Back to School Around the World!

Back to School Around the World!

Although the weather in New Jersey, USA feels like the summer is still going strong, the school buses around my neighborhood are one of the signs of fall. Just last week my 7-year-old son started his adventures in public school by taking the school bus for the first time and starting 1st grade.  My daughter also started Kindergarten, our first year of school in the US at age 5, and I am barely keeping the tears back lately!!

Our family tradition is that we get a Back to School picture of both Hayley and Derek, and both, my husband and I, take the kids to school that day.

2015 WMB Back to School USA NJ Sarah

These huge milestones for my kids and our family had me thinking about other kids and moms around the world.  I wondered what “Back to School” looked like for them. Are their kids in uniform? Or play clothes? When do they start school? I invite you to join me on a World Moms Blog around the world, back to school photo journey!…

First, we’re in Belgium. Say bonjour to our contributor, Tinne’s daughters on their first day of school!

2015 WMB Belgium Back to School 500

Next, we head over to Kenya, where Tara Wambugu shares this photo of her daughter and her teacher, Miss Eva, on her first day in Nairobi!

2015 WMB Back to School Keny w Teacher 500

Next, meet us over in the USA, where World Mom, Jennifer Prestholdt’s three children, are off to school in Minnesota! Below is her son’s first day of 10th grade at Washburn High School (in red), her son’s first day of 8th grade at Lake Harriet Upper School (in neon green!), and her daughter’s first day of 5th grade at Lake Harriet Upper School!

2015 WMB Back to School Minnesota Collage

Next, we’re in the UK, where World Mom, Michelle ‘s twin girls start their first day of school of year 4 for 8 and 9 year olds in September! Her older son (not pictured) is starting Senior School this year, too. Hello, there, in the UK!

2015 WMB Back to School Michelle UK 500

Big Yellow School bus, anyone?  Here is World Mom, Jennifer Burden’s daughter, walking to the bus on her first day of third grade (8 years old) this year in New Jersey, USA!  She went back to school this September.

2015 WMB Back to School NJ

Let’s fly on over to preschool in Krakow, Poland for our contributor, Loren’s daughter’s first day! Loren just moved here from Washington, DC, and her daughter went without knowing any Polish! The report? Mom says all seemed to go well!

2015 WMB Back to School Poland 500

World Mom, Kirsten Doyle in Toronto Canada, shared this pic of her sons’ first day of school this September! They started grades 5 and 7 this year.

2015 WMB Back to School Canada 500

Susan Koh, a World Mom in Singapore, shared this photo of her daughter’s first day of school in K2! Kids there go back to school in January. Peace!

2015 WMB Back to School Singapore 500

Our contributor, Alison Fraser in Canada, has had a school built in Arusha, Tanzania through her organization, Mom2Mom Africa. The kids there also begin school in January. Here are some of the students in their school uniforms! (We are also proud that another fellow World Mom sponsors the education for one of these awesome girls!)

2015 WMB Back to School Mom2Mom Africa

Speaking of going back to school in January, World Mom, Karyn Wills, wanted to make sure we mentioned that school children in New Zealand and Australia are three quarters through their school year already, too!

Now, some more fantastic pics from a few friends of the blog in the UK!

2015 WMB Back to School UK Edie and Ruby

Edie and Ruby’s first day of school at St. Walburgas Catholic Primary School, Shipley, West Yorkshire, England.

And, another from the UK…

2015 WMB Back to School UK Reggie Matilda

Matilda and Reggie’s first day of school at The Downs School in Bristol, England.

Oh, those hats! We love them!

And, we leave you with an additional photo of Tara Wambugu’s little girl in Nairobi, Kenya. She’s all business with her lunch box!

2015 WMB Back to School Kenya 500

When is back to school in your country?  Wish to share a back to school photo with us? Head on over to our Facebook Page and leave it as a comment on this post over there! 

*P.S.  Did you catch our contributor in Jordan’s back to school advice for kids yesterday? It’s a MUST read!

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by our Social Media Manager, Sarah Hughes of the USA. You can also find her on her personal blog, Finnegan and the Hughes

Photo credits to the World Moms and friends! 

Sarah Hughes

Sarah grew up in New York and now calls New Jersey home. A mother of two, Derek (5) and Hayley (2), Sarah spends her days working at a University and nights playing with her children. In her “free” time Sarah is a Shot@Life Champion and a volunteer walk coordinator for the Preeclampsia Foundation. Sarah enjoys reading, knitting, sewing, shopping and coffee. Visit Sarah at her own blog Finnegan and The Hughes, where she writes about parenting, kid friendly adventures and Social Good issues. Sarah is also an editor, here, at World Moms Blog!

