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Elena shares her thoughts on the choice of primary school for our expatkids, with a nice presentation, and reflects on the need of parents to find the perfect school!


In October, 2011 Expatclic celebrated its seventh birthday, and on that occasion, I organised a webinar on an important topic for expats: The choice of primary school for our children (is there a perfect school?).

I know something about it. As I’m writing this article, my youngest daughter is going through this very special moment: Her first day of school (or the REAL first day of school, as she points out, to differentiate herself from her older siblings, who are just having an “ordinary” first day :-).

Choosing the perfect school for our children is a meaningful act, one that puts a lot of pressure on our shoulders. We somehow feel that choosing the wrong school might jeopardize their future school success, and consequently their professional performance. In short, a tragedy, a sort of mortgage on their lives.

Actually, I believe we should choose in a relaxed state of mind, knowing that everyone makes mistakes (I assure you I’ve made quite a few) but it’s always possible to start again, do differently, go back on previous choices and change our minds. In my opinion, what counts is to be aware of that. We must be able to cut a space in our often foolish lives, master the situation, pick, read and analyze all the elements that can help us review our choices or bring them forward successfully.

For the above-mentioned webinar I had prepared a short presentation:

the perfect school


With this article I would like to go through the main elements and I would especially appreciate to have your feedback or your stories.

Thoughts and suggestions on how to choose the primary school for our expat children

The presentation is organized in four parts.


In the first section, I invite you to think of your priorities in regards to school. What would you like the perfect school to be able to offer your children? Safety, because you are in an unsafe spot. Academic preparation, values, or specific goals, because you demand or have in mind a clear school path for your kids. Or you might want to focus on the kind of relationships your children would be able to develop, or the kind of friendships you’d like them to have a chance to start. The idea we have about school influences our choice. Our values and the principles we would like our children to learn should match at least partially those of the school we’ll choose.

In the presentation you will find two mind maps to reflect on what type of relocation you are living and what type of community you are rooted in, at least temporarily. When focusing on these two aspects we are able to rule out some kinds of schools and consider others, thus making the choice easier. If we keep on moving from country to country, we might opt for an international school system that allows our children to find the same school structure in different countries. If our community is difficult to penetrate or is in a context of physical or psychological “danger”, we’ll tend to choose a system that guarantees peace and freedom to our children. If we relocate to a place to stay, we might decide to give a go to the local school, having a chance to develop deeper relationships with families around us. These are just some examples.


After evaluating these three aspects (what we want from the school, type of relocation and type of community we are living in), we should acquire the necessary information.

We could find out about local schools or try to deepen our knowledge of international systems (such as the International Baccalaureate, a very interesting option for its focus on multicultural contexts and its declared aim to educate citizens of the world), or of educational systems that might interest us (like the Montessori Approach, Steiner Schools, and many others).


The next step I suggest is to take into consideration revolves around the relationships that will be born after our kids start school. As a family, we’ll obviously have to relate to the school and to the broader community we’ll access through it. New friendships will start and we will have the chance to share and discuss in positive environments as well as to differentiate or stick up for our principles. We’ll get in touch with educational systems different from the ones we grew up with, and we’ll have to find our place in relation to them. We’ll have to talk to teachers and support our children in building constructive relationships. We’ll also have to accept the friendships that our children will “choose on their own”, whereas until now it was mainly us selecting their friends, through ours.

To make it short, let’s get ready!


After so many words, it’s time to stop, take a deep breath and also find someone we trust to discuss this issues with Expatclic… it does exist for this, doesn’t it?

At this point, after pondering, getting information, discussing with your partner or friends or other expats, it’s time for our decision.

I have added three elements in the presentation, and I write them here, too, because I want to tell you that whatever happens, our choice will open the way to a new exciting and positive time of our life, maybe with some tough times too, but we should never forget that:

  • With our kids, nothing is guaranteed
  • It’s allowed to make mistakes
  • Kids have unexpected resources

the perfect schoolAnd our choice will be softer… with our smile and the smile of our children on their first day of school, and forever!!!

Good luck!


February 2013
Melbourne, Australia


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