So, we are leaving Holland in a couple of weeks to spend almost four months on this beautiful island in the Caribbean, ‘our second home’: Bonaire (which is politically a part of The Netherlands). The question we get a lot (when telling people this) is a very strange one, but a very logical one at the same time. This question is: ‘Are you taking the boys with you?’ What do you think? That we would leave our boys behind for almost four months? Are you out of your mind?!? But from the perspective of the bewildered Dutch parent who knows that in Holland you can’t just take your kids abroad for a period of time, this is a justified question. In Holland you simply can’t take your kids out of school, not even for a day or a week, let alone for almost four months. They are obliged by law to go to school until they are 16 years old and there are practically no exceptions to this regulation. The few exceptions are things like religious festivities, funerals, weddings etc. You can skip school on those days.
Next to these incidental things, there are a few circumstances in which children can get a structural exemption. These exemptions are:
- Parents object to the religious identity of all schools within reach, based on their conviction;
- Parents work in a circus or on fairs, for which they never stay in one place;
- Children receive their education in a foreign country.
Homeschooling is out of the question, as is traveling out of school holidays.
For us, working freelance for clients both in the Netherlands and on Bonaire, this meant we had to:
- demonstrate that we have assignments on Bonaire;
- get a permission of the local government to have the kids go to school on Bonaire for two months;
- get the kids into two different schools on Bonaire and deliver a written and signed proof of this to the local government;
- consult with the two schools in Groningen about this change and how to cope with instructions, assignments and tests that Mark (our eldest son who’s attending high school) is going to miss.
This proces needed a couple of emails, telephone calls and meetings, but luckily it all worked out. Thanks to the cooperation of the schools in Groningen and on Bonaire and of the local government in Groningen (leerplicht). Final option for us would have been leaving Holland officially and register as a resident on Bonaire. Of course the boys are going with us.