In May, Meredith Mull Aggarwal replaced Marie Kummerlowe as the new Delft MaMa Chairwoman. Delft MaMa has made many changes in the past few years as it takes on more activities serving the expat community in Delft. What does it take to steer the DMM ship? Lynette Croxford sat down with both women to talk about their experiences “behind the wheel”. You can also see Marie’s recap of 2018 here. I don’t know about you, but I’m looking forward to seeing what the new year will bring. I wish the best of luck for both women in their roles!
Does developing a social life with young kids sound like a pipe dream? You’re not alone. Delft MaMa Gaelle Fourcade shares her experience with slowly developing a thriving social life while coping with everyone’s busy schedule. Throughout her account are some useful tips for those of us struggling to develop a healthy social life.
Delft MaMa Announces Meredith Mull Aggarwal As New Chairperson
Delft, 1 April 2019 – For Immediate Release
The search for a new chairperson for Delft MaMa has come to an end! Through an open application process, the Delft MaMa Board of Directors selected Meredith Mull Aggarwal.
Delft Mama’s own “Legal Mom,” Marisa Monteiro Borsboom, will be leading the “Legal Mom” column for the Delft Mama Blog. In this column, she and her team will address questions submitted from the community about personal or business legal issues. As an extremely diverse multinational/cultural community, we should expect to see very interesting topics for everyone to consider.
Delft MaMa wishes you all a Happy New Year 2019! As we close the old year, it’s always good to look back and reflect, to be able to continue to build on past successes and work on our weaknesses. For the first post of 2019, we asked DMM Chairwoman Marie Kummerlowe to give a year in review of Delft MaMa in 2018 and what we hope to expect going forward in 2019. It’s a long post, so grab your favorite beverage and get yourselves comfortable. Happy reading! Read more
In 2007, Lucie Cunningham set out with an idea to start Delft MaMa. She never imagined the impact it would have on the community and countless lives over the years. We sat down with Lucie, Delft Mama’s founder, to learn more about her personal story, how it all got started and how things have evolved. Read more
NOTE FROM THE EDITORS
Initiated over 2 years ago, the Delft Mama blog has delivered numerous creative, heartwarming contributions throughout the years. Looking back at those earlier posts — in our role as current editors — we realized there were quite a few that we missed. Surely we aren’t the only ones, especially with new members joining Delft Mama each year. With that in mind, we decided to take a look back a couple times each year to recall one of those “Oldies but Goodies”.
Here’s the first installment, a rather recognizable, yet shocking and frankly funny post that speaks to the core of one of Delft Mama’s missions — to help build networks and provide support that makes families (and families-to-be) feel at home here in Delft.
by Lynette Croxford
When arriving in Delft not speaking the language, I spent quite some time worrying about schools for the precious ones. My agitation increased tenfold after speaking to other mamas at the playgroup. The conversations were along the lines of, “WHAT? She’s not on the list yet? You might have to move if you want her to get a place at a decent school”. It never occurred to me to enroll my newborn at a school of my choice. Naturally I then proceeded to contact every school in a 20km radius of my home to make appointments or enquire about open days.
It turns out that the waiting lists for some schools are ridiculously out of touch with anything in the realm of reality, with some as long as 6 years! However, upon further investigation, I found there are really good schools with no waiting lists or at least lists that are in the span of my lifetime, all within the city limits. It doesn’t matter if you’re a fan of the child-led methods where kids determine their destiny, a stickler for structure and direction or an inbetweener, Delft has it all.
On the Education Inspection website, a regulatory body for the assessment and control of schools, there are 34 primary schools listed in Delft. The pedagogic principles range from the Mary Poppins school of thought (hard work, discipline, routine) to the more Hogwarts (without the magic) approach (child-led, independent, non-structured). The website has an English page which is helpful to understand the rationale behind the system. There is a ‘find schools’ option but the search function is only in Dutch with an English explanation of how it should be used.
Depending on your reasons for migrating to Delft and the duration of your stay in the Netherlands, you may choose to keep the kiddos in an English environment. Skipping around in clogs and singing Dutch songs won’t enable their future growth outside of the Netherlands, except for entertainment value or party tricks. The International School in Delft is an authorized school for the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme, which means settling in Delft will be easier since they don’t have to learn a new language. If, like me, you’re in it for the long run and want your kids to integrate into local culture, habits and language, there is a multitude of Dutch schools to choose from, all facilitating clog-skipping and song-singing.
