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  #41  
Old 06.09.2011, 13:39
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Re: Leaving Switzerland (mostly due to schooling)

Textoch, I did never have any intention to generalize -- that's why I said that I've seen only a few schools and was trying to be careful about it. I am sorry if the schools that I've seen are clearly out of the range and yours were large flowery campuses with children playing happily around. True, I did not see many such campuses in Switzerland too yet but also none in the south of US.

The shooting talk was really scary to me and I still feel it's weird (yet necessary) -- as I am mobile more or less and relatively free to choose the place we live, I choose the places where such drills are not a necessity. Completely realize that other people could have other arrangements or needs.

To Kadokan, again, I do wish her all the luck, especially as I feel she needs it. My felling also is that in US it's tough times now, not the bonanza of the end of 90s, and one needs to put a lot of efforts to arrange a good life there (almost as everywhere else). I've moved many times in my life, I do tend to build rosy castles in my dreams only to be confronted with reality later. Often it's very unpleasant, but as I get older, I realize that that's life (do not want to get into trivialities now). Yet the sooner I know all the forthcoming problems, the better -- the more stable my rosy castle is. I just had my 2 cents trying to help, not to discourage, especially as I understand that the decision is final. Were it not, I would have taken out much heavier artillery
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Old 06.09.2011, 13:43
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Re: Leaving Switzerland (mostly due to schooling)

Kadokan - I understand your disillusionment with the Swiss system but at the same time, I'm not sure bending (or moving) to fit your children is always the best solution.
They also have to adapt to the things they come up against in life.

I remember this with my daughter at the beginning - but as a bilingual - she made it through and came out the other end all the better for it. Despite many complaints, discussions and worries along the way.
I felt she got great support from some teachers and not much from others.

She is now into the second year of her apprenticeship as an administrator in a local company. She is happy, capable and well socially-adjusted. But at the end of the day, no one needs to justify their personal choices. These were just ours. We decided to stay in CH* and so adapted to it.

*Well, no way was I taking her back to the UK school system.....
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  #43  
Old 06.09.2011, 13:54
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Re: Leaving Switzerland (mostly due to schooling)

Kutuzov, don't worry, I took your post in the helpful spirit it was intended.

I'm not entirely deluded. Hubby's spent large periods of time in Phoenix over recent years; we have good friends there with children in local schools. I know there are issues in AZ generally with schools, that the budgets have been slashed, that much teaching to the test is done out of fear for jobs.

I know that the schools do lock-down drills - although they're not specifically designed for a Columbine situation, more a reflection of US/ NRA society generally: if there is an armed incident anywhere within a mile of a school, they'll operate a lock-down, presumably to stop it becoming a hostage situation. I know that I won't be able to let my 7 yr old walk to school alone, not because I'm scared of creepy abductors but because the car drivers simply won't be anticipating seeing little kids crossing the roads at that time.

I know that when I was there in May, we were staying in a rental house in a beautiful family-friendly residential area, but we were the only ones strolling the 5-10 mins to the supermarket despite it being along a lovely ambling path winding through a greenbelt landscaped park.

There's no perfect system anywhere. Here, he's schooling in (for him) a sub-par language, using a pedagogy that's not been seen in the UK since the 1950s and is being subtly pressured into complete conformity. There, he'll no doubt be continuously told that he's 'awesome!' and doing 'a great job!' when he's lazily knocked up some piece of tat that took him 7 minutes, and be continuously told that his individual opinion counts in situations where he really should button it and listen to someone with decades more experience and knowledge.

Hopefully living in both cultures should, eventually, produce balance...
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Old 06.09.2011, 13:59
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Re: Leaving Switzerland (mostly due to schooling)

Just wanted to wish you well in the US, Kodokan. Your posts on education have been so informative - I have read every single thing you have written on the Vaud school system on EF !
My kid has only just started in the system here, but I do wonder if I will feel the same as you in a few years time...

