Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Is the Second Time a Charm When it Comes to School in Mexico?

First Day of School Mexico

Three weeks ago we arrived safe and sound in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico and according to schedule* (unlike two years ago). What greeted us when we arrived was not what we expected. Not even close. But, I’ll save that for another post (or two).

This post is about school. Or lack there of. Read on to find out which.

At 8am, the morning after we arrived, we were clean, looking proper and standing at the doors to The Kids (hopeful) school. Ideally we would have given ourselves more than 6 hours to get settled in but this was the last day of school before a 2.5 week Christmas break and we wanted to know what The Kids fate would be before then.

We were allowed to enter the premises and told to wait outside the Directoras Office until she was available. So we waited. And waited. After 30 minutes, I decided to take a peek, and noticed that there wasn’t anyone in the Office except for the Superintendent that was there when we tried to register them for school last year. Turns out last years Directora is gone and last years Superintendent is this years Directora and no one had told her that we wanted to speak with her.

We crossed our fingers and pleaded our case. We begged that they let us enroll The Kids for three months of school and that they put them in the same class. She was hesitant. She informed us that from an educational point of view, she wasn’t a fan of this approach. Who were we to argue with the battleax decision maker. Our hands were tied. She went to chat with some teachers and came back with her decision. She would put them in the same class with one condition – that if one didn’t go to school (for whatever reason), the other had to still come. Not a problem considering Artemis cries whenever she can NOT go to school. We were ready. Now to wait for 2.5 weeks to pass.

Finally, the day came.

The Kids were both so excited. They’d packed their bags three days before which was a good thing because we had a big celebration the night before (Day of the Wise Men) and didn’t get home until 11pm. They even did some missed homework from LAST YEAR. Everything was going better than expected. Needless to say, I had high hopes when I took the token “First Day of School” Picture. It looked like we weren’t going to have a repeat of last years first day of school. Right? Right!

You know what they say about the Road to Perdition…

I dropped them off at school (without incident) and spent the next three hours cleaning the house to within an inch of it’s life. I repaired (via hand and even got out my sewing machine) every single item that needed it and even considered putting some holes in Max’s pants so that I could iron on some patches. I did two loads of laundry, pruned some plants and even cooked (see how desperate I was!). Finally, Noon came and I was the first one in line to pick them up.

In a nutshell, Max spent the entire morning trying to escape and adjust the schedule to his desires; playing, eating and watching people play (in no particular order). A few highlights were;

— After the second bathroom visit, they cut him off. He was not happy that he had a spot of paint on his hand that he wasn’t allowed to wash off,
— He wanted to watch the other classrooms gym class from the balcony (outside the classroom with no supervision),
— A three-year old girl stood at the top of the slide and yelled at him to “go back to his class” and that he couldn’t play here (note that she was telling all the kids that, not sure where the adults were). It made him cry.

Needless to say, he did not have a good time (his words, not mine) and did not want to go back to school. Well, not tomorrow anyways. But, I knew what that really meant. He wasn’t going back. At all. Ever.

So, I was surprized the next morning when he got dressed, packed his bag and walked to school. Surprized until it was time to actually enter the school and that was not happening. After 10 minutes of bribing discussion, he would not go. So, we left Artemis and continued on with our day. Rinse and repeat for the next few days.

And then Max found out about the breakfast program**. He instantly decided that he wanted to go to school to participate in the breakfast program and gym and that was it. In between these activities, he wanted to come home. I informed him that school didn’t work that way and it was all or nothing. He thought about it. I could hear the wheels churning. And that was that. Three days passed and there was no mention of school or the breakfast program.

And then today happened.

Last night we were at a party until 10:30pm (yes, on a school night). So we were all really tired this morning. So much so that the alarm woke us up for the first time this trip. I hit snooze a few times and that gave us just enough time to get ready (and with three minutes to spare). That’s when Max announced that he wanted to go to school. Ed and I have never dressed a kid, packed a bag (with snacks) and toasted a piece of bread faster in our lives. I’m pretty sure that The Kids feet didn’t touch the ground the whole way to school. But, we made it there, on time AND, Max walked right in and up to his class.

I quickly got in line to pay for the breakfast program. I mean, I had to make sure that he got the breakfast program. His entire school successes hinged on whether he got a chorizo taco or not. While waiting in line, I wondered if I could slip the ladies some pancakes to serve him. I’d even throw in some extra Canadian Maple Syrup (you better believe we have some here!).

Canadian Maple Syrup in Mexico
(Recognize the limes?)

And then his second-first day of school was over.

Turns out that they served something that he didn’t like for breakfast program (what, I have no idea). He told me that he ate some of it but his teacher told me otherwise. And that three-year old from a few days before tried to run the schoolyard again but Max and I had devised a plan whereby he takes out a toy turtle (given to him the first day by a boy in his class) and says “turtle” (in English) to her. He did and sure enough, she told him that he could have one slide. He was fine with that. Otherwise, he didn’t complain about anything. Mind you, he didn’t praise anything either.

And that’s all I’ve heard about it. Mind you, The Kids had “homework” for tomorrow and they both did it. Not that that means anything but it’s a glimmer of hope. If you’re the betting kind, care to guess whether he’ll go to school tomorrow? The saga continues…

Is the Second Time a Charm When it Comes to School in Mexico?

* If everything went according to plan, the 5,000km road trip from Toronto to Mexico would be completed in four days. However, the past two years have had some unplanned activities so this year we decided to take charge and just plan for an extra day instead of feeling like we lost a day. After some emails and internet research, we decided to stop at Lake Catemaco in the State of Veracruz and it was just what we needed. We spent the evening swimming in an “infinity like” pool and dined in a restaurant with live Marimba music. Next year we might visit Montepio located on the Gulf of Mexico.

** Last year in February, the school started up a breakfast program. For a small fee of $5MXN a day (50 cents), kids are given a healthy snack and drink. Even though Artemis brings her own snacks, we joined her so that she could experience other foods and not be left out as most of the kids in her class were participating.

12 thoughts on “Is the Second Time a Charm When it Comes to School in Mexico?

  1. Brandi

    Awwww Max!! He has a plan in his head and that’s the plan he wants to stick with! hehe. How awesome that he keeps trying though. What a strong boy. Your kids are adorable…I see so much of you in them Sarah! <3 I hope school gets a bit easier and more enjoyable for him as time goes on. What a good idea about the "turtle"!

  2. Elizabeth Matthiesen

    I love reading your blogs about life in Mexico and especially school. I’m hopeful that Max will now stick with the programme, it must be boring for him when he’s on his own at home (without Artemis). Maybe some of Artemis’ eagerness to go to school will rub off on him too, she said hopefully.

  3. Soozle

    I absolutely love hearing your stories – hopefully Max will begin to enjoy his schooling! How is Artemis enjoying the classes so far?


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