The Differences Between School in Luxembourg and the US

The kids have been in school here in Luxembourg for three months now. They are settling in pretty well at the European Union school considering how different things are here. I will break them down.



I feel that learning additional languages is one of the perks of being in Europe. It is also very hard. There is not one person you meet who doesn’t know/ speak at least two and usually three to five languages. I am in awe every time I meet someone new and hear their story.

I feel embarrassed that I can only speak English, un petit peu Francais and un pequito Espanol. And I was lucky enough to at least be introduced to another language in school – German and Spanish in high school and French and Spanish in university. I can remember the German alphabet and count to 10. I have picked up a little bit of French over the years with my French husband. Most American’s do not learn anything but English; seems a little backward to me now that I am here.

There is no such thing as a second or third language in the US. “Foreign languages” are electives. We were lucky in Virginia that the kids were able to attend a French immersion class for 2-3 years when they were younger. It was a lottery system and we were lucky. Fairfax County is one of the largest school districts in the country and was able to give some kids a second language. Were were in Washington the last three years so no second language. In Washington, Juliana would have had the option to take Spanish or French this year (8th grade). In order for her to take the French class she would have had to take the high school bus (one hour earlier) to the high school, take the class and then take a bus back to the junior high school to start her regular school day. This is not exactly something kids want to do in order to learn a language. She would not have been able to take French during the regular school day until she was in 10th grade.

Children here attend a creche (day care) and there are at least three languages spoken (Luxembourgish, German, French). Then they move on to maternelle (pre-school) and continue with multiple languages and then in primary school they start actively studying a second language: usually French, English, German or a language of their parents if they attend the European School.

Since my kids did not start school here until secondary school (Luca is first year secondary and Juliana is third year secondary) they are quite behind in their second language and a third for Juliana.

Both kids have to catch up with their French quickly, but Juliana in particular. She is taking her French classes four periods a week, her Social Science (geography) and Morals classes in French four periods a week and her German class three periods a week – 11 periods. On top of that she is attending make up periods to catch up. She is taking two extra periods of French and one of German. That makes a grand total of 14 periods of French and German in one week. She is not happy about the extra classes but realizes that it is necessary for her to pass her classes. I am very proud of her. She stays late on Thursday afternoons and is quite excited when I pick her up to share her new words as she quizzes me.

Luca needs to catch up in French too. He takes French classes five periods a week and has a catch up class during his short day on Tuesday. I pick him up early two days a week and we can share his school day. He is just starting his third language, German, which is twice a week. For Luca it is a grand total of 8 periods of French and German in one week. He had a hard time with French at the beginning. It is frustrating when you don’t understand.  But now he is more excited to learn. Both kids spend time with Papa (who is French) in the evenings doing homework, which helps greatly.

School Schedule

The school schedule, now that it has been finalized, is much different than the US. It was amazing to me that the first three weeks the kids did not have an even remotely finished schedule.  I came to find out that a math teacher (yes, one person) was in charge of putting together the schedules for the entire school. Apparently this teacher was not able to get it done before school started, unbeknownst to the administration. This is a school with 2,400 students and seven different language sections with each secondary student having 45 periods a week. Now let’s have one math teacher take care of scheduling during their free time. I was told that any changes to administration procedure must go though the European Union system so it is very hard to change things.

So, when school started, the kids were given schedules that were changed multiple times the first month. Finally after six weeks they had a final schedule on paper. It makes me dizzy just trying to read schoolid2it because the type is so small. Their final ID cards and schedules were sent home two weeks ago (mid-November).

It took more than two months for us to get additional French and German support for the kids though. We even met with the director of the school and it still took four more weeks to get them the support they need to catch up in their second and third languages.

The first thing I noticed about the schedules was that Juliana had four free periods built into her schedule. Luca had one. First year secondary students have early release days on Tuesday and Thursday while third year students have an early day on Thursday. Ironically, Juliana had only three periods scheduled on Thursday, her early day, and two free periods. Of course that has changed now with additional French and German help. Luca has one free period, Wednesday, at the end of the day so I pick him up early.

There are nine periods in the day. School starts at 8:40 and each period is 50 minutes. There is a 20 minute break in the morning and lunch is one of their middles periods. School ends at 4:30 and the kids get home at 5:20. On Thursday Luca gets home at 1:40.

