My daughters are now enrolled in four schools and on the waiting list for another six. To be fair it’s across two different countries, but still, it’s a lot of paperwork, a stupid amount of money, and a whole lot of stress.
I thought I was done with the school issue. My husband and I have been having the same debate (read argument) for the last four years. Private school versus Waldorf education. I’m pro-Steiner, but my husband has equally strong views, both about that ‘hippy school’, and about the superiority of private education. Of course, I am the one doing the reading, filling out the paperwork and dealing with the school meetings, so his opinion has very few time constraints, mine keeps encroaching on my day, filling the hours I am supposed to be spending writing.
In Melbourne, we had time to luxuriate about our different opinions, my eldest has been enrolled in both his and my preferred schools since she was a year old. We’ve been lax with our youngest, because once one is in, it’s much easier to get the other in. Having just moved to Amsterdam, and then deciding we like it here and might actually like to stay, has really made life difficult. Our eldest turns five in September. That’s only four months away, as each school likes to remind me. And each of the schools we want has at least 10 other kids ahead of her. Of course, it’s made all the more difficult because 1) she doesn’t speak dutch and so cannot go to a dutch school and 2) I am really fussy about schools. I eliminate half of them because I don’t believe in their philosophies – whereas my husband is inclined to just ‘apply everywhere and we’ll see where the chips fall.’ So I’ve now filled out at least 10 different application forms, had passport photos taken, which involved me sitting on my knees with my head ducking down at an attractively awkward angle so as to avoid actually being in the photo that way my daughter could have some kind of comforting contact throughout the entire ordeal.
I receive an email from one of the schools. It’s not our first choice, its not actually in our top 5, but our daughter is in. The catch is, they want payment immediately. My husband and I decide to take another spin on the education wheel and gamble her place. I feel sick, but we are already paying for two different kinder programs, the one she was attending in Melbourne because you have to give a full terms notice and we didn’t know if we were going to need to come back, and the one she is attending now, here in Amsterdam. I’m pretty sure we could have bought first class ticket to anywhere in the world with the amount of money we’ve spent on school application and acceptance fees.
At this point, it looks like I’ll be homeschooling, and my sanity is not sure this is a viable option. I call my husband, who has been chasing our number one school option.
‘My PA has been chasing but the principal is a hard man to catch,’ my husband explains.
There are nine other students ahead of our daughter, but I want this one. It’s a bilingual Montessori school, so it’s incredibly similar to the kinder program she is in now. Our eldest is not a child who adores change. In fact, she welcomes change with ear piercing screams, balled up fists and flailing limbs. It’s a delight to parent, and I worry what another change will do to her right now. To me. To all of us.
‘You need to make this happen.’ I tell my husband. Work your magic, do whatever it takes, but she needs to go to this school.’
A couple of weeks later, we meet with the school, and she is in! I’m so excited. I want to shout it from the rooftops. Of course, no one actually cares. I tell my daughter’s current teacher our plans, and she grimaces. ‘Oh,’ is all she says. I want to cry.