Away and Back Again

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Leave it to the first kid free vacation in three years to kick off a month of silence.  At the end of July, S and I ditched the little one with my in-laws and headed to California to visit relatives in San Diego, make our way up the coast on Highway 1, and attend and amazing wedding with dear friends.

At first we wondered if we still actually had stuff to talk about and whether the trip might turn into hours of uncomfortable silence driving in the car.  Luckily, we realized we still really do like each other (not just love each other).  Of course, the sleeping in, not having to think about nap times and bed times, potty breaks, temper tantrums, and being able to just sit and read whatever, whenever, we wanted also helped.   We spent two weeks drinking incredible coffee, sipping wine, and exploring cities and towns up the coast.  When we got to San Francisco we were treated with amazing food and our old Chicago friends.

That said, we also missed L.  She started daycare/preschool the Monday after we left and by the time we returned she seemed more grown up than ever.   Most incredible though was how in two weeks of school and staying with S’s family her Portuguese exploded.   For nearly three years S spoke to L only in Portuguese and was rewarded with a word here and there in her English responses.   However, now it is quite the opposite.  She switches to speak in Portuguese with him, even if we are all together and speaking English.   She conjugates verbs in past and present and even corrects my pronunciation.

All this was just a month ago, but time here seems to slip away and it seems like months ago.   We came back and had a few days with S’s family before they left.   Then S was off for work and our good friends from Chicago arrived, just before he got back.  So between, going away and being back showing off the city and clocking in as much friend time as possible, I haven’t taken time to check-in.    But today I decided that would change.   I’m back.

Stuck in the Rain and Stuck on a Decision: Choosing a Preschool

Wednesday was a long day.   L and I went to visit two day cares and got stuck in the rain.   I need to learn how exactly Cariocas do, or rather don’t do the rain.   It rained in the morning but by the time L and I were up and going it was clear.  Having gotten stuck with the stroller in the rain earlier this week I thought the bike would be a better/faster transportation option for our visits.

I was wrong.   We went to the school, finished our visit, and stopped at Gringo Cafe for a coffee and snack.   I locked up the bike and got a table when L excitedly told me it was raining and I should move the bike.   Ugh.   I managed to stuff my bike between the tables next to where we were sitting.    I ordered a cappuccino, a not-so-hot chocolate and a grilled cheese to wait out the rain   Our waiter brought us a word search and a marker.  L is only 2, almost 3, and while her momma thinks she is bright she is not yet word search ready.  Nonetheless, we made good use of the blank pages on the back and decorated a number of flyers.  Two hours later it was still raining.   Every time I thought it was going to let up, the sky opened again.   Finally I convinced L that taking a bicycle rain shower would be a fine adventure and we made our way home.

And while that was the end to the rain adventure, we still have a decision to make. It is time to enroll L in a day care/preschool and I feel like we are swimming in options, which I suppose is a good thing. I have spent the last week visiting nearly all the creches and escolas (day cares and preschools) between Copacabana and Ipanema, interviewing directors, trying to assess curricula, and making a spreadsheet trying to weigh out our options.

You would think this gets easier the second time around, but it is just as confusing as it was the first time, only in different ways. I know more about L, her personality, her needs, and her interests than I did before, especially considering last time around I was still pregnant. But now we are in a new place and she is navigating a new language and culture and so is her mom.

Kids are amazingly resilient and adaptable and L has a head start, S has always spoken to her in Portuguese and so has his family.  But she still has a way to go before she is the same kid with the same confidence in Portuguese as she is in English.

All in all I can’t complain about our options.   A fifteen minute walk in either direction or a metro stop from our place gives us between eight and ten different options, a few of which are quite well known.   Of course, like everywhere else and especially because this is Rio, these come with a price.

Given L’s September birthday I was actually quite relieved in Chicago that we were going to have another year or two before we had to start making the  preschool decisions. Growing up in a small town with decent public schools, I am still floored by the urban preschool culture of reserving spots years in advance and parents who cram their children for early education placement programs.

And while it seems we have escaped some of the insanity that seems to be rampant in States with the whole process, the decision still doesn’t seem to be easy.

Don’t get me wrong, I really don’t think that this is the make it or brake it for L.   In fact, that is why this is hard, the differences are subtle.  We want a place where she can grow and flourish and I want a place where she can play.

For some reason I thought this whole process would be easier, that I could react on my gut, that it would be a little bit more cut and dry.  Instead I am staying up way too late trying to decide which approach–Montessori, constructivism, or direct learning–is the better option.   And because I am me, and because I have spent the better part of my professional career surrounded by academics, I have now skimmed all the major journals, only to find that there is no one answer.  Something, I am sure, you could have all told me from the beginning.

So now back to my spreadsheet and notes to try to figure out what exactly it is that R$30 or R$200 more actually gets us.

Tell me, how did you decide on the preschool?  What was the deciding factor for you?

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