Sorry it took me so long to respond. We are currently juggling our new chickens, first days of schooling and I am deep in the throes of morning sickness with baby #5. It has not been pretty around here. Interesting and educational and busy-yes, but not pretty. ;)
Moving to Poland! So I have to ask, why? Or rather, what besides the current state of America, is compelling you to move here? I ask because there are some days where I know that my life would be easier in America and I have to remind myself why we're here. And yet, these days, I am really missing home. So, perhaps this email is not going to be exactly what you asked for but I'll do my best.
Crime in Poland? I feel safer here than I ever did in America. Random crimes against women and children are almost non existent. The chance of child abduction, pedophiles hunting children, random acts of violence between strangers, etc. almost non existent. Happens, but so rarely. I can let my kids run around the neighborhood and know that there are no predators trolling around looking for kids to snatch. No joke, I worried about this in American suburbs. The common Pole still has respect for women and children. People value human life here more so than they do in America, at least in a "right to life" kind of way, even if they are having a bad day and are completely rude to you, they would still demand that you have the right to live. That sounds dramatic but I feel like in America people will be nice to your face but think nothing of hitting you with their car and then driving away. I'd much rather live in a country that lets me live and is rude to me otherwise than in a country that's sweet to me but cares not if I die. Most of the really violent crimes are committed between gangs and hooligans who are basically people with no jobs and lots of idle time and they carry weapons around to defend their turf. You and your children, and most likely your husband will never even see these people much less come into contact with them. And they would probably still open the door for you if you were in front of them at the store. It's odd, I know, but there it is. There is no gun violence of any kind. No one has guns. You can own a gun for hunting but otherwise people do not have guns. I have never worried about "abandoned packages" or "guys in trench coats" or anything like that. Not the way I might in America. It's actually something I don't think about often but it's fairly liberating and I completely take it for granted. Because Poland is a predominantly Catholic country and really does not care if other people think it's too conservative or not most liberal groups or religious groups with agendas tend to leave it alone. It's a hard country to infiltrate with liberal or wacky religious ideals. Although, to be fair, the older generations that had to fight the Communists to practice their religion freely, are dying out and the younger generations are not so protective of the faith and morality of their parents. So, this will influence the culture, and it might influence the crime rates as well.
Homeschooling in Poland as an American citizen is really easy. You don't have to do anything. No tests or anything like that. You're seen as a foreigner and so they don't care how you teach your children. If your husband intends to establish citizenship (which I believe he could easily do) then the children would then automatically also be Polish citizens. Then they would have to register with a school that allows homeschooling and take a yearly test. This is not hard to do, but it can be a challenge to keep them up to speed with their Polish if you or your husband are not able to read and write fluently in Polish, etc. You could always seek a tutor in this instance.My advice would just to have them be foreigners, but then you also have to have permission to stay in the country and unless your husband is a citizen and you can get all the necessary permits it will be harder to stay. So, that's a lot to think about. Also, if your husband is a citizen you also have to pay taxes to both countries, or at least file taxes in both countries, depending on how much money he makes a year will determine how much he pays to each country. Again, lots to think about.
And now I'm going to tell you something about my personal experience and hope it doesn't scare you away completely. ;) This has been the loneliest, most frustrating, hardest year of my life. It has been hard on our marriage, hard on our children (mostly because it's been hard on me) and it has tested every bit of my strength, and faith and will. Some of this is just due to our situation. We are living in a horrible house that I absolutely hate, but it's free and so I feel guilty every time I complain. It really is horrible. I believe it breaks every single rule of Fung Shui and I don't even know what that is (or how to spell it). There is a considerable lack of "consolidation of goods" here. Every time I try to come up with a new craft or project or fun adventure for our schooling.I cannot just hop out to Hobby Lobby or Joanns or other big box craft store, I have to hunt. Every little store, online shop, and ebay type place. And I have to figure out the right words first to know what I'm hunting for. Often times I just give up, and it is even more defeating. I can only spend so much time online searching before I want to explode. It has taken me an entire year to know what brands are good quality and which or not, which foods are good quality, and which are not, where to shop, what to buy. Not such a huge deal but I have to do all of this with no one to talk to about the hard days (except my husband, but really , on these days I dont want help, I want another mother with 4 kids in tow that understands why it matters that I have to go to 5 different stores to gather objects for one project and why I can't just forget about the project and move on!) and no one to talk to about homeschooling challenges or general child rearing challenges. There is no one to talk to about the issues I care about, family issues and politics, and just general discussion, some of which involve America. It is my country and I care about it, I want to talk about it. There are people, I have made friends, and they are kind and helpful, but the cultural differences are so acute sometimes that it as if we are speaking two different languages even though we are speaking in English (although even then there are words that they don't know in English and I don't know in Polish and it's so hard expressing your feelings in broken Polish or simple English). And how do you tell someone you just met that you are miserable, because they cannot imagine what it is like to be this far away from everything they've known, and how shallow does it sound that you are miserable because you can't find plain Popsicle sticks in the store (if only it was just Popsicle sticks) and you can't stand your house, when they live in a one bedroom apartment? You can't, so you smile and nod and chat about the kids. It's fine, but sometimes it makes the loneliness worse and I think it's better just not to try.
