Starting School in the Netherlands

Tuesday 31st August, 2016

I need to stick to my policy of never leaving my children at school when they’re crying. There’s pressure from the woman who heads up the teaching team at SOU to leave quickly, but it’s not emotionally intelligent. I would have expected more EQ here with Amsterdam’s overall liberalness, but the schooling system is kind of broken all over the world it would seem. What we need is empathetic play-based and enquiry-based learning, coupled with an overall liberal education, and buoyed up with lots of excellent resources. The Dutch are firm believers in fostering independence in children. But, I have always advocated attachment parenting, so that when my children are confident they will instinctively pull away and seek out their own independence. Well, here I’m being pushed to accelerate the process of independence. Also, the drive for children’s independence at SOU seems to come at a cost at the school. The Calvinist past rears its head up! I’ve witnessed a lack of tolerance of my children’s and other’s emotions, a desire to stop them crying, rather than comfort them. Whilst I too struggle at times with my children’s intense emotions, especially when I’m having trouble regulating my own emotions, I recognise that all emotions are ok and that we should strive to acknowledge them, accept them, and release them. Otherwise, what hope to we have of self-regulating? I notice that in Dutch culture it’s most important to be ‘normal,’ calm and confident as a mother, but also as a child. They have this saying: ‘Doe mar normal!’ (Just be normal). Although, its also widely critiqued in Dutch culture. Well, this mama has emotions! I might need a badge that says so. Yes, I think it’s important to role model self-regulation and to try to maintain a calm disposition, but I also think it’s important for children to comprehend the fact that we all have emotions and it’s an integral part of being a human animal. I need to gain more confidence in this school. It’s very chaotic at drop off. We must leave our children at a glass door. We’re not even allowed inside the school.

There are a lot of Montessori primary schools in Amsterdam, which is a philosophy of learning that aligns with me. However, there don’t appear to be any bilingual Montessori schools. (There’s one hugely expensive private one). Also, the Montessori schools are all highly regulated by the government curriculum, which means they are not autocratic systems. There are also a few Steiner schools in Amsterdam, which they call the free school. I find this weird as most Steiner schools are decidedly un-secular with a highly prescribed curriculum. Whilst they are play-based, which is wonderful, they are not usually progressive, often overly steeped in a religious pathos for an outdated concept of Christianity. I thought that SOU might be the solution we were looking for. I’m now not so sure. Well, it’s a new school and disorganised right now. Despite that the children are being brave, although Marlene cries when we say goodbye. I comfort her and help her through, but I need to insist on staying until she completely settles. Both Marlene and Gabriel are very tired at the end of the day. It must be exhausting not being able to comprehend what’s being said all the time. There doesn’t appear to be much English being spoken at all, which is quite disconcerting given that it’s supposed to be a bilingual school. I will need to try and meet with the director to find out what is going on with regards to the bilingual curriculum. It would really suck balls if this school turns out to be The School of NOT Understanding!!!