August 17, 2009

How hard can it be to get the kids in school in Guatemala City?

Bright and early this morning, we took our three kids to a nearby school to enroll them. The teacher and the principal were very welcoming and told us about all of the benefits of their school. We agreed that we would like to enroll the kids in the school. It would cost us $200 per kid a month, $600 overall, but we decided that was probably our best option. The American School in Guatemala costs much more, and has a several thousand dollar enrollment fee. Public school seems not to be an option, because of the kind of visas we have.

Nando and I left Tatiana and Soraya at the school, and took Raymi with us. The principal explained that Raymi’s teacher was out sick, and that Raymi should meet her teacher on her first day. So, it would be better for Raymi to start the following day when her teacher was back. Raymi was quite disappointed, but we appeased her by telling her we would buy her some new shoes for school at the store. The kids have been running around in sandals, and it is a bit colder here than in Jamaica.

Nando, Raymi and I went on a shopping spree to get snacks and other things for the kids to take to school, as well as new tennis shoes for Raymi. After that, we came home and had lunch, and at 2pm, Nando went to pick up the girls.

Around 3pm, I got a call from the school. The principal told me that, she was sorry, but she didn’t think it was a good idea that the girls enroll in their school. Wow! I couldn’t believe that they wouldn’t want the extra money. According to the principal, Tatiana and Soraya are at the right level in math, but are behind in Spanish language reading and writing. (Here, they teach kids cursive first, and the kids read more English than Spanish, so that wasn’t a surprise.) She also said that the school year is nearly over, so it doesn’t make much sense. Finally, she pointed out that Tatiana and Soraya are restless. (She has a point there.)

In all, after spending the morning getting the girls into school, we find out that we are back at square one. Well, not exactly, the principal recommended another school to me, one that has the US calendar, and should be starting up right about now. I gave them a call, and they said they would let me know if there is space for the kids. Unlike the other school, it is not in walking distance. And, it may be more expensive. They didn’t want to give me the price over the phone. I imagine that means it’s not cheap.

Thinking about how much we will have to spend on school fees, it occurred to me that $600 per month is likely quite a bit more than a teacher earns in Guatemala. In Peru, teachers earn $200 per month, and it seems as though the prices in Guatemala and Peru are about the same. The minimum wage in Guatemala is about $150, so I would guess teachers earn about $300. One online forum I read indicated that teachers start out at about $200 a month, and max out around $600 after twenty years of service. All that to say we likely can afford a private teacher.

As I was thinking about this, la seƱora, the owner of our apartment, came over to ask me about the school, and to offer her suggestion that we hire a teacher. She apparently did the math as well, and insisted it would be less expensive to hire a teacher. The idea sounds attractive, but there are some drawbacks.

One of the major drawbacks is the lack of contact with other children. If we hire a private teacher, it will be just the three of them. I suppose one solution would be to use the money we save by hiring a teacher to enroll the kids in some sort of dance, music, or art classes. There, they might be able to meet other kids. Only issue with that is that Tatiana just told me she wants to take gymnastics, Soraya, Kung Fu, and Raymi, ballet. That could get a bit complicated.

I just found a website with kids’ activities in Guatemala City. This has lots of options! Perhaps we could take the girls to see the martial arts and gymnastics places to see which one they prefer. The gymnastics place offers a free class. We just have to make an appointment. Sounds like a plan!

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