Will keep an eye out for your update posts in the future!
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  #45  
Old 06.09.2011, 14:21
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Re: Leaving Switzerland (mostly due to schooling)

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Kadokan - I understand your disillusionment with the Swiss system but at the same time, I'm not sure bending (or moving) to fit your children is always the best solution.
They also have to adapt to the things they come up against in life.
He doesn't know I'm bending to fit him. As far as he's concerned, he was completely happy in the local school. He's such a positive little soul, and has never once, not once, complained about moving him over here. He went enthusiastically into his first day at school here (his 4th school due to previous job moves), he totally accepts and embraces his life in the present, and never imagines a different, better life where he goes to a different school, works in English, etc. There have honestly been no difficulties or tough times for us to work through.

But I'm an adult, with a lifetime of experience. I can see full well that he is operating well under his potential; he is simply not a natural linguist. He's had years of tuition and thousands of hours of exposure to French, far more than me, yet he still makes constant errors of gender, word order, verb endings, etc. He chatters away quite merrily, but seems completely unable to 'hear' that what he is saying sounds wrong. He speaks fluent French, but with absolutely no regard for accent whatsoever - all words and sentences are spoken as if they are English, with English pronunciation, intonation and stress.

My daughter doesn't do this - she sometimes says the wrong gender or whatever, then pauses, and self-corrects. Because she's younger, or a girl, or for whatever reason, she has a much better ear for what is right and wrong. She would be fine here.

But he won't be. He doesn't know it yet, but he will NOT succeed in this system in the years to come. Not because he's not trying - he is. Or not working and putting in the hours - he is, much more than other kids his age, he comes in each day, gets a snack and breaks out the books for the homework that's going to take him longer than the others because it's in French.

But because he is simply not good at pretty much the only thing he will be heavily judged on throughout his school life: his abilities in French.

A famous Albert Einstein quote is: "Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid."

He's not there yet, but he would hit that point in a year or so as he gradually became more self-aware and self-conscious. And then he would stop trying - because what's the point when he's worked so hard for so many years and is still barely scraping through?

I'm truly not being all helicopter mum about this, not trying to protect my little precious from being a bit upset because school's a bit tough and he came home in a strop. But on the other hand, my job as parent is to grow the whole person, open as many doors as possible, maximise his life chances for his future happiness based on the ability to make choices and control his own destiny.

I'm glad it worked out for your daughter, like it does for many kids, but for him the risk of 'failure - damaged self esteem - drop out' is far too high. If I leave him in the Swiss system, my best case scenario is that he will give up, lose the learning spark, buckle under, slog along as best he can and come out with a mediocre qualification that will be unrecognised outside of Switzerland.

So I'm moving to put him in an English-speaking system where he has a chance of doing well or even excelling, which is where he should be based on his intelligence and abilities in his fields of interest. Where he'll have opportunities beyond a run-of-the-mill apprenticeship in a no-name local town in an obscure European country. If that's what he wants as an adult, then great, good luck to him. But I cannot structure his life so that it's his ONLY choice.
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  #46  
Old 06.09.2011, 14:37
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Re: Leaving Switzerland (mostly due to schooling)

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Just wanted to wish you well in the US, Kodokan. Your posts on education have been so informative - I have read every single thing you have written on the Vaud school system on EF !
My kid has only just started in the system here, but I do wonder if I will feel the same as you in a few years time...

Will keep an eye out for your update posts in the future!
Thanks lemon drizzle. I honestly don't regret the primary schooling at all - going local really worked for us, we had a great few years, I would do exactly the same thing again no question, and continue to recommend it as the default option for incomers with young kids. We've had nothing but good experiences with the marvellous teachers in our local school, our kids are fluent in a second language, and it's really broadened their cultural horizons.

