When we started talking about moving to Mexico, school was a major point for me. Up to now I have always homeschooled the girls and they have excelled at it. But I wasn’t doing it because I yearned to do it. I was doing it because it fit our lifestyle. I definitely had no plans of homeschooling long-term. Don’t get me wrong, the girls (and I) have loved it. But it is full-time. It gets tiring. And I had no desire to be teaching long-division, that was my cutoff!
The idea of having the girls in school was amazing. They would make friends. They would learn Spanish. They would be taught by someone else. And I would get some free time to focus on this boutique hotel we’ll be building. Still, with all the perks, we weren’t going to send them to just any school. We weren’t looking for babysitting, we wanted them to continue to be challenged academically.
How Did We Choose The School
I made the rounds. I scoped them all out and made a decision based on my motherly instincts.
Last April when we came to visit our friends in Todos Santos, and this business idea got brewing, I took the time to go visit the schools we were considering, to get a feel for them. Other than being in preschool in the Dominican Republic, the girls had never attended school, so we wanted the fit to be just right.
Todos Santos has many school options, from private to public. Taught bilingually, or fully in Spanish. We liked the idea of the private bilingual school because our girls are “beginner” Spanish speakers, it could ease them into the language and culture. But we also liked the idea of public because it would be fully immersive.
What made the decision for me though was speaking with the directors of the schools. The private school wanted to put Arias in grade 1 (she’s grade 3) so that she could learn Spanish from the start. This would mean that she would be sitting in class, as an 8-year-old, next to a 6-year-old classmate. It also meant that she would be doing academic work from grade 1. In my mind this was not an option.
On the other hand, the three public schools I spoke with, although slightly standoff-ish at first, were up for the challenge. All were willing to take our girls, put them in their respective grade levels, and reassured me that “they will learn Spanish fast this way”. This is what I wanted to hear.
The final decision between the three public schools was simply based on where our rental house ended up being. There are schools on “both sides” of town, so we chose the closer ones. The girls go to different schools, because of their age, but both schools are within walking distance of our house.
Hooray For Uniforms and Half Days
Our girls are the only foreigners in their school. They barely speak Spanish. They already stand out enough. We were so glad that they have uniforms at their school. We didn’t need their clothes to be setting them apart as well. Having them look (clothing-wise) like every other kid in school helps them blend in.
Their uniforms are super cute! And it makes dressing them for school in the morning very simple.
My only complaint about them is the white shirts. White shirts on kids are filthy within a day. But thankfully the schools aren’t super strict about the uniforms, if a kid shows up wearing a different shirt, or shorts, or full-on street clothes, it’s not a big deal.
And the Half Days
A major plus to their schools, they are only half days. Arias attends school from 8-12:30, and Ellia from 9-12. This makes drop-off and pick-up really easy!!! It also does two other things. 1) It doesn’t overwhelm them, going from flexible homeschooling hours to full days at a desk. They just do a few hours each day.
And 2) it gives me time, after their naps (yes they still nap!) to homeschool them. I continue to homeschool in English, Math, Health, Social and Science because we want to keep them up to par with the Canadian grade level. Also because we know that they may not be understanding everything that is being taught in those subjects at school, since it is being taught in Spanish.
Public School, Taught Fully In Spanish
The girls were a little apprehensive about the idea of school. Not just because it was in Spanish, but because it was something new for them. Ellia was mainly worried about how she would ask to go pee. Arias was worried no one would like the new girl.
On their first day, Eben sent them off with a challenge. They each had to come home having learned the names of 3 new friends.
After that they were good. Both came home talking about their new friends and ends up being the new kid, and the foreign kid, made them a pretty hot commodity. They each made friends really quick.
Ellia’s teacher speaks barely any English and sees this as her opportunity to improve her, and the classroom’s English. She teaches in Spanish and has Ellia teach them the words in English. The class is really engaging, doing lots of art projects, gym class, music class, and such. At pick-up time, Ellia runs to meet us everyday with a huge smile on her face. A sign that things are going well.
Arias’ teacher is young and full of energy. He is so willing to help her integrate in the class. He uses his google translate app to make sure she understands the assignments. He takes extra time out of his evenings to make sure the harder school work is bilingual. He challenges her, but also knows not to push too hard. He has a great balance and we are super appreciative of what he is doing for her, on top of having 25 other students.
It’s hard to say this early on. Especially since we can’t be flies on the wall in their classrooms, to see how they are doing. Both have a posse of friends. Both of their teachers have told us they are understanding a lot more. Arias is a pro at rolling her R’s, and has great pronunciation. Ellia is so proud to “teach us” the new words she learns each day.
Our goals for enrolling them in school was for them to 1) make friends, and 2) learn Spanish. I can take care of their academics by homeschooling. So, based on our goals, we are winning!
And get this: tonight as I am putting the girls to bed Arias says, “Mama I learned a new song at recess today!” She then proceeded to sing me a Spanish song, eenie-meenie-miney-mo type, for when kids are choosing who will be “it” in tag. She sang the whole song, in Spanish. Pronouncing it wonderfully, and understanding what each word meant. I WAS SO PROUD.
This is awesome. Being in a public school, they become part of the Mexican community, rather than part of the ex-pat community. When it’s immersive like that, it’s not “an authentic Mexican experience” – it’s not an “experience” at all. It’s life.
And it’s amazing what a hot commodity the new kid is! We just moved from Edmonton to Ucluelet. My daughter is shy and I was a bit worried about her making friends…but everyone wants to be her friend.
Watching your kids thrive is just amazing.
That is why we chose the public school over the private. We wanted them to get the local culture, to learn Spanish, and get into the groove of life here in Todos Santos. Glad to her that your daughter has also made some good friends in Ucluelet.
Hello! I’m wondering if you mind letting us know what specific schools your girls attended (are attending)…what you’re describing is exactly what we’d love to do with our two sons (about your kids’ ages). I love the half day concept. You’re welcome to just email me too. It sounds perfect and we are intrigued. We were in Todo Santos last year for surfing with friends and would like to put our boys into a local school in a Spanish speaking country.
Our 5 year old goes to the Jardin De Ninos central, next to the parque (park) in town. The official name is Nueva Vida. And our 8 year old is at the Maleton elementary school (town side). We have been so thankful for the teachers that both girls got, they have been so welcoming and accepting of our girls into their classrooms.
Iam in a similar situation only Iam an African and moved to Istanbul Turkey a year ago now our 6 year old girl will be coming to join us and was really worried how she will cope but thank you so much for sharing your story you just uplifted my spirit and gave me so much hope that my little girl will be ok in a public school . Thank you so much once again
You are very welcome. I hope she transitions easily. There was a point about 6 months in, where I worried if we had done the right thing, it was hard for our eldest to follow along with some of the history curriculum in a foreign language. But we worked our way through it and now she is doing amazing.