Yesterday, we went over to the school and Mozart met her teacher and saw her class and that made her very excited to get to school on her first day. She is the 25th child in the class and there were lots of girls and about five of the girls are from various countries outside of Spain. There is even another blond girl in her class (from Sweden I think altho she is a Spanish speaker) so she does not stand out at all even tho she is the only American. In some ways I wish they were all Spanish because some of them are English speaking so they will speak that together, but on the other hand,it makes it a little easier for Mozart to have some kids in the same boat as she is in and not always having to use her second language. She also made friends quickly with all Spanish speaking native Spaniard kids so that made me happy.
We had called ahead and faxed things before we left so we were already registered, but there was still more paperwork to do. This is Spain after all which is one of those places like Italy, known for their paperwork and delays, but it was really quite an easy process with very friendly and helpful people. I think perhaps even a bit less paperwork than the States and they were also fine about our not doing vaccinations (which was one of my concerns early on, but it appears they have the same ease with that choice as California schools).
We still might/probably do some vaccinations for parts of the trip down the line, but did not think we needed them for Europe and the longer you wait, the better it is for a child’s natural immune system and it gives me time to continue to do research on this difficult choice and get her titres done to see what immunity she has gotten from extended breast feeding since I have lots of natural immunity from having the diseases like measles and chickenpox. I know a family of three generations of breast fed kids who had titres for all kinds of diseases that none of them ever had because one can get immunity without getting a disease or vaccination. I tend to favor alternative thinking when it comes to medical issues, altho I do like M.D.’s who use alternative thinking in their practice.
We had a list of things to purchase in the village for class and did that right away. I was quite impressed at how well DaVinci handled the Spanish in an all Spanish environment dealing with the principal and teacher as I would have been clueless tho I did understand a few words. It definitely makes it much easier having basic Spanish down and is necessary to truly integrate with authentic village life.
The director or principal (I am not sure what the title is here) seemed like an efficient and kind man and pretty similar to his American counterpart. He had blue eyes, gray hair, had on casual clothes and said he had lived in the village his whole life. He and Mozart’s female teacher do not speak any English, so it is a good thing we spoke Spanish. There is someone on the board who speaks some English, but very little English is spoken there which is just what we want. It is common to run into everyone from the school as we all handle the business of life and Mozart enjoys that aspect.
They do have a Spanish period for the kids who need help with bringing their Spanish up to native level and Mozart likes it and goes there with two other girls from her class and they meet up with kids from older classes. I think the other kids get catholic classes while they are doing Spanish. I am still learning as we go. It is a small school and Mozart’s class is the largest one in the school.
The school is very close to our village home and we can see it from our terraces, so we can see the kids going to school. It starts at nine in the morning and goes to two in the afternoon with a snack break at eleven thirty followed by the one and only recess. They do have gym three days a week and must wear pants and tennis shoes on those days. Note it is not a lunch break, but a snack break and then recess and interestingly they have no playground at the school. It is next to a very large gymnasium, work out area and pool area which we have to check out more, but the pool closes when school starts the third week in September. We were impressed at how secure the school was and even had a hard time getting in the first day as it is all locked up all day. Most of the parents walk the kids to school and pick them up when they get out.
I will post some pictures from her first day and second day. Mozart started on Friday, November 3rd, but we were so excited about starting that we did not take many pictures. DaVinci walked her to school (as he will do every day) and I took pictures of it from our balcony and we exchange waves. On the following Monday, her second day at school, I had him take a few more pictures for the blog. Her favorite classes so far are similar to what she likes about every school-recess, lunch, music, PE and Spanish.
After the very first day, she came out happy and with a friend and they were begging for a play date together which is a good sign. On the way in one of the teachers at the school asked her in Spanish if she could speak and understand Spanish and Mozart answered “ Poquito” as she nodded her head which means “a little” and I took that as another good sign showing that she understood and was willing to converse in Spanish. She was very happy to go the first and second days (all we have done so far), loved doing her homework and the teacher says she seems happy so yet more signs that it appears the school will work.
We will continue to home school in English as she is there primarily for the immersion in Spanish and her academics in English are at a much higher level. It is common for expats to put children in a grade behind as there is enough to handle just with the language immersion and some of the expat kids do look big for grade. It is very common in our area for almost all children with fall birthdays and even most summer and some spring birthdays to wait a year before entering school, so at home her age mates will just be starting Kindergarten. But since she started so early in K at home and is such an advanced reader in English we were not sure exactly where to put her, but decided to go at a higher level than that as I was afraid she would be too bored.
It is clear by the books that the work is waaaay too easy for her academically, but by doing most of our academics thru home school she won’t miss anything and hopefully will be enriched thru the immersion process and experiencing school in a different country. They do cursive writing here from the start, so that will be new and fun for her as well as learning time in the GMT method, Euro money and metric system. At this point she is not a fluent reader in Spanish, but does understand everything the teacher is saying in proper Castilian Spanish,so hopefully this will be a good match.
She is with the primary class so she is still one of the youngest because of her fall birthday, but this is the youngest class that she has ever been with as most are supposed to have turned six this year, so that should be interesting. We will see what unfolds, but so far she is very happy going to a school in Spain and enjoying her new friends. When I went with DaVinci the second day to pick her up she already seemed to know everybody in the small school, big siblings, parents and all which is typical of her.
She already seems to have a best friend named Sam who is from the Netherlands and has lived here since she was two and half and speaks four languages fluently. She usually speaks Spanish, unless talking to her parents but uses a combination of Spanish and English with Mozart. Her parents own and run one of the best restaurants in town that is just around the corner from us and she lives just a little up the hill. They have been plotting and planning a play date since day one and love it when they run into each other in the village. We actually saw a picture of her in a chefs hat on the outside of the restaurant from our first moments here, but little did we know that would turn out to be her best buddy.
We really miss her when she is at school all day, but we will be taking lots of time off for travel from time to time as I figure long week ends and such will keep our exploring instincts up and there is much we want to see in this country plus Morocco and Portugal. I also need to plan the next phase of the trip so it is good to have some free time to read and research and such as there are endless interruptions when she is around.
I am glad they do not have long days in school as I hear they do in some areas as one of my biggest complaints against school is the lack of just free time that I feel kids need to just be and form their identity. So many kids seem over scheduled these days and it is really tricky when you have long school days to contend with as there are only so many hours in a day and they often also want to do extra things. Even getting out at two in the afternoon, the evenings seem to go by too fast. We all prefer the long days of home school and its endless flexibility, but will give that up for these few months for this experience.
I am glad to be back in our go to bed early, wake up early routine. That gives us plenty of time together in the morning as they just have to leave a few moments before nine, so we enjoy those hours along with the ones in the afternoon and evening. We purposely chose a place without a TV as it does not make a whole lot of sense for Americans to have UK, Spanish or other European TV and gives us more time for books. You might guess that we prefer the internet to TV and can get something from itunes if we start hankering for any American TV which we haven’t thus far. I must say it has also been very freeing to not have much connection with news (when you have very limited access we don’t waste it on news) and just living in the now as we traveled, often not even knowing what day it was.
Mozart adjusted just as quickly to this school as she has to the two schools she attended in the U.S. She actually much prefers home school, but she is a very social extrovert so enjoys being around a bunch of kids too. They have lots of days off and we will take some on our own, so this should be a nice compromise for now and allow her Spanish to get very strong. It is so important for her to be in a place where her second language is dominant so she can understand how crucial it is to speak and read in it. We are glad and relieved that it is working out so well.