And some kids are also doing great in the secondary system, where they're excelling academically and making the uni streams despite studying in a foreign language. But he's just not one of them, so best we move before he realises it, to keep his self-esteem and enthusiasm for learning intact, and before he starts to resent the situation we put him into.
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  #47  
Old 06.09.2011, 14:45
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Re: Leaving Switzerland (mostly due to schooling)

All nice and very informative, but nobody wrote that excellent recognised qualifications won't necessarily make someone successful, nor happier. I like the parents who are a tad indifferent to kids' school performance, teaching them things and a piece of wisdom they will mostly need later on. Some sort of grandparents.
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Old 06.09.2011, 15:01
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Re: Leaving Switzerland (mostly due to schooling)

He will be a happy camper there. A good friend who went through Phoenix schooling was really happy about the system there. There are differences in schools, but while you can drive off to a more positive, free public school there, you can't really shift a kiddo here to a more positive, free Vaud teacher within one school, not drive him off to more positive, free Vaud school. The system there is definitely more suited to offer flexibly what you need and adjust. It is the child future, in my opinion, that is a priority. I am not sure if it is the same way here. More, convenience for the school system.

I will miss you.

I just had an official meeting with a school nurse where we discussed self esteem of expat kids, linked to reaseau, what is offered to them (should they feel like they need it and have enough guts to ask), and how kid's personalities are so different in dealing with the challenges. If a child protest, can verbalize and point finger at what is bugging her, it's all good. We can work with it. If a child is super adjustable, always ready to compromise in order to socially fit in, is scared to ask a teacher to even go to the bathroom to not attract attention or do something wrong, as an outsider (and they always stay outsiders here), in order to not stick out, does not tell adults she is being bullied to not lose those precious few friends who talk to her despite her lack of language skills, then we have a trouble. It's not always about how adjusted the kids are, but sometimes, they adjust too well, contrary to their individual needs. And, in the environment, where individual needs are to be limited and ignored a tad, it can cause serious personality troubles. Kids want and need to be accepted by their peers and teachers. Sometimes it means limiting their own potential, asking for nothing, not reporting being hurt and not asking others to socialize. They are lonely, despite the immersion. It aggravates me, aside of hurting since I am a mom of one of those kids. It means things are not always so efficient, and they could be if the structure was more flexible. Despite starting in enfantine, so early, and theoretically being more ready to succeed in the system, than starting at 3-4th grade.

Ok. Good for you and for having a partner eye to eye, in terms of your kids needs. It's never good to stop questioning. It's good to try things out, but when things get sticky, eventhough they do not have to grow into tragedy later, it is good to react to potential problem when it is easy to fix it.

And, yes, you should have come out to our book club more, even with the kids, we could have met earlier
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  #49  
Old 06.09.2011, 15:06
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Re: Leaving Switzerland (mostly due to schooling)

Kudos to you Kodokan for doing what you believe is in the best interest of your family and children. I think it is one of the most important roles for a parent to recognise when something is working or not working and take the appropriate action. You certainly would not be the first, nor the last, to leave CH due to schooling issues as at least part of the equation. In my many years here, I've know hundreds of kids (both swiss and expats) who have left the Vaud public schools, mostly at the 'VSB or bust' stage, to either go to international schools, ecole Moser if continuing with CH curriculum, or left the country. I'd say it is more the rule than the exception in this area. I would likely do similar if I was in a simlar situation. I also wanted to highlight, as you sort of mentioned, that for a lot of allophone children, it is not only the primary second language of french which they need to master in order to succeed here, but german as the critical 3-part triangle as a second foreign language as well. This puts incredible pressure on language skills, learning 2 foreign languages at the same time for most children.

