School in Ireland

We are now into the second week of the school term, and I thought it would be the perfect time to discuss school here in Ireland.

This is our second year in the formal school system.  The school year runs from the first of September to the end of June, with a two-month summer break.  Schools have a mid-term break around Halloween, two weeks at Christmas, a mid-term break in February, and a two week break surrounding Easter.  Isaac is in Sr. Infants which is similar to first grade in the US. The first year of school is called Jr Infants.  Isaac has the same teacher for both junior and senior infants, and will have the same set of classmates throughout primary school.

Public or Private?

Isaac attends a public, or National School, near our home.  There are also private, or “fee-paying” schools in Ireland.  However, we don’t have any private schools near us, so we opted to start in the National School system, with the thought that if we needed to make a change, we could do that later.  We have been very happy with Isaac’s school.  His teacher is wonderful, and being in the local school has afforded us the opportunity to make friends with other families in the area.  Because there are so many multinational companies in our area, Isaac’s class is very international.  There are children from France, the Philippines, the Middle East, Africa, and Eastern Europe, in addition to his Irish classmates.  Isaac is the only American in his class though.

Isaac’s school is a Catholic school.  There are public schools in Ireland affiliated with the Catholic church, the Church of Ireland (Anglican), Christian Ethos/Non-Denominational, and schools unaffiliated with any religious belief.   The students in Isaac’s class are primarily Catholic, but the school has a policy of admitting at least 30% non-Catholics, which is more reflective of the area.

Uniform, or not?
Clearly he loves having his picture taken!
Clearly he loves having his picture taken!

Nearly every school in Ireland, public or private, requires a uniform.  Isaac is required to wear his crested tracksuit (sweatpants and sweatshirt with embroidered logo), plus the accompanying polo to school every day.  Beginning next year, he will only be allowed to wear his tracksuit on PE days.  The rest of the time, he will wear navy dress pants, white button-down shirt, tie and navy sweater with school crest (“jumper”). Girls can wear pants, or a skirt or pinafore (what the US would call a jumper), with white blouse/button down shirt, and sweater. Nearly all girls I see are wearing the skirt or pinafore. Although the shoes of kids in the younger grades vary widely, in the older grades, everyone is wearing black or navy dress shoes.  If you go into the shoe stores here during the “back to school” sales, you see nothing but black, blue and brown dress shoes.

When students begin secondary school, the uniform becomes more formal, with boys required to wear a jacket and tie some days, and virtually all girls in skirts.

Typical School Day

The school day for the first two years is 8:50 – 1:30, with before and aftercare available onsite. The times vary slightly from school to school.  After Jr and Sr Infants, the school day extends to 2:30 pm.  As someone who is accustomed to the longer US school day, I was skeptical at first.  The fact that they can get all the instruction in 4.5 hours is really impressive. Isaac’s classroom is intentionally “low-tech”. Although they have computers and iPads at their disposal, the teachers prefer a much more hands-on approach. I prefer the Montessori or Waldorf teaching philosophies, so the low-tech approach is just fine with me.  Other parents chafe at it, so it’s all in personal preference.

During the day, students have two recesses: a 10-minute “walk and talk” break, and a longer 20-30 minute break after lunch. There is no playground at the school, which seems to be the norm here.  The children play soccer, or other yard games.  Most Irish schools do not have a cafeteria, or canteen. Rather, children bring their lunch every day, and eat lunch in the classroom. (I’ll write a post later about school lunches, and the interesting dynamics around that.)

Subjects

During the day, they cover all the topics you would expect: reading, mathematics (which they call “maths” here), writing, science, religion, social studies/history, music.  I love the focus on penmanship.  Isaac will start learning cursive this year.  His teacher also focuses on writing skills – she has the children writing and illustrating stories.  The parents are required to purchase the schoolbooks each year for their child.  In addition to the school books, Isaac’s school collects an “Art and Supply” fee from each child.  This fee covers all of his school supplies for the year. I love this setup, because as the parent, I do not have to go to 6 different stores looking for items off the school supply list.

Introduction to Cursive!
Introduction to Cursive!

Children in Ireland also learn the Irish language as a part of the curriculum.  In fact, if you live in Ireland you have the option of having your child(ren) educated entirely in Irish, at a Gaelscoil. As Brad and I do not know any Irish, and it is not spoken outside of Ireland, we chose not to send our kids to an Gaelscoil.  (It was also a bit out of the way from where we live.)  However, all of Isaac’s non-academic instruction, “Stand up”, “Take your seats”, “Line up at the door”, etc is conducted in Irish.  As a result, Isaac speaks a lot more Irish than we do!

*As a general note, this post just serves to share our experience, which has been very positive.  Just as in every country around the world, if you were to ask 5 different families, you would get 5 different experiences in school system. Some schools are longer, shorter, richer, poorer, single-sex, co-ed, and the list goes on.  As in life, there is no ‘average’ experience.  What other questions do you have?

x Rheagan

Friday Finds

Jam Bars

My weekly post of interesting things from around the internet:

Food:

It is blackberry season here.  Wild blackberries grow everywhere – on the side of the road, at the local parks and playgrounds.  The plant is quite thorny, and will spread almost anywhere, but the wild blackberries at the end of the summer make amends for its flaws.  We have picked 10+ quarts in the past week.

To make use of all the blackberries, I made blackberry refrigerator jam.