I get tired just looking at their schedules…

Their schedules:



Monday – French (2 periods), English, ICT (Information Technology), lunch, Art (two periods), Gym, Math

Tuesday – German, Music, Science, English, French, lunch, Extra French class

Wednesday – Human Science (History), Science, Morals, Math, lunch, English (two periods), French, free period (go home early)

Thursday – Science, Math, German, Gym (two periods) – Early release

Friday – Human Science, Science, English, Math, lunch, Morals, French, Music

I pick up Luca from school two times a week – after his extra French class on Tuesday and because of his free 9th period on Wednesday.



Monday – Gym (two periods), Science (two periods), Math, lunch, French, German, English

Tuesday – Art (two periods), French, Music, ICT (Information Technology), lunch, Human Science (Geography), Morals, English

Wednesday – German, free period, Human Science, Gym, French, lunch, English, Science, Math

Thursday – Extra French, German, Morals, free period, Math, lunch, Extra French, Extra German – free period to go home early

Friday – French, free period, ICT, Human Science, Science, lunch, Music, English, Math


Teachers are very different here. First of all, think of the stories you hear about Catholic schools and nuns – strict, non-encouraging, calling kids out on mistakes – you are close. No rulers on the hands though. It is definitely old school here. The teachers come from many countries since it is an international school. Our kids are in the English language section and have teachers from Ireland, England, Scotland and of course France and Germany for second and third languages as well as art, gym and ICT (information technology). There are no American teachers here. The teachers almost seem to enjoy calling the students out. Juliana comes home with stories about teachers chastizing kids in front of the class and making them do things over in gym class in front of the entire class. There are no warm, fuzzy teachers here, at least that I have heard of. I have met some encouraging ones though. It is even more difficult for Luca since he was in an elementary school setting where you have a homeroom teacher and stay in the classroom most of the time. Now he is in a school with 11 to 18 year olds all together switching periods nine times throughout the day.

And if you have special needs, you won’t find it here. There are no pull out classes or special education classes. If there is a problem they simply send the kids to the nurses office or the director’s office. Teachers are not really trained to work with this sort of thing. Thankfully we have only had a few episodes this year with Luca and the teachers and concierge (counselor) where able to help. I wrote a letter to each teacher explaining his PANDAS and possible anxieties in case they come up again. I have to say that all of the teachers were wonderful and understanding. But they are definitely not familiar with “issues” like the US teachers are. Perhaps because there are not that many kids with problems like ADHD and autism in this school system. That I will address another day.

Teacher Absences

One of the things that drives me crazy the most is that when a teacher is absent there is rarely a substitute. The first three weeks of school Juliana had four teachers out for multiple days with no substitute. She didn’t have her first Art class for three weeks. What happens when a teacher is out? There is a digital reader board at the secondary school building entrance that reports what teachers are out for the day. I think there was only one week so far that there was NOT a teacher out in the classroom at least once. So, what do the students do? For first year students like Luca, they go to a study room and check in and study – pretty loud and chaotic I’ve been told. For third year students like Juliana, they go check in at the study room and then can wander the campus. This usually means going to the cafeteria with their friends to get a snack and chat. The school does not seem to even try to get substitute teachers, despite what they said at Orientation Night. Luca’s math teacher was out for more than a week and no one filled in for him despite it being his vacation days and the administration knowing about it. If there are teacher training or absences for illness – no substitutes. So, some kids use it as an advantage to study or some, like my daughter, use it to buy snacks (i.e. Mars bars) from the snack machine or pastries from the cafeteria. Her payment key runs dry way too often because of snacks throughout the day. So much for me keeping her on a healthy diet with the vending machines.

Maturity/Behaviour of Kids

I know we came from a very nice, sheltered neighborhood in Kenmore, Wash. But, kids here have potty mouths (to say it nicely or “worse than a drunken sailor”) like I have never heard. Almost every day Luca or Juliana come home with stories. I know I was quite the swearer in my time (as an adult of course) but the words that come out of some of these 11-year-old’s mouths is downright horrible. Many sexual comments and the F-word is quite commonplace. I guess it’s cool to swear in English here. There is one boy in particular that is outrageously obnoxious and a bully. Luca seems to deal with him pretty well. He tries to rationalize with the bully he says. He calls him out on comments and asks him to “prove it.”