For what it is worth, my cousins went through the Phoenix schools, albeit many years ago, and continued through the Arizona universties with flying colours. I don't think they've ever mentioned a bad word about their schooling there, albeit being dropped into the Phoenix schools at a critical age from east coast schools. They made fast friends and quickly adapted to life in the desert.
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Old 06.09.2011, 15:13
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Re: Leaving Switzerland (mostly due to schooling)

I think you are making a wise decision and believe it is based on your insight as parent and educator Kodokan . I don't doubt your parental abilities extend to all the other areas of life unrelated to school marks and university qualifications!
I have seen and known many adults in later life frustrated by their inability to have obtained a university level education because of their lack of excellance in the local language. You are brave and I'm sure you will suceed! Good luck!
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Old 06.09.2011, 15:22
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Re: Leaving Switzerland (mostly due to schooling)

As I said Kadokan - it's your choice and you know your children best.
Good luck!

I'd like to say though, that although my girl did not go to the Gymnasium, it was not due to language problems - more her lack of desire to study hard enough!!!!
But I am confident that her language and admin. talents will see her right when it comes to travelling and working in other countries - even though she started in a no-name town!!
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Old 06.09.2011, 19:44
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Re: Leaving Switzerland (mostly due to schooling)

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It's not always about how adjusted the kids are, but sometimes, they adjust too well, contrary to their individual needs... Kids want and need to be accepted by their peers and teachers. Sometimes it means limiting their own potential, asking for nothing, not reporting being hurt and not asking others to socialize. They are lonely, despite the immersion.
This rings a big clanging bell with me; it's something I'd been vaguely conscious of before but hadn't really put into words as well as you just have. My son has generally fitted into his class; either he's never been picked on or teased, or he has but lacks the social skills/ language to have even noticed (either is possible, to be honest, but the result is that he is happy).

But he has a limited social scene. At first, the boys in his class roughly split into 'football boys', and 'others'. He was in 'others', and their days were filled with running around the playground playing tag and pretending to be zombies. Everybody was perfectly happy. Gradually, as they got older, this dropped off. The football boys still play football, and now the 'others' join in a little, or play basketball, or just 'hang', chatting and larking about with each other. They're like really short 15 year olds, trying desperately hard to be cool. So sweeeeeeet - which is of course not the look they're going for at all.

He's not in this group - there's no way he has the language/ social/ cultural skills to pull it off. He's hugely funny in English, is a great conversationalist, has a wicked sense of humour and has recently discovered irony and comic timing. (It's great when your kids say things that are genuinely droll, and you don't have to pretend to be amused.) But he's just not 'cool' in French.

His best friend C is a totally sweet kid - he was the first to walk up to my apprehensive son on Day One in 2nd grade, stick his hand out to shake and welcome to the class, so I've always had a very soft spot for C. But C is also very immature for an 11 year old, and is still in the stage of being zombies and robots. And therefore so is my son.

Now, it's very chicken and egg. Is he best friends with C because it's an undemanding friendship with his level of French social skills? Has being friends with C held him back a little socially? Would my son be slightly immature anywhere, and it's nothing to do with C and French at all?

Who can know? I don't mean to suggest that it's entirely a friendship of convenience, but my hunch is that if my son was operating on all cylinders in English, then it would appear a slightly unequal and odd friendship. I think the only way I'll be able to tell is if he has a huge developmental step up once he's friending in English.

Interesting... hadn't really thought it through in this depth before; I very much try not to think too hard about or interfere in my children's friends and let them go their own way providing it doesn't get entirely destructive. My daughter in particular has a 'stick fingers in ears, close eyes, la la la' sort of friendship that I've had to work very hard at ignoring, because the other girl is a fickle hot-n-cold type and my daughter's had some real moments of self-doubt that there's something wrong with her because M doesn't seem to like her today. (Shan't be at all sorry to see the back of that friendship.)

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I will miss you.
*sniff* Me too, and lots of people here. In fact, although I've known we're moving for ages, and we've told the family, and the people at the school and so on, it's only really today that it's struck me, on reading all your lovely goodbye messages. Thanks, everyone.
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Old 08.09.2011, 17:31
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Re: Leaving Switzerland (mostly due to schooling)

should Iinform/ 3 month notice to BILAG also when leaving or do they de-register automatically?
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Old 16.12.2011, 20:46
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'Moved from Swiss local school to US public school' - how that's going...

