The Treasure Hunter

A blog by Joanne Yatvin

How Children Learn without their Regular School

on May 3, 2020

Instead of moaning about the closing of our schools right now, think about what you did last summer or when you and your children were living far away from home. Then make a plan that will work just as well for them. here is what we did.

Fifty years ago my husband, our four young children, and I spent a full year living in  in Belgium. You may wonder how we managed all that difficult time, but in fact it was  pleasant and also meaningful. No, the kids didn’t learn a new language or much of the foreign curriculum that was taught there, but they did learn how to live well in a different country, gain new friends, learn parts of a foreign language and how to spend there time well.  

On every school holiday we would travel to see parts of Italy, Germany and Switzerland. We also took the children to Paris, Barcelona, Amsterdam and London.  In addition our children went on a winter ski trip in Switzerland with their classmates and teachers.

While in Belgium we lived in a townhouse with  bedrooms for everybody, a kitchen, a living room, and an outside a backyard where we kept a bunny. Our children attended an international school where classes were offered in French, German and Dutch (Flemish), but not in English.  Over that year they picked up parts of those languages, but didn’t become fluent in any of them.  Fortunately, most of their classmates spoke some English and were eager to speak it with our children.  On weekends we would drive across the border to Eindhoven in The Netherlands, where we were able to buy English books, special foods that we missed, electronics, and to eat lunch at our favorite Indonesian restaurant.  Thanks to all those books we bought, our children read regularly. We also got the “International Herald Tribune” and listened to “Armed Forces Radio”, so they could keep up with the news. Because very little television was in English they rarely watched it.

When we got back to our home in Wisconsin all our children were able to advance to the next grade.  But our oldest son had to take the biology and driver education classes he missed overseas. Although all of them missed a year of regular classwork in Belgium, they were able to resume schoolwork in the USA without any trouble and go on to regular school activities. Later, they all went on to collage in Wisconsin and earned  the credits they needed to have.



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