Despite that, the kids are quite nice overall. And everyone dresses quite nice. I haven’t seen any pants hanging from hineys or sweat pants. The kids are not as welcoming as Washington, but it is middle/high school so we cannot expect them to have open arms during adolescence. And, the kids are from all over the world and speak many different languages and have different cultures. Luca has been having a hard time making friends. In class and during lunch the boys only want to talk about Futbol (soccer). He also doesn’t like that the kids are constantly talking in class and he can’t concentrate because of it. I am not sure if that is any different than the US.

Juliana has landed into a group of friends that is full of drama. She is NOT happy to hear about the drama all the time. Two of her friends are Romanian and one is Korean. Romanian kids are picked on at the school so it is hard for Juliana to see it. I am trying to get her to branch out but she is very shy and doesn’t know how to initiate a new friendship. There are no Americans.


I was so excited when I saw the menu for lunch at the school. No more processed, nasty non-food items. Although in the US, my kids brought their lunch from home and were not subjected to it. The menu lists soups, bio (organic), entrees, vegetarian, cuisine de monde (cuisine of hte world), chef’s plate of the day, pasta bar, vegetables and desserts. But, the menu is deceiving. Many times Juliana, who has the second lunch period, is not able to get the plate of the day because it is already gone or there are too many people in line. Plus many kids elbow their way in front and join their friends. So kids like mine, who are quiet and not obnoxious line-cutters, are left to the end of the line.

Most days she ends up at the pasta bar and simple gets plain pasta and some cheese sauce. No veggie, no other side, just pasta. So where are the vegetables and soups and other tasty options? That is something both kids are trying to find. The daily soup seems to be missing. The plate of the day is often already gone and nothing new to serve except pasta. Luca usually has first period lunch and can get it. He tries almost everything, fish included, and enjoys it.

tresseSo, Juliana, anticipating not getting a great hot lunch by fighting the crowds only to be turned away when she finally gets to the front of the line, gets a pastry during the morning break. She gets a tresse – a twisted pastry with creme in the middle and chocolate chips on top. I’m drooling just thinking about it. At lunch she usually gets a heaping plate of pasta which they charge €5 for. And then in the afternoon she goes to the vending machine to get a Mars bar and occasionally a fruit drink. I really wish her American appetite would change into a European palate like her brother. Luca tries everything. The gluten and sugar monster has taken over my daughter.

Here is the menu for Monday.  I hope Juliana gets the Raviolis.

Potage (soup) Potage haricort beurre – butter bean soup

Entrees bio – Salade composee au tomate et coeur d’artichaud – salad with tomatoes and artichoke hearts or coleslaw or tartare de choux fleur (cauliflower tartar)

Plat vegeterien – Poelee de legumes au basilic et tofu (fried vegetables and tofu with basil)

Clin d’oeil du chef (chef’s choice) – Supreme de volaille aux fruits exotiques  (chicken supreme with exotic fruits

Cuisine de Monde (world cuisine) – Raviole ricotta epinard sauce poires et gorgonzola (Spinach and ricotta ravioli with gorgonzola and pears)

Feculents (Pasta) – Fusilli, Riz au curry (Curry rice), Pommes de terre aux herbes (Herb mashed potatos)

Legumes (Vegetables)- Carottes Vichy, Salsifis tomatees (Salsa tomatoes), Fenouil Roti (Fennel sauteed)

Desserts – Yaourt aux fruits bios (Organic fruit yogurt), Tiramitsu maison, fromage blanc aux clementines (White cheese with clementines), Ananas caramelise au sesame (Carmelized pineapple with sesame)



To my American friends who are seeing the Paris tragedy from last night…

parispeacesignTo my American friends who are seeing the Paris tragedy from last night… I found out about it around 11 am this morning after receiving a message from a concerned family member on Facebook.

Yes, we are in the heart of Europe bordered by France, Germany and Belgium and just four hours by car from Paris. But, I feel safer here than I did in the US. Every day in America there are senseless shootings of innocents and it seems nobody cares enough to do something about it. But when something big happens it is a travesty and the media has a field day with it.

So, now, who do we blame? That’s the first thing that comes to mind in American society. I have seen some of the crazy tweets blaming the refugees and Islamists and even shaming Obama. Seriously?

I was at the Red Cross Refugee Center on Friday afternoon and saw a woman with her baby on her hip. I wanted to hug her not run from her.

I don’t know what the US media is sharing with America, but the French and European people and news are probably handling it much differently. As I sat on the couch this morning watching the French news, I commented to my French husband how different the American media would portray this tragedy.

Tell me if I am wrong.