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NETHERLANDS: My Child is Not Me

NETHERLANDS: My Child is Not Me

Olga & Her Daughter

Left: The author, Olga Mecking, when she was growing up in Germany. Right: Olga’s daughter today in the Netherlands.

Sometimes, I find myself rediscovering simple truths about life in general and parenting in particular. My latest epiphany is this: “My child is not me.”

On the contrary to all the books and articles out there that tell us that we will grow into our parents, I don’t think this is the case. I think that while our parents influence our lives, we’re still separate individuals with our own thoughts, ideas and opinions.

And never has this simple truth rung more true to me than it has when my eldest daughter started school. I’ve been very worried about sending her to school at the tender age of four. I thought back to my old school days and worried and worried. And worried some more because my experiences weren’t all that great.

But this is when I realized: my child is not me! Pretty much everything about her will be different.

I was born and raised in communist Poland and went to school shortly before Communism fell. As much as I love my country, going to school in these times wasn’t so great.

We had to learn everything by heart. Language teachers weren’t too good. Classes were huge and the teachers were strict, even to the point of giving bad grades for pretty much anything. Nobody knew anything about bilingualism, and I was even lucky to have German classes offered at my school, as bad as they were.

But my child is not me.

She goes to school in a modern, Western country and has been speaking 3 languages from birth. Her teacher is amazing and lets the children play a lot. They go outside for recess and learn letters and numbers, and they even went on a school trip. In my daughter’s school, it is normal to speak two or more languages.

As a child, I was shy and timid. My idea of a good day was, and still is, to stay at home and read a book. School proved to be too much for me at times: too loud, too big. On the other hand, I was often told to sit still, be organized, and listen when all I really wanted to do was run around.

But my child is not me.

She seems to be more of an extrovert than I ever was. She could be outside all the time, playing, jumping, swinging, playing with other children; and, she seems to enjoy school.

I even often receive photos from her teachers. Guess who of all the children in the pictures has the biggest smile? My blond beautiful daughter.

When I went to school, we were taught about computers, but seldom used them for school. We were told that learning is hard work and were given grades for our work, even for our paintings. After school, I totally stopped painting.

But my child is not me.

She thinks learning is fun and can use all the great apps for learning, and she has a great selection of books in all the languages that she’s learning. She loves getting her hands dirty with paint and uses them to paint on a large piece of paper. She paints the funniest creatures and people, and she gives them funny names.

My daughter and I both have straight blond hair. Many people tell me she looks like me. I think I have an idea who she got her willpower and stubbornness from, but my child, she’s not completely me.

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Olga Mecking in the Netherlands. 

Photo credit to the author. 

Olga Mecking

Olga is a Polish woman living in the Netherlands with her German husband. She is a multilingual expat mom to three trilingual children (even though, theoretically, only one is trilingual since she's old enough to speak). She loves being an expat, exploring new cultures, learning languages, cooking and raising her children. Occasionally, Olga gives trainings in intercultural communication and works as a translator. Otherwise, you can find her sharing her experiences on her blog, The European Mama. Also take a while to visit her Facebook page .

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WORLD TOUR: Agnieszka from POLAND Sews Love

WORLD TOUR: Agnieszka from POLAND Sews Love

“Stiches of Love”

I come from a family that rarely said ‘I love you’ with words, but nonetheless, I always felt loved to bits. My family showed their affection with handmade sandals, jumpers, dresses, skirts.

I wore them with joy, and they witnessed my climbing the trees, eating cherries in the yard, jumping over fences and sometimes bruising my knees. Now, years into adulthood and motherhood, I know how much love my grandparents and my mother put into stitches that held together my clothes because I do the same with my children’s things.

One morning my daughter walked next to me, focused on the day she was going to have, thinking about her kindergartens activities.

In her mind she was still singing, most likely. Earlier, when we were leaving home she was dancing to her tune; this fantastic daughter of mine. That morning she had decided to put on the pants I sewed for her. Every single stitch of these pants contained my unconditional love for her. I do tell my daughter that I love her, but somehow the magic of my handmade clothes cast a spell of love on her. The motherly spell of all the wishes I have for her. The clothes selected and made only for her, individualized, crafted for her particular needs.

agnieszka bak, sewn doll

Last month my mother came to visit me in California. She came all the way from Poland, and it had been almost two years since our goodbye before I had left to come the States. We miss each other like crazy, yet we always avoid public displays of affection and neither of us are chatterboxes.

