The girls started school last week and it was an adjustment for all of us. They both have a significant amount of homework and there is definitely an "academic language" barrier to work around. Dean and I are both increasing our vocabulary as we also are taken back in time to elementary science concepts, some of my college Spanish linguistics, and then there is math where division problems are set up "upside down and backwards" from how we do it in the US.
The school here is much smaller and it is very family oriented in the sense that the teachers see the school as a big family where all the teachers know all the kids and are in regular communication with parents via an organizer that all the kids carry. They use it for writing down their homework daily and as a place for teachers and parents to communicate/pass messages.
More importantly I suspect that you would like to hear from the girls what they think so far so I decided to interview them. Below are their answers.
What time does school start and end? How do you get there?
Morgan: school starts at 9am and ends at 2pm. We walk and if it is raining really hard we can go by metro. It takes 20 min. to walk there and there are lots of kitties along the way and you have to dodge dog poop on the sidewalk.
Maia: I walk very carefully because there are some busy streets. There are some little kittens and there is one that waits on its porch every day for us.
What subjects do you study?
Morgan: math, English, Euskera (Basque language), language arts (Spanish), music, physical education. My favorite is music.
Maia: Basque, social studies, science, math, music, language arts, during English I read in English, and while the other kids go to religion I do handcrafts. We have recess before and after lunch.
What is different about gym class?
Morgan: It's in a different building. One time a week you have a double hour and you shower after. There is only one teacher. There is a game where you stack mats and you have to hide behind them. There is one person who counts to 30 or 40 with eyes closed and while you are hiding, after they count they look for people behind the mats. If they find you but say the wrong name you don't have to go in the middle but if they say the right name you have to go in the middle. If she says a special word then you have to run and touch her back while she is counting and run back behind the mats.
Maia: Gym class is more competative as we are on teams and if your team wins you get a prize. Once a week we have a 2 hour class and we have to shower.
What is different about how you do lunch at school?
Morgan: we have recess then lunch then recess. Lunch is at 2pm. After lunch you go home or do after school activities. We use actual plates, cups, and silverware. We all have a specific spot at our table. They serve the first plate. When most people have finished that one they serve the next plate. Then we get fruit or yogurt for dessert. After lunch you take your plate and put everything on top. Then you take your silverware and put them in water filled buckets, you dump your liquids in a bucket, you scrap your leftover food into the trash, you put your plate and cup on a cart on top of the others.
Maia: The food is fresh and much healthier than at Thoreau and for dessert we always have fruit or yogurt. We are served our food.
What do you do after school?
Morgan: Sports, theater, and painting. And every Wed. instead of staying for lunch we eat at home and go to Sopelana for an art class where we do painting, clay, drawing, and all those fun things.
Maia: I go to PE twice a week and theater once a week. I also have an art class. I have LOTS and LOTS of homework everyday.
What do you like the most?
Morgan: recess because you get to just play with your friends.
Maia: we have our own laptops in fifth grade. I also like my teachers.
What do you like the least?
Morgan: lunch because the food isn't that good. You can't bring your own lunch and the food is all new flavors.
Maia : exams, I have one tomorrow and I think I won't like it.
What other similarities and differences are there between school in Spain and in Madison?
Morgan: everything is different. In Madison you name the teachers Mr./Mrs. LastName but here you call them by their first name. To get to the music room and gym you have to walk outside. I miss having art at school but I like art in Sopelana.
I went on a field trip with 3rd & 4th grade classes and we walked to a port where there was a sailboat. We saw a movie and then we got to tour the sailboat. The sailboat traveled from Bilbao, Spain around Northern Europe and the captains Name was Unai Basurco. They did that trip to save some animals that were going extinct because of pollution in the water. They talked to people along the way that save the animals to find out how to protect them and find out what they do. There was a spoonbill bird that one man protected because the bird would stick their heads in the water with their eyes closed and would end up eating trash instead of fish.
Maia: Both are public schools. Here, we call our teachers by their first names, we have bells that indicate when it is time to switch classes. The littlest kids at the school here are 2 years old and the oldest kids are in 6th grade. There is only one class per grade here. There is no play structure at the playground. It is like the upper playground at Thoreau. At recess we are separated by age. Everything is in Spanish here. Here there is only one school bus and about half of my friends ride the bus and half walk like I do.
We encourage any comments or questions that any of you have. The girls are happy to share/investigate as they learn and experience more.