Kids running to school
It's September again and although there are always those who say that summer vacation was too short, I would venture to guess that few of the people who hold that opinion are the parents of school-age children. Personally, I couldn't be more pleased that summer is over and done with. My boys are delightful but my idea of a fun time (relaxing in the shade with a good book), and their idea of a good time (running endlessly in circles, shrieking, rolling around in dust, and laboriously enveloping themselves in various concoctions of superhero spandex and Velcro some 75 times per day, only to immediately disrobe and hurl all the various components in different corners of the house), are two very different things.
My six-year-old is also happy that school is beginning and he has even decided that this year, he doesn't mind if I talk to his friends "a little bit". You see, last year, my faulty Spanish and nonexistent Catalan were deemed to be too shameful for public exposure. This year, I can talk but only if I don't "talk too loud" because then, according to Nico, all the other kids are going to look at me and think "Whoa, who's that weird Mommy with all those freckles?" I have pointed out to him that there are other mothers at his school who have freckles, as well as other mothers who are haphazard in their use of the subjunctive and who can't reliably say words such as inmediatemente without stuttering. It doesn't matter though. As far as he is concerned, the only weirdo he has to worry about is me and therefore, I'd better keep a low profile.
Sometimes I wonder what it would be like if instead of a local public school, Nico went to an international school where all the other parents spoke English. I know many parents who choose to send their children to international schools and I can certainly see that there are benefits, presumably one of them being that your kids wouldn't want to duck into the nearest alleyway whenever you opened your mouth. Of course there are other advantages to international schools as well. Families with older children may feel that it would be too stressful for their children to try and pick up a new language. Others may only be here for a few years and want their children to continue with the national curriculum of their home country. Still others may feel strongly about staying involved in their child's education (something that can be tough to do when you need to use Google Translate just to figure out what "Tomorrow we will go swimming" means when it is written in Catalan in a note your child brings home from his teacher).
My husband and I decided to put our children in local schools for a few different reasons. First of all, they are inarguably cheaper than international schools. What mattered to us even more, however, was that our children get the chance to experience all the richness that the local culture can offer. This past weekend, we were invited to a birthday party at the Girona farmhouse of one of the families in Nico's class. As Nico and his friends swam in the pool, we gorged on typical Catalan dishes such as pa amb tomàquet (bread rubbed with tomatoes), escalavida (grilled aubergine and red peppers), alioli (garlicky mayo), botifarra (spicy sausage) and sweet cocas (pastry topped with sugared anisette). As the children shrieked and the parents chatted, we could hear a Barça game on the radio and the sound of the village church bells ringing nearby. As we drove back to Barcelona late that night, I realised for the first time that having Nico go to a local school benefited not just him, but the entire family.
Yes, there are drawbacks and as Nico begins to learn to read and receive homework this year, I expect the challenges to grow. Nevertheless, up until now I am happy with the choice we have made. Do you send your children to local schools or international schools? What do you see as being the advantages and disadvantages to your decision?