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.
Ryan

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