Such a period cannot be easily covered with words, so we took out a sewing machine. I made pants for my younger daughter, and she cast her spell of love into the stitches of a skirt that she sewed for me. I am an adult, but my mom’s love is such that she will make a skirt for me. The prettiest skirt ever.

My daughter dressed her doll into a dress she hand-sewn for her. And then my daughter made her first attempt to sew something. I could see how deep the love goes, and how life through sewing made a full circle despite distance. Here was this 5-year-old daughter of mine sewing before she was able to write.

Just like me, my mom, my granny, and many other women in my family before us, we were all sewing affections into the net of life before our ABCs started to matter.

Stitches of Love Bio Photo

Love can be expressed in various ways, in my family we do it with stitches, there is no denying it, it is sewn deep in our veins.

How do you say your “I love yous?”

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by  Agnieszka, an expat wife from Poland living in California and mother to four children aged 10, 8, 5, and almost 1. By education she is a linguist in love with everything related to words in various languages. Currently, she is a stay-at-home-mom dedicating her time to raise good, loving, and smiling human beings. Being a stay-at-home-mom is a luxury she appreciates a lot and every day. Her family decided to move from Poland in 2008 to experience an adventure and see the different ways in which people live. 

California is the second foreign place they have lived as a family so far. Agnieszka is a huge fan of sustainability; she loves upcycling, so whenever she can, she sews, knits, and recycles old clothes. The whole family is crazy about books and travel, except for their cat who cannot understand their passions, with the exception of their passion for yarn. She tangles every bit of any skein that gets into her claws!

She blogs in Polish about the family expat life, motherhood adventure, and her own third culture kids at

Sarah Hughes

Sarah grew up in New York and now calls New Jersey home. A mother of two, Derek (5) and Hayley (2), Sarah spends her days working at a University and nights playing with her children. In her “free” time Sarah is a Shot@Life Champion and a volunteer walk coordinator for the Preeclampsia Foundation. Sarah enjoys reading, knitting, sewing, shopping and coffee. Visit Sarah at her own blog Finnegan and The Hughes, where she writes about parenting, kid friendly adventures and Social Good issues. Sarah is also an editor, here, at World Moms Blog!

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Massachussets, USA:  Traveling Like a European

Massachussets, USA: Traveling Like a European


Our luggage for a three-week trip to Europe for a family of four

We just returned from a family trip to Europe. It was the first time we took our kids, ages 7 and 4, on an overseas vacation and we wanted to be sure to make the most of the experience. Right from the outset, we did two very un-American things: 1) we took more than two weeks off for the trip, and 2) we packed really, really light. For four people on a three-week vacation we took just three carry-ons and one back pack.

Possibly demanding even more attention than our travel itinerary, our luggage became a bit of an obsession for my husband.

When we decided to take my cousin and his wife up on their invitation to visit them in Poland, we wanted to be as economical as possible, both about getting to Europe and traveling within it. Thanks to my husband’s frequent cross-country business trips over the past two years and the added perk that his company’s European headquarters is in Cork, Ireland, we were able to cover three of our four tickets without spending a dime. We figured once we got to Ireland, like well-traveled Europeans, we’d rely on discount airlines to get us where we wanted to go.

The challenge became figuring out which carriers would get us where we wanted to go for the least amount of money. From Ireland, we wanted to get to Poland, and from Poland, we wanted to fly to London. Then from London, once more to Ireland, for our return flight home.

Ryanair, a notorious (and insidious), Irish, discount carrier was top on our list for cheap flights. Following a close second was Easy Jet.

Though Ryanair has incredibly low prices—we bought tickets from Cork, Ireland to Warsaw, Poland for US$70 per person—they also have ridiculously restrictive carry-on luggage requirements. This is how they are stated on the Ryanair website:

“Strictly one item of cabin baggage per passenger (excluding infants) weighing up to 10kg with maximum dimensions of 55cm x 40cm x 20cm is permitted. (handbag, briefcase, laptop, shop purchases, camera etc.) must be carried in your 1 permitted piece of cabin baggage.”

If your carry-on does NOT meet these requirements or fit in the miniature luggage cage positionedryanair by the Ryanair ticket counters and flight gates, then these are the penalties:

Extra/oversized cabin baggage will be refused at the boarding gate, or where available, placed in the hold of the aircraft for a fee of £60/€60. Fees are subject to VAT on Italian, French, Spanish, Portuguese and German domestic routes at applicable government rates. If you are unsure, check at the Bag Drop desk before going through security.