(Sorry, it's really long, as per my usual indulgent rambling - go and make a coffee first...)

Hi all!

So here we are, all settled into our new life in Arizona and, as promised above I'm coming back to do an update on how the school system transition is going. I thought I'd do a post now, a few weeks in, and then update this thread as time goes on.

So... to start with, I've just re-read the original thread to refresh my mind, and some things haven't turned out as I planned. For starters, we're not walking/biking to school as I envisaged, as the kids flatly refused to consider anything but riding a big yellow school bus, 'like in The Simpsons'. Fine, fine... It opened up the house search for me, anyway, and we've ended up in a lovely, ruralish, very edge of the city area, about 2 miles from a terrific elementary school (www.greatschools.org rates it 10/10, the middle school is 9/10 and the high school 10/10 - as always, a lot of this apparent educational excellence comes from the 'right' sort of home background, but still...)

The school has been just wonderful. Lots of 'we're SO excited you're going to be joining us' and generally making my kids feel like celebrities from the moment we first stepped into the office. We signed the rental lease, securing our school spaces, but were still in our temp accommodation the other side of the city so couldn't actually start for a couple of weeks - during this time the kids and I, and their teachers, had a 'meet each other' session, borrowed books and were in email contact so that when they did finally start, they were at the same place maths-wise, had read the first dozen chapters of the current reading class book, etc.

The school itself is much less like a prison camp than I thought it might be. There's no fence, so parents can just wander round the building and onto the playground (I did this the first few mornings to drop them off). And there are LOTS of kids going to and from school alone, on foot or on bike; the school is in a residential area and the two-lane roads around it have one full-width car-sized lane just for bikes. I'd actually say it's the norm at this school for kids to come alone/in small groups from around age 7, whereas parental pick-up seems to be quite unusual.

In fact, at start/finish times, the immediate area looks a lot like a Swiss school - hordes of short people streaming along the pavements and roads alone, a handful of cars turning up, a few parents wandering about the school grounds. This is all very pleasing to me; I really didn't want a culture that meant I had to start re-infantalising the kids and giving them stranger danger paranoia.

Class sizes aren't too bad, either - I think both kids have about 26 or 27 in their classes. Which isn't as good as their Swiss classes of 18 or 19, but no worse than I was used to in the UK, where the 28-30 range is the norm.

Academically, my son's not too much adrift. I explained in the thread linked above that as far as I could tell, it would be his writing that was noticeably behind, and this is pretty much the case. Even after a few weeks, though, he's moving away from a simplest style of: 'First we did such and such. Then we went to thingummie place. Then we did x. Finally we went home.' towards the more frequent use of commas and even the occasional adjective. During our homeschooling period, we worked through this book: http://www.amazon.com/Writing-Grade-...4054584&sr=8-1 and I would wholeheartedly recommend this series if you're planning to supplement the Swiss curriculum at all.

The maths is a slightly higher level than I was expecting. I'd checked the Arizona standards, sample state tests, etc, and thought he'd be at grade level. This school, however, seems to be working a little ahead, e.g., 6th grade standards are being able to multiply and divide fractions, and being able to solve algebraic expressions with whole numbers, whereas this week's homework was algebra problems involving both whole numbers and fractions, which seems to be more of a 7th grade expectation according to the standards.

If anyone's planning to move here with a kid above 3rd grade age, they really MUST know fractions; they're almost an irrelevance in Europe but huge here due to the measuring systems used. (Hubby made the mistake of commenting to my son that if the US must insist on using fractions, they should swap to something like a base 12 system - cue long, complicated conversation about number bases. That'll teach hubby to stay on task when helping son with homework and not to mention any other 'by the way' stuff - son is merciless about leaping off the point and sucking us into conversation.)

