Believe it or not, we are in the process of choosing a school for Isla for next year. In the educational system here in Lebanon, kids start school (full-time!) in the calendar year they turn three…. although many (most?) have been in day care since they are one.
Oh to be in a country where you just go to the public school closest to your house! It’s a bit more complicated here.
First you have to decide if you want to English or French educate your children (yep, those are the choices – no Arabic! Although it is taught as a separate class in both French and English schools). For us, that’s a pretty easy choice, as neither of us speak French and we’d like to actually be able to help Isla with her homework past kindergarten. Within those mediums, there are several programs that you can choose from: French baccalaureate, International bacc, Lebanese bacc… there might be more, this is all a bit confusing for me, honestly!
Then you have to consider your budget. If we wanted to send Isla to the best English schools in Beirut, we’d be looking at $9-11,000 for her first year… and it goes up a little each year. We’re definitely not heading in that direction – although I’ll admit, the playground at those schools (rare in Beirut) makes it tempting. Ok, not really that tempting, just makes me sad that you have to pay that much for a 3 year old to have a nice playground at her school.
Anyways, we’ve found two good options that we are looking at for Isla. They are much more in-line with our budget and we’ve heard good things about both schools. One is within walking distance, the other just a mile away… which means about an hour to get there and back with traffic. We’ve visited both schools and the next step is to fill out an application, and then, get this, Isla has to go in for an interview!!! I’m really curious how a 2 year old is interviewed and evaluated… I’m sure that will be another blog post all on it’s own.
It’s been hard to get “real” information, actually. Obviously, Isla is very strong in English, and we’d love for her to be in a context that would really help her progress in Arabic. But there is a sense of pride when talking to the administrators that, “NO! We speak English in our classroom!” (except the hour a day that the kids have Arabic class.) But I know for a fact that it isn’t a complete immersion situation, or you’d have kids at the end of their first year speaking in English, and that’s just not the case… at least in my experience working with the girls. So I know they are speaking Arabic to the kids. It’s just hard finding out how much exposure Isla would get… because we are hoping it’s a lot, but the schools are standing by their program and telling us what they think we want to hear… that it’s all English.
So, we are weighing our options… considering our values… and filling out applications and setting up interviews for our two year old who tells me, “I don’t yite school. It’s not very fun.” It’s quite overwhelming, honestly.
To be continued… :)
*edited to add: part 2 is here!