Back to School, Internationally

by Rachel Pieh Jones on September 2, 2013

Growing up in suburban Minneapolis, every first day of school was essentially the same. I knew the school, the teachers, the students. The school supplies in my backpack, all from Target, were familiar and reliable. I knew the date of the first day and it never changed at the last minute. I knew I would vomit, or at least feel sick, the day before, that combination of dread and excitement too much to handle with poise for a timid introvert.

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learning how to ride the bus to school in Minnesota

Now, sending my children off to their first day of school in the fall, I battle that same dread and excitement (no more vomiting though). One of my kids goes to her first day with a backpack and plastic bag overflowing with supplies, a water bottle cradled like a baby doll in her arms. She goes to the French school in Djibouti. The other two go to their first day of school with carry-on luggage and airplane tickets. They go to boarding school in Kenya.

The first day of school in Djibouti is a moving target and we aren’t always certain until the week before. Students and teachers are constantly in flux, hello new and goodbye old, and in the first week of classes my daughter will likely come home with an entirely updated list of school supplies (speaking of school supplies…we want to buy local but let’s face it, Crayola crayons actually color, cost less than $0.50/crayon, and don’t melt, Scotch tape actually sticks, Elmer’s glue sticks don’t shrivel and dry up before being opened. Some school supplies are purchased in the US.)

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lunch at school in Kenya

School choices are intensely personal and complex and I expect we will host challenging and engaging conversations about school choices and options and successes and mistakes here in the future, keep your eyes open for that. But…

…for now, since many of us are in the busy, chaotic throes of putting kids on planes or on buses or in carpools or walking shoes, busy packing lunches or snack boxes, filling water bottles, shopping for last minute school supplies, re-arriving in our host countries after a summer vacation…how about one quick question:

What school option(s) have you chosen for your family? Here is my answer:

Three different local French schools in Djibouti. A preschool in Somalia. Boarding school in Kenya. One year of American public French immersion school. Intermittent homeschool of history and English. A few weeks of preschool in France. Not necessarily in that order.

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goodbye to the goat on the first day of school in Djibouti

I’m curious and would love to hear how expatriates around the world decide to educate their children.

A word, a couple words (for those with constant changes, a short paragraph): how have you chosen to educate your children?

 -Rachel Pieh Jones, introverted development worker, Djibouti

                         Blog: Djibouti Jones, Twitter: @RachelPiehJones, Facebook: Rachel Pieh Jones

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About Rachel Pieh Jones

Rachel was raised in the Christian west and said, ‘you betcha’ and ate Jell-O salads, she now lives in the Muslim east, says ‘insha Allah,’ and eats samosas. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Family Fun, Running Times, and more, and she blogs for Brain Child and Babble.

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