I’m a nerd, a school lover. I enjoyed going to class for the most part. I was self-motivated to work hard and proud of my straight A’s through most of middle and high school. I attended a prestigious, top ranked public high school thanks to my parents moving to an affluent community for just that purpose. I took it for granted of course, until entering college and comparing myself to others, realizing how much better prepared I was than many.
Now I’m the parent living in a place that couldn’t be much more different than where I grew up. Nicaragua is the second poorest country in Latin America (after Haiti). Illiteracy is rampant and the local schools outside the cities are atrocious. Imagine underfunded 1 or 2 room elementary schools with barely adequate classrooms taught by mostly untrained teachers who only show up 50% of the days school should be in session, to write lessons on the board that students just copy. The local non-profit that we support is striving for improvements but I’m not going to waste my kids’ time.
There is a nice private school in town requiring a 45 min (each way) commute. Graduating students have gone on to attend prestigious universities in the US. Some friends with kids nearing middle school have good things to say about their experience. It’s an option for the future, but not now.
Luna will be three is September, Soleo just one. We have time. This is a time for nothing but play. Of course I read to them. We play ice cream shop and count out the coins. Luna is starting to recognize and name letters. She’s already bilingual. Soleo is still working on walking and eating solid food, and that’s plenty for both for now.
My idea is to create a home school cooperative. Gather the other parents together (there are 7 other kids age 6 mos to 6 yrs already in the area with three more babies still in bellies that will join the crew soon!), choose an online curriculum and hire an experienced teacher or two to live in Nicaragua for a while. Parents will lend their expertise when appropriate and we can have a child-focused, nature-immersed learning environment where the kids learn to read and manipulate numbers while growing food, raising animals, adventuring outdoors, and developing a habit of learning.
When discussing this idea initially with the other parents, there seemed to be some agreement. The biggest initial hurdle was where to host it? When my husband approached me with a 20 acre farm parcel he wanted to buy (pretty, heavily wooded with some cleared pasture areas, bordered by a river, just off the highway, for easy access to everyone) I said “yes, as long as we can use it for the school.” The last two months he’s had six guys working every day on clearing, fencing, planting, and trail creating. It’s taking shape and we are starting to define building sites and refine ideas.
Then a few days ago I got a message from one of the other parents gushing about a private school she had toured in town. She sent photos of kids in uniform standing quietly in line, a covered grass area with rows of metal swings, an indoor play space with a painted concrete floor.
Her description of the space came with a photo of the daily schedule showing the day broken into 30 minute time slots for rotating subjects. Dance, art, recess, religion, writing, etc. Dance and art are great. I’m not even too turned off by religion. Although we don’t practice religion at home, I grew up with it and turned out alright.
I certainly agreed with my friend that it looks a lot better than the neighborhood options. But it is so different to my vision that her enthusiasm made me feel frustrated and discouraged.
She says they plan to start her three year old there in February along with two other families that I’d hope to cooperate with on a completely different sort of school project. Everyone but us, essentially.
I know I don’t want to send my kids to a place like that, especially considering the long day (Monday thru Friday 7:30am to 12:30pm with 1.5 hours added on for the roundtrip drive), when I’m confident we can create something ourselves that will be a lot more fun and still achieve the learning objectives.
I’m inspired by instagram accounts like @homeschool_now_Hawaii where kids are sitting on a wooden porch listening to a story, making shelter out of wood, carrying baby goats around. They are often barefoot. There are no uniforms. Their interests and attention are not bound by rigid 30 minute time slots.
I spent a lot of time the next day reading about Montessori and Waldorf philosophies. I became encouraged and inspired anew. Even if it’s just for our kids alone, I will continue to plan our homeschool. Hopefully once it’s build the others will tire of the drive to town and be inspired to join us, but if they don’t that’s ok too. We all just want what is best of our kids.