First Day of School vs. First Day of Learning

First Day of School vs. First Day of Learning

Our kids started school in Chile today. We’ve been here more than three weeks, so it seems like it is a late start. Organizing our lives and the Chilean calendar worked against us getting into school more quickly. We needed a car, a house, and then a school to attend. But once we had those three in the first two weeks (amazingly quickly, if I do say so myself), Chile went on vacation for a week to celebrate Fiesta Patrias (see earlier post regarding The 18th), so no real work got done and nobody went to school.
This got me thinking. As a parent, I want my children immersed in this culture and language, surrounded by Chileans and soaking it all in. So, hurry up and get in school! Hurry up and get educated! That’s a huge reason why we came here.
As a teacher, though, I absolutely know/believe that the best learning comes from living something, and my kids have been living something very new, unique, and oftentimes challenging for them during these first few weeks here. They loved the children’s art museum in Santiago; the funicular that took us to the top of Cerro San Cristobal; counting snails on our back patio on these wet, cool, countryside mornings. They’ve been switching between English and Spanish language story books when we read together and loving story time just as much as ever. And the kites. Wow, have we spent some time with kites!
Don’t get me wrong: school is important and good. I’ve made a career and a vocation out of school. I’ve been with students inside the classroom and beyond the classroom and seen great learning happen in both settings. I firmly believe in school, because I firmly believe children crave structure and socialization (not earth shattering assertions, I know).
But now I’m talking about my kids and my family, in Chile, living this. In the last three weeks, “before school”, I’ve seen their sibling dynamic grow in amazing new ways. I’ve experienced their curiosity and questioning of their surroundings blossom. And I’ve definitely felt their wonder for another side of the world they didn’t know four weeks ago; a wonder I probably lacked as an adult the first time I came here.
Yes, I’m very excited about the school my children are attending and the heartfelt, warm reception we’ve all received there. But I promise that I won’t rely on their classrooms for their learning. And l believe, speaking as a teacher, that’s a promise all parents should make to their children.






Life in Song, in South America

The kids both refused to nap one afternoon last week, despite a very busy morning. Our little guy was so wound up that he took off his sleep sack, pants, and diaper a grand total of four times before I gave up on the nap. Well, life must go on and I’ve got things to do. So I was letting Daniel Tiger babysit the kids while I worked on boring adult stuff like cell phones and my master’s degree. (And Ryan took care of extremely boring adult stuff like buying a car and getting it insured.)

Daniel Tiger

PBS Kids’ Daniel Tiger

If you have young children and let them watch TV, I highly recommend Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. There is just a lot of really good stuff going on there. The episode the kids watched this afternoon (okay, one of the episodes) talked about how every person has something special about them. I looked over and saw them completely absorbed in the story. Lucy sang along when they broke out the “I like you just the way you are” song; then she turned to me and said, “I’m special too, Mom.”

Well, of course.

I set aside the riveting chat I was having with a Verizon rep in favor of telling my daughter how much I love the things that are special about her. One of the things I think is special is how she makes up songs throughout the day. Sometimes I don’t think she even knows she’s doing it. I will catch her narrating her playtime in song (“…and then she goes over here, and wait a minute, that’s a dinosaur…”), totally absorbed in her make-believe.

This evening, she was singing, “I love my life in South America!” This prompted a nice discussion about how we love what we’re doing here, but that we can still love the United States as well. 

And then, naturally, there was that moment at lunch today when she was singing “La Cucaracha” in the middle of a restaurant full of Spanish speakers trying to eat their food without imagining it full of, well, you know. 

It’s true — she has songs for every occasion. But we’re still working on finding the perfect song for each moment.