Please check out my blog post at Times of Israel, in honor of Yom Haatzmaut: The Good, the Bad and the Fantastic: 65 Surprising Things about Parenting in Israel.
The post below also makes use of crowd-sourcing via the Mother in Israel Facebook page. A reader writes:
Hi! I’m wishing to remain anonymous since we have told no one of our aliyah plans yet. I’m wondering if you or your fans would have any advice for making aliyah mid-school year (December 2013), or if it would simply be better to wait it out until next summer (2014). I don’t want our children (ages 8, 5, 4, 2) to have a harder time adjusting than they have to. Thanks!
Rachel M.: I just came this past summer, and I say come in the winter! Putting it off doesn’t help, and in mid year they can get the attention of being the “new kid” the staff is less distracted and can help with services, and the first semester is basically a wash anyway while they adjust. This way by the fall they are good to go. Either way you will do great.
Rachel S: I think it depends on if there is an ulpan within an elementary school in the city you would be moving to. If so, your 8 year old would have understanding peers to make friends with. Might also be a good beginning for your 5 year to have a few months of gan before jumping into kita aleph, which requires a lot of independence here. Behatzlacha!
Kate: I think this is really individual — like Rachel S said, if where you are going has a formal program for olim kids (vs individualized tutoring) that can make a real difference. Where we live there is a kids ulpan nested inside of an elementary school that runs for the entirety of first semester. OTOH, kids from the southern hemisphere who come usually either miss some school there or school here. I’ve heard the entire first year can be a wash, academically, but socially it might depend on your kids. If there are other factors — job offers, selling a house, etc that may also influence your decision.
Michal G: We arrived Chanukah time nearly 18 months ago with a 5 year old and a 2.5 year old. I don’t think it was a problem for them starting part way through the year- they thrived in any case B”H because there was plenty of support from the teachers in the Gan and Maon (daycare). It was nice for the elder one to have time to settle in and make friends in Gan without having to stress about all the extra things in Kita Aleph (although coming from England, it wasn’t such a big deal, he’d already started school there!) I don’t know how different it would be for the 8 year old though. I would say the most important thing for everybody is to have the best Hebrew possible before you come- of course you’ll learn lots more when you arrive PG, but it’s so much easier to deal with all the new things if you have some idea of what’s happening!
Esti: Your 8 year old (2nd grader?) is going to have it the hardest. for his/her sake I’d really try avoid it, A lot of stuff only really gets going after the chaggim (holidays), but by Hanukah, things are really in motion. Having said that, if needs must, come when suits you, Just be aware that the transition could be harder
Miriam: Depending on where you move to, I would come in December, put the kids in full ulpan if available, and have them start school with a basis in Hebrew. Let them make friends through activities. I’d suggest you keep your 5 year old in gan and not put them straight into 1st grade as well. You could probably just put the 4 and 2 year olds in gan right away.
Laura: There are a lot of varying opinions on this. The fact is that kids making Aliyah don’t get much out of the first school year anyway due to the language. In my opinion, coming mid-year has advantages since the class has settled, the other students are all ‘known’ to the teacher, so that the teacher can give specific attention to the ‘new kids’. From arrival through the end of the school year is more or less a wash. I would definitely put them into the school they will continue in because, more important than learning ‘stuff’, they will be able to make friends in their new environment.
Michal H: I didn’t make aliyah with kids, but I’d recommend coming in the summer. You can start the kids in a day camp where they can make friends and ease into the neighborhood without the pressure of homework and grades. At least that way they finish the school year before going into culture shock. Plus, sometimes it’s hard to find school supplies in the winter! I had to get some special 14-line notebooks “off-season” and the stores were all sold out, and said they only really carry them at back-to-school time. In the end, I had to get my son sparkly ones with Snow White, because that’s all that was available. Sure, you can bring your own backpacks, but when it comes to Israeli supplies like the notebook holder, and kalmar (pencil case) – it’ll be hard to find “cool” ones.
Tiffanie: Definitely lots of opinions on this one. We made aliyah in the summer with a 6, 3 and 1 year old. For the little ones I don’t think it would have mattered either way. However, for my 6 year old, summer was a good choice. First grade is a big deal here and if I understand things correctly, the kids get the same teacher for 1st and 2nd…so there will be less transition between 1st and 2nd with regards to the class settling in. I think summer was good for our 6 year old b/c they were able to become fluent enough in Hebrew to following along in class by the time the chagim finished and the class started to settle down (around November). Now, 6 months into the school year the kid is pretty much fluent. I think having that extra wiggle room when expectations were low really helped out and they have time to figure out the various group/cliques etc.
Kate: Moving in the middle of the year can be a big deal, socially, even if you moving within the same country/culture, for a kid — I did it twice. Admittedly it was far easier in the middle of 2nd grade than the middle of 10th grade, but I don’t think it’s wrong to factor it into the decision (for the older 2).
Michal H: I’m just saying, if the kid is in 2nd grade, let him finish the grade before moving or risk screwing up the rest of the year and having to repeat.
Elisheva: Summer time 100% kids do learn fast. but moving to a different country is not the same. USA and Israel are different in so many ways. coming beginning of summer. put them in camp and summer ulpan. And i would start speaking Hebrew with my kids now at home so they don’t come here knowing nothing.
Laura: One more thing… Don’t automatically hold kids back. They STILL won’t get the Hebrew, and once they do they will be the oldest in the class possibly for no reason. I did this for my son, had him repeat kindergarten and he regretted it for years until finally in 5th grade he had us push him back up to his grade level which meant SKIPPING a grade. No easy feat, and in a second language! My advice is if you weren’t honking of doing it anyway, (I.e. before Aliyah) then go ahead. But don’t bother if its just for Aliyah. They do catch up. Eventually.
Robin: I first thought the mid-year thing was a bad idea, but if they can get in ulpan for that half a year, and then have a good summer camp experience, they might be able to start the following year in a good place. Six months of lost content can be made up once they have the language.
Heidi: We just made aliya from Australia in November with kids aged 8, 6, 4 and 2. I would recommend you coming as soon as possible for all the reasons mentioned above and especially by Laura. Although it was hard, aliya is hard however you do it. My kids got more attention from the teachers as the rest of the class was settled. It’s also cooler, so much easier to do errands. The sooner you do it the sooner the kids get integrated. All kids will have issues with aliya some sooner and some later. Need a lots of patience and emunah (faith) that you are doing the right thing for the whole family. Not just the kids. Need to remember always why you are here and why you chose to come. Also I believe don’t stress too much about getting the kids Hebrew up to scratch before you come. Once they are here it will happen. Good luck!
Readers, have you put your kids in a new school in the middle of the year? Please share your experience in the comments.