Tag Archives: Mexican Public Schools

Secondary Registration

My son's back to school picture for 2016.

My son’s back to school picture for 2016.

Barely a week after the last day of the school year, it was time to register our son for his third and final year at the secondary level. We were given two sets of days to do the registering, July 21/22 and August 15/16. Over the years, experience has shown that when it comes to registration, most Mexicans choose the latest date possible, which creates lines out the wazoo. Thus, in order to beat the lines, we determined to get it done the earliest possible on the first date given.

To register, we needed to present:

*copy of the report card from the previous year

*two telephone numbers (house and cell)

*copy of proof of residence–recent

*evidence that the “voluntary” fee of $500 pesos had been paid

Not on the list, but also requested, copy of the IFE of a parent or guardian

Ok, well, we had a few problems with this list. First, we didn’t have a copy of the report card. I attended the final parent/teacher meeting the previous week and signed the report card, but as the director had yet to sign off on them, I wasn’t allowed to take it with me. Since my son was a student at the same school last year, apparently the office had a copy it, so we slid past that requirement.

Then there was the issue with the two phone numbers. We have no house phone, so it had to be two cell phone numbers. There were ok with that too.

Another issue was the proof of residence. Remember, our home in La Yacata does not have water, sewage or electricity, thus no bills to prove we live there. We presented our title certificate and a letter from the president of the association verifying that we live there. They always put up a big fuss when we present this, but in the end, they had to take it because we have no other proof of residence.

That $500 “voluntary” fee was brought up during the parent/teacher meeting. Most of the parents understand that it’s a necessary evil. However, they did want the powers that be to give an accounting of how the money was spent. In some schools, the fee pays for the water for the bathrooms or the electricity for the computer room. In others, it buys paint so that the classrooms can be painted over the summer or is used so that desks can be repaired. At this school, the supposed purchase was didactic material. It just seemed a little vague to most. So a formal request was made by the parents in my son’s classroom for a declaration from the school board, specifying what was purchased. I doubt we’ll see anything, though.

In previous years, we paid the fee at the school before getting in the registration line with the receipt. This year, we were given an account number at Bancomer to make the deposit. At the bank, we were not asked for any sort of identification, and no identifying name was written on the receipt. Whose to say that one receipt could not be used for multiple students? Guess that’s not my problem.

My husband is the “official” parent for this type of transaction because nobody seems to like my permanent residency card. We hadn’t made a copy of his ID because well, it wasn’t on the list. But they requested one. There is a papeleria (stationery store) across from the school, but their copier was out of order. So it required a quick trip to the farmacia (pharmacy) for a copy.

In return for this pile of papers, my son received a list of utilies (required school supplies) for the coming school year.

On the first day of school, he needed to bring:

*2 professional size notebooks, either lined or with big squares (like graph paper)

*6 lined professional size notebooks–lined

*1 pencil, eraser, and sharpener

*some pens in black, red and blue (doesn’t specify quantity so we decided one of each color would be good enough)

*1 glue stick, ruler and a pair of scissors

*1 Spanish language dictionary

*1 flute (actually a recorder)

*1 art book to be determined the first week of classes

*1 geometry set

*1 scientific calculator

The following materials will be turned into the office or teacher for use during the school year.

*1 broche baco (I had to look this up to see what it was. It’s a butterfly clip for documents.)

*3 plastic folders –legal size

*100 sheets of white printer paper

*20 sheets of various colored letter-size paper

*5 folders, color and size to be determined (We bought 5 letter size yellow folders and called it good.)

As the notebooks cost upwards of 40 pesos each and the scientific calculator doesn’t come cheap, it was quite a list. Plus, my son, at 14 is growing at a phenomenal rate. He needs a new gym uniform ($500 pesos) and a new daily uniform ($400 pesos) plus shoes for each outfit. The uniforms can only be purchased at a few retailers, and the prices are set. We ended up with 1 gym jacket and pants set, 2 gym shirts, 2 daily pants, 3 daily shirts and a sweater.

And we had a whopping 4 weeks to get everything together. We managed to get everything on the list except a new pair of dress shoes and the art book which has yet to be determined. Thank goodness for my new online teaching job!

The first day of school was August 22 this year and the school year is extended once again. We finish on the far-away date of July 18.  Well, I’m mighty glad that this will be the last official school year.  Once this is done, the sky’s the limit baby!




Filed under Education, Parenting Challenges and Cultural Norms

Homeschool variation

scarlet king snake

Red touches yellow kills a fellow. Red touches black, a friend of Jack.

As an educator, I have always been concerned about my son’s education. I felt, since the moment he was born, that my principle task as a mother was to help him learn to be a well-adjusted, happy and successful man, no matter where he might live.

When we arrived in México, my son was 4 years old, and according to his Spanish-speaking grandparents, he didn’t speak any Spanish. However, he did understand everything he heard. In order to jump start his language acquisition, we decided to send him to a bilingual kindergarten. I found a position with a private school, and he attended with me. We both liked this arrangement since Mommy was his teacher for 1/2 the day. His Spanish improved immensely.

