Tag: school

Carnival in the Streets

Carnival turned out to be a big deal.  Students and teachers were dressed in costumes they had been working on in school for weeks.  Each grade cycle (a two-year span) was a different ancient civilization. The parade though the village was much bigger than I had envisioned.  I pictured something similar to my grade-school experience of the Halloween costume parade that snaked through the school and while a big deal, not all that exciting.   But this school parade had a crowd of parents and people following them through the village snapping pictures and cheering.  The student body, teachers and the crowd of parents ended the parade at the school and each cycle presented a song to the crowd.

Our day, however, began with Violet vomiting and Amelia complaining her socks were wet because she had stepped in it.  *Sigh*  And of course, I had volunteered to help in her classroom that afternoon.  She rested an hour, felt as good as new and began counting down the minutes until her sisters returned home for lunch.  The carnival celebration was in the afternoon.  After experiencing the carnival, I would have been really sad for her to have missed it although I’m not sure the girls would have been as sad.  The major feedback I heard about being in the parade was that “It was really squishy!”

Clara was Greek.  Violet was an Aztec.  Amelia was an Egyptian.??????????????????????????????? IMG_3132 IMG_3130 IMG_3111 IMG_3121 IMG_3122 IMG_4538 IMG_4530 IMG_4567 IMG_4580

IMG_4758 IMG_4624 IMG_4745 IMG_4639 IMG_4709 IMG_4722 IMG_3160 IMG_3094 IMG_4813



How could I have forgotten to post about Halloween?  There was no trick-or-treating but we did carve pumpkins and the kids dressed up for school.  We actually left for Toledo on Halloween day and there were a few dressed up kids in the streets there (to which the girls were quite annoyed that I didn’t know about this) but for the most part no one handed over eight pounds of candy to my children.



























While I was missing the pumpkin carving parties back home, it was like my kids had never carved a pumpkin before.  The insides were pretty dry but the girls were hesitant to jump in and get their hands dirty.  At first.  Carving pumpkins with butter knives is fairly difficult but Amelia & Violet did a pretty good job.  I would have given up long before they did.  But since Jeff, nearly removed a finger with our sharp kitchen knives a few weeks ago I decided finished up their design’s for them.

The school hosted a horror house in the morning and the kids arrived in costume in the afternoon. I kept trying to imagine a horror house happening at an American school — during the school day — but I simply couldn’t.  Their teachers brought them to the horror house and the older the kids got, the darker the horror house became.  Eventually it devolved into a nearly pitch-black room with kids huddled together in the center screaming.  The oldest kids were 6th graders.  For the 3 year olds through third graders I played a witch in jail that kids were suppose to steal a set of keys from.  I was the tour guide for the 4th – 6th graders.  It was a lot of fun to go volunteer at the school and “talk” with some of the teachers.


This is the black tunnel that the kids were suppose to crawl through. Some of the little ones did it. But not many others. The witch’s jail is in the background.



Before they turned the lights off


This is Clara’s classroom in the horror house.


Amelia was actually scared. She was especially scared when someone came and grabbed her and picked her up. Her mom!

The girls dressed in their costumes and on the way back to school.  Violet wasn’t feeling well.  She actually did take an hour nap during lunch/siesta time.  We made the angel costumes out of bed sheets.


I thought it odd that the parents were not invited to stay and watch the classroom Halloween presentations.  There was definitely some things lost in translation as Violet continually invited me to come and see her song and I feel like even the English language specialist invited me.  I hung around the outside gates to the school and there were certainly more parents mingling than usual but they never went in.  In fact, they stood on tippie toes to get a peek!  I finally just asked the English specialist and she confirmed that no, parents weren’t invited but since I had volunteered all morning at the horror house (which must have been 80 degrees by the end) I could come in.  Great, for me!  Not so great for the parents that watched me go and stand with Violet and take pictures.  I’m told there is a Christmas event that the parents are invited to.

As Halloween is an American tradition, the kids of the school were learning about Halloween in relation to learning the English language.  All the songs were in the English and the 5th grade group tried their best to recreate the Thriller dance.


Clara is near the center with her cowboy hat on.


Violet being a monster in her song.


The 5th graders dancing the Thriller dance.