All my boxes about a more creative, engaging style of learning are being firmly ticked. Taking the recent goal of ‘learn about a famous person’, this is the difference:

CH: the whole class would learn about one famous person, let’s say William Tell. Learning would be done in rows at desks, by copying from the board or via badly-photocopied worksheets. At the end of the study, there would be a test on William Tell, covering very black/white facts such as key dates and places. No independent thought or opinion would be necessary or even welcome, and one sentence or sometimes one word answers would be the only outcome of the work.

US: each child in the class was allowed to pick a famous person that interested them. They had to read a biography of that person and write a short report about the person’s life, giving the core facts along with their opinion on what was important or unique about that person, and whether they’d recommend the book to others. They then had to prepare a 2-minute presentation in the first person (ie, ‘I was’ rather than ‘he was’), using at most index cards – no verbatim reading allowed – and make a basic costume. Finally, the whole class presented their work in the form of exhibits in a Wax Museum, during which other grades and parents could come in, press a ‘button’ on their desks and hear them speak.

There's some parental involvement expected here, certainly. I had to take son to the town library to choose a suitable biography - he wanted to do an explorer, and chose Marco Polo. I helped him with his report a little, but that was mostly because he's still learning how to write and structure his thoughts. I went to Goodwill to find a suitable hat and curtain material to make a cloak, and bought a black facecloth to cut up as a beard. I listened to his presentation - lots - and gave him presentation feedback. The feel seems to be that is the expected level of involvement - we bumped into a couple of his friends at the library with their parents - so there's not quite the 'outsourcing' feel you get at Swiss schools. I expect this will please/annoy me at times, depending on my mood.

My daughter is a little more behind academically, again mainly with writing. She's gone into 2nd grade, and following a blitz since May can now read in English at what seems to be about the right level, judging from her homework sheets. Maths is fine too, except there is unexpectedly even more emphasis on firmly drilling the basics here than in Switzerland; she will be expected by the end of 2nd grade to know all the math addition/subtraction facts up to 18, and to be able to do somewhere between 60 (minimum standard) and 80 (ideal target) sums in 4 minutes. (The reason it's so important is that it's all the single digit sums - 7+8, 3+2, etc - to be able to do all column operations in the future, up to 9+9 and 9-9.)

We hadn't done much writing, though. Her handwriting and letter formation isn't as small and neat as the others, and she's missed a whole chunk of spelling rules practice; she's had to go straight from doing basic phonetic stuff like 'c-a-t' or 't-r-ee', to being tested on words like 'cities' (which involves knowing that 'c' makes its soft sound when the next letter is 'e' or 'i', and that you drop the 'y' and add 'ies' to pluralise), and 'precious' (which involves an alternative spelling of the 'sh' sound that she hasn't done). So I think Christmas holidays will involve a brisk romp through the main spelling rules, to try and bring her up to date a bit.

Socially, they're doing fine. The other kids have been terrific - daughter's class had apparently been going on for weeks about his exciting new girl moving from a foreign country, and son has had the extreme good fortune to drop straight into a group of boys in his class who're interested in Lego, computer games and make-believe role-play, rather than sports or acting pre-teenagely cool. The general American trend for enthusiasm is really helping out here - the kids are finding my children interesting and exotic, and aren't at all afraid to let it show.

One thing I have noticed, which has surprised me: my daughter's Swiss teacher would often mention that she often 'seemed tired' - was slow to finish work or change shoes, easily distracted, wouldn't stay on task, etc. I reassured her that daughter was probably going to bed earlier than most others in the class, around 7.30pm, and put this down to some combination of age, growing, foreign language, Swiss teacher clone-like expectations, etc, and didn't worry overmuch. But I was expecting daughter to be really tired here for the first weeks and months, as it would be her first time in all-day school.

