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
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.
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.
*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.)
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!
Yesterday, I took my daughters blackberry picking. To someone else this may sound like just another day out, but for me it was special. It was special because it enabled me to re-live one of my favourite childhood memories and to share it with my own children.
When I think of it now, it seems a little strange, a teenage girl voluntarily taking her little brother out to pick blackberries. Remember though that this was in the time before iPads, and we had two months of summer holidays to fill!
This particular memory takes place towards the end of the summer break when we had already spent days at the beach, in the park, hung out with friends, set out crab traps, wandered around the house doing nothing in particular and were feeling rested, relaxed, and superbly content. Suddenly it was the end of August, and what had started as an endless vacation was *gasp* almost over. The race was on to make the most of those last sun filled days. I grabbed a few buckets and shouted to my little brother, “come on! We are going blackberry picking.”
Vancouver Island, where we lived, is a magical island of spectacular natural beauty (but that’s another story). It is also covered with wild blackberry bushes that ripen in late summer. Out we walked into the hot sun carrying our buckets like little soldiers on a mission to the nearest patch. After sizing up the bushes to find the juiciest specimens we dropped our buckets and started picking. We worked in companionable silence broken only by the occasional “ouch!” as one of us scratched ourselves or ‘mmmm’ when we were unable to resist a taste. Occasionally, disaster would strike in the form of accidentally kicking over a nearly full bucket or, particularly painful, falling into the bushes. Much to the hilarity of the other sibling.
If I let my mind travel back there now I can still smell the warm, ripe berry smell, part fermented fruit and part earthy leaves that would soon be turning brown. The hot sun burning the back of my neck, the scratches on my hands and the relaxing monotony of picking. Concentrated as we were on our efforts to find the biggest, juiciest berries, we lost all track of time.
Buckets finally full we trudged home with the fruits of our labour. Tired and hot we competed to see who had the most scratches or whose fingers were the purplest, stained from the dark juice.
Back in the kitchen, I made the pastry and, together with my little brother, we rolled it out to fit the pie tins. Then we cooked the berries, adding lots and lots of sugar. By the time we’d assembled the pies and baked them in the oven, the kitchen was a disaster of flour and squashed berries. At about this time, my Mum arrived home from work to find two children who had made a disaster of her kitchen proudly displaying fresh blackberry pies.
The childhood experiences that my daughters have in Holland are very different from my own back in rural Canada. Sometimes this is part of the fun. We get to experience things for the first time together. But other times it can make it hard to relate to each other. Memories that friends back home hold on to because they are triggered by their familiar surroundings have faded into the recesses of my memory. It’s amazing how a simple activity like this can bring those memories rushing back, filling my heart with a warm glow.
Vancouver Island is too far and too expensive to travel back to regularly. However, I am doing my best to bring a little bit of my life in Canada here to share with my family. When I do and when it works, the distance between here and home closes just a little and the effort is so very worth it.
I would love to hear about traditions from home that you are sharing here with your children?
And of course about any good spots for blackberry picking!
I met Marie for first time last year when she started hosting the Delft MaMa playgroup. She is currently the playgroup coordinator and she’s taking part in several other DMM projects as well.
We sit down together on display on the window of Hummus in Delft and order hot beverages. It’s Saturday and she’s coming straight from mindfulness yoga. It fits the first impression I had of her: a calm mom oozing nothing but serenity, but Marie tells me laughing her yoga classes were a gift from her husband, who hopes she can find it easier to relax a bit. Marie has been called too serious all her life, because of her amazing drive and ambition, so she has made a conscious effort of finding ways to loosen up a bit. To her luck, becoming a mother has been one of the things that has helped her in her quest.
Marie has been calling the Netherlands home for a few years. She used to travel a lot first for her studies: a scholarship took her from her home in the US to Paris when she was only 16, and later during her undergraduate studies Marie spent a semester in Brazil, two summers in Russia and one summer in Paris, where she also completed her master’s degree. Later in life her project based work took her from Scotland to Singapore and everywhere in between. She loves Brazil and says Vietnam is one of her favorite countries. But the love of her life, a Chinese man Junzi, Marie met by coincidence in the Netherlands.
When Marie was expecting their son, now a 1-year-old William, the married couple decided to settle down in Delft. Earlier having spent her time visiting new countries and cities every two to three weeks, Marie was sure she’d go out of her mind in such a small place as Delft. She had good friends in The Hague and in Haarlem, but she was missing a closer safety net. “When I first had William, I wasn’t meeting others very much, but I knew about Delft MaMa. When he was 5-6 months old, I decided to come to the playgroup”, Marie says. Meeting other moms allowed her to create her own social circles in Delft and thanks to this simple plan followed by action she’s much more involved in the community and to her surprise has yet to feel bored in the beautiful medieval town.
Marie speaks several languages fluently (English, French, Portuguese, Russian) and is constantly pushing the envelope with useful things to learn. She is currently taking Dutch lessons and teaching herself Chinese and she’s soon traveling to China with William to stay with her in-laws for a month to get more immersed in the language. She has always been hard-working and extremely driven at school and at work. Before becoming a mother, she describes herself as having been “definitely workaholic”. As one might assume, it has been a big adjustment fitting in the stay-at-home-mom shoes.
Lately Marie has been increasingly thinking about returning to work. The original plan – to return to work when William was three months old – didn’t go through. She realized the plans she had made before the birth of her child weren’t what she wanted and she listened to her heart instead. “Outsiders often think I’m calm, but I feel it’s the opposite! The main struggle now is should I go back to work or should I stay with William,” Marie explains.
The struggle is familiar to if not all, to most mothers. Marie says she knows she shouldn’t compare her own situation to her friends who are working in very prestigious positions around the world, but she can’t help but think about the opportunities she had, the good schools she went to and the professional ambition she to this day has. Now that William is one year old, Marie started to apply to again. She has sent out tons of applications, but hasn’t gotten that much interesting feedback. “It’s always difficult when you’re used to having a job and now I have to think how much I want a certain job and how much I want to stay at home with William. He’ll never be young again, but maybe if I stay out of work too long, I might have more difficulties finding a good job”, Marie says.
She often thinks about why work is so important for people in general. In the more distant past people didn’t define themselves by their work, but now it seems to be one of the first questions people ask each other. Before Marie didn’t mind this question at all, but lately she noticed how defining this question sounds. “It makes you think why do we value work so much as the value of the individual, when it doesn’t represent much at all. Of course it can, but oftentimes it doesn’t,” Marie says and explains how these days a specific job isn’t always what someone chooses to do, as it depends a lot about circumstances one can’t control. “If I’m philosophical enough I’d say would it matter if I’m working or not? What I’m doing is probably more valuable than what a lot of work people do,” she rightfully says at the end of our talk.