Friday, April 29, 2011


Hooray for homogeneity!

The kids are starting their third trimester, so I should probably give the lowdown on our experience with school and education here.

When we were first scouting Ecuador, we were thinking "livin' on the beach, baby!" We were quickly disabused of that notion, however, when we found that the only passable schools were in places on the coast we don't want to live. And I use the word "passable" because it just means they have private schools; we have no idea how good even those are. Public schools in Ecuador are poor, both in quality and in resources. Private schools, however, can be exceptional.

School was a major part in our decision to come to Cuenca, rather than a smaller town like Otovalo or Vilcabamba. Cuenca probably has some of the best value in education, if not the absolute finest (which would be in Quito). Our school, Colegio Santana, just got International Baccalaureate certified, which is impressive and something our schools at home are not, and seem to have no interest in.

The first thing I'll say about our school experience is…squeeeel…OMG!, are they not the cutest things in the world in their little uniforms? What is the U.S. waiting for? Dressing in the morning is easy, there's no debating about what's appropriate, there's no "political" posturing, there are no underpants or butt cracks winking out at us…Sold, already.

While the business side of the school is patterned on the Three Stooges School of Administration, on par with Ecuador as a whole, we've found the quality of education to be excellent. Art is incorporated widely in the curriculum, they have quite a few good events, and there are number of additional activities available (which we don't currently do).

The kids are picked up in an "escolar" (little yellow van) at 7:45. Duncan comes home at 12:30 and Piper at 2:00, which is great for being able to spend more time with the kids on this little sabbatical. And Duncan has swimming every Monday.

They've made some friends, but their slow uptake of Spanish has hindered greater bonding. And that has been the result of having other gringo friends in class, meaning they aren't forced to swim in the deep end of the language pool. We have a Spanish tutor twice a week now to catch them up, and Duncan's friend went back home, so we expect more progress with him now. And Piper is just beginning to soften her stubborn resistance.

As I have now finally grown tired of hearing myself complain about some things here, I won't blabber on about the administrative side. Also, we know that much of the challenge is our poor grasp of their language. But by way of example, it took half the school year to get a solid answer about when the last day of school is.

Santana is on the middle to upper side of the price scale for private school options. The German School and Asian-American schools are probably some of the pricier, but you get trilingual kids out of those programs (and pressed and starched rigidity, no extra charge). The total annual cost per kid, all-in (tuition, clothes, supplies, food, bus, events, etc.) will be about $3,600--quite a sum here (and a sizable piece of our budget), but quite a deal compared to U.S. costs of private schools.

World of Animals (Piper's was homemade--nice work, mama)

I got to tell the North American Thanksgiving story

Christmas pageant

Guess who they picked for the English welcome

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