And then I took some the jam and made these amazing jam bars. The bars did not last one evening at our house.

Family & Expat Life:

Whether you’re Catholic or not, this is hilarious. 5 Things You Should Have Done in Premarital Counseling.

As an expat, the transition back into your ‘adopted’ country is never easy.  This article gets that.

In & Around Dublin:

Have you heard of The Caterpillar?  It is a magazine of stories, art and poetry for kids.  I hope to buy one this weekend.

After Wednesday’s post, a friend (Thanks Caroline!) told me about the Dublin Coffee & Tea Festival next weekend. I am tempted!   Kingfisher Tea, owned by another friend of mine, will be at the festival.  If you want to win tickets to the festival, pop over to their Facebook page.

 

Have a lovely weekend everyone.  We have a family fun day with the local GAA club, college football watching (gotta give sports on both sides of the Atlantic their due), and I’m hoping to add a few more features to the blog.  See you on Monday.

x Rheagan

 

 

Coffee or Tea?

Monday Mocha
Sometimes Mondays just call for a mocha

Do you consider yourself a coffee or tea person?  I like both…a lot, but what is really interesting to me is how my tea and coffee drinking habits changed once I moved to Ireland.  Coffee in Ireland is really hit-or-miss.  For years, it was simply an afterthought compared to tea. It is not uncommon for me to visit one of my Irish friends’ homes, and be offered instant (!) coffee.  Many people don’t even have a coffee maker.  For espresso, Starbucks serves reasonably good coffee, but it isn’t a daily ritual like it is in the US.  The Starbucks near my house opens at 8:00 am.  There are great independent places for coffee in Dublin – KC Peaches, 3FE, Coffee Kiosk, Brother Hubbard, just to name a few.  As a sign of the changing attitudes towards coffee, the World Barista Championships will be held in Dublin in 2016.

Now tea…tea is a completely different experience.  Tea is served hot any time of year, and is a daily ritual for the Irish.  Most people take milk with their tea, and maybe sugar.   There are two main brands of Irish tea: Barry’s and Lyons.  These two brands account for the majority of the market share.  The Barry’s vs Lyons debate is similar to the Coke vs Pepsi, or Coke vs Dr. Pepper in the US.  Either you’re a Barry’s fan, or a Lyons fan, and never the two shall meet.  I drink Barry’s tea, but really only because a neighbor of mine brought me a box of Barry’s Tea the first day we moved into our house.  (Thanks Joanne!)  And what can I say, brand allegiances are strong, and I have bought Barry’s ever since.

 

My typical 'cuppa': a bit of milk, no sugar
My typical ‘cuppa’: a bit of milk, no sugar

There are places where you can go for “Afternoon Tea” or “High Tea” where it is served with scones and jam, tea sandwiches, and perhaps a small dessert.  It is a wonderful experience, and I recommend it to visitors all the time.  (Future blog post, perhaps?)  However, most regular Irish people just have tea as a part of their day.  They have it with breakfast, as their morning or afternoon break, or with friends.  The longer I live in Dublin, the more I gravitate towards, tea, especially when the weather is bad.  The climate in Dublin is perfect for tea, and there’s nothing quite like a “cuppa” to keep the dull, damp, and dreary weather at bay – even if just for a moment.

x Rheagan

Friday Finds

It was a busy week here, with plenty of things going on. We had one day of beautiful weather and I snapped this pic of Clery’s department store on O’Connell Street in Dublin. It was a day where the weather made it feel like the world was full of possibility. Alas, we were back to lashing wind and rain today.

My weekly post of interesting things from around the internet:

Food:

Brad brought back a Williams-Sonoma catalog from NYC for me to drool over look at.  We made this recipe, Braised Chicken with Olives and Capers, featured in the catalog.  So good!

Have you ever made your own Italian sausage?  It’s hard to find here, but I use this recipe to make my own.

This review of The French Laundry made me laugh.  I think they channeled my 4-year old.

 

Travel:

A lovely article from the New York Times about one of my favourite streets in Dublin, Drury Street.

What do you think of “Knee Defenders“?

 

Life in Ireland:

How to offend people at your new job?  Ask this woman.

A few more reasons to visit Ireland! Thanks Mico!

 

Have a lovely weekend everyone.  It’s Labor Day weekend in the US, but a regular 2-day weekend here. See you on Monday.

x Rheagan

Hello there!

After many months of writing and designing webpages for others, I finally decided to jump into the deep end.  Welcome to Sips of Coffey, where I hope to share the frustrating, the annoying and the beautiful of expat life.  I also want to write more about this wonderful city and country that we have called home for the past three years.

Three years ago this week, my husband and I, and our two young children landed in Ireland.  We moved here for his job, and the opportunity to experience life overseas.  We knew no one, had no family history in Ireland, and oh – we had just found out we were unexpectedly expecting our third child.  It has been a wild and crazy ride. Fresh off an MBA and Masters in Public Policy, I had planned to find a job in Dublin.  But between a surprise pregnancy, the most expensive childcare costs in Europe, and a work permit process that was far from transparent, life has taken a different path. But then again, I don’t know anyone whose life has turned out exactly how they planned it.  I’m passionate about food, travel (with and without kids), and really good coffee.

So whether you’re interested in the ins and outs of traveling with young children, expat life, or Ireland in general, I hope you’ll join along.

x Rheagan