American media portrayal: videos of people running and screaming for cover playing over and over on the screen; blaming, blaming, blaming every possible suspect (refugees, Islamists) before a real perpetrator was actually named; blaming President Obama for not doing enough with Syria; counting how many American’s were killed or visiting Paris and thought missing; scaring the shit out of everyone and telling them how dangerous Europe is; France’s borders are closed and no one can escape.

France’s borders are not closed. As a matter of fact, France issued an announcement earlier this week about border checks in anticipation of the 12-day UN conference Nov. 30th through Dec. 11th in Paris. Yes, people must show ID at the border, but it is a simple check for security.

“France issued a note to EU officials last month, announcing border checks at all international airports, as well as its 131 land crossings with Belgium, Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland and Luxembourg. The note said that Schengen rules allow controls “when there is a serious threat to public policy.”

During the hour that I watched the French news there was not one splash of carnage or injured or witnesses on the street (this is about 12 hours after it happened). Instead the French news teams were discussing how the people are coming together in support. What safety initiatives are in place to keep everyone safe. They are asking themselves why this happened and what they can do now to not have it happen again. They even had a philosopher on the news explaining what kinds of people do this. One segment was showing a long line of people giving blood. You would never see this in America. In America it is all about bringing fear and blame.


It’s That Time of Year in Luxembourg – Change Your Tires

fallroadIt is that time of the year – the leaves are changing colors and falling, the nights are getting longer and there is a chill in the air.

Here in Luxembourg a rule was put into place in 2012 that makes in mandatory to change the summer tires on your car to winter tires by October 1st. Yes, that is right, each vehicle has two sets of tires. When we were looking at the adds for a car it was often mentioned that the car included winter tires. We soon found out what this meant. There is a very rigorous registration and inspection regime in Luxembourg that is beyond compare of anything in the US.

You won’t be fined if you don’t change the tires unless the police tag you, there is snow on the ground and they are needed or you have to go for your yearly control technique inspection.

So, I finally took our car to change the tires last week. I wasn’t sure what to expect since it is mandatory and every car owner in Luxembourg is out getting his/her tires changed during the month of October. The weather here is brutal in October as you can see in my picture. Actually it has been quite nice all month – 50s and 60s during the day and going down in the 30s a handful of nights. So, why October 1st? Why I ask for most rules in Luxembourg.

tiresBecause of the mandatory law, there are repair shops that only work with changing tires. So, I crossed my fingers and hoped for a short line. I was in luck. It only took about 40 minutes from the time I arrived until I  left. And, even better, it only cost €33 for changing the tires and balancing the wheels. I am not sure there is anywhere in the US that you would get this type of service. Now I just have to find a place in our garage to store the summer tires.

Greener Pastures Indeed


When I started my blog Greener Pastures in Luxembourg I came up with the name because my backyard is actually a green pasture. And, aren’t we all looking for greener pastures.  I have the luck to now live in a beautiful country where the city and the country blend together into a quilt of cosmopolitan and provencial. The city bus rumbles by on Rue Kohlenberg in front of our house every 20 minutes and my kitchen overlooks a pasture. A block from my house is a path that wanders through fields of wheat and corn. During the weekdays I see dozens of people jog by our house onto the path, passing cows on their midday jog. Where else in the world can you find something as eclectic as this?


During my French class today the professor asked us to share why we like Luxembourg. The students, all middle aged and from countries around the world, all agreed that Luxembourg is cosmopolitan, calm, safe, friendly and is home to people from around the world. They shared how Luxembourg is open to people from other countries and how everyone stops to talk and get to know each other, something that doesn’t often happen in their own countries. I have to say that most of the people in my class are quite happy to be in Luxembourg. They come from countries like Italy, Spain, Romania, Japan, Turkey, Argentina and Germany, to name a few. I am still getting to know some of the students but we all feel equal and comfortable in our class. We speak in staccato, awkward French and explain our ideas as best we can about current events and where we come from and why we are here. Each of us is living in a foreign country, learning a new language and hoping to find greener pastures. I think perhaps that many of us have found our greener pastures.

Getting Sick in Luxembourg Is Definitely Different

Luca has been sick for almost a week now. He came home from school Tuesday afternoon tired and it was quite evident within a couple of hours that he was sick. He and I were up almost all night that night and there was not much sleep for the next few nights. He couldn’t sleep from the cough and fever. He stayed home from school on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and seemed to be getting a little better. He still wasn’t sleeping well at night but his cough was a little better.


