“Am I really doing this to my children?”
This was my thought after dropping my two oldest children (A age six, and J age nine) off at school for their first day of classes in Denmark. Don’t get me wrong. I was not at all concerned that the kids were not safe, or that the education was sub-par. In fact I believe the opposite to be true. The schools here are incredible, and they are one of the things about which I was most excited for my family to experience here in Denmark.
But I did feel awful as I walked through the doorway of their classroom, down the hallway and out the door. I felt awful because I could tell how nervous they were, how they felt out-of-place, how they didn’t know what to do. They are in a language acquisition program; however, the teachers instruct only in Danish, and most of the kids in their classes have already been in the program for several months, so they are already speaking some Danish, or so my kids are telling me. Fortunately, most of the teachers do speak some English so they are able to understand my kiddos, but this is definitely an “immersion” program. I watched J and A sitting at their desks, clearly not understanding a thing that was being said. I could tell that this upset them. I could tell that they were scared. And as a mother, that just eats at me and pierces me straight to my heart.
I will admit that I am second-guessing our decision to put them into public schools here in this foreign country where they don’t speak the language.
There were other options:
#1 Not coming to Denmark at all. The kids were very happy at their school in Berthoud, and the education there was great. I would even go so far as to say that my kids were excelling in that environment.
#2. Home-school: I brought math workbooks, etc here to Denmark so that I would have the option to home school my kids, if need be. This is still part of my game plan, actually. After giving my J and A some time to adjust to their new school schedule, I am planning to spend a few hours with them each week making sure that they stay caught up with the schools back home–particularly with math and English, and reading. Also, (as soon as we find a digital piano), I am hoping to continue with their piano lessons.
#3. English-speaking International School. This is an option we seriously considered. The drawbacks were that it is far away (50 minutes from John’s work), and it is expensive. My understanding is that the government provides some sort of voucher system to cover part of the cost, but you are responsible for the rest. With at least 2 kids attending, tuition would be in the realm of several hundreds of dollars per month. At first, I was considering the “instruction in English” International School in Herning, Denmark to be the best option, and I was willing to make it work with the money and the commute. After considerable thought and research and discussion with John, we began to consider the Danish public schools. When we found out that there was a language acquisition program at Alkjaerskole, close to where John would be working, this seemed like the perfect set-up. What I didn’t realize was that even the perfect set up would be difficult for my kids.
It is certainly too soon to tell whether or not the experience/experiment at school here will be a success. It is way too soon to tell how quickly and well the kids will pick up Danish. It is too soon to know if they will make friends or not. And of course it will be a very long time before we will be able to look back on this time and say, “Oh, those first few months were hard, but it was so worth it–we learned and grew so much.” This is one of those situations where I’m just going to have to try not to worry. Support my kids in every way that I can, but also trust the system, trust in my own decisions. Trust in what everyone tells me–that the kids will learn Danish quickly. It seems impossible–it seems like it would take a miracle. But then, kids’ acquisition of speech in their native tongue is nothing short of that–a miracle. So I’ll just have to ask for one more 😉 .