This is not a tale about two boys off on an adventure with a magical, carpet-bearing tree. No, it’s more a tale about a Kiwi education, of sorts. You see, we had not been in New Zealand very long and our little ones were fairly new to their respective pre-schools / kindergartens (kindies) when one of the early childhood educators (pre-school teacher) came over to tell me just how much our son had been enjoying the carpet tree that day. I looked at her a little blankly, I am afraid, as I mentally ran through a whole range of possibilities as to what this mysterious carpet tree could be and why it appealed to our boy. I shudder to think just what she must have been thinking as I clearly failed to respond in the way she hoped. I can’t recall exactly, but I guess the conversation must have gone something like this: “Carpet tree?” I floundered. “Yeh, you know, using hammers and nails and building things with wood,” she patiently explained. The penny dropped – ah! Carpentry! Yes, I can imagine that our boy would have loved being let loose with all those things! But wait! They can do that? Safely? My mind baulked at the thought of a group of four-year-olds sawing and hammering away. Building things out of plastic – with plastic nails and things, right? No. Not these kids, they had the real deal. It didn’t end there. They were encouraged to use hot glue guns too. Wow! How awesome! This is the stuff most kids would love to do. A little bit of responsibility and creativity coupled with an element of danger and they loved it! But it became painfully obvious I had some learning of my own to do, too. I was very thankful that while I learned to decipher just what these kiwis were saying, that at least it was with the kind, patient ladies at the kids kindie and not in some fast-paced business environment!
Unfortunately, this was not the case with Mike and Mark. To this day I will listen very carefully when being introduced to a bloke called Mark, as to me, the name Mark sounds like Mike when spoken in “Kiwi”. Even then I will probably double-check with husband – whose ear for this seems better trained than mine – just to be certain I don’t find myself calling Mark Mike or Mike Mark – arrrgghhh! Is it just me, or are there a lot of men that go by this name in our part of Kiwi land!
All that aside, it was a Kiwi friend of Justin’s (thankfully called Rob!) who, after living in SA for many years and returning to NZ, casually mentioned that it is impossible to get a bad education in NZ. Well, so far I have been very impressed. Our kidos are young so we have been through the kindie experience and are now on to primary school. I really liked the free play kids have at pre-schools, supervised (they are well taken care of), but free to play and explore. They are encouraged to bring togs (swimming gear) on warm days to play outside in the mud and puddles. Some kindies have chickens and vegetable gardens and trees to climb. They have playgrounds – but not only the general the run-of-the-mill type (ie. swing, slide and monkey bars) – but also really interesting things to climb up, scramble over, under, inside. Wish we had those when I was a kid. At the lovely kindie where our daughter ended up going before starting school, each day brought with it something new and interesting to try like playing with foam, making playdough, baking, going for outings to places like the library or park. The teachers also document your child’s progress in a fun and personal way – each child has their own folder, with stories about what they did, what they learned, things they really enjoyed and so forth. We could borrow that folder to read through and enjoy or share with family, then give it back for more stories to be added. Then we got to take it home when our children moved on to primary school. Both kindies our kids went to put on a party on their leaving day (around their fifth birthdays) – they were made to feel very special and they really looked forward to their chance to have their goodbye celebration knowing it was time to move on to the next chapter.
Other bits and bobs
This link gives a great overview of the school system https://www.newzealandnow.govt.nz/living-in-nz/education/school-system
Schooling is mandatory between 6 and 16 years of age
School starts on your fifth birthday, or close to it (or the term after your fifth birthday)
Your child will attend the primary, intermediate or high school which you are zoned for – various suburbs fall into different school zones (school catchment areas) – this is something to consider if your kids are of school going age as schools range in size and decile
School deciles range from one to ten – for more info on this https://www.education.govt.nz/school/running-a-school/resourcing/operational-funding/school-decile-ratings/
There are lots of schools – including rural schools – and depending on your school and area etc, there are school buses too.
You’ll need to check for yourself what your visa category enables access to education-wise: https://www.immigration.govt.nz/new-zealand-visas