There are 5 pedagogic methods being used in the Dutch schools in Delft at the moment. Below is a brief explanation on their principles. If you want more information, Google it. There is a whole bunch of information readily available. [Note from the editors: we’ve done some work for you! See the short resource list at the end of this article to get you started.]
- Learning takes place in a context that is meaningful to the children;
- Class life is organised in a democratic/cooperative way between teachers and children;
- Learn by experimentation, discovery, doing and discussion;
- Learning from the experiences of others, adults and cultures;
- Teachers, children and parents all contribute to an optimal learning climate.
- Students are active in a prepared environment;
- Students are given the opportunity to develop their talents;
- Let students do a great deal themselves and thereby learning from each other;
- Teach responsibility by letting students make their own choices and their own plans;
- Trust the students;
- A continuous concept throughout the school years.
(Based on Anthroposophy, a human oriented spiritual philosophy that reflects and speaks to the basic deep spiritual questions of humanity, to our basic artistic needs, to the need to relate to the world out of a scientific attitude of mind, and to the need to develop a relation to the world in complete freedom and based on completely individual judgments and decisions.)
- Students become rounded individuals and is conscious of daily and yearly rhythms;
- It doesn’t refer to the freedom of the students but the freedom of the school to work in their own way.
- The subject matter is derived from the living and experiential world of students and important cultural objects from society;
- Teaching is carried out in educational situations and with pedagogical means;
- Education is shaped by a rhythmic alternation of the basic activities of conversation, play, work and celebration;
- Students of different ages and development levels are placed together in tribal groups. This stimulates learning and caring for each other;
- Independent play and learning are alternated and supplemented by controlled and guided learning. The pupils’ initiative always plays an important role;
- World orientation occupies a central position with experience, discovery and research as the basis;
- Behavioral and performance assessment of a pupil takes place as much as possible from the pupil’s own development history, and in consultation with the student.
Regular education is the collective term for education that does not address special target groups, such as special and special education. In a regular school there are therefore predominantly children who go through a normal development. These schools might have a religious affinity.
After deciding on the pedagogic method you prefer for your child, the next step is to go and see the schools of your choice and to meet the people. My first call was made with a mental image of a fire-breathing dragon on the end of the line, speaking to me in Dutch and condemning my lack of linguistic ability. I was pleasantly surprised by polite and friendly people who were more than willing to struggle through a conversation in English. The appointments were made with little hassle and followed up by email confirmations. I really enjoyed seeing the schools in action and meeting some of the kids and teachers. Taking your child along is a good idea since they’ll pretty quickly show you how they feel about the place. Some schools have open days to facilitate choices and there is a fair once a year, De Delftse Onderwijs Markt, where all schools in Delft showcase themselves. The exact dates and times are usually advertised in the local papers.
One thing that I didn’t appreciate the full extent of when making a choice was the distance from door to door. In the summer it’s all fun and games getting to school on the bikes or walking, but in the winter, it can be a real challenge if you’re some distance away. Dragging babies out in the freezing rain to get their siblings to class on time is no fun and can add significant stress to an already frantic time. Although none of the schools have catchment areas (geographical areas served by schools), take a good look at the schools closest to your home. Most schools are close to daycare facilities (kinderopvang) to help (working) parents before, during and after school. They can pick kids up from school, take them to activities and are open during school term time.
A place in your school of choice will be confirmed with a formal letter inviting the little one to their first day, usually the day after their 4th birthday or in that same week. Prior to the actual start date, the schools arrange for the newbies to come in and get used to the class and environment (wennen). Usually it starts off with a couple of mornings and then a full day or two to see how they cope. Depending on the school, parents are sometimes permitted to stay for the first hour if needed. Some schools are even flexible in the first year of school to have kids for 3 days instead of 5, or a combination of shorter and longer days, since compulsory attendance (legally) only starts when they turn 5 years old.
When your baby puts that little backpack on and runs down the road for the first time you may very well shed a tear or 10. They grow up exponentially in their first year of school and the baby-ness become kid-ness. It’s a true milestone in their young lives and one that they relish once everyone settles into the routine.
*Pedagogic methods (translated by myself)
*All photos are mine (with the exception of Vrijeschool Widar, the image came from the school website).
