What is the name of your child's school? (Please report on one school per survey.)
International School of Luxembourg
In what town or city is this school located?
How would you describe this school? (i.e. American, British, International, Local, etc.)
What grade levels are represented at this school?
Preschool to 12
How do most children get to school everyday? (bus, train, walk, etc.)
Parent drop-off, bus, walking. Parking is an issue!
How would you describe the facilities at this school? What extra-curricular activities are available?
The facility is clean and modern-looking, it has a very urban feel. A new building is under construction, scheduled for 2013 I believe. Parking is insufficient though, and it is a daily challenge, although I think this is true for St Georges as well, so what can you do.
The school offers Choir, children play the recorder in Grade 2, Band (w instrument lessons beginning in grade 4, and you can find on-campus lessons in gymnastics, ballet, basketball, soccer, track and swimming. Some classes have an extra fee. There are specific sign-up dates done through the school's website, and often times children are put on a waiting list so even though the school will tell you these activities are available during the tour, the reality is that it's not always guaranteed that your child will get into the sport they want on the first try and you might have to wait a semester or two.
You can ask around among other parents though and find activities in the community such as tennis, horse back riding, ice skating, soccer leagues, etc. Other parents are very helpful.
What has this school done to help your child transition from the curriculum in your home
country into the curriculum in your new country? Are there programs to prepare your child for repatriation?
Despite what they will tell you, consensus among parents (and personal experience) is that ISL administrators don't care what kind of school you are coming from or where they are going after, they just want to do things their own way, and they are arrogant in believeing it is the best way. To be frank, if you are coming from an average US public school system, you will probably like ISL and have no significant issues. If you are coming from a private school or a school with an advanced curriculum (US schools often boast their curriculum is advanced by a year), and if challenging academics are important to you, then you will want to consider having your child advanced by a grade. If you feel that skipping a grade would work well for your child socially, then you MUST fight for this advanced placement right up front at the time of admission. The school does not want to set a precedent/reputation that it is not challenging for Americans, and it is a BATTLE to get your child moved up after they've already started.
The school has much to offer in art, music, history and field trips, their science seems to be decent... but in core academics, I would call it mediocre at best. A self-starting type A child will succeed in any environment, but most parents here agree that ISL is just kind of "Meh" but the general experience of the travel and diversity is enough of an advantage to off-set the negatives. If you have a child with special needs, don't come here. They don't want kids that need any special attention, and there's not even an elevator in the school or anything whatsoever for handicapped access.
In the US we tend to be more aggressive with academics right from the start, whereas here the approach seems to be that they go very easy on the younger kids, and then amp it up as they reach middle school and high school. So they all get there in the end, but if you are moving your kids in and out, they may have trouble transitioning back. I do not believe ISL does any follow-up on students after they leave to know how they've fared with the transition.
Another difference from the US is that standardized testing does not begin until 4th grade, and I have yet to see a report card. I have children in K1 (equivalent to 2nd yr of PreK), 2nd and 4th. My older two had to be bumped up a grade to get a similar curriculum to their peers at home. My youngest began in ISLs Preschool and we kept him with his same-age group. Preschool (ages 3-4) does no formal academics, it is songs and playing. K1 (ages 4-5) begins letter of the week type work, and basic French lessons.
How would you describe the social activities available for parents through this school? Are there parent-teacher organizations?
Parents often meet in the school cafeteria in the mornings between drop-off at 8:30-9:00. The parents are very helpful if you ask. Room parents for the children's classes are also very helpful. You have to be willing to ask for help. Occasionally there will be a PTO-organized event like a wine-tasting, but no childcare is usually provided so you have to be settled enough to have found a sitter. The school does offer a list of older students who are willing to babysit.
What advice would you give to someone considering enrolling their child in this school?
People in the US romanticize Europe and assume the educational system is so much better. It's not. The experience of living abroad, traveling and meeting lots of smart, successful executive-level families from a wide variety of cultures... that's what makes it great. But ISL is an average school. They do a lovely job with artistic performances in music, art, theater. There is much to see in the area of visible relics of history and the school does a good job with field trips and relevant history/science lessons. If your expectation is to find a school that exceeds US academic standards, you will be disappointed. If your company is willing to cover the school cost and your kids will either remain in the International school system throughout or are young enough to have a few moderately paced school years, then the experience itself is worth it. Good luck!