So why change schools? If you have to judge from our previous blog posts, it seems like we were quite happy with Essex Heights Primary School.
And we are! But sometimes there is an opportunity that changes your perspectives. And this one does.
This is where it all began
My friend Stef took me on a school tour. Not something unusual, as her oldest is in grade six (the final year of primary school), so she is actively looking for a new school. Next to keeping her company it is also a chance for me to get a bit more insight into secondary college life. This way I have seen a couple of colleges already.
So, we booked a school tour at Box Hill Secondary College for a Wednesday morning. This tour turned out to be a bit different than I could have anticipated. Maybe even life changing.
At first I was not too impressed. We had to sit down in a room and watch a film about the college. When it was over the lady showed us the form that we had to fill out if we would like to apply. That was a bit quick. We did not get to see much of the school yet and we already have to sign up?
Anyway, when the tour started we were the only two people that were interested in the special sports program that they offer, so we got a private tour. She showed us the sports facilities and the separate building for the tennis program.
Talking to the principal of the tennis school made my enthusiasm grow quickly. They offer a special tennis program for years 5 to 9, where they play tennis for two hours a day within their regular school curriculum. The regular curriculum for grades 5 and 6 is the same as any other primary schools, only music, inter school sport and a second language are not taught. They are very strict that the academic part is the first priority and tennis second. The combined 5/6 class currently only has 10 students!
I happen to have a son that loves to do sports – he always has. He has been actively playing different sports and is happiest when he was active every day. He qualified for the school swim team and the school cross country team. This sounded like an amazing opportunity for Kai. Only problem being that he started playing tennis less then half a year ago and his first competition still had to start. So he does not have much experience. The tennis coach said that at his age that is not a necessity, they will let him play and see what his potential is.
This is what happened then
Coming home I enthusiastically told Oliver about what I saw and heard and we booked another school tour for the week after. One of the things that stood out was a sign on the wall that said: winning and
losing learning. After the tour Oliver was also convinced that this would be an amazing opportunity for Kai.
As this has an impact on the whole family – we will have two children at two different schools 20 minutes apart – the two of us thought it through and then talked about it with Kai and Luka over the weekend. As we expected Kai was all ears. He listened carefully and we asked him to think about it and let us know the next day if he would like to try out. He asked many questions, most of them friends related.
On Monday he was already telling everybody that he might be going to a different school. So I called the tennis school to make an appointment to see if this will be a program for him.
At nine in the morning Oliver, Kai and me drove to Box Hill, without traffic a bit over a 15 minute drive from our house.
We had to bring Kai’s report cards and expected to have a conversation with the principal. After shaking hands and introducing ourselves we were no longer an active part of the conversation. He was talking with Kai for an hour and the two of us were the audience.
The report cards were mainly scanned on behavioral remarks. He asked questions and told him what is expected of the children. School is first priority and time on court must be earned. In other words, if you are not doing well or are not participating in class, there is no time on court.
After about an hour he took us to the tennis coach who let Kai hit some balls. We then sat down with the tennis coach who asked Kai what he wants to achieve, which Kai answered with a “to win the Australian open”. We were quite happy with the coaches response: “That is not something that a lot of people can achieve Kai. We can provide you with the best training, but it is up to you to put your energy and devotion in, to become a good player. We can guarantee you that you will become a better player when you come here. How good you become is only up to you”. He also told us that Kai still has a lot to learn and that he will not be able to play with the best players, as they will wipe him off the court.
Since all this is a big decision, they offer every student who passes the interview a trial week. In that week they can see if a child can handle the academic and the tennis program and if they like it themselves. Being in a very small class can also have it’s drawbacks.
The tennis coach and the principal both have to decide if they find a trial week would be suitable for Kai. Since the principle was not there anymore, they would call us later that day. Around lunch time we received the phone call: Kai is welcome for a trial week!
It has almost been a year ago that we moved from the Netherlands to Australia. Listening to Kai and Luka now, it is hard to remember that they did not speak any English then. And here we are, looking into a different school for Kai, a next, big challenge.