Back to school

We timed our move south to make the transition as easy as possible. Schools in Cali observe the same calendar as schools in the states, thankfully, with summer break between June and August.

Last week was our first week. And to make sure it was an easy week, I skipped out to Mexico and let my wife take care of it… Not really. It was an unfortunate conflation of events, as they say. And although I did skip out, they survived week one at the new school.

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A private school in Cali.

Private schooling is common here in Colombia—and in many parts of Latin America. Within ten minutes of our house there are more private schools than I can count, all offering a variety of benefits: instruction by American teachers, instruction in Mandarin, leadership development, and so on. Some are religious leaning, most are not. Some, like ours, include catechism right in the school curriculum (Catholicism here remains a central cultural element). All of the schools provide a thorough indoctrination in the church of futbol—soccer.

The school we chose happens to be an American school: Instruction in English, curriculum from the states, teachers brought from the US and Canada, observation of all US holidays, and so forth. Result? It feels a lot like our former school in California. The differences? This one school has every grade from pre-K to 12th grade. It is primary, middle, and high school all in one, with all of the needed facilities. It has programs in PE, art and music starting in preschool and going all the way through. This one’s for our California friends, where, in the public schools, art is nonexistent and music only begins in 4th grade. After-school programs start in kindergarten too. Sofia will try theater one day a week. Other options ranged from Mandarin to equestrian to volleyball. She’s otherwise booked with sports, that’s why we’re only going with theater. Someone, somewhere told me that you can get a lot out of theater. I never tried.  We’ll see how she takes to it.

So the school offers a lot and seems pretty up to date. One thing: it starts early. The first bell rings at 7:15. So kids and mom are out of the house by 6:50 am. Other kids, the ones riding buses from other parts of Cali, are out of the house by 6:00 am. Lukas yelled at me a lot this morning. Like anything, we’ll get used to it. Early to bed, early to rise. Or vice versa.

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Sporting their new school PE uniforms

How are they taking to it?

Sofia, when asked, said it was “OK.” We chose this school to try to keep it as similar as possible to her old school, but everything is, of course, still different. And, although she knew some girls going in and friendships naturally reassort every summer, she’s missing her gang. With every year she grows, the more important her friendships are. Facetime, perhaps, will provide a chance to keep the connections warm.

Lukas was much more effusive: “Daddy! There are lots of new toys and new friends and new teachers! It’s great!” Monday was his first day at school alone. To his mom’s dismay, he dismissed her without a tear and apparently had a great day (they served mac’n’cheese for lunch! Seconds!).

Their mom seems to be enjoying it, too. In California she never took them to school and didn’t pick them up, either. The job didn’t permit it. Here, we did a flip-flop (though you can bet I’ll put in my time at school). Now she’s ‘room-Mom’ for Lukas’ class, in charge of coordinating between the teachers and the parents. She’s quite excited about the job.

And me? Traveling has me feeling a bit disconnected still. I’m happy it’s a good school and I’m looking forward to hanging out with the kids and doing some readings and other such.