Question from a reader: international schools and holidays

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A reader writes in with questions about international schools and holidays here in Korea. She writes:

hi chris,
i ran across your web-site while doing research regarding living in korea. my husband, three children and i are moving there next month. halloween is a big deal to them. i was looking into what koreans did during halloween and ran across your site. i'm glad to see the school you teach at was having fun with the american traditions of the holiday. my kids are 7, 5 and 3, so of course.

i'm wondering which school you teach at? we are of course going to be placing our children in an international school in/around the seoul area and i'm so nervous about making that decision. from pictures, it seems like you work with small children.


also any other websites you can point out geared towards americans moving to korea would be appreciated.

To my wonderful reader and mother of three,
I currently teach English to adults in a one-on-one classroom / office. Last year I worked with a kindergarten / elementary school, thus the interesting Halloween pictures from last year. I should note that the Halloween program was more of an attempt to make the parents happy - something about learning American traditions or customs.

Unfortunately, the concept of Halloween as a holiday to scare people and give out candy simply doesn't exist here. It's a party day for some Koreans and foreigners in Hongdae, but other than that it's virtually non-existant. A few other holidays translate better - Thanksgiving is similar in nature to Chuseok, a Korean holiday that's coming up the first weekend in October. Christmas is not quite as huge here - only about 25% of the population is Christian - but is still a day off from work. Both New Years are days of celebration (solar and lunar - usually around mid-Feburary), with the latter being a bigger one.

International schools in Seoul - hmm. After a long time of researching (about 10 minutes), I have some information to offer. Kudos go to the Seoul Global Center, which is a great place for virtually any question about life in Seoul. Here's some options from one of their printed resources called Living in Seoul (get a copy if you can - it's incredibly helpful):
I couldn't tell you whether these ages are Korean ages (where a child's age starts at conception) or Western ages (where a child's age starts at delivery) - since these are international schools, I would assume they would be Western ages. Also note that international schools are somewhat expensive - one estimate is $12,000 - $20,000 USD per student per year. Sending them to a Korean public school is an option - I don't know enough about the pros and cons - readers, any help?

I'd also like to point out that homeschooling is also a distinct option. Korean law doesn't currently address homeschooling either way - in other words, it's neither illegal nor legal. There are some homeschooling communities in Korea (mostly located in churches), although most foreign parents homeschooling in Korea presumably go it alone. There's plenty of support on the internet - try http://www.homeschooling.com/ or http://www.usdla.org/ for the USA Distance Learning Association.

I'm afraid foreigners with kids are in the smallest minority here in Korea - I can't say I've seen more than a handful in my year and a half here. At least one fellow K-blogger has a baby (AKA 'A Geek in Korea') and may be able to offer some insights or advice). Since I'm getting out of my sphere of knowledge, I would urge you to take your time. There's no rush to enroll them in school - the fall semester has already started. Best of luck - and let me know what you learn!

Fellow expats - have babies or kids in Korea? What have you learned in your time here?

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