Raising four boys can be a challenge, even when you are living in your own hometown with lots of family and friends nearby. But raising four boys overseas in a strange new land presents many new problems as well as joys.
Our four boys range from a 10-month old to a 10-year-old. Before we moved to Istanbul, we lived in the country just a few miles from Avalon Missionary Church. That was very convenient. In addition to participating in the regular church activities, we let our boys play Upwards Basketball and Upwards Soccer. The social interaction, physical exercise, and healthy spiritual emphasis provided a great way for our boys to spend their time. When they weren't dribbling, kicking, or throwing some kind of ball, they wandered the woods in search of anything living. I wouldn't have wanted to be a reptile or insect within five miles of my boys. They rightly live up to their name, "Coody Boys." Within weeks of first moving into our Waynedale home they had discovered several snakes, a menacing snapping turtle, and a baby robin which had fallen out of its mother's nest.
For schooling, my extraordinarily brave wife and I opted to homeschool the boys. Because our work had carried us to Kazakstan, then Cyprus, and would carry us to Istanbul, we decided it was the best way to have some continuity for the boys.
Before moving to the megalopolis of Istanbul, with its 15 million people, I had my worries about how our boys with their love of nature and their having never been to a formal school would adjust. We knew once we arrived here that we would need to put the boys in a Turkish school at least for a couple of years, so they could learn the language and adapt to Turkish life.
To our great surprise and delight, when we arrived we found a home just next to a large, hilly and wooded park. Beware insects and reptiles! Then as we began studying the school system, we learned that the city has any number of private schools with various philosophies of education. With the help of a neighbor, we settled on a newer school that offers a more relaxed, less competitive atmosphere than many of the other schools. Entrance into a university here is far more difficult than in the US because there are fewer universities. Since our boys will probably go to college in the US, they don't need to compete for entrance to a Turkish university.
This doesn't mean it's all Turkish Delight. With only four months of learning Turkish, they have started eight hours of school a day in Turkish. Every morning they board a small bus (forget the big yellow school bus, they wouldn't fit in the tight neighborhoods), excitedly head off through heavy city traffic, and try to figure out what on earth the teacher is talking about.
We miss the Indiana countryside, the help of Grandma with homeschool, and of course Upwards Basketball. Making friends as a foreigner doesn't come easy and doing homework in Turkish takes three times longer. But one thing is for certain. At least they are prodigies in their English classes!