Thursday, March 25, 2010

Getting closer to a decision on schooling

I knew when we moved to Brazil that finding school could pose a challenge. I did what I could ahead of time, but I knew that most of it would have to wait to get worked out until we arrived. And once we got here, I asked everyone I met their opinion. I heard that we had to hurry to get our kids in school because tests happen in March, and they might miss an important deadline. I heard that schools are horrible, and that there are only a few good schools. I heard that we HAD to send our kids to private school for safety, in order to really learn, for the right ratio of teachers to students, and for them to make friends with other children in their "class". I learned that the American School is very, very good, and also costs $10,000 a year (not to mention it is about a 45 minute drive away). I visited a private school within walking distance to our house, and was very impressed. The instructors and administrators were very helpful, and very willing to accommodate us. It was a very nice school. And children attend school for 4 hours a day. I also visited the local public school, and had not such a great experience, mainly due to the fact that we had to wait 30 minutes and the kids were climbing the walls. And I had a hard time communicating with the assistant principal, but I came away feeling like she really didn't think it was a good idea for us to enroll our children there. But every morning I look out our bedroom window, and watch all the families arriving with their kids, and see the moms chatting away, and see how happy the kids are, and I hear and watch them playing at recess. And it's free. Matt and I decided that our main concern for the kids is meeting other children and learning Portuguese. If they don't learn another thing all year, that's okay with us. I spoke with an American woman I met here with two small children, and Matt spoke with a Brazilian mom-to-be from the orchestra, and they both thought that if all we want is socialization and Portuguese, it doesn't make sense to shell out hundreds of dollars for education. We could afford it, but we'd love to spend that money on other things (vacations, helping friends and family come visit us, etcetera). I've gathered that among middle class Brazilians there is a lot of competition to get their kids into the right preschool, then elementary school, and so on. If you start on the right path, then you could end up getting admitted to Federal University (UFMG) that is free. So there's a mindset that you spend money on early education, so you don't have to spend it later. But we don't anticipate that our kids stay here for college, so this is not an issue for us. So, we're going to try to go back to the public school. A friend has offered to return to the school with us to talk to the principal, and we'll propose that it would be beneficial for both our kids and the students already there (exposure to another culture and language). And of course all this might change again, but this is our plan for today.

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