For a little more than four months, we have been enrolling Theo in local preschools as we travel. Thus far, he’s attended school in New Zealand, Indonesia, India, Thailand, and Vietnam.
We aren’t particularly worried about keeping up with the academic aspects of school. Theo is young and seems to be soaking up information from the wider world in a very sponge-like manner. Instead, we like that school gives him an opportunity to learn to socialize with people who aren’t us on a regular basis. Just as important to us, sending Theo to school gives us adults extra time to work and explore independently.
Finding preschools that will accept a child on a temporary basis is definitely more challenging than finding our temporary lodging. (As far as I know, there is no Air BnB of preschools.)
First, I have to figure out the usual names for preschool in that particular country so that I can search: kindergarten, nursery, daycare, playschool, or something else.
Then, I search Google maps nearby our lodging. And plain old Google. And Facebook. If those fail, I ask our lodging hosts who sometimes know of schools that are less find-able online.
In the end, we’ve found most preschools through a combination of grit and serendipity. For example, in Chiang Mai I sent off messages to five different schools. Four didn’t respond. One responded to say that they don’t accept temporary students.
I was stuck.
I asked our Air BnB host, and he sent the names of two other preschools. I contacted both of them and received no responses.
Then, I found this blog post about Kiddee House. Given that the school had enrolled another English-speaking student on a temporary basis, I had high hopes. So, I emailed the preschool. No response. I emailed again. No response.
However, when we showed up in person at Kiddee House on our first day in Chiang Mai, we were easily able to register Theo, and it was one of our favorite schools thus far. (Though, honestly, they’ve all been really good.)
Registering and Paying
Sometimes, we complete long registration packets and fulfill requests for vaccination records in advance. Other times, we just complete a simple 1-2 page form when we arrive.
For the five schools Theo has attended thus far, we have paid between 100 and 300 USD for a month of school. This often includes snacks and lunch. Next month in Taiwan will be the most expensive preschool of the trip at about 700 USD for the month. In comparison, we were spending about 2000 USD per month for daycare in Oakland, California. (Yes, the cost of living in the Bay Area is insane.)
How Much School
In Bali and India, preschoolers generally only go to school for half of the day, and we hit some cultural resistance when we tried to extend Theo’s day in India. Even though afternoon daycare was theoretically an option on the school’s web site, Theo was the only student who didn’t leave before lunch, and the teachers would comment that he would look tired when he’d stay very long in the afternoons.
I’m going to speculate (wildly! based only my own observations!) that the standard shorter schedule is in part because in both of these countries, there is probably someone at home to take care of the child during the day. This might be a parent – or it might be a member of the extended family. (In India and Bali, sons often live with their parents even after starting their own families, so there is generally more extended family around.) So, perhaps in these countries you are sending a child to school for his or her educational benefit, not because you necessarily need to child to be away so that all of the adults can work.
In Thailand and Vietnam, full-time preschool seems very standard while parents work, and New Zealand seemed more a mix like in the US.
(This seems like just one of many examples of how much of what we assume about raising children is up for negotiation.)
I’ve created a list of the specific schools that Theo has attended here and will update it as we continue the trip.