Originally from South Africa, Lynette moved to Delft from New Zealand in 2011. The majority of her time is spent working in Rotterdam in the Healthcare sector, but she also has 2 young daughters, both in school in Delft. Lynette’s background is varied, including creative and people-related experiences.
Note from the editors:
Want to read more about education in the Netherlands?
To get an overview of the Dutch education system, start with education in the Netherlands from Nuffic: the Dutch organisation for internationalisation in education. (There is also information about bilingual schools at the primary and secondary levels, in Dutch.)
To get an overview of the Dutch education system in an international context, read Education Policy Outlook Highlights: Netherlands published by The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
Delft MaMa’s very own Parenting in Delft: School Age has some general information. The link to a list of schools in Delft no longer works. Use the one listed in this article.
Dutch school types: primary and secondary education – a good summary of the different types (based on pedagogy) of schools in the Netherlands.
Education in the Netherlands: A guide to the Dutch education system – also a good comprehensive guide, the article also contains useful information regarding school fees, holidays, and contacts for more information.
Some other good/fun articles to read:
Dutch schools: What to expect when you go “local” – article published in July 2018 on iamexpat.nl
Are you sending your kids to a Dutch school for the first time in September? Read How to deal with being the new parent at a Dutch school, published this month on iamexpat.nl
The Dutch school system for dummies – a guide from one parent to another – article published in March 2017 on Dutchreview.com
See also past DMM blog posts about education and after school activities:
It’s been awfully quiet around here, huh? The previous Delft MaMa (DMM) blog coordinators, Tarja and Marie, have moved on to other things. So, understandably, things have slowed down a bit here. That doesn’t mean it’s been quiet with DMM… There’s plenty happening behind the scenes. Some of which you may have noticed if you follow our Facebook page.
The DMM blog has not been forgotten!
Many of us agree that the DMM website has been a great starting point and resource for many expat parents new to parenting in Delft. We feel that the blog is a great way to keep adding informational content on a regular basis. That’s why we have a new team for the blog, not of writers, but editors. Onica and I take feedback from you, the DMM community, for topics you’d like to see on the blog, and we look for writers to get those articles out into the world.
Two new faces
I’m Kate. I joined the blogging team in January after innocently making a suggestion for improving the blog and winning the responsibility to see it through. After living in several places in the U.S., I moved to Europe in 2006, starting in the Czech Republic and ending up in Italy, working as an English teacher and educational researcher. One fateful Christmas I took a holiday trip to the Netherlands and sat across from a handsome, smart and funny man at his family’s Christmas dinner. Fast forward a few years of a long distance relationship and marriage, I moved to the Netherlands when I was pregnant with our daughter. These days, in addition to being a mom to a rambunctious little girl and two lazy furkids, I’m making another attempt at finishing my PhD and figuring out what I’d like to do when I grow up.
Here’s Onica, her words taken from another part of the blogosphere:
Okay. So my name is Onica – don’t ask, think my father made up the name back in the day. I’m more bi-polar (depending on how much sleep I get) than type – A or B. In a nutshell, I’m a US expat who married a tall dark and handsome (to me) Dutch man and am now living and raising our little in the lovely historic Dutch town of Delft. The more convoluted version includes Trinidad, Venezuela, UK, Italy, and various other stops in between. Formerly an ICT Researcher/Consultant (still trying to figure out how and why that happened given my Philosophy and Economics background), I now spend a considerable amount of time shuffling our little around to endless activities, trying to avoid the endless chocolatiers and cafés that have recently emerged in Delft center, and sporting (primarily tennis) to minimize the impact of those failed attempts.
Our journey in the search for writers has been very interesting—our writers all come from the DMM community and come from all walks of life. Other than the topics we’ve proposed, some of the writers end up proposing something completely awesome that didn’t even occur to us. We send them into the wild to write their articles, which are then edited by us, or our team of proof-readers, before publishing on the blog. Sometimes we look for “experts”—either specialists in their field, or those who have valuable anecdotal experience on the topic—to work with our writers. We look forward to seeing so many diverse perspectives on the blog in the future!
What to expect
Over the next few months you’ll begin to see a mixture of interviews with feature moms from the community—formerly Delft Mama of the Week—and articles about topics interesting to us expat parents raising their littles in Delft and the Netherlands in general.