In other words, if your luggage doesn’t pass, at the gate you may be forced to pay as much as or more than your actual flight ticket to check the offending item.

I’m pretty sure Ryanair caters to the weekend travel crowd, whose weekend’s worth of necessities easily fall within these parameters but for a family of four on a European sojourn, the restrictions were crippling.

The restrictions caused two dilemmas for us. The first dilemma was that the standard size of all US carry-on suitcases exceeds Ryanair dimensions. In fact, after browsing multiple websites and purchasing and returning two, new carry-ons, we could not seem to find wheeled luggage small or light enough to fit their limitations. The second dilemma was that without wheels, our children were not old enough nor strong enough to carry their own luggage. Meaning that everything we needed for our three-week trip would have to be carried by my husband and me.

Armed with a tape measure and digital luggage scale, my husband became a man possessed by the Ryanair luggage restrictions.

Our packing list went from vacation-size to commando-style. Each of us was rationed: five tops (two long sleeve, three short), four bottoms (two pants, two shorts or skirts), seven under garments, three pairs of socks, two pairs of shoes, one sweater, a swimsuit and a travel-raincoat.

Added to this were toiletries, my husband’s laptop computer, business attire for the days he needed to put in at the Cork office (including a sports coat and a pair of dress shoes), entertainment items for the kids (foam-weight, modeling clay; travel journals; crayons; a travel game; a deck of cards; markers), a DSLR camera, and a tablet computer loaded with books, two movies and a variety of travel apps.

We divided these items among our backpack and three small bags, weighed and measured each one…twice. Then stood on our bathroom scale and weighed them again. When we were pretty confident that our luggage met the size and weight requirments—dictated most restrictively by Ryanair—my husband added a contingency plan, which involved wearing all of our heaviest and bulkiest clothing items on travel days.

We were determined to travel small, light-weight and efficient, just like our European counterparts.

So though Ryanair set the stage for our minimalist luggage, thankfully, we only flew one flight with them. In comparison, Easy Jet was a luxury liner with far less restrictive rules and the three other regional carriers we flew even allowed passengers to check items, free-of-charge.

Considering the stress that packing for our trip caused up front, in the end, it was a great lesson in minimalist travel:

  1. confined to a week’s worth of clothes, we were able to do laundry twice on our trip.
  2. With careful and clever planning, our clothing choices yielded 21 different wardrobe combinations, preventing us from looking like we had on the same outfits in the copious number of pictures we snapped.
  3. The time we spent in airports was significantly reduced by the lack of our need to wait at the luggage claim each time.
  4. And, perhaps most rewarding, we’d like to think we blended in with other European travelers, rather than sticking out like typical boisterous Americans on holiday.

This is an original post for World Moms Blog by our Managing Editor and mom of two in Massachusetts, Kyla P’an.

Photos credited to the author.

Kyla P'an (Portugal)

Kyla was born in suburban Philadelphia but spent most of her time growing up in New England. She took her first big, solo-trip at age 14, when she traveled to visit a friend on a small Greek island. Since then, travels have included: three months on the European rails, three years studying and working in Japan, and nine months taking the slow route back from Japan to the US when she was done. In addition to her work as Managing Editor of World Moms Network, Kyla is a freelance writer, copy editor, recovering triathlete and occasional blogger. Until recently, she and her husband resided outside of Boston, Massachusetts, where they were raising two spunky kids, two frisky cats, a snail, a fish and a snake. They now live outside of Lisbon, Portugal with two spunky teens and three frisky cats. You can read more about Kyla’s outlook on the world and parenting on her personal blogs, Growing Muses And Muses Where We Go

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POLAND via USA: Breastfeeding in public?

POLAND via USA: Breastfeeding in public?

A while ago, during a nice lunch in a restaurant, I had to feed my two-month-old daughter. The moment I put her to my breast (completely covered, by the way), a constant whispering and eyeballing from a table across us made me feel like I was doing something wrong. These were young people, among them a mother herself. (more…)

Ewa Samples

Ewa was born, and raised in Poland. She graduated University with a master's degree in Mass-Media Education. This daring mom hitchhiked from Berlin, Germany through Switzerland and France to Barcelona, Spain and back again! She left Poland to become an Au Pair in California and looked after twins of gay parents for almost 2 years. There, she met her future husband through Couch Surfing, an international non-profit network that connects travelers with locals. Today she enjoys her life one picture at a time. She runs a photography business in sunny California and document her daughters life one picture at a time. You can find this artistic mom on her blog, Ewa Samples Photography, on Twitter @EwaSamples or on Facebook!

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