We just returned from the big parent meeting at school. The one where all the parents of 6th grade students file in to the room and sit nervously listening to the Director (Principal) tell us not to be nervous, moving up and changing schools is a good thing, etc. etc. etc. Somehow, I wasn't nervous until I heard how I shouldn't be nervous and watched lots of other parents be nervous... THAT made me nervous.
In Spain, students go to Primary school for 6 years (unless you opted in for preschool before that). They spend those first 6 years together, with the same students in the same class the entire time. They are seriously bonded. They even keep the same teacher for every two year cycle. Although Sarah would be in the 5th grade in Texas this year, her birthday fell squarely in to the dates of all 6th grade students here. So, we had to skip a grade last year and pray for the best. Okay.. I might have shed a nervous tear or two that day in the office of the Director. My baby... skipping a grade? Anyway - that's water under the bridge now. Today, she sits in the top 3 of her class and has risen to the task!
After 'graduation' from the 6th grade, students move to another school building for what is the mandated Secondary classes (4 years). After the 4 years, they can choose to take one of three options... go to Bachillerato (College Prep school), go to a vocational school, or go directly to the work force.
Sarah moves up to the ESO (secondary school) at the end of this school year. We had to make some choices and sign up for the route she would take... would she go in to the regular course work, or would she go the route of Bilingual Secondary education? Only 30 students are accepted for the bilingual program. Of course, we chose the bilingual route... shouldn't be a problem to take 50% of your coursework in English, right? ;) The Director laughed when we signed the paperwork and said, "I'll think she'll do great!" Because the bilingual trac is more difficult for most students, only the top ones are allowed in, and no behavior issues are tolerated...This was Sarah's entire reason for wanting in... so she doesn't have to be around a couple of the behavior issues any more.Tolerance and compassion...even with the behavior issue kids... it's a skill we're working on...
All in all, we have been pleased with the education system so far. In my 16 years as a certified Texas teacher opinion, I think the curriculum is pretty good. Math seems higher and more advanced than we teach in Texas at this age level. Social studies is WAY more advanced... these kids know so much more geography and history than most American adults know! Science is way lower at this point (so disappointing to her parents who were both science teachers), but it seems to pick up in the higher grades. Language arts (in Spanish, of course) is really good and there is a deep understanding of how language works. All children must take English as a foreign language from the moment they enter school, all the way through to secondary graduation. So all students graduate with 10 years of a foreign language. Students in the second half of secondary, will choose a trac that takes them in to a third language (most choose French). So, in many ways, I really like the curriculum. Of course, there are things I don't love, but right now we're all happy with her education.
There are no extra-curriculur activities in the school. Anything extra is on the family. So, Sarah takes piano once a week outside of school...gotta get in that music education and higher level brain function! And, she's just really great at music! Last year, she was in a taekwondo group 3 days a week. This year, she also is picking up a second day with her riding coach (she is in the jumper / dressage group). Piano and riding costs come out of our own family funds.
If you ask Sarah about the future... "I'm going back to Texas for college. I want to go to vet school at Texas A&M. And I'm going to be on the Texas A&M Equestrian team." Gotta love a girl with goals! And one that bleeds maroon... Gig'em Aggies!!! Although, I won't be surprised if her saddle and tack doesn't somehow sport a tiny Peruvian flag and a tiny Spain flag... the girl is multicultural at heart.
Who am I? In my USA life, I was a teacher in Texas for 15 years. I was also a professional photographer, a Southern Living / Martha Stewart wannabe, a soccer mom, and a short term mission team coordinator / intern director for missions in Mexico... you name it, I probably tried it!
In 2006, my husband Billy and I became cross-cultural workers (CCWs) with TMS Global. For five years, we served in three rural Quechua Wanca villages in the Andes of Peru. And when I say rural, I mean RURAL - like no potty! We have three incredible children... two adult boys who live in Texas, and the Sarah (14) lives with us in whatever country we are serving. I'm still teaching, still taking photos, still leading teams and mentoring, I just do it all in full-time service now! And I'm working hard at giving Southern Living and Martha Stewart a run for their money! I spent my days in Peru learning to live a Quechua lifestyle in a rustic adobe house - cooking Peruvian foods, sewing with Quechua women, raising my chickens and goats and pigs, and planting my gardens. Now I live my life in small town Spain, serving other cross-cultural workers and immigrant peoples, writing, and trying to figure out what life looks like for a Texas girl serving Christ in Southern Europe. Life in His service is AWESOME! I'm happy to share it with you here... Enjoy!