differencesThe day I gave birth to my son, HJ, is a day I’ll never forget. Induction nightmare? Check. Post baby snuggles? Check. September 3rd birth date? Check.

Little did I know at the time how much my son’s birthday would impact his development and education but flash forward to 2013 and here I sit, faced with the first of many educational concerns.

Living in Paris meant that on September 4th, 2012, my son formally entered the French education system. At just three years old, he was invited to attend nursery school, or maternelle, which comprises the first three years of schooling. Due to his inability to speak French, my son was invited to attend school four mornings per week from 8:30 a.m. until 11:40 a.m. As he began to thrive in school, his teacher gently suggested that I begin leaving him for one full-day per week after the holiday break in December. By late-January, he was attending school all day until 4:15 p.m., eating French catered lunch in the cantine (cafeteria), enjoying rest time, and thriving.

Combining his easy going attitude and tall stature (95% percentile for height), most parents thought my son was one of the older kids in the class. In order to start school in September, children must turn three by December 31st, and with a September 3rd birthday, my son was one of the younger students. When I would share this with the parents, they’d say, “Wow, but he is so tall!”

Our plans for HJ’s education were that he would be in French school until we moved home, and at that point he’d transition into kindergarten at the local school. When our contract ended sooner than expected, I began the joyous task of figuring out what options we had to continue HJ’s formal education, and the results were shocking.

HJ misses the US cut-off for kindergarten by two days. This means that he has to wait until he is six to enter kindergarten! I neatly placed that reality aside and instead focused on what education he could receive now, at four years old.

My choices floored me.

Option A) the public school offers a “lottery” for kids ages 3-4 for preschool, and the schedule only allows kids to get one of three spots: two mornings from 8-11, three mornings, four afternoons, or five mornings. And all this for the staggering price of more than $6,000.

Option B) the local Montessori school, which has no openings until September of 2014, and again runs mornings only. Did I mention that they also refused to reveal the actual cost of the program?

And finally, Option C) a local Catholic school that offers five all-day classes for  around $7,000.

So what’s the big deal?!

Children in France have access to all-day education beginning at age three for FREE, with master’s degree trained teachers. While every school isn’t as amazing as the one my son attends, the French may be on to something. For two working parents, morning-only, formal education settings are an inconvenience, and for single-income families, shelling out over $6,000 for a few hours a day may be too much.

All around the United States, parents are struggling with making hard financial decisions and I wonder if it seems fair that we have to do so when it comes to our children’s educations?

For us, having HJ evaluated and exploring how he measures up to his peers is one solution. How he falls in the range of social and emotional intelligence will give us a window into how he may fair in kindergarten and will be necessary if we plan on fighting the school district for a spot in kindergarten if it seems logical and appropriate for our son.

The second option is to just ride the wave and instead allow our six year old to join his peers, perhaps giving him a leg up on his classmates. Then I question, “Will he be bored?” “Too big?” At this point I’m just not sure which choice is best for our little guy but it did get my wheels moving, wondering about the significant differences in how each country approaches education. What is it like for children in Germany, or Canada? Do parents struggle with similar issues in Sydney, Australia?

So please, World Moms Blog readers, share your location/country’s educational process! When does school begin? When did your children start school? Anything you wish you could change about your child’s educational experiences?

This is an original post to World Moms Blog from Jacki, mother of one now living in XXX but formerly blogging from Paris, France.


Jacki, or “MommaExpat,” as she’s known in the Internet community, is a former family therapist turned stay-at-home mom in Paris, France. Jacki is passionate about issues as they relate to mothers and children on both domestic and international scenes, and is a Volunteer Ambassador for the Fistula Foundation. In addition to training for her first half marathon, Jacki can be found learning French in Paris and researching her next big trip. Jacki blogs at H J Underway, a chronicle of her daily life as a non-French speaking mom in France.

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