As missionary kids in Chile, South America, my two siblings and I were homeschooled in in the early 90s. At that time there were very few people homeschooling in Chile, but our parents decided it would be the best option for us.
Sometimes it felt like we were the only homeschoolers on the planet. Even so, we had an amazing childhood and grew up learning Spanish as a second language through our social life with friends, relatives, church, and ministry.
I married a Chilean, and we now have three children whom we officially decided to homeschool in August 2011. (When we made this decision they were 4 years old, 1 year old, and 5 months old.) We felt we were following a direct command from the Lord.
In 2012, the leader of the national homeschool community in Chile called EDUCO found out that I had been homeschooled and asked if I could speak at and help host their first national homeschool conference scheduled for November 2013 in Santiago.
I gladly accepted and was delighted to see approximately 200 people fill the auditorium of Los Lagos University. I had the privilege of meeting Kathleen McCurdy, a longtime home education veteran who is known as “the mother of homeschooling in Chile.”
One reason Chileans choose to homeschool is to avoid the stressful regimen faced by students in public and other traditional schools. Students are in school 6 to 8 hours a day, take weekly exams, and have huge amounts of homework. Only rich families have access to the best education.
Then there’s the turmoil sparked recently by student protests. From May to October 2011, students staged the so-called “penguin revolution,” seizing high schools and universities and issuing demands for a free and quality education. These protests continued off and on until 2013.
In 2011, especially, public school students fell behind in their studies. Minister of Education Felipe Bulnes suggested that, in order to “save the school year,” students should study at home during vacations and then take a special exam to “validate” their academic progress and grades.
Though homeschooling in Chile can be traced from well before these events, in some ways, it was these protests that revealed for many people that home education is a viable option.
Then, in October 2016, the public education system collapsed when over 20,000 students took the annual exams to validate their education. Most students who take these exams are participating in some sort of home education: online classes, free-style learning, special needs instruction, or as children of foreign nationals.
So homeschooling in Chile is growing quickly.
While there aren’t any specific laws about homeschooling itself, homeschooling is legal in Chile. The Constitution of Chile states that parents have the right and duty to educate their children (Article 19, § 10). They have the right to choose the educational establishment for their children, including freedom to teach and to open, organize, and maintain educational establishments (Article 19, § 11).
There are some ideologists pressing for legislation that would restrict homeschooling if parents oppose their children’s decisions regarding gender identity. Most people, however, oppose this legislation.
Years ago, there was much ignorance on the subject of homeschooling, but over the past five years we’ve seen homeschooling in news reports on national television, radio talk shows, newspaper articles, churches and online websites and blogs. There are currently at least 15 Chilean homeschool communities on Facebook representing different regions, religions and styles.
The homeschool community is composed mostly of middle and upper class families. They vary in their styles. Many are unschoolers; some use online schools. The majority use traditional textbooks from either the Chilean’s ministry of education (to prepare for the annual exams) or a foreign curriculum in Spanish or English.
College-bound homeschoolers can also take the adult high school exam at the age of 18 or older. Once they have passed this (or the annual exams), they can take the PSU test (Prueba de Seleccion Universitaria—“University Selection Exam”) to apply for a university that is suitable for them according to their score. Another option is to use an umbrella school based outside of Chile and apply to a university as a foreigner.
We estimate at least 2,000 families homeschool out of Chile’s population of 18 million. There is no official count because the government census doesn’t ask if families are homeschooling.
Presently there are at least five Chilean online schools for homeschool kids and several free-style learning schools, most of them from Christian churches or from Montessori or Waldorf schools. Some families have study groups or co-op support groups where their children can play together and parents can talk and plan activities. Another advantage is that educational places such as zoos, museums, etc., provide discounts or privileged visits to homeschool groups.
Recognizing the need for a Christian homeschool community in Chile, I founded the first one and called it Homeschool Consagrado al Señor (HCS, “Homeschool Consecrated to the Lord”; www.homeschoolconsagrado.blogspot.com). It began with only Chilean families, but eventually many families from different countries joined in.
We currently have over 700 families, approximately 600 of which are from Chile. Our first conference, which was held on November 2013, had 65 people. Our fifth conference, held in March 2017, had 500 (including families from Argentina, Bolivia and Colombia). As far as I am aware, HCS has hosted the largest Christian homeschool conferences in South America so far. Lord willing, we will continue to grow, inform and equip homeschooling families in Chile and around the globe that want to raise their children in a safe, loving, and Christian environment.