Tonight we cooked one of Lou’s precious boxes of macaroni and cheese in celebration of the first day of school. A little before 9am I walked down the hill to La Montaña Spanish School, and Pete took Lou for a warm-up session at Primeros Pasos, a jardín maternel (day care and preschool) one block away.
Lou has seemed tickled to hear Spanish all around him, and over the weekend I listened to him playing school in Spanish. Pete and I were confident that he would be glad to be with other kids once he got over the initial discomfort of being in a new situation. After asking around—the pizza server, our landlord, the director of La Montaña, women on the street—we had identified several guarderias/kinders/jardíns in our neighborhood. In most cases, they were full. The one that wasn’t full seemed kind of sad. So we crossed our fingers that Primeros Pasos would take Lou.
We visited the school yesterday morning and the directora, Patricia, said there was no way to catch Lou up academically, but they would work on integrating him socially over the next few weeks until the start of summer. (Primeros Pasos offers a colonia de verano, or summer camp, while some jardíns simply close until the start of the next academic year in late February.)
The school day begins with all of the kids in a big room loudly singing the Argentine national anthem, complete with prideful fist thrusting, as the flag is raised. Then the kids disperse to their classrooms. There are about 20 kids in Lou’s class—more in the afternoon—and one teacher with an aide. We’re used to a lower teacher-student ratio, so I tell myself it’s like kindergarten, which is only a year away.
The morning snack consists of cookies and tea (mate, sugared to taste) or warm milk with sugar. Lou already knows that “cup down” means he’d like mate and “cup up” means milk. Kids bring their own cup and a small towel to use as a placemat. Kids who stay beyond 1pm eat a lunch they bring from home.
During his hour and a half at school, Lou met Valentino, Tomas, Jeremia, Tobias and Isabella, a little girl who tried to give him a hug. Pete will stay with Lou again tomorrow as part of the transition to a five-hour day. Lou has a new Spiderman cup, two towels, and a cuadreno (notebook) to take in his mochilla (backpack). We will also buy him a Primeros Pasos t-shirt to wear during the colonia (during the academic year kids wear smocks embroidered with their names).
We will pay $130/month for five hours a day, Monday through Friday. This is the first example of something costing less than we would pay at home, but it’s a dramatic one.