Preparing for Kleuteronderwijs

“Kleuteronderwijs” sounds like a bad word, but in Dutch it means “pre-school.” For me it’s a mouthful to pronounce because the “eu” and the “r”, in Dutch, require things of my tongue that the English language does not. Kleuh-ter-ohn-der-wehz is how I’d recommend you pronounce it, because kleuteronderwijs is officially now an important and everyday word in my expat life.

With Noah now just turned one and sprinting towards two, the time has come to prepare for pre-school. In Belgium, like in America, primary school begins at the age of six (or sometimes five, depending) and lasts six years. But unlike America, pre-school in Belgium begins at the age of two-and-a-half. It’s not compulsory but 90% of children attend.

It’s hard for me to imagine Noah attending school September of next year but then again, two years ago I didn’t think I’d be attending an Open House at a local pre-school…

Today we checked out a pre-school not far from our house and it became easier “for me to imagine Noah attending school” because…

NoahSchool

I got to see Noah in a school setting.

He sat on that tiny chair playing and talking to himself as he waved at us and clapped his hands in glee. It was ridiculously adorable and infectious, but I was also dumbfounded because Noah never rarely “sits” at home anymore if given the choice. Unless it’s to eat or put on his shoes, for which he’s on his butt with a smile. So I realized how good it would for Noah even at a very young two-and-a-half, not to mention to me and Davy, to have a whole other safe world at our fingertips for Noah to experience.

The classroom Noah was sitting in is attached to a “napping room”:

NappingRoom

The thought and care of planning is evident in Belgian pre-schools, and not just because they provide precious little beds. Although the school day begins at 8:30am and ends at 3:40pm, parents can drop their children off as early as 7am and pick them up as late as 6pm. On Wednesdays, all schools end at 12pm, however childcare is provided up until 6pm as well. The system caters to the family’s needs as a whole unit and all at no charge, because it’s part of the Belgian school system.

I have friends in the states who’d have to pay a fortune to keep their toddlers in full-time pre-pre-schooling, let alone “just” daycare.  I’m thanking all my stars that this is where I’m raising my child, even if I loved my own childhood and public school system in New York City. Having a new perspective on how other countries maintain their education systems has been quite a learning experience of my own. If I hadn’t moved to Belgium and had a child, I wouldn’t have any idea of what kleuteronderwijs was and why it mattered. It matters now.

Before Noah reaches primary school he’ll have played to his heart’s content with classmates. He’ll have also received formal lessons in music, a second language, and a sport. By the time Noah reaches the “first grade” he’ll have learned basic French, and this is what I’m selfishly most looking forward to. I admit I went into this Open House with the words not compulsory in my head, but hours later I’m without a doubt enrolling Noah in kleuteronderwijs. It’s recommended you enroll one school year in advance.

It’s incredible how fast he’s developing into a little man!

Always dishing,

Jun

19 Comments

  1. kcsmum

    Another amazing Belgian thing!! I’m in shock at the long hours of school attendance and of course, at the price! Practically unbelievable! And I love the napping room! I waiver between bad memories of laying on my rug in kindergarten with some kids feet in my face and pictures dancing in my head of The Three Bears!! It all looks Jusssttt Rightttt.

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  2. OkieChris

    I hadn’t thought of the languages he would learn in preschool. Plus the time you will have to work.

    I have change my mind. I approve hahaha

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  3. The system in Belgium sounds wonderful! That’s great that the system caters to the family’s needs as a whole unit and at no charge! My nephew’s tuition for pre-school at a private catholic school is 5,000 dollars! He’s probably going to be bringing home projects and things he made in school every day. That’s what they do at my nephew’s pre-school. That’s incredible that he’s going to learn all that by the time he reaches primary school. Belgium is a wonderful country!

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  4. Deb

    Another interesting lesson for me. It sounds so exciting. I waiver between how cool and he is to little?! What a wonderful education your little one is going to get.

    Thanks again for sharing with us.

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    1. Jun Song Author

      Yes, I know what you mean about the wavering! But I know he seemed to enjoy his surroundings so in a year he’ll be even more aware and ready :)

      Reply
  5. Heather

    So, so pleased for little Noah! The opportunities he has in Belgium are awesome, Jun. To be able to interact with other kids and learn new things bodes well for his future. Only wish our little grandchild had the same opportunities in Canada. She does, but the witch that her mother is would never consider it. But that’s another story…

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  6. Wow, Every time I read one of your Noah blogs it persuades me more and more to consider raising my future children in Belgium!!

    Everything all looks so new and well-kept too!! And that napping room is just too cute!!

    I can’t wait to see how Noah settles in and you HAVE TO tape some Youtube videos when he starts learning French 😉 haha

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  7. Oh my stars, I love Belgium! Noah’s expression is priceless. I had that FP barn when I was little too. I sure wish the US would learn a thing or two from all the other countries that provide health care and great schooling. Here all we do is graduate kids that can hardly read, forget being able to write and do arithmetic. Learn French before primary school, lucky little man! I learned about spot, 3 pigs, 3 bears and dick & jane. I love that sleeping room :) I remember my little woven rug on the classroom floor getting kicked in the face a couple of times.

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  8. Michelle

    In Guatemala children start going to school as early as 1.
    Mine started at 1 1/2 and it was AMAZING to see how much they grow, learn by being with other kids!
    It’s better that they learn to be with other kids at an early age instead of staying at home getting bored.
    Noah will do great and you’ll love having time for yourself!

    Reply

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