Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Back to school

It's back to classes for most kids in Costa Rica these days. My son (my little baby!) started kindergarten today. I really don't know where the time has gone. He was so excited to be going. He had already met the school's director, who is a simply wonderful woman, and some of the other people who had been working there during the vacations. Everyone from the guard to the front desk personnel are extremely nice.

The Costa Rica calendar runs February through November, with a longer break in July, unlike in North America where the school year starts in August and runs through June. Also, they have a slightly different system for the grades here: Kindergarten is for kids who turn 5 during that year, then they have Preparatory, for kids who turn 6 that year, and then they go into first grade. There are some private schools that run on the North American calendar. Public school here sucks badly, and I can't imagine anyone actually wanting to send their kids to public school unless there is no other option. Private school, however, is going to cost you. The school we chose is $270 a month plus all the uniforms and materials and registration fees; the Waldorf that recently closed in Escazu was quite a bit less than that, and schools like Country Day are quite a bit more (a friend was paying around $1,000 a month for Country Day kindergarten several years ago, and she absolutely hated it. And she's a teacher in Canada, for what that's worth). All kids (as far as I know; some private schools might be an exception) wear uniforms to school. The public school kids wear light blue shirts and dark blue pants or skirts, Catholic schools wear the typical Catholic school uniforms, and private schools choose their own.

We had thought long and hard about sending our son to school at all, as I've been in the field of education for many years, and I know how bad some schools can be. I also disagree with most of the basic, fundamental ideas of school. So I'd always thought we would homeschool. In fact, we were quite dedicated to the idea of homeschooling. But things change.

The problem that has arisen with homeschooling is not the "I can't do this" feeling or "he needs socialization" nonsense, but that I simply don't have time for it. I wish he was old enough to be left on his own, as he loves doing art, building, making music, playing outside, even working in his workbooks on his own. The trouble is that I felt like he needed more -- more interaction, more to do. I felt like he was getting bored.

So we've found a small private school we like, and have gone in with the attitude that if he's not getting anything out of it, or if his behavior starts to get worse (because he's a great kid now and I don't want that to change), or if he just doesn't like it or doesn't want to go, we can always pull him out. We're not that wedded to the idea that he has to be in school.

However, he was very excited to go to school. He actually wanted to go. Huh. Go figure. We dropped him off this morning, and he was so happy to have his own desk with his own name on it. He had been asking me for weeks if I would stay there with him on the first day. Yet, today, he was fine for us to leave. Actually, he was encouraging us to leave! Which we did, and I have to say, other than going through childbirth with him, it was the longest four hours of my life. It was weird to be driving around without my little guy in the car. And yes, I did get there a *little* early to pick him up. On the pretense that I had to drop off some paperwork (which I did, but it also gave me a chance to observe him in his classroom unaware of my presence).

On the ride home, we talked about his day. How he's made new friends already, and how everyone speaks Spanish (though it is a bilingual school), and how much fun he had, and how he wants to go to school every single day. Even on the weekends. LOL... Apparently, though, I had a brain fart this morning and forgot that Wednesday is "bring your own snack" day, and didn't pack him a snack. I wish the teacher or aide or anyone for that matter, who had seen him come in empty-handed, had at least asked us if he didn't bring a snack or if we forgot it in the car or something. I could have gone out and gotten him one easily enough. But no one bothered to mention it, so my kid was the only one snack-free today, and I felt really bad about that. He said he didn't care, even though he only had a cup of water from the bathroom sink while everyone else was eating. Ugh. We spoke with the director about this, and she agreed that someone should have mentioned it to us this morning, and also that usually the teacher asks the other kids if they wouldn't mind sharing some of their snacks with the snack-free child. Well, that didn't happen either, so you can bet we'll be speaking to the teacher in the morning, at least to bring these things to our attention so we can make them right, you know? The last thing you want is your kid to be left out of something that is your own fault.

Despite that, he had a great day and is looking forward to going back. Maybe I'll get used to this four hours by myself every morning. It's been many years since I've had that time alone!


  1. Me gustaría conocer tu opinión sobre "homeschooling". Estoy contemplando esa opción para mis hijos.

  2. Hola Ana,

    Funny thing is that three weeks after I wrote this, we pulled him out of school! We're definitely homeschooling at this point in time. We looked long and hard at the schools available, as public school was just not an option, and even the best private schools seemed just average in comparison to any good public school in the U.S. or Canada. So yeah, we're homeschooling, found some friends who are also homeschooling, and so far our son is doing incredibly well, already reading and doing math at a first grade level! Good luck, I know it's not for everyone, but if you want to do it, I really think you can!