Tuesday, November 13, 2012


      We had two different school experiences in Mexico. 
First one was at a private school that last a few months, called Moderno Americano run by a woman named Miss Lupita from Tijuana/San Diego area… 
       ...the second, which was basically their elementary education was the public school. The school's name was Otilio E. Montana. It was within the condominium complex that we lived in, but it was at the top of the hill/small mountain. As far as a school system bus transportation – non-existent. So everyone will walk up the hill together or get a ride from one of the plentiful taxis or if, like my one friend who lived in the next town over, jump on the route (bus) that was stationed at the bottom of the hill on the corner, then walk up the hill. It was approximately a mile walk for us. School started at 8am and ended at 1pm in the mid-day heat. I believe that most of the education system in Mexico is fairly similar to this type of scenario. I went through two pregnancies so there were times when I gave the kids a few pesos, actually it was 3 pesos each, for the bici-taxi, exactly what it sounds like, a cart pulled by a bike, so that I could stay home and not do the walk. The neighborhood generally looked out for children and most knew who my kids were, so we were okay with them being out alone to a point (safety has changed since those times as of recent there have been an increase in kidnappings with money demands due to the rise in poverty in our area, might be worse now that Nieto is president). We had a mini-van that I originally drove into Mexico from Florida. I was 3 months pregnant at the time. It took 4 days. Our van was broke down pretty often mostly due to the flooding, but once it was my fault because I tried to "gun-it" through the high water that was collected under the overpass from the run-off of the watered crops nearby. It was late, I had just dropped off clothes to my husband at his sister’s store that he slept on the floor some nights because he worked across the street at 4 am and it was easier that way. So I got the van stalled in the middle of the overpass in 3 feet of water... needless to say, I never heard the end of that big attempt at being super mom because our van was broke down for gosh like a year. I did not see much of Ricardo ever that first year because of his job was more like an ownership of his life… he worked from 4am till 10pm every day but Sunday. So I was basically on my own with the kids. The kids and I did not know 10 words of Spanish between the three of us. I tried my best to teach them with pictures that I would draw and look up in the translating dictionary and write the English and Spanish version of what the picture that I drew was and taped these pictures everywhere for them. I enrolled them in a private school when it came time for the school year to begin. In the months before-hand they learned a lot of Spanish from the kids (friends outside and their cousins). They all played out in the parking lot every night. I stayed in the house mostly because I was getting bigger by the day with my 5th pregnancy. I had two kids in the States that were to a previous marriage. So… lots of emotions to challenge us all. But we did okay. We figured out how to purchase food to eat and we ate a lot of tortillas with cheese and spaghetti because we were not only unable to converse, but we were also unable to cook Mexican cuisine. ;) 
      We were very poor in the beginning and we did not have furniture. There was a refrigerator that the people before us left behind because it was broken and we had it turned on its side to utilize as the only thing in the room to put the TV on that Ricardo had stored in his sister's house while he was in the USA. But we could not afford beds for over a year. When the kids were enrolled in the private school, it cost a lot of money. People assumed that we had money because we were American. We generally had to be really careful about who charged what for what. I can say this because we were there long enough that we became part of the community, thoroughly assimilated, so I can compare how it was at the beginning as opposed to later as we lived like typical Mexicans. My father agreed to send the money for the private school because we were in a difficult position with securing their education in a land that we were not yet bilingual. The money went from him to us and right out of our hands into the hands of the “directora” of the school. It was difficult to live under those conditions when the amount of money that we paid for their school could have changed our quality of life at that time. I washed our clothes in a sink with a scrub brush for nearly 3 years and eventually we were able to buy a washing machine. We withdrew them from the school in November of that school year and my dad did not send the money anymore which is what the in-laws were assuming, but only right I could not scam my own father even if we were that poor. I flew up to San Diego a day before my due date, gave birth while staying at my sisters, and flew back as soon as they released my new son. He had to stay a week in ICU because of a bacteria level. So we returned, we enrolled the kids in public school - the Otilio Montana school in our neighborhood which was nice because with the private school I had to drive them across town and the directora was always trying to get me to "be seen" with her since I was American it was good for her business because her school was supposed to be bilingual (but it was not really that bilingual, but who would know that really, but I could tell because I speak English you know?). But you know when you are pregnant and in a strange environment ugh... so fragile. I read to the preschool kids there though... The rest of the years we spent there the kids went to the public and when the school wanted money for things like toilet paper we just told them we were broke. They had to have uniforms. I remember the director of the public school, he spoke a little English, he was going over all the different things with me, and he said, "are you going to make (sew) their uniforms?" as if it were assumed that I would agree... I probably laughed out loud but don’t recall. We had a neighbor make them. That principal left the school a month after we enrolled. The rest of the time there we never had an opportunity to be able to communicate from parent to teacher except with either my son's translation or my choppy attempts. It got better as time went on and the more soap operas that I watched I started to learn Spanish. Once the school gave Exams for a check on progress, my daughter was not as quick to pick up the Spanish language during the initial year as my son was - he is a year older than she is... her progress-exam was into its third day... the teachers called my son in to the room and had him finish it up for her. If that gives you any indication of the level of concern as our USA- NCLB type of laws are... there is basically nothing to compare to. My children were a B average throughout their years in elementary in Mexico. They are now both fully bilingual. Upon our return to the States, we had many cultural hurdles. Of course they still knew how to speak English as I only ever used English, but no one else on a daily basis. I brought with us a collection of about 300 children's books and workbooks from the States with so they had books. They knew how to read. 
       We made it back in the middle of the school year in their “fifth and sixth” grades. I asked the principal of Meridian school here in PA if he could put them into the “fourth and fifth” grades instead. I remember back when I was their age and I what I learned in school at that age and they were not close to what they should know. I was extremely aware of their faulting areas especially in comparison to how I could remember my days in that same Meridian school.... they basically were behind or completely faulting of history, English, reading, spelling.... science and math were even different. The principal said no, that it would damage their confidence, which was sort of dumb. You know when you know what needs to be done but no one will listen to you? That was one of those moments. I had many battles with things and the school. The kids did not receive extra help but it was sort of blamed on me for taking them out of the country and they made a point to make me feel like I should be dedicating the time in teaching them at home because they had their own full classrooms. Of course during those times I have the babies and I was working and the whole mental thing with the immigration battle and FB and oh so many excuses but all of them made it genuinely difficult for me to give my kids any type of additive... especially when I did not really know what or how to do it. 
        That was some of the incentive for going to school for teaching because I am angry about that whole thing... but also because it seems to be the best occupation to influence so that we have less of a mass of people without empathy walking around in the States. Plus it is a good position to change the world... And, I realized that if anyone was going to take what I have to say seriously, I had to step it up a notch and get a degree in something…anyway, so now they are both in the JR high. My daughter cries because she is really smart, but she is in a reading class that is her present reading level, and she said she is the only typical child that the entire class is challenged...  How do I respond to that type of thing? You see... I have a lot of anger at myself, especially in comparison of the “what is and what could be”… Then I find out that there are laws that protect the child from falling behind. Like IEPs and free tutoring that was never discussed past the blame game… I start to get super angry because all of this time I am beating myself up about it. I keep pulling my college teacher aside after class to ask her about something that I am wrestling with or reflecting upon... she is the professor of education for my class that I am learning all of the history and laws regarding education in America... she knows like everything... I am sure she has noticed the tears in my eyes on several occasions during class...Everything that I have learned in the past two years of college has been absorbed through this "how can this apply to immigration" type of filter in my mind... every expression in class has a underlying tone of the needs to create diversity appreciation or directly to my experiences.
       There is nothing in legislation that pertains to children that are in another country like my kids were, like many kids are about to do or the multitudes that are already gone of course because we just deported over a million people, so yea of course this is a totally new playing field. But if you go back in history, every single little step in education ends up effecting how the country is run; it is quite obvious in the connection. I guarantee that there is a way to press for recognition to this amazingly unique and new area. No child left behind is a LAW and these children are American with guaranteed ties to that law. By 2013-14 all students are to be proficient or better in reading and math. When we returned, my son was reading at a 3rd grade level in 6th grade. His teacher called me towards the beginning of our transition. She said, “he knows English right?” I said of course he does, I talk to him every day… She said that when she is talking/lecturing the class/ teaching… she can tell by his eyes that he is just not getting it. She said that she will approach him and say Julian do you understand what I said? And she said he was always so confused. I said well, maybe he is not used to hearing someone else speaking English and maybe there are a lot of words that we do not generally use at home that he has to use a little more concentration on. He got E’s and D’s that first year that we came back… he is now getting A’s and B’s only because of his own determination. Like I said we have not received any special attention or supplements.
Let me stress, that the No Child Left Behind LAW was brought into America by Bush during his first term and does not mention if the parents are of particular “worth” that the child will be considered in their no child left behind… This law pertains to EVERY American child, without exclusion in the discrimination of the parent’s living situation or class status or ability to provide… it is a law that is completely focused on the child’s inclusion.
      My kids have worked so hard for every amount of catching up that they have had to accomplish in both countries.
       I have highest of hopes that we can make some kind of difference. I know that my situation is not experienced in the exact same way as every family that goes off to live. Many of these families now have access to the internet with our FB groups and whatnot, that was not part of the scene before with us, but right now it is so these ladies have an advantage with that resource. Also there are some ladies that are educated before they go so they are aware of their child’s needs, many of them teachers of English in the foreign school systems…
      I would love to initiate a Charter School in DC that is Federal instead of State, which includes the American children living abroad. This guarantees a free and appropriate public education to EVERY American child. It can be funded through a non-profit organization.
In this there lies a law that is not being taken responsibility for…