In order for a child to return to school after being sick for more than two days they must visit a doctor and get a Certificat (Bescheinigung) that is certified by the doctor. We already had an appointment scheduled for Thursday with his homeopathic doctor, but since they are not recognized as doctor’s here in Luxembourg she could not give me a note. We went to the doctor (general practitioner) Friday afternoon to get this certificate so that he could return to school on Monday when he was feeling better. Thankfully the doctor’s visit wasn’t too expensive, €39 Euros, and the Certificat was €7 Euros.

So now it was just a matter of feeling better. Juliana had her Birthday party sleep over Friday night which meant Luca got very little sleep and the next day starting feeling worse again. The coughing would not stop. We tried natural remedies and essential oils throughout the weekend but he was getting worse.

Each day he missed school I contacted his counselor at school to let him know that Luca would be at home sick. Today when I contacted him and said I  had a Certificat for Wednesday through Friday he told me that I had to have a new Certificat that would cover today and any other days he was sick this week. So, this means visiting the doctor again.


Well, since Luca was feeling worse this morning, Monday, we made an appointment with the general practitioner again. He is in fact getting worse and has some infection in his lungs so we are now going to start an antibiotic. She wrote me a new Certificat that will be good through Wednesday (since she can only write it for up to 48 hours after she has seen the patient). She also wrote me a Certificat that allows him to not participate in his gym class this week since it will irritate his cough. So, we are hoping he is better by Thursday and can go back to school.

Now it was time to go to the Pharmacie for his prescription. After standing in line for 10 minutes waiting for one older to lady count out her coins and an older gentlemen making small-talk with the cashier I had my turn. I gave her the prescription, she went in the back room and return in 30 seconds with two bottles of medicine. Her English wasn’t that good and my French is not sufficient so when she asked me if I wanted her to mix I said no. We had decided to get a liquid medicine since Luca’s throat is so sore from coughing. I assumed it was liquid in the bottle. Wrongo spagetti-O. So she told me that it costs One point seventy three as I handed her my credit card. She shook her head as I handed her my credit card and said they don’t accept credit cards for transactions under €6. I asked her again, “How much?” Then I realized that the 5-day course of Amoxicillin was only going to cost me €1.73, less than €2 Euros. My jaw hung open and I told her how surprised I was at the price. She just smiled and said, “It’s Luxembourg.”

Upon arriving at home I was a little chagrined to find that the medicine is actually in powder form. And the instructions are in German. At least if they were in French I could understand most of it. So, I got on my computer for the next 20 minutes using Google Translator to find out what the long pamphlet said in English.

amoxicillinSo, after much translating and cursing I figured out that one spoon of powder in a glass of water was how this medicine works. Luca was not excited by the taste but I learned a very good lesson –  always get the pills.

So now we hope the antibiotic kicks in, Luca feels better and he can go back to school and catch up on missing over a week of schoolwork.

And on the plus side, once we finally receive our social security cards, after waiting for more than three months, we can send in the doctor receipts for a partial refund. I don’t know how much they will reimburse us,  but it is an added bonus. And it is costs us much less here than visiting the doctor in the US.

My First Parent Association Meeting, New Italian Friends, Talking French with Luxembourgish Neighbors and Helping Put Out a Fire

It was quite a day today. I experienced my first parent association meeting in Luxembourg, made new Italian friends, talked in French with my Luxembourgish neighbors and helped put out a fire, literally.

Let’s start with this morning. After the usual rush to get the kids to the bus on time I drove to school for my first parent teacher association APEEEL coffee time meeting. The constant construction of Luxembourg never ceases to amaze me. On my 12 kilometer journey I was stopped in traffic two times by construction vehicles that take up the entire lane of traffic during rush hour and all day of course. Since there are small, narrow streets, you just have to sit there patiently and wait, along with the busses full of school children and unhappy morning commuters. When there are 2,400 students arriving at school all at once — yes preschool (maternelle), primary and secondary kids all arrive at the same time by school buses, country buses, city buses, car, bike and walking — It is quite a spectacle to see.

The meeting was quite informative and there were quite a few parents, men and women. Every time a speaker came forward the words were translated into either English or French depending on the speaker. The activities and programs that our kids will have a chance to participate in are beyond my wildest dreams. There is a Global Issues Group that students work on issues facing the world, a Fair Trade group doing fundraising and education, Les Mots de Zaza, an association helping with school books and the library, and a Peer Mediation group for students to help with Bullying in the school. One of my favorites is Actions Sans Frontieres (Actions without Borders), which raises money for NGOs, more than $41,500 last year, and then facilitates programs and projects with NGO’s that students, parents and teachers bring to the group.