Sick day

Some days of homeschooling were hard and others enjoyable.  Some were long and others flew by.  Teaching the kids all day then making dinner and heading off to work made the day very busy and long.  Yet now, here in Spain, I am not really sure where my days have gone to.  Maybe it the eight times a day I walk to school or the time consuming process of making three meals a day and all those dishes or the time I spend trying to translate school papers.  But just the same some days are long and drawn out and others quick and enjoyable.  On Tuesday Amelia wasn’t feeling well and Violet had an ugly looking rash. They both slept from late afternoon on Monday so I kept them home on Tuesday. (Clara went to school). While they rested some, we caught up on our American homework.  Lots of math and reading, a little writing.  We didn’t watch any movies, they played very little.  We really did lots of review and learning and with very little nagging or complaining.  We need to keep them on track with their American grade levels while we are here as well as having them be immersed in Spanish at school but the reality is we haven’t been as consistent as we need to be.  Tuesday was nice. Yes, I was smearing goop on Violet’s ugly rash every hour but I was also very much enjoying being home with (two of) my kids and enjoying teaching them.

“Pisses Day by Day”

Clara only began speaking the English language at most 2 years ago.  And truthfully she is still quite hard to understand so I´m not sure it really phases her much that she is attending school where no one (ok, very few) people speak English.  She was SO excited to be heading off for school!  No tears or sadness, just smiles and waves.  Yesterday, she ran into a boy in her class on the way to school and he wanted to hold her hand.  It was cute and they proceeded off to school hand and hand with me trailing far behind with the other two.  When they got to the gate the boy´s mom suggested that Clara might want to say good-bye to me.  Otherwise, she´d have just gone right in without looking back.  She came back that day with a braclet and pronounced that it was from her boyfriend.

Amelia was pretty hesitant at first.  And I don´t blame her.  She was being encircled by students speaking to her in Spanish wanting to know where she was from, what was her name, how old she was.  I watched her through the school yard gate and at one point she just covered her ears with her hands and closed her eyes.  Yeah, my heart was breaking.  But the bell rang and off she went into the classroom and out she came at lunch pick-up smiling and saying how everyone wanted to know about her and HOW big the group of kids circling around her was.  In the days since she has commented how “all day, everyday school” isn´t so bad.  So that´s positive.

Violet had tears and was shy.  And even now she cries and tries to hold onto me so I don´t leave.  But when pick-up comes she tells me with a smiling face how her day went and what she enjoyed.  The first day she told me all about how she had her own desk and how she was friends with everyone in her class, except the one boy who has “some problems following directions and getting along.”  Ah – yes, there is always at least one.

I had a meeting with Clara´s teacher to go over the rules and recommendations for the class.  I also had Amelia¨s teacher give me a list of things she needs and Amelia has come home and told us what everyone else has.  Which does include a spinning top, the toy she purchased on her own from the China shop, and is very popular among the kids.  I haven´t heard much from Violet`s teacher about what she may need.  But Violet did tell me this morning she needs a towel, soap, and spray in a bag for gym class.  When gym class is, I have no idea.  All of these documents are given to me in Spanish.  I try to translate with my little english/spanish dictionary but some of it makes no sense.  Now that I know some shopkeepers that speak English, I take my list there to get the supplies.  The paperwork I received from Clara´s teacher was the most descriptive and they even had a copy in English!  As always there are some parts that get lost in translation or maybe not as much lost in translation but rather the choice of words is hilarious.  Here is one of bullet points for Clara´s paperwork:

“Nobody is taking care of the others when the teacher is changing a child.  So, if a child pisses day by day, we will call the parents so that they come to school for changing him/her.”

I about died laughing.  Luckily, I was not in the classroom as I read this.  But Amelia really wanted to know why I was laughing so hard.  I tried to explain; but I think it was lost in translation.

