Adventures Embarking on School in Chile

Despite any remaining language deficit I continue to have here, come February in Chile one does not need to speak perfect Spanish to read the signs.

Signs that are seemingly the same no matter where you are in the world; reminding one and all that school is starting.   

School uniforms, organized in sections by the designated school, suddenly pop up in the local department stores, in of all their pomp and circumstance. The standard issue grey and navy blue socks, tights, leggings, and a wide assortment of black school shoes, all of which are meant fulfill the requirements of the uniform code in Chile, are impossible to miss.  Notebooks, pencils, pens, markers, scissors, and all things considered school supplies dominate the main aisles of the various department, grocery and toy stores.

And with school preparation 2015 came A LOT of learning & laughs…  ❤

We received a laundry list of supplies for each of the kids to purchase before school, in Spanish of course.

Last year, Donna/Ama was here and helped tremendously, and so frankly, I didn’t need to do any of the heavy lifting.  But this year, even after a year of living here and 6 months of Spanish classes, I was dumbfounded.

What are these words?! Pechera? Laminas para termolaminar? Forro adhesivo? 1 CD/1DVD?

Okay, that last one I might have had.

So there I found myself one beautiful summer day, actually 3 of them, the confused looking Gringa, carefully reviewing each item on the shelves, all descriptive words thereon, cross-referencing it against my  wrinkled and coffee-stained supply list and my handy translator app.

school4Alas and thankfully, a couple of lovely cashiers stepped forward, seemingly happy to assist with what I can only imagine was the painstaking process of navigating my lists, including translating and explaining things not even in their stores…

Ooooooh, that is a Pringles can, and this is a cookie cutter, ah ha! Thank YOU!

And where do I find those?

And so the  3-day school supply hunt journey of our experience abroad lasted about 6 hours, in 7 different stores.   And to date, I am still missing one thing I can’t find anywhere!

Honestly, talk about a humbling experience… I needed help on everything! 

And so, my most beautiful ninos -please keep such devoted motherly tasks in mind when you are deciding where to stick me in my old age.  🙂

Maddie, as always, was chomping at the bit to get back to school.  After a year and a half of first grade, she was finally able to start Segundo Basico (2nd grade).school1621

This year, her school made the unprecedented move of keeping her entire class together, including the teacher.  I believe this is in part due to the wonderful dynamic the group has had. There are roughly 30 kids in Maddie’s class, and they have become a little family.

This inclusiveness is something I have admired about the schools here from the get-go, as it sounds like this trend is not just limited to Maddie’s class.  For a family coming from abroad, it has helped tremendously in the assimilation process.  And in turn, lead Maddie to being extremely excited for the return to school, a.k.a. the return to seeing most of her friends everyday.

This year also marked a big year in that it was Greyson’s first day of Playgroup, the functional equivalent of 3k at home, but all in Spanish! Given the fact Greyson has never been a daycare or preschool and doesn’t speak much Spanish yet, we were a little nervous, but knew that he really needed interaction with children and the stimulation a classroom presents, as well as the assimilation into the Spanish language.  The problem has been that given all of the changes he has gone through in his short life, he also has had a tendency to want to stick close to home. “Yes mom, I’ll go to school, but only if you go with me,” he had firmly stated, countless times.

For a little practice, Greyson spent about 3 weeks part-time in a Jardin, or daycare, in January.  Despite a few tears, all worked out wonderfully.school7

As an added bonus, Tom is able to bring the kids to school on his way to work, and drop off with Daddy always seems to go much more smoothly! 🙂 schoolmaddie

And his teacher said he didn’t cry at all on the first day, or since!

Wooooof, we made it!  schoolgrey

Of course, the promise of the trophy probably helped too.

What can I say?  Sometimes bribery is a necessary evil; besides, the way I see it, going to school in a foreign language deserves a trophy!

And so I am able to then pick up both the kiddos at 1, have a lunch, and return Maddie at 3 for her afternoon classes.
I would have to believe that in all of the millions of times that a momma’s heart grows when it comes to her children, that this whole beginning of the school year thing comes close to causing a near burst, especially when in a foreign country.  Without school5fail, my heart swells and my eyes well as I watch my babies walk through the halls with their little uniforms and backpacks, next to those gigantic kids; watching Greyson and Maddie run into each others arms after class; and silently following them as they walk hand in hand to the school’s snack shop for their daily popsicle…barely even knowing I am there other than to ask:
“Pesos, please.”
And so this has now all become a daily ritual, and one that I refuse to take for granted.  It seems to me that in those 15 minutes of pick-up each day in school, I am privileged enough to be able to witness firsthand a dramatic transformative period in my children’s lives…for in those 15 minutes I see:
Fearlessness in the face of the unfamiliar, attending a school where they are the different ones, the ones that (previously for Maddie, now for Greyson) can’t speak the language, walking among kids, teenagers and adults they don’t know, and yet doing so with huge smiles on their faces because they really love to be there;
Pride shining through their smiles and their stances as they high-five a friend, receive a kiss from a teacher or parent, or order their “helados” in Spanish (Maddie’s pride stems from helping Greyson…the ever-ready sister-helper);
-Pure, simple joy in and between my children, a stress-free, unburdened happiness that remains resolute despite the many changes they have undergone, beautifully depicted in the affection they show each other and others;
Assimilation, more every day, into a different culture, language and environment and honestly – making it look easy!
It seems that any fear we had about sending either of them to a new, foreign school, while I think perfectly natural, was more a product of our own worries and anxieties rather than theirs.  For if anything, this experience has shown us how adaptive kids are, how unlimited their potential is for tackling new adventures, and how much they can achieve if given the freedom and opportunity to do so! 
And now also, I get to spend some wonderful one-on-one time with Miss Ellie, which has been absolutely awesome, and perfect timing because she is becoming quite the independent, active little toddler!!
Way to Go Maddie & Greyson!



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