Our big boy is 18mo already!!!
I know it seems a bit early to be discussing schools. Sprout is only 18mo, but I will go back to work someday (whether from home or not) and he will have to go to either some sort of daycare or “school”. In Belgium, children start pre-school, known as “maternelle” at around 2 1/2 yrs which seems awfully early to me! It’s not mandatory, but it seems hard to find an alternative form of daycare at that age.
Anyway, we have to figure out what to do… We are lucky enough to be living in a city with a significant expat population and a good deal of alternatives to hand.
So what are our alternatives?
We have the Belgian public school system with schools in French or Flemish. It seems to be mostly play and art, but still seems very formal to me, if you know what I mean. It is a very traditional group setting and I’m not sure that’s best for a young toddler. Plus, it’s (in our case) in French, which can either be good or bad, I’m not sure. We speak English and Portuguese at home and he has only occasional contact with French speakers, so I don’t know if there will be an adjustment issue at such a young age.Plus, the better schools seem to have waiting lists. And did I mention it seems quite formal for a 2 1/2yo? The BCT has an interest group on Belgian Schools, so will have to contact them for more info as well.
Then we have the private schools, of which Montessori would be my preference. I absolutely love Montessori, and we use many principles of the philosophy at home already. Plus, there would be the advantage of a bilingual programme (English/French) which I’m sure would make life easier because sprout wouldn’t have such a hard time making himself understood. BUT (and this is a very big BUT for us), I see on one of the available Montessori schools’ website that fees are almost €10000/year for mornings only! There is no way we can do that on 1 1/2 incomes. I doubt we could do it on 2… I really can’t understand these prices. I know the school is supposed to be good, and they have made quite an investment, but this just seem too elitist to me. The other one I found is a bit cheaper at €6000-€7000.
There are other private options, such as Waldorf Steiner schools, but in Flemish only, so we don’t want to mix in yet another language which neither parents know. There are also good Catholic schools, but we’d rather go non-confessional.
Then we have all “International” schools, such as the ISB, the British School, St. Paul’s, the European School, etc. The only one that really interests us there is the European School. There are International schools in various languages here, but again, we’re not interested in one we don’t speak. The English speaking schools seem to be very good, although too expensive. Plus, how do we then manage to teach Sprout proper French and Portuguese? I remember all too clearly the afternoons I spent in Portuguese school while growing up, knowing all my friends were out playing. Our languages and heritage are very important to us, but is that really the best way?
So, the European school seems very enticing to us. It has a very good reputation, the high school later on gives access to Universities all across Europe, plus Sprout would be learning in 3 languages (or more if he so chooses) – Portuguese, English and French. It’s not cheap – we heard secondary is somewhere around €9000 – but all in all it seems like a good option and I think we can afford it.Although I do think they only admit from 4yo (not that I mind )… will have to look into it better.
But still, I worry… will we be depriving our son of truly integrating in Belgian culture if we pick the European school? Will we be limiting his options and pushing him away from his heritage languages if we put him in a Belgian school? How long will we stay here? I know I can’t predict all the variables, and I know no choice is perfect.I guess we really have to visit the schools and see where he’ll fit in best.
I would love to know: what schooling options have you chosen/will you choose? Why?