At 5, we needed to make some decisions about schooling. We planned to make México our permanent home, not just a 2 or 3-year stint. It was evident that there would be things I just wouldn’t be able to adequately teach my son about Mexican culture and language. Thus began our homeschool variation.

My son attends public elementary school from 2 pm in the afternoon until 6:30 pm. His normal subjects include Spanish, Math, Science, Mexican Moral Values, Physical Education and Mexican History, with brief sessions of music, art, and computer classes. So my mission was to supplement these courses with those that I thought he might need. We began a home study course in the mornings and on weekends.

I left Spanish alone. A native teacher is always better than a foreigner. At 10, he speaks Mexican Spanish fluently, without a trace of an American accent. He also is the top reader in his class, having been elected several years in a row to represent his school at various reading competitions.

Math, other than learning the terms in English, again was something I didn’t need to focus too much on since numbers are easily understood in digit form in either language. Anyway, I wasn’t much help with the metric system, having learned the English measurement system when I was a girl. His dad does most of the teaching for this subject. Having worked in both the United States and México, he is able to use both measurement systems well. He and our son used hands-on math in the construction of our home.

I added World History to his morning agenda, using interesting books or fun activities like word searches or hidden picture books. I also had him play Civilization on the computer, which really was his favorite lesson by far. If you’ve never played the game, the idea is for you to grow a civilization from the hunter/gatherer stage to a scientifically advanced one. Your scientific and military advancements depend on the civilization you choose. I think, for this reason, he never complained when we had to gather vinas (a bean type plant) or cut grass for the animals. He imagined he was gathering, just like in the game. Now that his reading ability has caught up to the textbooks I brought with us, he enjoys comparing what he learned from the game to the information in the books.

In line with our world culture study, we recently added Bible lessons as well. We can really relate to some of the early biblical accounts as we too have sheep and goats and have to haul water and make good trades. I found Semana Santa (Holy Week) a good time to present the life and times of Jesus since there are live reenactments of the trial and death in this very Catholic nation. He also is my assistant in designing Spanish Bible games for a local Christian church.

Science has been the easiest by far. We live off the beaten path and every day provides opportunities to study native flora and fauna. I remember the day we saw a dung beetle rolling its dung with his hind legs. Having only ever seen that creature on TV, we were very excited to be sure. We watched it for awhile, then raced home to do more research in the bug encyclopedia.

On another nature walk, we came across a snake that my son was able to identify as a non-venomous scarlet king snake, not its poisonous cousin the coral snake, from his readings. Then there are the butterflies of México, every size and hue imaginable. After the rains, butterflies can be found in groups of hundreds. You can literally walk through clouds of butterflies. No museum trip can match the wonder of that.

With the native vegetation, I am as an avid a student as my son. I have been unable to locate any composite books on plants of México, so am always full of questions for my husband and my in-laws. What is the medicinal value of this or that plant? Is it edible? What animals eat it? Which are poisonous? Can it be made into a tea? How do you eat it, raw or cooked?

We also began our mini-ranching about the time our son started school, so he has had hands-on experience with a number of different animals, much more learning intensive than a day trip to the petting zoo. He has helped with births and hatchings, with daily care and milking, with the selling and butchering. He has learned, along with us, about the interconnectedness of the environment. For example, the horses eat grain then poop. The chickens eat the flies and the undigested grains and lay eggs. We eat the eggs, which gives us the energy to plant the grain that the horse eats. He has also seen the agonizing results of improper or inadequate care and learned how we have a responsibility to our animals to provide adequate food and shelter and what benefits we receive in return.

Of course, his daily homeschool curriculum includes liberal doses of English. He helps me design exciting language games, reads, does his (in his opinion ‘not so fun‘) daily grammar or spelling activity, and uses the language every day with his father or me or my other ESL students. He speaks English without a Mexican accent, although he often spells as if the word were phonetically Spanish. We’re working on that.

With non-academic courses such as physical education, music, art, and computer literacy classes, most Mexican public schools do not have a lot of funding for intensive year-long classes, but they do provide sessions as teachers become available.

My son had an art class working with barro (clay) which is a traditional medium for many everyday items still made and used here in México today. He is also learning Zentangle design from a student of mine in exchange for English classes.

He has had a few flute classes, but he never mastered that well. So now, he takes Mommy piano lessons on Saturday and is progressing nicely.

Our daily lives, with its many activities, provide ample physical activity for a growing boy. For instance, my son’s job is to fill the barrica (barrel) using the hand pump so that we have water to wash with. We tease him about how the girls in his class must notice how muscular he has become because of this daily task. We also love to take family bike rides to the next town and back.

And he has had access to a computer from an early age in our home. We have recently been able to get internet service, and the whole world has opened up for him with the click of a button.

I wish I could provide more for my son. The area that we live in is so backward regarding technology and at times, culturally. But I hope that I am providing enough that wherever he may go, he will have enough knowledge to survive and succeed.

After all, as Joseph Campbell says, “Wherever you go, there you are.” and that should be enough for anyone.




Filed under Education, Parenting Challenges and Cultural Norms