Adventures in Education
As friends and family back home are posting pictures of their kids at the end of their school year we are 1 month into our second term of school here in New Zealand. The kids are loving their school and all the great things that they get to learn and do. I have been extremely grateful these past few months that they have been able to go to school. When we first arrived in New Zealand it was October and without a visa they couldn’t go to school and for the first few months I tried to homeschool. It did not go so well to say the least, but we made it through and surprisingly the kids have said that they enjoyed having mom as their teacher. When the school year began here on the 31st of January we didn’t have our visas yet and we were told that the kids could attend as visitors, only for 2 weeks. We were a little disappointed with this but 2 weeks was better than nothing! Thankfully and miraculously our visas came in a week after school started, rather than the 3 weeks later we were told, so they were officially enrolled without missing any school. I like to think that we have this school thing down, but it hasn’t been without its learning curves and moments of confusion. Here is a list of differences we have found between schools here in New Zealand and the elementary schools we’ve known:
-The government is involved with and in charge of education so it is not called the Schoolboard, it is called The Ministry of Education. (I had to put this in because Kaitlyn and I break into huge smiles and giggle every time we hear that. I wonder what they do all day in the Ministry….)
-Elementary school is referred to as Primary School. The biggest shocker to me was discovering that kindergarten was not part of the primary school. Kindergarten, or “kindy” as it is widely referred to here, is set up similarly to preschool/day care in the states.
-The school year runs on a calendar year. The kids first day of school was January 31. The school year is broken into terms and the kids get a 2-week break in between each term. The school year will end in the middle of December. Since December through February are the summer months here, it makes sense that their school schedule accommodates that.
-They refer to the classes as years, so instead of saying Taya is in 3rd grade she is in year 5, Kaitlyn is year 4 and Evan is in year 1.
There isn’t a cafeteria or food service at the schools. Each morning I get to make lunch as well as include a healthy snack for their “Morning Tea”. This has been quite a learning experience for me and the kids. We were definitely spoiled with the option of school lunch, the variety it provides, as well as not having to make lunch everyday! Since there isn’t a cafeteria the kids are not limited to who they can eat lunch with or where. They will usually eat lunch outside and with kids in other classrooms or even older/younger than them. Some days the girls come home and say they ate lunch with Evan that day.
-They get “Morning Tea”/ “Read and Eat” every day. At 11am they get to have a snack and be read to by their teacher and then go out to play. They have lunch at 1 o’clock in the afternoon
-The school we are attending is one of only a few remaining in the area that has a swimming pool and it is used a ton! Every day in fact during the 1st and 4th terms when the weather is warmer.
-Uniforms are required for the schools in this area and party of that uniform is a hat. During the 1st and 4th terms the students must wear their hats if they want to play outside since the sun is more intense during these parts of the year.
-Since preventative dental care is free for kids 18 and under a dental van comes to the school twice a year to do cleanings. Sadly, we do not qualify for this perk because we are not residents, so we had to find a dentist and pay out of pocket. That was an adventure!
-They have class trips and activities that may not be sanctioned in other schools. Taya participated in a 2 night camping trip with her class and Kaitlyn participated in a week long list of activities including an overnight stay in the school hall, a 3km hike, and spending a day at the shore looking in tide pools.
-The biggest shocker to me when we enrolled the kids was to find out the number of students enrolled. The entire student population is 453, compared to over 1200 students who were at our school back home this seems like a very tiny number! When we showed up the first day of school I thought we were late because there weren’t that many people around. The other cool thing is the principal and other staff knows everyone by names, parents included.
Even with all the differences and nuances we have all enjoyed the school experience thus far. I am so relieved that things are going as well as they are at this school. Figuring out your child’s education can be a stressful aspect of parenting, figuring it out in a new country where things are done differently turns it into a great adventure.