I talk a lot about how great our experience has been with our preschool here in Vienna. I think we got exceptionally lucky when we signed B up for school that first year. We didn’t yet know where we’d be living, so we requested a place near Dan’s work (which has turned out to be far less convenient than we imagined it would be) but the 40 minute commute each way is completely worth the level of instruction and kindness the kids have received at their school. Vienna runs many preschools throughout the city, all free or at very low cost (if the kids eat meals at school, there is a charge), and all run on the Montessori model (more or less — we’ve heard that this varies greatly). It’s pretty much the Shangri-La of preschools around here. Putting our kids into preschools of this caliber most likely would not have been possible for us in the US — and certainly not without me going back to work. We’re incredibly grateful for the opportunity that we’ve had here in terms of the kids and school.
But then … we have some interesting situations pop up, that I don’t think we ever would have encountered back at home.
Late last month, the teachers sent home the annual summer vacation forms. The idea is for parents to fill them out to let the school know which weeks the kids will be at school or on vacation so that they can plan staffing for the summer months when many families are away. Makes sense, especially given that vacations here in the summer are almost always at least 2 weeks long, and often as much as 6-8 weeks. We know quite a few people who leave Vienna in late June and don’t come back until late August.
We’d been thinking that we would probably be home in the US (permanently) by summer vacation time this year, so we hadn’t given our summer plans a lot of thought (even though it’s becoming increasingly likely that we’ll be here for a while yet). Getting the vacation form was a bit of a wake up call that we needed to plan for a summer still spent in Austria. So, we sat down, came up with a rough idea, and returned our forms to the school. Our plan was to take a few weeks of vacation in July (to see some of Austria that we haven’t yet seen … and to see some of our favorite parts again), then to send the kids to school for a few weeks mid-summer (to give me some summer time without the kids to enjoy Vienna, to keep them from getting entirely out of the habit of going to school, and to give B a few more leisurely weeks of preschool before “real” school starts in the fall), and then take a few more weeks off mid-August (to take a break before getting back into the swing of things at school again). It was a little different than anything we’ve done before — because Liam was previously always home with me, we took previous summers as a chance to take a break from the 40-minute-each-way commute every weekday and kept both boys home together with me all summer. And although I’ve loved that, I was looking forward to being able to do it differently this year — our only chance to do it this way, because next summer, and all subsequent summers, B will have regular summer school holidays, so he’ll be home and we’ll probably keep Liam home as well.
Then, just yesterday, they told us no.
No, the boys can’t come in for a few weeks mid-summer — could we please keep them home all summer instead? We said that of course they could stay home, but because this was in German and Dan didn’t completely understand, we didn’t really understand why. As it turns out, they’re going to be very short-staffed for those weeks, so they’ve asked that all of the families that have at least one stay-at-home parent to keep their kids home. And though I don’t mind, I can’t help but find the whole situation a little funny … and I don’t think it’s something we’d be as likely to run into back in the States.
So, new plan for the summer: as of June 27, the boys will be home with me until B starts elementary school in late August. And I am truly and sincerely happy to have them. We’ll have a great time, just like we have our other summers here.