The adventures of Kurt, Sarah, Ethan, Reid & Leah

Going to skole

School has been rather tricky for us to navigate. Leah, who would be in preschool here, is for now going to stay home with Kurt. Norwegian preschool, called a ‘barnehage’ (translated into children’s garden) is difficult to get into. It didn’t help that word of the Fulbright and the negotiations with UT all wrapped up after the majority of the application deadlines. So the majority of our inquiries were answered tersely with instructions that we had missed the deadline. Where a child goes also depends on where they live, so we have opted to just keep her home for now and investigate more once we are there.

As for the boys, we first searched out the International School that provides education in English and is attended by many children of diplomats and businessmen from English speaking countries. However that option screeched short when we found out the tuition translated to $30,000, for one student. Next. We then began a deep dive into other people’s experiences and between a local Norwegian mom with three kids and the school experiences of several former Fulbrighters to Norway with school-aged kids, we were able to piece some things together:

  • Kids start school in 1st grade, which is equivalent to our Kindergarten
  • Non-native speakers who start 1st, 2nd, or 3rd grade are put right into a Norwegian speaking class
  • Non-native speakers from 4th grade up are placed in reception classes where they do not mainstream with the Norwegians their age and are given instruction in their native language with emphasis placed on learning Norwegian
  • Most students speak English fairly well by 5th grade and fluently by high school graduation (Norwegian is the native language) and many welcome the opportunity to speak it with native speakers
  • There are fewer private schools in Oslo than in the States, focusing mainly on language immersion (French, German) or pedagogical philosophies (Waldorf, Montessori, Steiner)
  • Home-schooling is not a popular option
  • Grades are not given in grades 1-5, only detailed teacher comments

We thought briefly about pursuing the German immersion school. The boys have both attended the German Saturday School here in town, Ethan for 5 years and Reid for the past two. And while this opportunity would have put them farther ahead when they returned, we thought that it might not enable them to be immersed in the Norwegian culture. We have since learned that German is a good head start to learning Norwegian and in talking with the boys, they too seem more interested in the option of a Norwegian public school. So we zeroed into that option knowing that the German school would be an option if Norwegian school does not work out.

Ila Skole

The concept of school zones seem to both exist and not exist in Oslo. While we were getting advise that we should be able to pick any school, we were told by the schools they could not grant acceptance until we had a place to live and showed that we lived in the school zone. We juggled several living arrangements while making school inquiries. Finally a school that replied with acceptance for both boys. So we quickly pulled the trigger on a lease for that apartment, wired over the deposit, only to then received an email stating that the boys may have to split up because the reception class for Ethan was at another school and that other school couldn’t take Reid.

After more discussions and help from a UiO colleague who graciously called the school on our behalf, we determined that we would put them both at the same school even though it means that Ethan would be ‘immersed’ just like Reid. We are anticipating the challenges, languages seem to come easier to Reid than Ethan. But if fifth graders find Americans cool, as we have heard they do, and Ethan has something he can teach and share with someone,  he will be just fine no matter the language barrier.

So we are excited to be joining Ila Skole come August 20th. This picture below is a view from the rooftop of our apartment complex, see Ila Skole in the upper left? It is approximately 3 blocks from our apartment and we hear many of the kids in the complex go there. Looking forward to letting the boys have some freedom in walking home from school together.

Ila Skole from the rooftop of our apartment complex

And while we are on the topic, a great NYT article on school immersion for an American family in Moscow (thanks Claire!).



  1. Sarah,
    Earlier today I mentioned keeping up with your travels via Facebook. This, of course, is waaaay better. Suggestion: you can’t post too many pictures 🙂

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