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A Difficult Decision

Ready for the first day of school

Earlier this summer, in June, I traveled to Germany to visit my husband and start making plans for our new life overseas.

We had three major tasks to complete:

  1. Get my German driver's license,

  2. Find a house, off-base, where we'd spend the next few years, and

  3. Register our two children for school.

Not one of these tasks came easily.

The driving test contained a total of 300 questions, including a 200-question pretest requiring a score of 85%+ in order to move on to the 100-question final test. After a few hours of study, a trip to the license office, vision screening, and, check, I can drive in Germany!

Now to look for off-base housing. After month of researching villages around Germany, we knew we wanted to live off-base and we hoped to find a home in Wittlich, a town about 20 minutes away from my husband's Air Base. A wonderful military wife I had the fortune of meeting suggested we take a look at their house, since they would soon be moving. We visited the home and surrounding area and were positively charmed. We determined a move-in date and signed the lease.

Housing: done.

Next, it was time to register our children for school for the upcoming year. After visiting the on-base school, I felt that it may not be the best fit for my kids. Worry started to set in. What would we do?

I knew that I didn’t want to homeschool (trust me when I say that I am much better teacher to children that aren't my own). Ellie, my 8-year-old, had been begging to go to a German school. Was I really thinking of leaving the American school system? Ellie really wanted to learn German, and I know being immersed in another school culture would be an excellent experience and opportunity for growth.

But what was the enrollment process? Is it even be possible to attend a German school as a non-citizen in Germany on military orders? I found out that the answer is YES!

A colleague of my husband put me in touch with a military wife who sent her three children to German school for the past three years. And she happened to live in Wittlich, the same town that we planned to live in! She offered to take us to their German school and help us inquire about registration.

Once we arrived, we quickly encountered a language barrier. Thankfully, a teacher who spoke English happened to walk into the office and offered to help. We asked if we could tour the school and learn more about the curriculum. At this point, he looked at us like we were aliens: “Tour the school? Why?” After trying explain, he still didn’t understand why we would want to tour. He finally just asked if we wanted to register or not. My husband and I looked at each other, paused, and replied, “Yes, we do.”

A few moments later, the same teacher who had been baffled about why we would want to tour the school was helping us to fill out the enrollment paperwork since it was entirely in German. It was surprisingly simple, especially compared to the mountain of paperwork needed to enroll a child in an American school.

When we left the school a few minutes later, we looked at each other and said, “Did we really just enroll our children in a foreign school?”

We are both so proud to be Americans, and I am heartily committed to the Florida school system, but in the span of just a few minutes, we had made plans that would further remove our children from both.

It was a difficult decision, but one I have come to deeply appreciate over the past two weeks. Both of my children absolutely love their new school, and I do, too. The curriculum is challenging, the work is rigorous, and the activities are interesting. I know that they, and I, will learn a lot from our German education adventure!


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