Role Reversal

The kids and I have just made it home on  our bikes from school. Backpacks and shoes scatter the entry way. We promptly enjoy an afternoon snack of fresh bakery bread smeared with a hazelnut chocolate spread and a glass of cold milk. I opted out on my normal greek yogurt and museli go to snack and joined in. The boys then take off upstairs for their Minecraft time. Maci begins setting up her pretend school and Mary Kate races upstairs to dive into her dress up clothes that have patiently been waiting on her bedroom floor to be worn and danced in. Maci announces, “Mom, class is starting. Please sit down.” As I sit here under the instruction of my six year old on this October afternoon, I couldn’t help but think back to some of my initial thoughts of this move and my efforts in teaching them.

When a new road is set before us we gear ourselves up for all the possibilities of newness, change, and discovery around every corner. Our creative spirit takes hold and our own imaginations run wild. We are invincible and can do anything!

When we initially heard of the opportunity of the move to Holland, my mind raced to homeschooling and traveling with the family! That balloon was popped shortly thereafter, but  looking back I am glad it did. We found out it would be next to impossible to home school our children. We started praying and thinking about other options in teaching the kids. We looked into an International school, but were not set on that has our only option. We had a different idea and amazingly together. Royce and I both thought, “If we are going to live this far away from home, why not immerse our family into another language and culture?” After looking at several Dutch schools in a village located nearby Royce’s office, we made our decision to have them attend a public Dutch school a few minutes from our new home. They would be attending a school where they would be completely immersed in the Dutch language. Not an easy feat for a family of six, but we felt called to do just that. Feel free to call it crazy or overzealous, because we sure did the first four to six months of the Dutch immersion.

The kids soared BIG time though and by Christmas time were understanding and speaking a little Dutch and after a full year our three oldest were fluent and speaking it beautifully! I was eager to have their friends over just to hear my children communicate. Our youngest started school this August and within three weeks she finally broke out of her little Mary Kate shell and happily speaks Dutch with her friends and teachers as well. Getting to this point with the kids’ Dutch language brings such joy to our family!

Up until a few months ago, I had big plans though of teaching our children reading and writing English every day. That word every…will that is just out right funny right? Something that has taken me such a long time to learn is how much time there is in one day. While working with my mother in law in the garden one hot sultry summer day, she said, “The sun rises and the sun sets.” What is it with moms making such long and drawn out to do lists as they sip their morning coffee? Within the kids first year of school, we enrolled them in baseball, swimming, music, ballet, and our oldest started enjoying alter serving during the Dutch mass. Our calendar quickly filled up with just about everything we were doing back home…only that mom was translating every single email and incoming paper from the school and extra curricular activities. The only English they would be learning from me could very well be words not found in an English dictionary. Thankfully, I didn’t pull my hair out, but thought about it numerous times. I took lots of deep breaths and improved my typing skills in Google translate. I realized though, I was focusing too much time planning and thinking about what the kids were missing out in the American schools. It feels a bit freeing, because I now no longer worry about that. We all feel the kids are learning a tremendous amount and mom and dad are learning right along side with them.

We do still enjoy our English books and we try to fit in writing as much as we can through journals about our travels, letters back home, or stories. We possibly cannot fit this in each day though, because their minds are racing elsewhere. Our time here is brief, so we ask ourselves, “Why not soak up the Dutch and really enjoy life as an expat?”

This is where I remind myself that I am obviously not driving the wheel here. God is and for this moment I will put away my English lessons I planned and sit back and be my six year old’s student and learn beginning letters, sounds, and simple Dutch words and phrases. After all, they are fluent in the language. I didn’t plan this role reversal this early on in their lives, but I do believe He sure did!





  1. Wow! You are very strong Jessica! Keep that mind going.

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