An alternative choice of school

After relocating to Vienna, expat partner Olga Dimoliati and her husband decided to send their two children (aged 6 and 8) to an alternative school rather than a public or an international school.

Braced for impact

“We were worried how relocating from Kuala Lumpur would impact the kids when we moved in October, 2021. That influenced our choice of schooling. At a public school in Vienna, you can have 30 kids in one class and just one teacher. That means individuals can’t expect to receive any extra attention. As our kids don’t yet speak German fluently, we were worried it would be too traumatic for them to adjust. In any school, there’s always a risk of bullying for newcomers, who don’t fit in,” say Olga, an artist from Greece, who previously lived in Malaysia, Sweden and Saudi Arabia.

In with the locals

Olga and her husband also ruled out enrolling their kids in an international school, not just because “the costs are so high”. In her words: “International schools are a bubble where families don’t have to mingle with locals or interact with the local culture. As my husband is German, we felt it would be better for our kids – and us as a family – if they adapted to a German speaking environment.”

The great outdoors

“In Vienna, there are quite a few Montessori schools but unfortunately they were all full. So when we heard about an alternative school, we decided to have a closer look. It’s a very small, private school that currently only goes from grade 1 age level to grade 4. With our two kids joining, there are still only 27 kids in the whole school. Besides the small numbers, and closer attention they receive, we were attracted by a curriculum that places a lot of emphasis on the arts. There is also a lot of project-based learning and field trips to study science and nature – they just returned from a four-day camping trip!”

Community effort

“There’s also a lot of parental involvement. For example, the parents also take turns cooking for the kids. Next week I’ll be baking my daughter’s favourite, pastitsio, a baked pasta dish that is quite similar to lasagne. It’s nice for us to see the school up close and get a real sense of what it is trying to achieve. It makes us even more sure that we made the right choice for our kids.”

Photo: Olga’s two children

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