I’d decided when was the best time to switch to bilingual education in Spain. Or so I thought …
I cannot believe that it is almost two years since I started writing this post. This is what happens when I want to write about something that is so important to me. That something is our children’s bilingual education in Spain.
March is decision time. In Spain, school enrollment starts in March for intake in September of that year (read more here).
Both our children have enjoyed Spanish state education in primary ( infantil) and junior (primaria). And I must say that we have been extremely happy with the education provided at CEIP San Sebastián in Mijas Pueblo. Francesca, in particular, has had a few inspiring teachers who have helped her grow and develop in a beautiful way ( Thank you Ruba, Marie Tere, Encarni and last but in no way least Carolina).
Our decision to switch to a private international school in secondary education (ESO) was made based, almost entirely, on language alone. Despite the fact that our children have always spoken English at home, they have only been educated in Spanish. Hence our decision to opt for a change to bilingual education in Spain.
In the year they turn twelve, in Spain, the children move from primary to secondary school. This often means a physical change of school and consequently a division of classes and school friends. An ideal time to make a change without to harsh an impact … or so we thought!
I am writing this post having just been to speak to the director at Joshua’s bilingual school. The meeting was to help me decide whether Francesca’s decision ( yep, you read that correctly!) was the best one.
Mis niños 🙂
Our strong-willed and determined little ten year old had decided, last summer, that starting her new school one year earlier than we had planned was the best idea. Not only did she have her reasoning clear in her head, but she also informed her best friend that that was what was going to happen.
You can imagine my surprise when her best friend’s mum asked me if it was true that Francesa would be changing schools before the end of the course. I am not saying I was disappointed. I was genuinely surprised and very impressed. My little shy girl is growing … in many beautiful ways.
Factors I considered when deciding if bilingual education in Spain was the best option for our children…
“We absolutely loved the school, their ideas and philosophy but we really don’t think that “Jimmy” could deal with the fact that the secondary education totally bilingual. We feel that, it’s too much pressure to put him under. He isn’t good under pressure.”
Right then. Right there.
That was the very moment the penny dropped. The tables turned.
I knew what had to be done. And I was certain it was the right decision. The right decision about our son’s secondary education in Spain. It was time for change.
The Moment I Knew Which Option To Take Regarding Secondary Education In Spain.
I was sat having a coffee in Mijas Pueblo, with a couple of lovely families. We were discussing their plans for moving to Spain. We were talking about the best education options for their children. We were discussing the various options for secondary education options in Spain, in the Malaga region. It is a conversation I have several times a month. But this time, by discussing what was best for their son, I suddenly realised what was best for my own.
Joshua has made so many friends in the pueblo … Now it’s time for a change!
Making informed decisions about education is at the forefront of our minds when moving to Spain with children, and regularly, throughout phases whilst living here too.
As in life, there are many paths our children’s education can follow. As parents, it is our role to discover and research these paths before sending our children along them.
If you have read my book and previous posts on education in Spain you will know that I believe deciding which path is best for your own child is a very personal decision. A decision only you can make. You can research and listen to advice and opinions but only you can make the final decision.
I also recommend researching education options, both primary and secondary education in Spain, before deciding where to live, when planning your move to Spain, or any other country.
When we moved back to the Malaga region, this time with children, I did my research on schools. I spoke to as many people as I could and I researched on the internet. I decided we should live in the catchment area of CEIP San Sebastian in Mijas Pueblo.
Our little “estrella” stealing the show 🙂
On June 17th 2016, as we proudly watched our son co-compare the “baile fin de curso”, in faultless Spanish and clear English, to a crowd of two to three hundred, I knew we had made and were about to make the correct decision.
Or son, a well grounded, confident, friendly, thoughtful and fully integrated 11-year-old regularly makes me pull those proud “Mumbeam” faces.
What’s A Proud “Mumbeam” face?
