School is back in session, for at least one of our children. In Costa Rica, the school year is divided into two terms, which run from mid-February to the beginning of July and from mid-July to December. There is a two week break at the end of the first semester. The local children returned to school on Monday, July 17th. Abby enrolled in the Potrero Public School as a 5th grader for the second semester. Big step. All on her own, she decided this was the direction she wanted in her schooling. A chance to fully immerse herself in the Spanish language and learn the Costa Rican culture and school traditions. To say we are proud and impressed by her courage is an understatement.
We completed one year of homeschool education for all of our children (grades 3, 5, and 8) at the end of June. We intended to take a month break and resume homeschooling the kids in August. However, we have had an unexpected and welcome change to our plans. Marc was offered a secondary science teaching position at the Costa Rica International Academy (CRIA) – a nearby international school. One of the benefits of teaching at CRIA is that we receive two free tuition spots. As a family, we decided that the boys would benefit most from returning to a traditional school. Tucker will be a freshman and Elliot will start 4th grade on August 16th. Abby really wanted to continue homeschooling. She appreciates the ability to have more time and the flexibility to pursue her interests in swimming, horseback riding, and art. Abby’s decision to attend public school fits nicely, as it is only a half day. She goes to school 12pm-4pm most days. Since learning Spanish is the primary objective and she is repeating the 5th grade, we will continue to supplement her learning, especially math and reading, keeping pace for 6th grade.
At the end of June, I asked our Spanish teacher to come to the school with me, as an advocate and translator, to see if we could enroll Abby. The school director said it would not be a problem. I had to complete some paperwork and then purchase insurance, uniforms and books. That seemed easy enough. I asked where to do all of these things and I got a very vague response from the director. Luckily, I knew a local family that spoke some English and I was able to get clarity re: the insurance. It was an obscure building in a small town 25 minutes away. Not sure how I ever would have found it on my own! Thankfully, the process was easy and the annual student insurance coverage cost less than $10.00 per student. Other than that, a public education is free in Costa Rica. Most of the local schools have the same uniform – a white blouse, navy blue bottoms (pants for the boys and skirts for the girls), blue socks and black shoes. I asked around and was told by everyone that uniforms and books are found in Santa Cruz, approximately 60 km away. This seems very inconvenient for all the local families, but off we went to Santa Cruz. Abby and I had such a fun day and felt very accomplished when we came home with our uniform, as well as a couple other treasures we had been wanting. We used as much Spanish as we could. Very few people speak English in this part of Costa Rica. We are happy to try and the people are so kind and patient with us.
One of our treasures was a chorradeor. A chorreador is a coffee brewing device used for over 200 years in Costa Rica. A couple of months ago I bought a cheap wire one at our local supermarket. I had been wanting a nice wooden one, but didn’t want to pay the souvenir / tourist prices in our beach town area. To brew, ground beans are placed in a cloth sock and hot water is poured over them. We enjoy this brewing method very much! Marc had also been wanting a tortilla press to make our own tortillas and we found one of those. Abby loved the liberia (bookstore) where we picked up her school supplies. It also had many of the art supplies that she has been wanting. We were able to finish her shopping at a local hardware store. She is full of craft ideas!
Abby had a short first week at school. The children began each day this week learning about and observing the national holiday, Guanacaste Day, celebrated July 25th. This day commemorates the annexation of the province of Guanacaste to Costa Rica, which occurred in 1824. Prior to this year, Guanacaste was part of Nicaragua. We believe this is the main reason for a long weekend, but we can’t be totally sure. The schedule is a little “loosy goosy”- something we will have to get used to. Abby is happy with her decision. The kids and teachers have made her feel very welcome. She loves recess time where the kids can go anywhere in the square. Most kids visit the local supermarket for a treat. She happily and eagerly completed her homework this week and I have a feeling she will be our first fluent spanish speaker in the family!