Afterward I met some really wonderful ladies, one of which has a son in Luca’s classes. I now have two Italian friends so I can try a little Italian language learning after I get a better handle on my French. And hopefully our sons will become good friends.

In the afternoon, upon leaving the house to meet Juliana at the bus, I noticed fire and smoke coming from behind the house across the street that is under new construction. I had not noticed any workers there today so to see a fire was quite surprising. It is very windy near our house since we are on a hill and I was concerned that it might spread. The weather is really quite like Seattle – cold, windy and wet during most of the year I’ve heard. Since I have no idea how to call the fireman or police I went to my neighbors house. My neighbors are an older Luxembourgish couple who are very nice. The husband is able to speak a little English and the wife none so it took me a few minutes to try to describe to the madame about the fire, with many hand movements. Too bad I don’t know sign language. She called her husband and we discussed the situation and he called the police and firemen. When the firemen arrived I showed them the fire and tried again to communicate but it was mostly me gesturing wildly. Enough to get the job done.

Then I noticed my other elderly widowed neighbor looking on. Since she recently had heart surgery, according to my husband since I could not speak French or Luxembourgish with her, I went to her and tried to explain what had happened. We talked for almost ten minutes with me practicing my French, nodding and saying Oui. I did actually understand most of the conversation and could communicate, which actually made me feel quite confident.

So, tomorrow I have an appointment with my French language school to see what level I will need to enroll for classes. Such was my day in Luxembourg. Let’s see what tomorrow brings.

First Week of School in Europe

First day of school
First day of school

So, it’s day four of school here in Luxembourg. It’s Monday, September 7th, Labor Day in the US. Let’s just say it has been a very “interesting week” since I can’t say the appropriate words in print. My children attend the European Union School “Schola Europaea” with 2,400 other kids. So, it is quite a feat to get organized it seems.

Being new to Luxembourg we really didn’t know what to expect. We applied at Schola Europaea in May after our house hunting trip to Luxembourg. We sent in multiple copies of forms and paperwork and were not sure when we would find out if they would be accepted. We were told we would find out by mid-July which was a little uncomfortable not knowing if they would be accepted.

We did apply to another secondary school, Lycee Michel Lucius, a Luxembourgish school that has a wonderful English section, but in mid-June we were told that Luca was too young and immature for the school. So, for about a month we didn’t know if Luca would be accepted at the European School or have to be thrown into the Luxembourgish system for his last year of primary, which would mean learning French, German and Luxembourgish in one year as well as taking his end of primary tests in Luxembourgish to see which path he could take in secondary school. There are two tracks here, classique and technique. One is for students expected to move on to University and the other is for those who will not. So, if Luca were to be tested in Luxembourgish, he would probably fail the test for the classique school and be put in the track that would not take him to University. This was not an option for us. There were two other options in Luxembourg, the private schools St. George ($13,000 Euros per year) and the International School of Luxembourg ($17,000 Euros per year). Not really an option really unless we wanted to live on Top Ramen. Juliana was accepted at Lycee Michel Lucius but we felt keeping them together the first year would be better.

Finally in mid-July after not receiving mail about whether the kids were accepted we called. It is a good thing we did call because they had sent the acceptance letter to our address in Washington. We have still not received it in the mail… Thankfully the office was open for two more days before closing down for the summer. The office did not re-open until a couple of days before school. This meant me scrabbling to get the last minute paperwork in to get them fully registered. The acceptance letter simply stated your child has been admitted, school starts Wednesday, Sept. 2, there is a tour of the facility on Tuesday, Sept. 1, send us the tuition fees and go to the website for any information. The website had information from a year ago: nothing new for this year. It did have a list of books for each grade level but was ambiguious since we didn’t know what classes they would be taking.

Two weeks.. one week until school starts … nothing new on the site or in the mail. So I posted questions on Facebook for help and my husband posted at work and asked if anyone could tell us anything about the school, transportation, anything. We heard that the children take the public bus transport system which is wonderful and very safe here but we were not comfortable with sending our kids on the city system that showed them changing buses two times and taking an hour to get there.