In fact, the complete opposite has happened. Daughter hops off the bus after nearly 8 hours of schooling and she's fizzy and bouncy, much less 'slumpy' than she used to be after school.

(I've been following wattsli's thread about her similar-aged son at school, and much of what said there is ringing bells about how my daughter was in her Swiss school. I don't know whether it was because of the language, the teaching style, the teacher - there were supposed to be two, job-sharing, but the older, experienced one went off sick a few weeks into the school year, leaving the less-experienced one to pick up the extra days and cope alone; she made a great effort but you occasionally you could see the strain and veiled resentment about the situation.

I think perhaps I underestimated the effort it took to learn new things in French - it's all well and good my being pretty much fluent for school gate conversation, but I certainly would have struggled to learn something entirely new to me, like chemistry or calculus, via French.

At least it suggests that with wattsli's son, his 'problems' could just be situational and should therefore resolve themselves with time or a move to a new environment.)

So, overall, they've had a great introduction to US schooling, and so far their 3+ years learning in a foreign language/system don't appear to be causing any huge problems. I think that by the end of 6th and 2nd grades respectively, they should be comfortably at level for their ongoing education. (Although I'd perhaps add that some of this is due to the period I was homeschooling them to prepare for the transition; it certainly would have caused longer term issues if we'd arrived with a 2nd grader unable to read in English, and a 6th grader who was ace at decimals but had no knowledge of fractions beyond 'that's half a pizza'.)

I'll come back and update this thread in the future - I know that many people are in Switzerland on a fixed contract so are curious to know what 2-3 years in Swiss local schools might do to their child's education back home. Admin-wise, we also haven't run into any problems, despite the admission forms' insistence on transcripts from previous schools and vaccination records. My kids have had most of the vacs required; the nurse was happy to let me get a meningitis jab for my son 'any time before the end of 2011', and to sign exemption-due-to-personal-beliefs forms for chicken pox jabs, as they've both had the illness. And getting a transcript from Europeshire, in a foreign language, was so far outside of what they could imagine that they waived the requirement (I think there was an element of 'they're nicely-spoken, articulate Caucasian kids, I'm sure it's all fine' going on; providing schooling for non-English speaking, working-class Mexican children of dubious educational background is a huge issue here).

Hope this helps others!
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Old 16.12.2011, 21:05
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Re: Leaving Switzerland (mostly due to schooling)

What a great post - Glad that things are working out for you all. It is always great when a forum member leaves but gets back with a follow up of their new life with information that will be of great interest to others who find themselves moving to the same place.
When the kids are happy and doing well it makes everthing else fall into place...
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Old 16.12.2011, 21:08
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Re: Leaving Switzerland (mostly due to schooling)

Great post, thanks!

This is what I was expecting from the kids back home. In Canada as well, we were always excited and welcoming for the new kids at school. Showing them the place and involving them in our groups.

I am happy to see you are settling well. We are also having a positive adjustment here. Kids are vey open to my daughter and parents are curious and want to know us. It feels very good and refreshing.

Best of luck!
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Old 16.12.2011, 22:08
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Re: Leaving Switzerland (mostly due to schooling)

Thank you for a great post. As ever your posts are thought provoking and informative. Yes, please do keep updating us on your progress - but well done to your children for making such a great start.

Have a wonderful Christmas.
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Old 17.12.2011, 02:56
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Re: 'Moved from Swiss local school to US public school' - how that's going...

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(I think there was an element of 'they're nicely-spoken, articulate Caucasian kids, I'm sure it's all fine' going on; providing schooling for non-English speaking, working-class Mexican children of dubious educational background is a huge issue here).
Care to elaborate on this?
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Old 17.12.2011, 07:50
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Re: 'Moved from Swiss local school to US public school' - how that's going...

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Care to elaborate on this?
"They waived some requirements for us, and recognised certificates written in a foreign language and/or outside the U.S., but if we'd been Latinos with little English, they would have used these issues to kick us out of / not let us into school."