You know that expression you pull when a beautiful thought enters your head. You try to suppress your smile but as you purse your lips, in an attempt not to grin like a Cheshire cat, the thought causes your smile to stretch across from one ear, across to the other. And, even if you manage to keep your lips tightly pressed together, the proud “mumbeams” shine out of your eyes. Your smiling eyes. Yep. That’s what I call a proud “Mumbeam” face 🙂
I hope you enjoy proud Mumbeam faces too. Do share them with us.
Oh, and what was the big decision?
All will be revealed very soon … the countdown has begun 😉
As I sit here, deliberating what to share with you first, I am torn. Living abroad with children is a whirlwind of life experiences. Sometimes you just need to stop, take a breath and slow down. Otherwise, life simply passes you by.
It has been far too long since our last blog post but we do have an excuse. In fact, we have several fabulous excuses. We have eleven weeks worth of excuses.
I have made a promise to myself that I am going to take the time to relive our amazing summer and share our memories with you, in the form of blog posts and lots of beautiful pictures.
So much has happened and is happening. This coming year is marked by change. Lots of changes. More changes than we’ve had for many years.
The fountains in the new Plaza in Mijas Pueblo
Tomorrow is the first day of back to school for our daughter, Francesca. We were not expecting any changes for Francesca. Our daughter thrives on routine and stability. Unexpected changes can be painful.
It is important to remember that changes are inevitable when living abroad with children. Learning to adapt to change is an essential skill for living abroad.
Let me take time out for a second, my mind is racing ahead of me already …
Here is a taste of the stories we will be sharing with you over the coming weeks:
Our son’s education story: The end of an era and new beginnings in bilingual education
Making Memories: Summer holidays in Cadiz, Paris, The Dordogne, Archidona, Paxos and London
The Challenges of Living Abroad: I found a Lump and how it affected my relationships.
Integration and Family Time: Padel Tennis
Spanish Bureaucracy: Why we have chosen to live in a building site rather than sell our house in Spain and buy another one
The Language Show Live 2016 : Presenting Cooking With Languages.
But before all that, here we are today:
As I mentioned, tomorrow is the first day of a new school year for infant and primary, state school in Spain. Francesca is heading back to school in the morning.
It was “school as usual”, up until two days ago that is when we were advised of an unexpected change.
For the first time in six years, she is starting the school year in a new class. She is still at the same school in the village but, due to changes made by the Junta, she is now no longer with the same classmates she’s been with for the past six years.The previous three classes have been merged into two. There will be twenty-eight children in each class. Francesca, along with three others from her class have been moved. How they decided this, I have no idea. However, we are grateful that she is still going to be with one of her best friends. Her other best friend, however, has not been moved. We are hoping this will change.
When you’re moving and living abroad with children, stability is an important part of their lives and we have previously been concerned that Francesca’s lack of confidence was due to the fact she’d been moved so many times, from such an early age. The news about her being moved to another class initially shocked and upset me. I was afraid how it would affect her.
Thankfully, so far, this is proving not to be the case. Despite my fears, she does not appear to be scared and is very happy to be returning to school tomorrow, even though there’s going to be a big change in her learning environment. An environment which has been stable for her, for the past six years.
Her strength and ability to adapt just prove how strong children really are. I do believe that provided we pay attention to them and are aware of their feelings and their behaviours and we take the right steps we can help them, they can adapt to almost any environment.
One of the *main reasons we decided that our children should go to the local state school rather than the private international school, was stability. The expat community is generally a very transient community. Friends, with children in international schools, have often told us how their children struggled to maintain good friendships as many expat children, for differing reasons, come and go over the years. Enrolling our children in the local village school has resulted in them, particularly Francesca, developing beautiful bonds and friendships with Spanish children. Children who have grown up in the village and who are here to stay, although we know that nothing is guaranteed.
(*In case you were wondering, the main reason was the desire to learn the language and become bilingual.)
Francesca warming up and stretching before ballet class.
