase. It’s been such a pleasure having you on Expat Happy Hour.
Chase: Thanks so much.
All right. You have been listening to Expat Happy Hour with Sundae Schneider-Bean. Thank you for listening. I hope that you have learned something new today and if this isn’t for you, if you are in a different position with your own little learners, maybe you have a friend who is stuck in a rock and a hard place and this might be the key for them. So go ahead and check it out there. They’re really wonderful over there at the Bridge School and Verano so thank you very much for listening to the Expat Happy Hour. I would leave you with the thoughts of Ricardo Salinas Pliego: “Sometimes big problems are best solved with lots of small and creative solutions.”