January 8, 2015

The Two Year School Itch -- Here We Go ... Again?

William, 3rd from left, on his 16th birthday with friends.
In my Panama life, change happens in twos. School that is. Just as I think we are  gliding on a smooth ramp heading toward the end of high school, two years off, Bam! Change. Every two years, without fail.

We bumpity-bumped our way through the fifth grade and then sailed through sixth, both at Instituto Guadalupano. When seventh grade rolled in, William wanted a change, so, after the first trimester, he announced he wanted to give full-time homeschooling a try.  I had strong suspicions that this would not be the best plan for him, but I agreed to give it a good "go."

Yippiee! ... not!  While I love to teach and love the challenge of putting classes together, this came, frankly,  at a rotten time. We had just -- and I mean just -- opened up our restaurant and were working at a frantic pace to build it up. Still, I figured I could school my son form 8am till noon, and then work the restaurant.

I spent copious hours carefully piecing together a plan for finishing up seventh grade. I purchased courses in Monarch, a division of Alpha Omega/Switched On Schoolhouse, out of Canada, because this was their program that was live-streamed and offered interactive testing and immediate results. Perfect for the active, kinesthetic learner! William could study geography and history and science, and even some English in this way, online.  There were also supplements I either purchased or designed with hands-on activities and reading.  I had Saxon Math, and Khan Academy for math back up and also for some art history. Plus, I had outlined detailed scheduled, beautifully color-coded, to keep us on a good track.

All this look perfect, as they say, on paper. But not so much when the real live kid came into the scene. It just went to hell in a hand basket, and in a heartbeat.  William is  highly social and it was obvious he missed the camaraderie of the classroom experience. I figured that one out  the day I came home and, entering our gate, dressed in white, I was completely startled right out of my high heels by an unexpected downpour of water from above. On my head. And my white clothing.

I looked up and there, on the roof, grinning down at me with a mixture of fear and glee, was my own little Tom Sawyer ... and an empty bucket where the water had been.
I got it.
He was bored.

So the next morning, early, I packed him up in a mini fury ( he was in blue jeans, not a uniform, which is standard here) and dropped him off at the closest school, a sweet evangelical school just blocks from both the house and the restaurant.

We are not evangelicals, but I figured that this was the least of my worries.  My son grumbled as he entered, announcing he would of course "hate"  it and would not stay, to which I responded with "I'll see you at 2 pm. And behave! You represent your family! Oh, and just don't come out Homophobic!"

When I pulled up at the end of the school day, I was met with a grinning preteen. "Mom, I love the kids here and I know most of them anyway ... and... I need to get my uniform!"

And there he remained for a full two years at Colegio El Buen Pastor school (a.k.a The God Squad School) right through the eighth grade. He also learned a bit of saxophone from an outstanding musical teacher we supported. Plus.. there was no bullying, well, at least not from the kids! After all, they have to behave like Jesus. And for the most part, they really did. So it was both a good choice and also... a blessing.

On the one morning  a week, when prayers that involved "laying on of hands" took place, I just kept my son home, with no fight from the excellent director. I never had to explain why.

After eighth grade, and as the high school years approached, it became clear that my son, now fully bilingual (in a rural Panama farming town way), was going to need to beef up his English. By this year, the fairly newish international school, Academia Internacional Boquete (AIB) had added upper grades and I reasoned they'd had some time to iron out the wrinkles of newness, so we enrolled him for the ninth grade.

Just recently, in December, 2014, he graduated in good standing from the tenth grade. I was absolutely delighted by the English teacher he had this year and hoped she would be staying on. And I hoped also that my son would feel completely settled at school.

Too much hoping going on! Alas, the two year curse is upon us, once again! For reasons that have little to do with the school, my son recently expressed serious interest in returning to the USA to finish out his remaining two years of high school.

He is hoping for more organized sports of his choice and I suspect missing family connections, old friends, and feeling a need for more than what a rural town has to offer a young man heading toward adulthood.  Part of this was expected: teens and small towns don't always mix well. And of course the desire for change is partly due to personality and his particular interests. Finally, it does factor in that in seven years in Panama, my son has collectively spent only about seven weeks in the USA. He is simply ready for a change.

So, like a good dance partner, I am ready to spin either way.  Neither my son's dad nor I wish to live in the USA for now, having fully adapted ourselves to the gentle pace of Boquete life. But we will work it out.

Years ago, the news of another big change would have sent me into a crazed, mommy tail spin. Today, I take it with a grain of salt, knowing that nothing stays the same, accepting there is only so much I can control.  And I trust that if  I wait and pray and have enough faith that eventually all things come right, there will be a practical solution.

So, what's next? Who knows? More adventure...

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News About The Boys

Mrs. Bliss told us there is a caterpillar here that is pink and fuzzy, and, if you touch it, its fur will stick in your skin and sting you! This happened to her daughter, Aylana. It was very painful and they had to pull the fibers out using tape! There are also scorpions and snakes, but I think there are more poisonous snakes in Florida.

William is busy, busy. In the morning he does his home schooling (Dad is his teacher!). Then, around 9:00 he rushes happily off to the local, Catholic, Spanish-only school where he audits the 4th grade! He's been doing some skim boarding but we are seriously missing the skating. Surfing looms in the near future. For a change we finally have kids on our street to play with, (not to mention dogs and roosters, snakes, toads, etc.) and it is wonderful making new friends. Still, William really misses his friends and family back in Sarasota. It's wonderful to get messages from the folks back home.

We send a special "Hello How Are Ya?" back to Nolen, Max, Connor, Emily W. and Teah!

Larry is Mr. Handy! Between homeschooling and making repairs on the house, he is never without something to do. And we have gone from never seeing him, to having him around all the time. Hmmmmmm.....

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