May 23, 2013

My Ongoing Panama School Saga

The ongoing saga of how to educate my expat kid in Boquete, continues. Ugh.
I try to remain fluid on this issue, but today, having now shot past five years with this dilemna, I just feel like a good whine. Or, in keeping with the "fluid" theme... a good Wine.

So much about education is driven not only by the school systems here, (mediocre at best,) which are for the most part antiquated, old school, copy-from-the-board, rigid rote learning before exams, followed by forget it all tomorrow, but also by the type of child you have.

In the best of the school,  there are classrooms that are utterly chaotic and teachers who scream at the top of their lungs. Sometimes they make the children cry.

In one of the schools we were previously involved with, I have heard credible accounts from parents and students alike of older teachers actually bullying middle school students.  And I have heard believable accounts of  teachers logging onto  Facebook during class, or being entirely absent from the classroom for hours.

For the moment, the jury is out on the newer school we are trying. I believe the have a true vision of bringing something new, more creative and expansive in the way of educatin to the Panama school system. So far, I do see improvements over issues we have experienced before, but they too suffer from some very strong challenges.  The trouble is, I'm running out of time. My kid was in 3rd grade when we arrived; now he has officially hit high school, and he has to be prepared to enter a decent University in four or five years.

God did not send me a timid girl content to sit in a corner and read for hours, or create her own fabulous journals and turn in meticulously carried out homework assignments. Nope.  God sent me a fantastic,   fidgety, fast-moving, fast-thinking, fun, fiesty and incredibly charming boy -- now a young man -- who has claimed, over a period of five years, to have nary a home work assignment. Meanwhile, the schools have claimed he has had homework nearly every single day.  Go to that math!

And still the kid gets decent grades, which causes me to wonder:   Is this ability to get by using the least amount of energy a sign of early genious? Or am I seeing glimpses of a future, slick, super smart bilingual,  border hustler.  Hmmm.

Oh! And did I mention? During one night, several months ago, someone, maybe my higher power, pressed the "Automatic Download" button and apparently a program (I'm calling it Gene14to the 10th power) streamed directly into my child's brain. In case you are not yet familiar, this is the gene that ignites, around age 14, and turns  your previously sweet, loving, considerate, fun, thoughtful boy into a suddenly a sleep-till-noon, sometimes snarky, teenager.

And still,  I love him more than air and water. What can I say?

Meantime, he is now enrolled in the 9th grade in the the newer private school which claims to have the best curriculum, and truly has a vision, (but which has mandated personal computers/laptops -- a personal hell, if I'm being honest), and which, despite a few positive changes, seems to offer little difference in teaching style and is navigating some common but difficult challenges particular to so-called bilingual education.  Many teachers are wrestling with the super struggles of having class with some fully bilingual students, but also many students  many in serious need of the most basic ESL. Other teachers are trying to manage really chaotic classrooms, leaving little time for real learning and a wake of frustration.

An easy solution for me would be to supplement at home, right? And I know families who do this and for whom it just fills in the right pieces. Alas,, not so easy with a kid who is burnt after 7 hours of sitting still-ish and now chomping at the bit to get on top of a soccer ball.  Switching to homeschooling could be a solution but, the last time I tried that, full steam, it was a month of three hours of head butting, eventually getting things done, and then my kid was ready to play with a group. Trouble is, the "group" were all at school!

Alas, I find myself, still, sitting most uncomfortably on a big fence. Which begs the question: What next?  To be continued...

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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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