The magic school bus

Our first concern when we arrived in Canada in November was to enroll the kids to school as soon as possible. While the school year in Brazil is from February to December, the following school year which is from September to June had already started here! The twins were only finishing their first year of primary school in Brazil, but they had missed the first months of their second year (Gr.2) here in Canada! And Uriel had missed his first months of primary school (Gr.1)… I was afraid that their reading skills would be behind from the rest of their peers.

Another concern was the language. They had started to read and write in Portuguese and had  adjusted rather well to the Portuguese language. I was completing their education with some French lessons at home and French is also the language we speak at home. However, they’d had little to no contact with the English language before coming here. What would happen now?

In Southern Ontario we discovered that there are four publicly funded school boards, English public, English catholic, French public and French Catholic. Free education of good quality (and free school buses!) was after all one of the main reason we came back. I’m loving it! 🙂

The choice was hard for us. On the most practical side, there is an English public school two blocks from our house. The other option was to send them to a French catholic school a little further away, but with free school bus service. Should we drop them in the English language and see what happens (we know how kids learn fast, right?), or ease the transition and look into a French school (their oral skills are obviously good, but the writing and reading in French in not as… intuitive).

We ended up deciding to send them to a French school for now. The idea is that they will hopefully learn to read and write the harder language first, be exposed to the French Canadian accent (which is not a bad thing in my opinion — they are French and Canadian after all!), then pick up English along the way (most of the kids in school speak English at home and behind the teacher’s back!).

Another fun fact: taking the yellow bus to school is a (very exciting) daily adventure! Their first thought was probably that they would step into the fantastic world of one of their favorite series. In truth, the ride that would take only 10 minutes if I would drive them directly to school takes them around 30 to 40 minutes… (not that they have anything else to do anyway, ha ha)

Magic school bus



As provas

I have been writing and editing this post for so many days now that it’s starting to stale!

The children should usually be in school from 7am to 11am every morning, I say usually when I actually don’t really know what usually means here; there is always something or other to change that. For example, last week I saw a sign at the entrance of the school to ask parents of the afternoon shift to pick up their kids half an hour earlier than usual “because of the heat“. The heat! I don’t see how finishing classes half an hour earlier is going to change anything because the worst of the heat is early afternoon (around four is actually starting to get better), but I discarded the info since it didn’t concern me. However this week, there was a little note on the kids’ agenda informing parents that we should pick them up one hour earlier, everyday of the whole week, because they will have provinhas (little exams)… Please, can someone explain to me on which planet do preschools need the kids to have LESS hours of school in order to give them exams? I can’t even begin to understand. We must be living  on a parallel dimension.

The weather has indeed been very hot and dry. So dry that we all wake up coughing. The kids complain about their throat and nose. In Canada I would probably have bought a humidifier at the Walmart without a second thought, but here in a small town in Brazil, even if humidifiers do exist they are hard to find. One has to do many little stores around town and ask for it. Sometimes you are lucky, sometimes you have to wait for weeks for the next shipment. It’s a lot of work to spend money! Chatting with friends I have been told to leave a humid towel at the head of the bed before sleep. It did seem to help! Also, the damp towel was amazingly totally dry the next morning. Dry, dry, dry. I’m telling you.

Then, suddenly, it rained!


EDIT: To add to the endless list of school related complaints (sorry, I need to vent!). The following week, I was told on Monday that my kids wouldn’t have classes for the rest of the week because the results of their exams were satisfying. In other words, they were penalized for passing their exams. I am not complaining that the teachers take time apart for the students that need extra attention, but surely there is a way to deal with advanced students (not that my kids are particularly advanced, they simply know their letters and numbers, I think that the rest of the kids must be particularly behind) and keep them studying some more while doing catch up with the tardies, no?


Falando de escola…

Here is a follow up on the schooling saga: (here is the last time I spoke about that)

As you might remember, last year my boys were attending a private school in Rondônia. We were living downtown and the school was right next door. Very practical since they were attending the morning shift from 7:30AM to noon.

Since it was a “Lutheran” school which used to belong to (or be affiliated with) (I’m not sure of the technicalities) our church, our kids were offered free tuition. This was great because we couldn’t possibly afford tuition for the three of them (that would sum up to the equivalent of one entire minimum wage salary per month — not gonna happen). But although the tuition was free for us, there were very expensive apostilas (some sort of big exercise books with all the academic program) to buy every semester and you should have seen the school supplies list at the beginning of the year, it was as long as my arm! And that was for each one of my boys! And they are all in pre-school!!!

So, even if the private school was “free”, it wasn’t really.

I was constantly frustrated with the teachers. They would send homework that would be either full of spelling mistakes, hard to understand (I would often go to my husband to see if I had lost something in translation) or clearly way above our children’s comprehension: Once they were asked to complete a crossed word puzzle, but didn’t know yet how to spell!

The list of mind boggling shit that went on in that school goes on and on, but as a result of our experience and circumstances of our move, we decide to enroll them in the public school system this year.

So upon arrival in Goiás, hubby took care of finding out were would our children study. The public system here is either funded by the town (municipal), the state (estadual) or federal.

First surprise is that we were apparently following a new education law back in Rondônia, but now we have to follow an old law here in Goiás regarding standard school age. So the twins (5) who were attending the last year of pre-school last year and were supposed to start first-year, are repeating the last pre-school year again. Not that it make much difference because I can’t say that they are advanced for their age (yes, they are bilingual, but that’s beside the point).

The school is downtown and we live much further from it. So it makes a much earlier rising and a short commute with the car. The morning shift here is from 7:00AM to 11:00AM… Ow. The building itself is clearly under funded (not a surprise), but it looks much cleaner than the private school in Rondônia. The teachers too seem to know what they are doing. My boys’ home works are typically pages and pages of letters and numbers to write, they have learned the vowels and are starting spelling with a B-A BA method that I remember well 😉 , all of which was completely ignored last year!  I am finally starting to see some progress in their alphabetization. I am relieved.

Unfortunately, to illustrate the under-funded problem, the teachers were on strike a couple of weeks ago. They had not been paid their salaries since the beginning of the school year… Can you imagine? The story I’ve heard is that the current mayor had thought that nobody would notice if he took a little bit of money on the side… His lawyer and the teacher’s syndicate lawyer got involved, and as we say, the shit hit the fan!

Anyway, I understand that the teachers needed to go on strike, but on the mean time, I had no idea when would my kids go back to school… The Schmilblick went on for three weeks. There was no sign on the closed door of the school, no official note to the parents, nothing. I asked around and the apology that I would receive was along the lines of “Ah yes, that’s the way things are done here, you have to hear the news through the grapevine“. Well apparently unlike the rest of the moms, I am not plugged to the grapevine because I showed up many days with kids in tow at 7:00AM (I am rarely well awaken at that hour) to a closed door and nobody in sight…

Today the kids are back in school and will be for many Saturday mornings too, to catch up on the missed days.