We have been in Pretoria for a week and a half. I am happy to report that think I we will have more reliable internet from now on (the short story involves an air card and several unsuccessful trips to Makros (the South Africa Sams Club) to get it to work- but the hotel coming through in the end with an extra router for the room).
Brant started work last Thursday, and having him gone actually makes it easier to try and begin some sort of routine with the kids. He says it is the biggest job site he has ever seen, but he is excited about the challenges ahead. Not much has physically changed as far as our living situation, all four of us are still in our tiny room, but we have managed to make some progress.
We have toured and toured some pretty amazing houses but have not made an official offer on any of them because we are still holding out for the house we picked before we got here. There has been movement in that direction but it is going at what feels like a snails pace. It has been hard not making an offer on a different house because getting out of this room, getting out of transition, and getting settled, would be amazing. But, we are waiting for the house we love and hope to know more this coming week as far as a timeline.
The big progress made is that we’ve narrowed down our school choice for Hayden. He will be attending Tyger Valley College http://www.tygervalleycollege.co.za/. Kindergarten, called grade Naught (or zero), begins here in South Africa in January. We plan to start Hayden in grade Double Naught (00) when they come back from their semester break in September. South African schools run year round. Some are on a quarterly system and others are on a trimester system. Tyger Valley is a trimester system which allows for longer breaks between each session. The frequent breaks was one of the reasons we wanted to select a local school over the American school. The breaks are about 3-4 weeks long each, which will allow us to travel more- and Brant and Hayden will have the same holidays off.
South African schools are different than the American schools in several ways. In the primary school (foundation years) they place equal focus on academics and on building character by playing well together. I’ve heard an argument against South African schools is that the time devoted to playing puts students at an academic disadvantage, and admittedly, there is evidence that South African students lag behind their American peers in math and reading. In our situation, Hayden would not even be eligible for Kindergarten this August anyway because of his late September birthday, so whenever he does go back into the American system, he can just fall back into his regular grade, which would hopefully overcome any deficit- if present. I know many American parents and teachers believe that America does not place enough emphasis on physical activity and playing during school hours, which appears to prove true considering the mounting childhood obesity epidemic and departmental cuts in funding to physical education, electives, and sports programs.
I obviously do not have a crystal ball- and I suppose it is a gamble to step away from the educational system I know best- but Brant and I really feel like despite the academic disparities, the whole question surrounding Haydens’ education really boils down to why we left America in the first place. Being an expat allows you to experience a new culture and immerse ourselves in the experience. Hayden will learn local sports like cricket and rugby. He will learn Afrikaans starting in grade 1. In addition to academics, his weekly curriculum in grade 0 will include (free of charge AND in addition to recess) Judo, swimming, gymnastics, mini tennis, and music. I won’t have to run him all over creation to do his extracurricular activities- they are already included in his education. There are even optional academic and sport electives I can pay for after school each day. Tyger Valley just feels like the right fit for our family. And there is the added bonus that I’ll have the opportunity to meet local mothers.
We put a lot of thought into our decision and we are really excited to see how things progress for Hayden. Now, if we could only get out of this room…. haha 🙂