Being that we´ve not been in public school I really have no idea how common these things are to have or what kids are expected to bring or not bring and will be provided for them.  As I said before, the purchasing of the books and their cost was a BIG surprise.  It would have been nearly $600 U.S. for all three kids plus the additional material fee´s paid to the classroom.  The school does have a textbook assistance program and we were lucky enough to have the school decide to provide all the books for our kids.   Clara needed a smock to wear with her name on it and a ribbon for hanging it; which I finally got yesterday but you remember how each success creates two other problems?  Point proven.  She also has to have $35 euros and two passport pictures.  Amelia needs a tracksuit, trainers, soap and a towel for gym.  I´m not sure I can visit 1983 to get her a tracksuit.  Shorts and a t-shirt will have to suffice.  A “flute” and $7 euros for music class.  The flute is a recorder.  Four notebooks, three pens (black, blue, red), pencils (which by the way have no erasers here), a see-through folder type thing, ruler, eraser and $8 euro for classroom supplies.  Like I said, I have no list for Violet but have heard there is a classroom supply fee.

Yes, getting a smock should be easy.  I was told the store to purchase it at.  Which after three attempts the store was open.  I don´t think I mentioned that most stores here open from 10am – 2pm, close and then reopen from 5:30 or 6pm to 8-10pm.  As is standard and expected by now, no one there spoke English.  I think I did a fairly good job of asking for what I needed and the shopkeep was very friendly.  I browsed as well.  And then it was time to pay.  And I wanted to use my credit card.  Which is not the norm here in this little town but I also can´t just keep paying cash either.  The shopkeeper had an issue with the machine.  She told me about it in Spanish.  I smiled and shrugged.  Offered to pay in cash.  She shoke her head and told me about the problem with the “paper”.  I assumed she was telling me the transaction when through but she was out of paper to print a receipt for me.  Okay, fine.  But then she tries the machine again and again.  I pull out my dictionary to try to ask “Paid?”  No go.  I eventually figure out that I do indeed need to pay in cash, so I do so and she gives me the little paper that my dictionary translates into “locked.”  Now, I assume my account has been locked.  Maybe I forgot to tell the credit card company that I moved to Spain.  oops.  I go about my day, figuring I will call the credt card company with Jeff´s new cell phone later.  Meanwhile, the shopkeeper has decided maybe the transaction DID go through and has called Jeff´s school (since it´s a small town and everyone now knows the American is working at the school).  To which she speaks with the front office, who then tells Hema (my spelling not hers) who then tells Maria Hose who is working with Jeff that there was a problem with a purchase I had made in town.  I don´t find out about all this until I meet Jeff after school.  And then I try to call the credit card company but of course I can´t.  I either don´t know how to call internationally or there is a problem with the “collect call” number on the back of the card.  And I can´t look it up on the internet….because I HAVE NO INTERNET!!!

All and all the kids seem to be doing fine in school.  Violet is learning her letters — while at home when we do our American homework she is learning to read, subtract and add.  I have no idea what Clara does during the day.  She did have music yesterday which she thought was great.  And she´s rode some bicycles down a hill and had a fire drill.  Amelia just tells me they had gym…again!  Then they went for a walk outside to look at trees and then they just sit in the class.  I asked her if they did math.  She said she wasn´t sure.  Hhmm….numbers are numbers?!?  The school did start pulling Violet & Amelia out for personalized Spanish lessons.  I guess that would be considered special services in the U.S.

First Day of School !?!?!


The girls started their first day of school today at Colegio Penalta.  Morning drop-off did not go well.  It was a minor disaster.  They say a picture is worth a thousand words; however this picture is not one of those. Here is a list of all that happened before we even left the dormitory (where we are currently staying) to walk to school.  1. Violet’s new glasses broke.  And not by anything she or her sisters did.  They just broke.  I’ll have to try super glue.  I sent her in her old glasses.  2. Clara had a “juicy” burp into her hands in the dormitory hallway.  3. The cafeteria where I planned to buy them breakfast pastries was closed.   So, I stood Clara in a corner near a garbage can, had the other two sit nearby and went back up to our room to get a towel for Clara and the fruit from last night’s dinner for breakfast.  Here was a my first dilemma: Do I take all the kids to school and make Clara walk them to school while possibly getting sick?  Do I keep them all at home because I can’t have Clara walk with them?  I decide maybe it really was just a nervous stomach or juicy burp.  I *hope* this is the case.  I felt like I needed the other two to at least attend today.  I mean, I showed up at school yesterday speaking no Spanish to sign up three kids who also spoke no Spanish and wanted them to start the next day.  Filing out the paperwork was a challenge in itself.  The director spoke *some* English and would try to tell me what each line was asking.  When I couldn’t understand I would just write down what I thought it might reasonably be asking.  So I’d write their birthday, the gentleman would shake his head, cross it out and we’d try again.  All the while, Amelia sat arms folded and scowling about going to school, Violet was touching everything in the office and Clara was crawling on the floor.  I have no address yet.  And I have no phone yet.  The guy must have thought I was nuts.  He asked if we had a family book.  I had no idea what he was describing.  I pulled out passport size photos of each kid but he shook his head and said “oh well.”  Hhmm.

