To School or Not To School

How dare we separate these two BFFs?

How dare we separate these two BFFs?

The big question in our flat this week pertains to enrolling L in school during our time here in London. Do we or don’t we? Powerwoman and I continue to go back and forth.

Some parts of the equation are simple. Yes, we took our 4-year-old out of her second year of preschool to be here for the fall. And, yes, we plan to send her back to the same preschool when we return (the folks who run her preschool have been kind enough to save her spot).

We also believe that L (like most kids) thrives in the school environment, and needs the age-appropriate social stimulation that environment provides.

Beyond these truths, however, we are truly flummoxed.

First is the issue of logistics. Last year, at home, L attended school twice a week for three hours a day. This year, when we return, she’ll attend school three times a week for three hours a day. Here, however, they do school differently. Most kids are in full-time school of some sort by age 2. It actually has been very difficult (and incredibly frustrating) to find a preschool equivalent that isn’t fewer than three full days (read: 8 hours a day) every week.

Then is the issue of philosophy. We relish the fact that we have the opportunity to live abroad with the girls while they’re so young. Because we are travelers by nature, we want to show them the city, take them around England, and explore Europe as frequently as possible.

I, in particular, am struggling with the decision, as I’ve taken it upon myself to create a “classroom” out of the everyday, supplementing journeys to different parts of the city with “lessons” before and after.

(Example: we’re attending a cricket match this weekend and I’ve started with stories about the rules.)

Still, the situation raises pretty serious questions. To what extent would L suffer from being out of school for four months? To what extent would enrolling her change the everyday, on-the-ground experience for her (and the rest of us)? How difficult—if at all—would it be for her to adjust to a new school in a new city in a new home? Finally: How might her enrollment impact our ability to travel while here?

Ultimately, I think Powerwoman and I probably will seek a compromise. My hunch is that this compromise likely will involve enrolling L in a full-week, half-day program, and insisting that the school allows us to keep her out one day a week (preferably a Monday or a Friday) to keep up our “curriculum” of exploring through travel.

Is this ideal? Not really. But at least the approach would incorporate both the traditional (school) and something new (travel).

At the end of the day, the school issue isn’t about what’s best for us at all; it’s about what’s best for L. That reality doesn’t change with a mailing address. And it’s a notion we try to embrace regarding both daughters wherever and whenever we can.

How have you handled schooling your kids during extended family trips?


  1. The school Jonah and Serena attended in London was full time (they turned 5 and 2 right after we arrived). Although I don’t think Serena will remember, they met and interacted with children from 22 countries, which was incredible for them and us. Serena’s best friend was a little Japanese boy named Takahiro, and Jonah “got on” (as they say in London) with a little French girl named Corinne. There was still plenty of time for us to explore with them on the weekends, and when they were out for holidays, getting over an illness, etc. They both came back with British accents, which they have since lost. I am so glad they were able to have a school experience overseas, even if just preschool for a few months.

    • Matt Villano says:

      Thanks for the input, Alexandra. We were cool sending L for full-time mornings, but R is DEFINITELY still too small for that. (Beside, I’m super excited to get a few hours of alone time with her over here.) Between field trips (for Powerwoman’s class) and family excursions to the north and to Ireland, we’ll certainly continue the education out of school.

  2. They are a year ahead in London and quite strict (my husband is English, we visit often). I’d say to keep her with you and not worry about these 4 months. She’ll be just fine.

    • Matt Villano says:

      Thanks, Holly. We’ve enrolled her. Hopefully the school isn’t THAT strict! Thank you for your feedback and please keep reading.

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