September 6, 2022

Back to Escuela

I don't really know how to structure these posts. When we were traveling full-time, it was easy to know what to say and when because it was chronological and temporary. But we live here now. So when do I post what?

As I say all the time, "No sé."

But if you know and love Tom and me, you are probably really here just to hear funny bathroom stories and see pictures of our kids. As a parent, I use my kids all the time to break the ice and make excuses, and this blog is no exception. So while I know lots of people want to hear why we moved and how we chose Mérida, those feel like loaded questions right now. So allow me to use my kids as a buffer and, instead, tell you about their new school.

Tom and I came down to Mérida in June 2022 to see if it might be a good place for us to move. A huge factor in that decision was schools. We really want to give our kids new and even challenging experiences. We want them to learn another language and to understand how big and interesting the world is. We want them to meet people from all over the world and to learn to be comfortable in discomfort. But we also don't want to traumatize them, and we both care a lot about education, but maybe not in the way you would expect. Of course, we want our kids to learn a lot...all the stuff...but more important to us is that they learn to value themselves as learners. And we think the way that happens is by being in an environment that celebrates curiosity and questions, that welcomes "failure" with love and intrigue, and that knows that every child—every person—is brilliant. Not in a "everybody gets a trophy" kind of way. More in a "what's your superpower" kind of way. 

Before we came to Mérida, we had visited another place where we were sure we would move. For many reasons, it wasn't right for us, and we'll tell you more about that another time. One of the reasons was the schools. They just weren't what we wanted for our kids, and so exploring schools in Mérida became a priority.

We visited three schools in June, and we liked all of them. We would have sent our kids to any of them and been confident in doing so. But when we found Kin Academy, we knew that we couldn't not send our kids there. It's in an old hacienda and is surrounded by jungle. (or forest? trees? what makes a jungle a jungle?) There's a massive green field, beautiful streams and walkways, chickens, ducks, and fruit trees growing around campus. It's small, project-based, and incredibly warm and loving. 

We arrived on a Wednesday in late afternoon. We were supposed to go to a parents-only meeting at the school on Thursday night, but that didn't happen because our house flooded (get ready for that story). But we did go to the meet-and-greet on Friday morning. And people—I almost cried. Now if you really know me, you know that's a big deal. I don't cry about anything related to me. I can't. I'm broken. I cry during even the most obscure Olympic medal ceremonies for people I've never heard of. I cry when I see someone in labor on TV because I'm so.proud.of.them. I cry when my friends' kids accomplish something huge. But something in my life that is deeply moving or sad or happy? Nary a tear. I can't do it. And yes, I'm in therapy. But I almost almost cried at this meet-and-greet. Louisa hasn't been entirely enthusiastic about this move, and she was very nervous, and so we all were nervous. Louisa's emotions are big and have a way of influencing all of us. We walked on campus, and we were welcomed in a way I don't think I've ever experienced. The teachers swooped in on our kids and engaged them meaningfully and without being pushy. Administrators we had met only once greeted us like old friends. Parents we were meeting for the first time, when learning we had only arrived in Mérida 36 hours earlier, very genuinely offered their support in all things—real estate, grocery shopping, play dates, mom dates, etc... And they really really meant it. I felt part of a community instantly, and it was clear the kids did, too. 

The kids left for their first day of school just a few days later, and I didn't have a single worry about it. Any parent knows how huge that is. 

"Just me" (I die.....)

The school is mostly families from other parts of Mexico who have moved to Mérida (because it's incredible). There are also some South American families and a few American families. They teach in English, but there's lots of Spanish conversationally and mixed into the lessons. There are several active WhatsApp groups for parents that makes me feel like "we're in this together" even though I have to copy and paste everything in to Google Translate, and I don't get all the jokes, and there are still fewer than three people in this whole city who would even notice if I disappeared. 

Back to the first day of school—just a few hours in to it, we got pictures of them making new friends already, which I don't think I can post because they have other people's kids in them. That's a thing right? Totally fine for me to exploit my own children to benefit my personal narrative, but not other people's kids? Even though no one even knows I've restarted this blog, so probably no one is reading it? TBD. 

A few highlights of the first 7 days of school:

  • Watching the kids walk in and out of school together. Louisa is always taking care of Frank, and it makes me think that (just maybe) we're doing something right.
  • After we pull in the driveway of the school, the kids hustle to unbuckle from their carseats so that they can call out the window to the ducks and chickens on the property. Somehow, they never tire of this. 
  • New friends! Louisa has a buddy named Belen. Belen's little brother, Tomas, is Frank's buddy in his class. And they both love our new friend Jude and his little brother Waylon. 
  • Louisa says "Teacher Edgar" and "Teacher Meli" with such a convincing Mexican accent that I question if she's actually my child.
  • Frank adores his teachers and refers to them with a great deal of reverence. 
  • Louisa discovered a love and a knack for ice skating at a mall here, and we found out one of the teachers at school (Jimena) is an ice skating instructor there, and Louisa is fan-girling a bit.
  • Frank's class has a stuffy named Porkybee that is the "class pet." Each weekend, someone gets to take Porkybee home to care for, and Frank got to do it the first week. He considered this a great honor. 
  • They both have yoga twice a week, drama once a week, and sports twice a week. 
  • Louisa and her friend found a tarantula in the bathroom at school, and Louisa was so excited (see above about questionaly genetics).

The vantage point for optimal duck and chicken viewing

Porkybee being loved to death

Nothing makes you feel like you really live somewhere than having your kids start school. I'm sure there will be challenges ahead, but for now, it all feels pretty good. 

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