We finally were able to get together with a nice family that would help us the weekend before school started. The father works at Amazon and his wife is a teacher at the European School. We met them for lunch and learned lots of information but still nothing on transport until Monday afternoon. Two days before school started the bus lines were published. Whew! The bus goes right by our house and stops just a block away. One less thing to worry about…

The Tuesday visit to the school didn’t really give us a lot of information but at least the kids had a chance to walk around the school. Wednesday morning was chilly and foggy. It was the first weather like this since moving here. It has been a record-breaking hot summer in Luxembourg. The kids were anxious and excited at the same time. I have to say it was a little sad and inspiring seeing them getting on the bus for the first time. My little chicks left the nest. I walked home alone and had the place to myself, enjoyably quite, for the first time in two months.

The first day of school went well. We went over the school bus route many times, and a map showing where they should get off on the return home. But low and behold, the bus went the opposite direction on the return from the published route and I watched as the bus went by and my kids didn’t get off. I started back toward home and the earlier bus stop in case they got off there. I walked back and forth hoping they realized that they missed their stop. Neither Juliana or Luca had a cell phone so if they did get off at another stop I wouldn’t know where so I would just have to walk and walk and hope they didn’t double back through the side streets to home and I miss them. After about five minutes I saw them running down the sidewalk toward home as they had gotten off at the next stop and climbed a big hill to get home. Whew… I am so glad I didn’t have to hunt for them around our small village.

On Thursday they received a schedule but it was missing times and classes. One of Juliana’s friends only had one class scheduled for Friday. The first two days were early release days so it went quite well but they were confused as to what classes they would be having. On Friday they had a complete day of classes except for Luca, who had a free period at the end of the day and just wandered around the school. Apparently during free periods, which both kids will have, you have time to go to the library, study hall or anywhere in the school. It baffles me but if it gives them time to do homework I am all for it. Friday evening an e-mail came to the parents stating that the schedule system was down and they were working on it. The older kids schedules would be fixed first.

Today is Monday and they came home with entirely new schedules and these will be in place for the next two to three weeks until they finally get the correct schedules. Juliana is third year secondary school and should be attending every day except Thursday from 8:40 am to 4:30 pm. Luca as a first year secondary should be attending every day except Tuesday and Thursday the same hours. Their early days off classes end at 1 pm. So, on a long day the children will leave at 7:50 and arrive home at 5:15 pm. Much different than the US. There are 9 periods of classes each day with one of them being lunch. Luca has said that 8 periods is more than enough and would like to suggest to the school removing the last period…

Both children have a second language, which is French. Juliana will take a while to catch up and her Morals and Social Studies classes are also taught in French. The kids get a choice between a Morals class or religious class. She will also have to catch up with two years in her third language, German. Luca will be starting his third language in German this year. So he will only have to catch up in French.

Today Juliana called me at 1 pm asking me to pick her up since her Art class, which was scheduled for two sessions and then nothing else in the afternoon blocks, was canceled because the teacher is sick. Apparently when teachers are sick the classes are just canceled and the kids just hang around and do homework or go home. On the plus side when I came to pick her up she was sitting with her new friend from Romania, Andreena. There is a group of four girls that have become close over the last week. We found out that Andreena lives just a block away on our street. Juliana is over the moon having a new friend that lives in the neighborhood, first time ever. We are about 6 miles from school so it is quite lucky… The girls spent the afternoon together strolling the streets and visiting the playground on their own. They just went out again this evening. I might just have to get her a phone.

On the negative side, I received a call from the school at 4:45 pm when Luca should have been on the bus, asking me to pick him up because he had a very bad time in his double period gym class and was in no shape to take the bus. Since it was rush hour it took me about a half hour to pick him up, but he has come out of it quite well, telling me all about his day, the ups and downs.

The thing that set him off was the way they play dodge ball here. It was confusing, the teachers didn’t explain it, there were four classes all together and it was overwhelming to say the least. On the bright side, Luca has also made a couple of friends that he plays futbol (soccer) with during lunch recess. His friend Lucas is the boy he met over the weekend with his family. And it turns out his mother is Luca’s French teacher.

It does seem that Luxembourg is a very small town in some ways. Is it kismit that we have been meeting people in just the right time and place? I am quite agitated at the schedule mess but very happy that the kids have been making friends and settling in. All of the teaches have been very helpful and kind. Oh, and Juliana was also signed up to learn Latin as her fourth language. Hmmm not sure if she should take that on too…