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Moving NYC-Brussels, Aug. 2013 with 3.5 year old twins. Help Me, Please!

(17 Posts)
Pufferandthebabyfish Thu 20-Jun-13 02:52:37

Hello Ladies,

I found this website a few days ago and have read every single post I could find about Brussels and schools, housing, etc.
Nevertheless, I'm completely overwhelmed and a bit lost.

(1) Work will be in Ixelles btween Bailli (tram/bus?) stop and Vieurgat on Tunnel Baili--all according to Google Maps

(2) Work will also involve going to La Hulpe and flying out to other EU cities and London.

(3) Children would benefit from French immersion but I'm well aware that my chances of securing two spaces in a maternelle in a good school are about as good as winning the lottery.

(4) Children do not like big crowds and are a bit shy so perhaps, given the size of the classes (25 kids?) in maternelle this would not be a good 1st fit for them anyway? They have never been in daycare/preschool, but have many classes and adjust well.

(5) We are willing to pay for a private school the first year in order to get into A school. We prefer a Waldorf/play-based school setting. English/French is OK, but must be some French to get them learning.

(6) Is it true that I need to secure a school space before even bothering to look for housing??? So complicated. I guess I should start calling now...except I don't speak French...

(7) I found the Evergreen school in Waterloo that I adore so far, but no desire to live that far out. Anywhere we could live that we could get to the Waterloo train station from Brussels (without driving?). Ha Ha. I know, crazy thought.

(8) We go for our recon visit in early July. Will I be able to visit ANY schools or will they all be closed?

(9) Open to living in WSP, Watermael, WSL. Not interested in living in Ixelles. Looking for a 2-3 bedroom house hopefully with a small garden. We currently live in a one bedroom apartment (less than 800 sq meters) with no terrace/garden so having a bit of an outdoor space is something I'd love for my family.

(10) Websites for serviced apartments in case it doesn't all come together by mid August...?

Sorry this is so long, but we just found out about the job today and things are moving at breakneck speed.
Thanks for any and all help!!!

Portofino Thu 20-Jun-13 09:07:33

The schools expert will be along shortly but you could have a look at Roots and Wings which seems to be a similar ethos to Evergreen, and would be convenient for getting the 94 tram to work.

This house is on the bus route to the school. Or a bit more pricey

Portofino Thu 20-Jun-13 09:13:21

The schools will mostly be shut in July unfortunately. The comments about finding a school first is because the standard lease is 9 years and you will pay a penalty for moving house within 3 years. If you base yourself in WSP/WSL where there are lots of schools this is less likely to be a huge problem, unless you insist on having the school in walking distance. Public transport in that area is very good.

Also, if your dc are 3.5 you would have still 3 years of Maternelle ahead, so in theory you could move house/school without penalty (if you wanted to) ahead of them starting Primary at 6.5. You will have your bearings by then.

Portofino Thu 20-Jun-13 09:17:38

This one is quite nice and in a good location.

Portofino Thu 20-Jun-13 10:12:44

Closet state schools Jean 23 Providence

Pufferandthebabyfish Thu 20-Jun-13 15:18:58

Thank you so much for the prompt replies.
I do like that last house the best. I've done a bit of looking on that site for the past few days and there seem to be quite a few in our price range/expectations but the neighborhoods, well I have no idea of what I'm looking at.

I heard of Roots and Wings but can't find any feedback on it. Doesn't seem like they will be learning much French as it's not even mentioned on the website. That is a concern.
I would much rather "bite the bullet" and have them in a state school and be completely immersed rather pay for a feel good school with little to no French. The size of the classes/schools make it intimidating for their first all day 'school' experience. But when in Rome...

If we are in WSP, etc will we need a car? It seem so many places come with a parking/garage and is it a luxury or a necessity?
I've lived without owning a car for over a decade so I would like to live in a place where I don't have to drive to get milk.

Regarding: "unless you insist on having the school in walking distance."
What is walking distance? We regularly walk 20-30 minutes to get somewhere walking or on their scooters. However, are scooters an option on the sidewalks?

Sorry I'm bombarding with the questions. We just found out about the job last week. And bam, one week later it's ours and off we go!


juneblues Thu 20-Jun-13 17:11:46

Watermael, WSP or few parts of WSL is where I'd look, tram 94 or 39/44+ 81 to work. I have no car and a heap of kids and manage (just). No a car is not necessary in Brussels, but some people insist they use them, ensuring that the roads remain jammed!