The stability and the lack of change in her class have helped Francesca gain in self-confidence over the years. It has been a slow process but we are getting there. Her school is a place where she is growing in confidence. She knows all her classmates, they go to parties and ferias together. She knows who she sits with during class time. She knows what to expect. She loves the school routine. Or she did …
This is a massive change for her, in the most constant environment. It will be interesting to see how she copes with it and what effect it has on her however in the coming months.
We are hoping that the new found confidence, thanks to her ballet classes, continues to grow and she can enjoy what lies ahead in this new school year. One day our little lady will enjoy the confidence she so deserves.
Thursday marks an even bigger change. Our son Joshua will start a new chapter in his education. A new chapter in a new school. An exciting new chapter in bilingual education.
From my own experiences, when learning Spanish as a second language, far too much emphasis is placed on learning grammatical exercises, rather that oral practice. Fortunately, this appears to be changing and more attention is being given to practical usage.
As our children attend Spanish state school, there is a requirement to study “lengua”, Spanish language. They have the fantastic opportunity to learn Spanish just like native Spanish children do. This may be more challenging at the outset but I truly believe it will be something they will thank us for in the future.
We are in the world of not only new vocabulary but also antónimos, sinónmos, refranes and trabalenguas, amongst others. Have I lost you yet?
There are actually very few questions Mr. Google (as referred to in our house) is unable to help us with.Although, as it is not our native tongue, some Spanish homework can require quite a lot of research.
The following websites are also very useful for language homework:
How many of you have positive memories of learning a foreign language when you were growing up?
I’m guessing that, like me, most of you have memories of uninspiring lessons and textbooks you could literally blow the dust off as you were in no hurry to pick them up for fear of being put to sleep rather than being inspired and motivated to learn from them.
As Brits, perhaps we suffer from the fact that English is so widely spoken in so many countries around the world. However, thankfully, we’re becoming more and more aware of the incredible benefits learning another language has. The UK government, for example, has made language learning compulsory for children at Key Stage 2. One of the main issues though is that it hasn’t provided adequate resources to do so.
You may think we, as a country, a community, we aren’t that keen to learn another language, but a study published late last year showed that 58% of adults regret not knowing another language.
We live in an ever growing global society where we are constantly communicating with people from so many different backgrounds and nationalities. It is natural that we desire to understand and communicate with other cultures. For those of you who travel or move abroad this desire will, or should be, much greater.
As in previous posts, we’d like to highlight the importance of learning Spanish, or any language, before you travel or move, especially when you have children. Language knowledge facilitates integration and makes the transition to a new country a lot easier and allows children to communicate with their peers.
Our Cooking With Languages project
I recently came across One Third Stories, which, like our Cooking With languages project, looks to help parents and children learn Spanish and other languages, together. The reason it caught my eye is because they also support language learning at home, as well as schools, and engage parents and their kids using stories.
One Third Stories was founded by two young guys with contrasting language learning experiences. Jonny, part of the 58% and very much the product of a British language learning system, and Alex who grew up bilingual Spanish and English in Paraguay.
They create stories that start in English and end in a different lengua, by gradually introducing foreign words. The way they do this is through their innovative Clockwork Methodology ®. The first story, app, and hardback will be available on Kickstarter on the 17th of May where they will look for people passionate about learning languages to help bring the project to life.
So far they have produced an audiobook of The Three Little Pigs to learn Spanish using this methodology and also a puppet show (see video below)! The beauty is that the contexts are so clear that children learn without realising it, and adults become involved too.
You can follow their progress on social media (Facebook and Twitter) or download a free audiobook HERE to check it out.
It’s a great idea, don’t you agree? Here’s to finding more innovative ideas for Making Language Learning Fun For Children!
One of the most important decisions you have to make, when moving to Spain with children, is choosing a school to send your children to. Whether to enrol your children in a Spanish state school or a private international school.
The availability of state schools and international schools in Spain varies by region. Hence, it is advisable to carefully research the schools in the area you plan to make your new home, before you plan your move to Spain.
