I found Farrah’s blog through a blogging competition and it is funny and entertaining. Farrah is a fellow expat in the Netherlands and also a mom of three children. In this wonderful post, she basically does me a great favour and writes about a topic that is dear to all parents, and especially to expat parents- choosing the right school for your child, or in Farrah’s case, choosing a local school even though she never would have considered that option. Enjoy!
I Am A Mom, My Expat Life, Raising Global Citizens And TCK's
Choosing a Local School For Your Expat Child
Choosing A School When You’re an Expat
When you’re getting ready to move abroad there are so many factors to consider. I realized this while my husband and I were planning our ‘jump’ over the pond over a year ago- and decided that if we focused on one aspect we might not become overwhelmed. Since life centers around our boys (twins almost 3 and oldest 4) it wasn’t too difficult to turn that focus onto their school and road of education.
We learned that there’s such a thing as an ‘international school’ as well as a traditional school and several other types in between. Initially, I was firm in my belief system- an international school must be the way that we should go. We didn’t want to rock the boat too much for our boys with this move, so putting them in an English-speaking school was the very least we could do. It was safe.
We had appointments with international schools and a few traditional schools thrown in for good measure. I assured out relocation agent that I wasn’t open towards a traditional Dutch school (the very idea!) because it would have been too foreign. I just wanted to keep things as normal as possible for them. My own guilt poked through at tearing them from the only home they had ever known, so I had to do whatever I could to make it easier for them.
Then it dawned on me- easier for whom? Them? Or me?
After visiting a few international schools I realized, technically they were all the same. English-speaking, children from diverse parts of the world, and children were not necessarily from the school’s neighborhood. Chances were: my children would be limited to these students as their friends. I wasn’t going to have any real involvement in my community and we most certainly weren’t going to get any kind of authentic Dutch experience. There wasn’t a thing wrong with the international schools- but my gut kept telling me that this wasn’t the right choice. This was sort of taking the safe way out and not letting the guys see what their real potential could be.
The idea of a traditional Dutch school started to grow on me. I liked their sizes and their neighborhood familiarity. Basically, where we chose a home was going to be based on the school since we wanted to be close enough to walk or bike. Our lives were going to center around it- so this was not something to take lightly, and we didn’t.
Eventually we narrowed it down to three. One international school, one traditional Dutch school, and another traditional Dutch Catholic school. Seems pretty easy to eliminate the religion based school since we really aren’t a religious family (nor Catholic), right? Not so. The neighborhood around the Catholic school was fantastic. The ‘grade’ school that my oldest would attend was connected to a Peuterspeelzaal (play group/school) for the twins. As far as I could see- there was NO emphasis put on religion in the structure of the school itself, nor the curriculum.
We ended up choosing the traditional Dutch Catholic school if you can believe it. Of all things we chose not only a Catholic school- but one that is strictly Dutch speaking at that. A far cry from keeping everything as ‘the same’ as possible!
This has been one of the best decisions we have ever made- and one that I am most proud of. We took a chance that our kids would benefit from being immersed in a culture that we knew nothing about and they’re flourishing. My oldest is now speaking about 70% He translates for me. He has friends and playdates with neighbors and classmates. He tells me stories about his classroom and is excited on the mornings when I tell him ‘Today is a long day!’ (meaning two days a week he has half days). Every parent wants their child to be excited about their school.
But you know what? It’s all fine. In fact it’s better than fine because he loves his school and so do his brothers. We took a leap into going with something we originally thought would never work, was never an option- and here it was the best choice overall. The right choice. I hope if you’re someone who is considering a move abroad- you give the other options a chance when it comes to the school for your child. What you might immediately think of an obvious answer might not be so right after all.
Farrah is a US expat living in the Netherlands with her husband, three year old twins and their four year old brother. They just spent their first year adapting to the Dutch culture and loving it! She blogs at The Three Under but you can find her most often on Twitter and Instagram @Momofthreeunder.