     Not just a claim to our pain, but an actual law.

      Can there be a scientific approach to this? Yes. In a scientific approach, there can be a control and an experiment. Compare what happens to a child who lives in another country and comes back to a child that is able to go school in his own country….or compare a child that goes through the public education in another country to a child that is with the ability to be supplied with an American education even if living abroad (military-base children). Proof of a law being thrown to the wayside during their deportations and exclusions that what answer is there for this?
      Suddenly I see a loophole for family unity.

And people will probably call me nuts... its okay I'm getting used to it.


  1. No, you are not " Nuts" i totally agree with you my daughter will face this soon, we will be returning to the states in about 2 weeks and soon i will have tears in my eyes to just like you did, she does not know how to read, write in english , she can speak,she understands but i know it will be hard on all of us, i know just how you feel.

  2. You definitely are not nuts!! My children read on a 9th grade reading level and were in 3rd and 1st grade. Now, after 2 years in Mexico and homeschooling them, they are still on a high reading level. I have a friend who was in the States and moved back here (Mexico) for 2 years and then returned to the States. her American citizen children who were really advanced in the States before moving to Mexico have been having a very hard time catching up in the States even now almost 3 years later. I hope to return to live in the States within the next year or so and can't wait to get the kids back into school. Let's face it, it is very difficult to work full time so we can eat, study full time for a better future for my kids, and teach my kids full time. They get taught, but I feel it could be better done in a school. I have investigated online American private schools, but we can't afford them.

    I would love to assist you in initiating a Charter School for American kids living abroad. Any help you need, please contact me. My contact is on my profile page.