When choosing a school in Spain for your children, the following factors should be considered:
The age of your child: From experience, (this is only my personal opinion and to be taken or left as you choose), I would highly recommend enrolling any child aged 6 years or below in a Spanish state or Spanish speaking private school, whether it be a nursery or primary school. At this age they are sponges and you may be amazed at how quickly they integrate and pick up the language. I clearly remember our son´s first word after only a few days … “mío”!
Your knowledge of the Spanish language: I am lucky to have a pretty high level of Spanish and my husband has a good conversational level. However, we often have to use Google in order to complete our 7 year old’s homework assignments. I truly believe that many expat children struggle in school due to the lack of available support at home, as a result of a lack of language ability. My advice would be that once you are unable to help your children with their Spanish homework then you should consider either moving them to a private/international school or, as a more economical alternative, source a home tutor.
Financial commitments: Private schools are not cheap. State education is a much cheaper option. This school year we have seen quite a sharp increase in foreign students joining our children´s state school. Unfortunately, these are not children that have just relocated, these are older children that were previously in private international schools who, due to the downturn in their parents economic position, have been forced to end their private education. Needless to say, they do not find it easy. This is not to say that any child older that 6 or 7 will not adapt. Children are amazing and they never cease to amaze us.
Your desired level of integration in Spanish life: This may seem like a strange consideration, however, we have met many people that have no interest whatsoever in integrating with the local Spaniards. Their children have attended private schools and have picked up the language randomly, as children do, by chatting with other Spanish children. As a result, their children have integrated in a minor way in their town/village yet the parents continue to mix in their own circles.
I am in no way stating that if your children do not attend Spanish state school that you will not integrate. Nor am I saying that by putting your children in the local school will you be accepted as part of the local community. In our village, everyone seems to know our children and I have worked hard at always being involved in meetings, school trips and activities in order to be accepted by the local mums. Now, after almost 3 years, we seem to be considered as part of the community … As a parent, you need to decide what you want and what you think is best for your child and your family.
School Timetables: In Andalucia, the State school timetable for lessons is 9am until 2pm. In most schools, there is a canteen option (at extra cost) and extra curricula activities (at extra cost) and an early morning drop off option (at extra cost). In other parts of Spain the schools close for a 2 hour lunch and continue lessons in the afternoon. Private/International schools tend to follow the traditional UK timetables of 9am until 4pm or 5pm.
Whichever type of school you chose, do consider the implications of the timetable and transportation options. It is very easy to soon get fed up of spending half your time as a school taxi.
These are only 5 of many considerations when selecting a school for your child. We look forward to hearing your suggestions and ideas …
Read more of our experiences of Education in Spain here.
When we talk to families who are relocating, we advise them to research schools in Spain, before looking for property. Like in many countries, state schools have catchment areas. If you are deciding whether to enrol your children in Spanish State Pre-School, the following facts will help you make your decision.
Pre-school in Spain, known as Educación Infantíl, is for children aged 3 to 6 years.
Pre-school, educación infantíl, is a non-compulsory option. Children are not obliged to start school in Spain until they are 6 years old. It is, however, in my opinion, a fundamental part of their education.
In some regions of Spain, children are taught in the regional language ie. Catalán, Valenciano, Basque… This is a steep learning curve for many non-Spanish children. It is a fantastic opportunity but is it something you think your children can cope with?
Children start pre-school, in the year that they turn 3 years old. This means that some children are as young as 2 when they start. ie. If their 3rd birthday is in late September, October, November or December, they start pre-school in the September of that year.
No rigid target are set in pre-school, educación infantíl. Children are introduced to the subject matters that they go on to study in Primaria. In many schools, there is a lot of project based work. They learn to interact with others and to adapt to routines.