It is Arizona after all...
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Old 17.12.2011, 08:35
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Re: 'Moved from Swiss local school to US public school' - how that's going...

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Care to elaborate on this?
Okaaaay, could dig myself into trouble with this, but I'll give it a go... Do bear in mind that I'm new, and this is all 'first impressions' stuff. I'm sure I'm over-simplifying it, and there are many shades of grey that just aren't apparent to my 2-months' worth of experience of US culture.

I'm finding society in Phoenix to be polarised/ segregated to a startling degree, and that the casual, endemic racism is quite shocking to someone of a typical educated European, 'we're all just one happy melting pot' background.

EVERY person I've seen emptying bins and sweeping up in the malls is Latino. EVERY person I've seen doing gardening/ landscaping services is Latino. Even low-paid service roles in fast food places staffed by teens are separated into 'customer-facing/ money-handling=White, clean-up=Latino' (not sure who does the cooking).

The landscapers employed by our landlord came out to our house the other day: first of all two Mexican guys, and then an hour or so later their American boss stopped by, referred to them as 'my boys' - one was in his late 40s, early 50s! - and told me to let him know if there were any problems with their work (the inference being they'd slack off unless closely monitored). I am uncomfortable with this overt level of patronisation which seems almost pre-Civil War plantation-like.

Judging by conversations with work colleagues, our relocation people, reading the papers, etc, there is a growing... let's see, resentment? Sudden awareness and concern due to school budget cuts?.. of a mass of kids turning up in the Phoenix schools who're unable to speak English and have had limited, often disjointed schooling in the past. Their parents are usually unable to offer any educational support at home due to their own lack of English and/or education, and their aspirations for their kids (for a first generation immigrant family) don't go beyond learning English and basic literacy/numeracy. I'm generalising here, of course, and stress that this is based on conversational impressions, but it seems a universal view so far.

I am hugely sympathetic to this concept, of course, of Mexicans wanting to move to a new country and give their children greater opportunities. I have absolutely no legs at all to stand on when it comes to arguing that foreign kids in a classroom is terrible, takes up too much of the teaching time, slows down the pace, etc.

Obviously Switzerland has its own issues with non-local language speaking kids in the classroom. It must be vastly simpler for the teacher if little Francois moves with his family from France, already speaking the same language and coming from an educational system that's roughly in step with the Swiss one, than when my son turned up, or when asylum seekers pitch up with foreign kids who've never even been to school. The difference is that here people go beyond a reasonably logical 'I believe too many non-English speakers in a class would be detrimental to my child's education' stance to an openly-stated position of 'I don't want my child mixing with 'those' people' and 'I'm fed up with my tax dollars paying for all these extra teachers and classes for the immigrant kids'.

It's been a long, long time since I heard such obvious, dismissive racism, all aimed at one group of people based on ethnicity - it's along the lines of the 'nignog' comments my grandparents would occasionally make in the 70s, or the 'ooh, gypsies in the neighbourhood, better start nailing everything down before it disappears' responses. Given the newness of American society, and their obvious pride in their not-that-long-ago European/country of origin heritage where appropriate, you'd think people would cut this latest crop of immigrants a little slack for simply wanting to improve their lot in life. Or at least appreciating the cheap service prices that (sometimes illegal) immigrant labour provides, rather than whining about being over-run by people who're a lot more native to this continent than they are.

So anyway, that's the gist. It is made abundantly, uncomfortably clear that we are the 'right' sort of immigrants putting the right sort of kids into the school - white, English-speaking, previously well-schooled kids, who have a few short-term gaps but nothing that their degree-educated parents can't support them with - but that the 'other sort' of immigrants aren't welcome. I'm sure Swiss people sometimes had opinions about the influx of foreigners, but otherwise polite, educated, intelligent people wouldn't be so darn open about it with almost virtual strangers in casual conversation.
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