School places in W-B are far easier to get than in other areas, try these schools first
Les Cedres/La Roseraie
Les Naides - small classes
Le Colibri - small classes
Ste Therese de l'Assomption - used to be small classes
Le Karrenberg
Les Aigrettes
La Futaie/Les Coccinelles

La Sainte Famille
La Sapiniere

In WSP, a bit harder, this school should have places
Athénée Royal Crommelynck, not first choice school but fine for a year at least, you might actually like it.

You can try these others,
Jean 23 Woluwe
Jean 23 Parmentier

the others in the commune will either be impossible to get in to or you wouldn't want them, or not on a good route to work

I'd expect you to find school places at at least 3 of the above schools. Just make sure you ask for the correct school year. Expect your children to be in different classes, except schools with only 1 class per year.

You're not going to find classes under 20 in any of the private schools, except Roots and Wings, the private schools have comparable class sizes to local schools, whether charging 7k or 20k! But Roots and Wings is English only, your twins won't learn French there

juneblues Thu 20-Jun-13 17:18:44

PS all maternelles are play based, there you do not need to worry. There are no French Steiner schools in Brussels and no public Montessori French schools in Belgium at all. However, you'll find "methods" a common part of maternelles here.

juneblues Thu 20-Jun-13 17:37:45

It is however harder to find houses in W-B. Here are a few.

It's easier to find apartments, some might be ground floor, they tend to be in the north of the commune near La Roseraie, Le Colibri and Ste Therese schools.

juneblues Thu 20-Jun-13 17:42:50

The first house Porto linked to in WSP is walking distance to AR Crommelynck and Joli-Bois, about 10 minutes in opposite directions.

Portofino Thu 20-Jun-13 20:25:38

in WSP you can probably manage fine without a car. Public transport is excellent and cheap. The big supermarkets do home delivery so you can order the bulk on line and just pick up fresh stuff. Scooters will be fine. School normally starts about 8.30 so build that in to your morning plans. You can normally drop off to the garderie after 7.30

Pufferandthebabyfish Thu 20-Jun-13 21:02:41

Just to note--I am not working so it does not matter if the school is the same direction as work. I am the "trailing spouse" "stay at home mom".
Also, my spouse is my wife.
Two mom family here.
Are any of these communes more liberal/conservative or is this a complete "non-issue" in Belgium. I am hoping since same sex marriages are legal this is a non-issue.

Portofino Thu 20-Jun-13 21:07:04

I have no direct experience, but you should have no issue registering with the commune as a couple/family. There are extra steps you may need to go through to make sure you are registered as a couple for tax purposes.

Portofino Thu 20-Jun-13 21:17:52

Belgians are quite "conservative" as a general rule, but I think in Brussels you will find this a non-issue. Also, we have a closed FB group with quite a large membership and we go out and stuff so if you would like to join in, please send me a PM and I can add you. There are LOTS of us now!

Portofino Thu 20-Jun-13 21:24:24

BCT is usually worth joining if you have younger kids.

Pufferandthebabyfish Fri 21-Jun-13 04:02:12

BCT looks like it has some great stuff going on. I will join up, for certain once we are there. Thank you!

It looks like we are flying out on July 6th, hoping to stay 4 or 5 days.

Next week we will put forth our best (bad) French and call the schools listed above. Will we have the opportunity to visit any of the schools in the last 2 weeks of August?

Am I correct in thinking that even IF we are waitlisted for these schools, we will not find out if we have a space until the last 2 weeks of August?

If that is true, it would almost make more sense to take serviced apartment for the month of August, find out about the school location(s), make a decision and THEN look for a rental in September, yes?
Plus, is anyone even going to be around to rent me an apartment in August, sounds like Brussels closes down, just like Paris. Fine by me, but might make it a bit hard to be productive....yes?

Off to ping you Portofino about the FB group, thanks!

juneblues Fri 21-Jun-13 07:02:31

All schools will be open last week of August for the teachers to come and clean and prepare their classrooms for the coming year - yes the teachers really do have to clean their own rooms and do all admin tasks!

Some schools might let you look around in July, but don't expect too many to say yes.

If you get on waiting lists, you have to phone up to check progress, you could get offered a place at any time that there becomes a place available, up to 15th September when people holding multiple places lose the ones they've failed to turn up for.

There are heaps of serviced apartments, but they will cost you probably double what you'll pay for a long term rental. BBF and Home in Brussels and airbnb are where I'd look (latter are more like holiday lets).

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