Most pre-schools offer an adaptation period at the start of term, for the 3-year-olds. It is not uncommon for school to last only 30 minutes on the first day. It then slowly builds up to the full day which, in most, but not all regions, is from 9am until 2pm. Be sure to check the timetables of the schools where you are considering moving to.
I truly believe that starting a 3-year-old child, of any nationality, in a Spanish state school is a fantastic way for them to immerse into the local culture and language. I am not saying it will be easy, but I am saying it will be worth it in the long run.
Spain is a land of opportunity, and for young people, it offers a wealth of reasons to visit. One of the most popular is via an exchange student program. Exchange student in Spain programs allow teenage students to travel to Spain and then live and study in the country for a pre-determined length of time. Stays can be for any duration, from a week to six months and some programs last for over a year.
So, how do you get yourself, or if you’re a parent, your kids, on an exchange student program in Spain?
If you want to live and study in Spain, then starting to learn the language is an absolute must. While you will undoubtedly pick up more of the language during your time there, knowing the basics will help you go out, meet new people and have lots of fun experiences.
Also, your school’s Spanish teacher will be a really helpful source of information about exchange programs, so ask them about programs the school has run in the past, or ask them for a recommendation for places to go and programs to choose from.
Once you’ve started a Spanish course, maintain good grades as many exchange programs require that students have a 2.5 higher grade point average (GPA) and you may have to pass a written or oral Spanish exam before you are accepted on a program.
Research, research, research.
Once you’ve found a handful of foreign exchange programs, start researching them thoroughly. Find out where in Spain they will send students, find out how much they cost and check out what former students of the program have to say on their Facebook page, through testimonials or blogs.
Make sure that you are aware of all the costs involved before you board your flights to Spain so that you don’t have to deal with any unexpected bills, so make sure your passport is in date, find out if you need to apply for a visa before you travel (this will depend on your country of origin) and if so, where you need to apply for the visa, as some do require a visit to your nearest consulate building.
Sign up for a program
Once you’ve studied and done your research, now comes the fun part: signing up for the appropriate program. While this is quite simple, timing is really quite important, so remember to sign up for the program at least six months before the date of travel.
This will give you the time you need to pay for the program, save up spending money and work on your Spanish before you board your Spain flights.
Spain is a beautiful country that’s just perfect for an exchange student, so, what are you waiting for?
If you have attended an exchange student in Spain program, please share your experience with us.
An often confused topic in Spanish is the distinction between SER and ESTAR, especially for students who have English as their mother tongue. This happens because in English these verbs are translated into TO BE, only one verb and in Spanish we have two verbs (Ser and Estar).
Since both verbs are frequently used in Spanish, students have to learn and study the different contexts where they appear.
Let’s have a look at the chart and study the different uses of SER and ESTAR in Spanish.
General uses of SER:
SER is used to classify and identify permanent or lasting characteristics.
Date: eg. Hoy es 22 de febrero.
Occupation: eg. Ella es profesora de español.
Characteristics: it refers to personality descriptions of a person or permanent attributions of people or things. e.g. Ana es inteligente. eg. La casa es grande.
Time: Son las 4 de la tarde.
Origin: eg. Markus es de Suiza. eg. Markus es suizo.
Relation: eg. Linda es mi madre.
Also, since religion is considered a relationship with a higher power, religions are described using SER. eg. Ella es católica.
General uses of ESTAR:
ESTAR is used to indicate temporary states and locations.
Position: it refers to the physical position of people or things.eg. Mi abuela esta sentada.
Location: eg. El gato está en la terraza.
Action: estar + verb – gerund to indicate an ongoing action.eg. Ella está estudiando el vocabulario.
Condition: it refers to physical and mental conditions.eg. Los niños están enfermos.
Emotion: eg. Estoy triste.
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Now, to test what you have learnt ….
Completa los diálogos con la forma apropiada de ser o estar (presente).
Complete the following sentences using the correct form of Ser or Estar.
1. ¿De dónde ______________________ tú?
_________________ de Buenos Aires.
2. ