Back to School

The thought of starting back to school four years after college graduation was a bit daunting to me. Studying had become a foreign concept, and since I was the Spanish rookie on the team, the task of learning an entire language loomed large in front of me. It didn’t help that the thought of sitting face-to-face with a Peruvian for four hours each day, hoping I could keep up enough to learn a few things, seemed overwhelming. 

But then we began classes, and I realized that the time goes very quickly. We have two tutors each day for about two hours each, with a twenty minute or so break in between. That’s still plenty of talking for those of us who are introverts, but it isn’t bad. When we first started, we had to stagger our teaching times so that one spouse of each family was free to keep their daughter. So Megan and Kyle took lessons each morning, then Greg and I began our sessions at 3:00 in the afternoon. We would all eat dinner together after 7:00 and hurry the girls to bed around 8:00 to try and finish our homework. Let’s just say it was less than ideal--we had great time with our daughters, but not with the entire family. Something had to change. 

So we asked around and chose a school for the girls to attend while we are in class. We found a jardin, or kindergarten/preschool, within easy walking distance of our school. They are not a daycare--the girls have set activities every day that include art, music, snacktime, playtime, and more. Their day starts with playground time between 8:00 and 9:00 (we drop them off sometime in there) and we pick them up just after 1:00. They have had Pool Day (something with water, requiring swimsuits), Spa Day (massages, etc.), a picnic, and Chef Day (they are learning to cook with their friends and must bring their assigned ingredient). We have felt very good about the level of care and the focus on learning we have seen with this school. Plus, it has allowed us the freedom to all have sessions from 9:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m., leaving the rest of the day free for any errands that need to be run, family time, homework, housekeeping, etc. As Kyle describes, it has taken many of these open afternoons to navigate the city and find the things we need for reasonable prices. I don’t know how we would have managed otherwise. 

Thus, each day now begins with the McKinzies ringing our apartment doorbell so that we can share a cab to the preschool, where we drop off the girls and walk up the hill to Casa de Avila. We have a few minutes to finish up homework or chat before our instructors arrive. We each have one instructor whose focus is on grammar, while the other focuses on conversation—really using the structures that we are learning. I won’t go into too many details, but we have all progressed steadily over the last 6 weeks or so, and our teachers seem to be pleased. Greg has been told he will no longer receive grammar instruction, since he is advanced, and will shift to things like reading literature. Megan and I have just progressed to learning one form of the past tense, which after six weeks of sounding like a child (“We buy a lamp yesterday.”) is very exciting! Kyle has received instruction in present, past, and future tenses, and spends the majority of his time in conversation, putting them into practice and perfecting the details. We, especially I, have plenty more to learn, but we’re moving along quite nicely. It no longer feels strange to speak Spanish or to understand a Peruvian talking to me.