What are “topics interesting to us expat parents”? Glad you asked! Last month, if you recall, we sent out a short survey about the blog and newsletter to which we received 44 complete responses.
Here’s what those responses wanted to see on the DMM blog.
Other topics of interest included language, healthcare, education and the general sharing of experiences with other parents having/raising a child in a foreign country.
Of course, 44 respondents can hardly represent the hundreds of members in the DMM community, but the responses are an amazing starting point for us to develop themes, combined with input from you, the DMM community.
On the horizon
We’ll be kicking off the new DMM blog with two series of articles—one, organized by Onica, will focus on Delft activities for primary school-aged children; the other, organized by me, will focus on play—toys and even where to borrow them.
We don’t want to spoil the surprise for the rest coming up after these two series, but know that we should expect to see some very interesting articles pop up on the blog in the coming months. If you’d like to contribute, contact us. We’d love to talk with you about your ideas. Even if you don’t want to write something yourself, please contact us with your ideas and suggestions. This blog is for YOU!
We’re looking forward to this journey with you,
Kate and Onica
When I first started to write about the Delft moms of the week, to be honest I didn’t have the slightest idea how to interview people, let alone write about the amazing mothers in our community. The first mothers were mere pictures with one or two lines of text running underneath, usually photographed at playgroups or workshops. Gradually, I started asking people more questions and eventually I realized I was doing a mini Delft MaMa version of the world-famous Humans of New York blog that had been online for years.
Most of the mothers I’ve photographed and interviewed are mothers that I’ve known at least by name beforehand. After doing it for a while, I felt it was too much pressure for me to go choosing who to interview, so I simply started asking the mothers to nominate their friends to be moms of the week, which led me to meet yet another round of fantastic women.
I’ve had the pleasure of speaking to mothers from all continents in the world. Those that are mothers of newborns and those with a teenager or two. I’ve listened to life stories from as many perspectives as there were mothers, and each and every one has been open about who they are and how they look at their lives.
And the things that I’ve learned…
Whether it’s mothers, women or people in general, we are all ultimately almost shockingly similar. Surely there are differences that make us individual, but I simply mean I have been able to relate to every single person I’ve been talking to, in one way or another. My simple conclusion is that it does not matter at all where someone comes from: we often have similar struggles, challenges and things we find joy in. Children mean the world to every mother I’ve spoken to, and as much as I’ve aimed to highlight the mother behind the children, the topic often turned onto the children.
Many international mothers in Delft region are at a transition, looking to take the next step, as much as their toddlers. They are often unaware what the next step should be, yet many times they have very clear ideas on where they want to end up. Instinctively we seem to know it’s important to stay in motion, no matter the speed, as long as we keep on moving with an open mind.
Becoming a mother has woken many women to question the ideals of motherhood, the roles of mothers and women in the society and their own dreams and motivations. We start by raising children and end up being raised by our children into better versions of ourselves. For many of our moms only parenthood has taught them what needed to change for the world to be better for their children – or what would make it better for future mothers.
It’s essential for me to say I’ve learned an incredible amount from all the mothers, and I’m grateful for each and every one who agreed to be in the spotlight and allowed me the time to grow as an interviewer and a writer. Whenever I asked mothers to nominate each other, many of the mothers nominated me to write about myself. I always thanked them for their suggestions and replied that I was going to write about myself the moment I was writing the last piece for the Delft MaMa blog as a farewell. Evidently, that is now.
The Dutch-Finnish children, Viola (9), Felix (5), and Jonatan (4) me and my Dutch husband, Emile, are lucky to be the parents of, are all school children at this point. This said, I have less and less chances to get to know newcomers. It’s important to make room for the new moms (and dads!) with fresh perspectives, who are recently discovering the joys and challenges of motherhood in a foreign country.
Luckily for the readers, for a while I haven’t been the only one writing under the title “mom of the week”, as Marie and Agnes joined in on it too, so this is not the end of the series as far as I can tell. It’s simply my time to put the pencil down at this blog. My only regret is that I know dozens of wonderful women that should’ve been in the spotlight. However, this is something many of you can fix by grabbing that pencil and continuing this series.
I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes from the people I’ve interviewed: “A lot of our moms are doing something interesting. There is so much potential around us!” Let’s keep on discussing our ideas openly with each other in the future as well!
Tarja van Veldhoven