I do not think any of this is Poland's fault, I really don't. Talk to any Pole who has emigrated to the states and they'll tell you it is. Talk to any Pole here who has never lived anywhere else, and they'll tell you, "that's just Poland". But you know what, it's not. You could not pay me to live in Italy or France, in some ways Poland is closer to living in America than many other countries I've visited. They value convenience, personal freedom ( in a roundabout and often twisted way, but it's there), and large coffees! ;) It is not Poland's fault. It is hard for Americans to leave America.I truly believe this with all of my heart. I do not see this as a handicap or a deficiency, no one can tell me that it's necessary to be able to move countries and be happy for you to be a stable and enlightened individual. It just is the way it is. America is unique, and its isolated. Two qualities which create a certain type of person that finds it hard to leave, adapt, fit in, and embrace what the rest of the world offers. It's not until you really live outside of America for some time before you realize just how "American" you are AND what that really means. I (and you, so it seems) have chosen a lifestyle that breeds inconvenience. 4 kids, AND you homeschool?! Are you crazy?!! But I have chosen it because I see value in it and a "goodness" that is not found anywhere else. But I also relied on the convenience of America, the ease with which I floated around, to cushion the discomfort and sometimes overwhelmingness that comes from caring for and educating my children 24/7. I took it all for granted because that's all I knew. But then we moved here. So very few of the same conveniences, the same comfort (there are conveniences and comforts but they aren't the SAME, and that is what makes it hard...who cares if I can buy any kind of plastic button ever created in the world, you don't have a single one made out of wood!!), and I have to do it all alone. Or rather, for the time being, I must do it alone. No grandmas or homeschool support groups. No calling up my single brother to babysit any night of the week so I can go out for a drink with friends. It's lonely, so lonely, and has turned what I considered to be a noble and fruitful endeavor, homeschooling and raising my large family, into drudgery, and that makes me sad and depressed. If I grew up in Poland I wouldn't know the difference. But I didn't. I grew up in America, and it's been really hard. ( I also have to add that if I had moved here maybe younger, without children, single, or newly married, I might have a different attitude. I have no way of knowing that, it's just a hunch.)
And if I haven't scared you away yet, I will say this... that doesn't mean it's not worth it. I am having a really hard time right now finding the worth in it, true. Pregnancy has actually just made this move harder and the desire to be home more acute. But we also have a lot to look forward to. We are building a house, we are trying to organize at least a few homeschoolers around our area for more support. Children adapt so quickly and make friends in a heart beat. There are neighborhood kids and homeschool friends with children that we see regularly. My children speak Polish very well and no one knows the difference when they go out to play.I think they would be happier if I was happier but I also know that God gives children graces that protect them from some of their parents more faulty moments. I also feel, in the end, that if I can do this, and do it on my own terms (which means not compromising on a bigger family and homeschooling) then I will have accomplished something worthwhile. My whole family will benefit from it, as long as we can survive this rough patch. As long as I can survive it.
I stopped writing here. "As long as I can survive it" is pretty much a show stopper for a"hey-I-found-your-blog-and-have-a-couple-questions" email. Geez Louise. Am I right? (I fully reserve the right to be happy here, in this country, exactly one day from now or 10 years from now and not have this thrown back in my face. Moments in time, people, moments in time)