The leaves are really changing now on the trees around Christchurch. I’ve always thought autumn feels like a time for goodbyes: to warm weather, to long days of sunshine, to freedom and travel and hours outdoors.

DSC07406 Today the trees said goodbye, but unfortunately, so did we. 

Our children’s time at Ilam Primary School (Charlotte and Calvin) and Kirkwood Intermediate School (Evelyn) have been a huge part of why we’ve fallen in love with Christchurch and New Zealand more broadly. I’ve written before about how the schooling philosophies and practices here at Ilam and Kirkwood seem much healthier, more balanced, less testing-driven, and conducive to joy-filled learning.

Lest our children’s happiness going to school be attributed to having a certain stellar teacher, I want to state that every single one of our children’s teachers over the course of two NZ academic school years and three different NZ schools (Ilam, Kirkwood, and Montana Early Learning Centre) were all wonderful. And while each one is clearly a committed and motivated and creative instructor, they also appear to have the support of the school board and broader educational community here in Christchurch to just get on and do their jobs.

It even seems like they *like* what they do.

So it was with sadness this morning that James and I took the kids to school. (We didn’t get a school photo of Evelyn because we were running a smidge late.)

Last day at Ilam School

Once the kids were safely delivered to school, we didn’t sit around feeling morose; James and I enjoyed our last kid-free day for a while… school in the states won’t start until late August for the two littles and after Labor Day for Evelyn.

We went for a run together, did some planning for our upcoming North Island roadtrip, cleaned up the house for Evelyn’s birthday party this evening, and then enjoyed a picnic in the Botanics before pick up time.

It really hit me when we were walking onto Ilam’s campus: the scene of smiling, blue-garbed kids. Sunlight filtering down through the huge trees. The three distinct playgrounds, obstacle course, trees that kids are actually allowed to climb. After nearly a year, we now had to say goodbye to this place, this school that has been nothing but welcoming to our loud, busy American family.

Earlier this week Charlotte and Calvin were visited in their classrooms by the principal, who gave them each a lovely little “Ilam School” pin to bring home as remembrance. They also both participated in the cross country events for their age groups. Charlotte ran 2km and Cal ran something shorter. I got to see both of them cross the finish line, which was pretty awesome.

Calvin, proudly wearing orange, his house color: Rakaia
Team Rakaia all the way! Charlotte finishing out strong.

Today Calvin and Evelyn took in chocolate chip cookies to share for tea time; earlier this week James made apple crumble for Charlotte’s class. It’s such a small gesture of appreciation for this community.

Charlotte and her Room 1 teacher, Nigel Marsh. Charlotte is wearing a new necklace from her friend Natasha.
Calvin and his Room 16 teacher, Ruth Davis. If you look closely, you can see the metal “Ilam” pin on Calvin’s shirt. It went missing for a few minutes on the playground, but thankfully James spotted it. 

After school both kids were out of sorts. Kind of dragging their feet, wandering around aimlessly, complaining about little things. I’m sure of it was tiredness–the end of the week, the end of the school term, etc. etc. But some of it was just that sad, nostalgic bittersweet sadness of something really beautiful coming to an end.

We do have a few last playdates and family get togethers scheduled over the next week, before we leave Christchurch for good.

But today was farewell to Ilam and Kirkwood.






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