Anyway, I digress.  We head off for school with the kids having a banana and apple for breakfast.  They are going to hungry!  We make it.  I snap this picture.  And then like that the picture changes.  I walk everyone into the school yard.  Kids are mingling, parents are mingling from a distance.  I try to tell Amelia where she has to go; except I was telling her wrong and from our brief tour yesterday she knew which building she was in and I was confusing Amelia & Violet’s buildings.  I pull out the paperwork I need to turn in and the Spanish sentence I’ve written down asking if we could borrow books vs. buy them.  (We are suppose to buy the kids textbooks but converted to dollars it’s like $600!!  Even Clara has $150 worth of books!  The gentleman/director?? yesterday told me the school could help with the cost but I had said I didn’t think it was needed…as I wrongly assumed each kid would be $30-$50!).  At that moment, Clara started vomiting in the school yard.  I scooped her up and stuck her next to a bush to continue throwing up in.  I pull out the towel I brought from the dorm and wrap it around her.  Now, I have Clara wrapped in blanket standing next to a bush with the other two pleading with me to walk them to their class.  Which are in two completely opposite directions and NOT what is typical of parents to do.  Violet’s building is all the way across the school yard as well.  At this point, we are drawing lots of attention.  The parents are staring at us, the other kids are circling around saying the only English word they know “Hello!”  Violet is trying her best to crawl back into my body or at least up into my shirt.  I introduce her in Spanish to some girls.  I try to ask which building they are going into but they only laugh at me.  Neither of us can understand.  The 9 year old boy we have met and played with the last two days shows up and smiles and welcomes Amelia.  I gently nudge her over into her school line with JoeAngel (seriously, I can’t pronounce his name but I know this is what it translates into English). She is then surrounded by a bunch of kids who are very interested in the new student, the new American non-Spanish speaking student.  At this point turn my attention to Violet; completely forgetting to wish Amelia good luck or give her a hug.  Now I try to coerce Violet into walking across the school yard herself and standing in line for her building.  We have attracted too much attention for me to just leave Clara wrapped in a towel by a bush.  I pick up Clara like a baby (I figure it’s the best possible position should she vomit).  This just looks even more strange and attracts further attention.  Plus, all the other adults are standing on the other side of the fence and I am smack dab in the middle of the school yard.  I walk Violet over.  The kids continue to say “Hello!” and just stare at her.  One girl does say “Hello, Violet!”.  As soon as we see her teacher come out to collect the kids, I kiss her and shove her to the front of the line and leave.  All the while hoping Clara doesn’t throw up again.  I run into the English speaking director/secretary/admin (seriously, I think I threw everyone for a loop that no one actually introduced themselves) and he tells me I have Clara in the wrong spot.  Ah, yes! Got that.  I say she is not feeling well and I am taking her home.  He assumes she is afraid (which in reality she is the child most excited and keeps telling me she’s feeling fine and wants to go to school).  I tell him she is throwing up and we are heading home.  I’m not sure he understood the term “throwing up” but we leave nonetheless.

Clara and I walked back to the dorms.  I have no way to contact Jeff and I have to go back to pick up the other two at 1pm for siesta/lunch and then take them back at 3pm (It would cost $362 US for them to stay at school the two hour break and be fed lunch and supervised).

As we walked away from school, I realized I had basically given my kids no breakfast and hastily left them at school where they know no one, don’t speak the language and the school has no contact information for me.  Now, that first school picture is way LESS than a thousand words!


© 2017 The Riersons

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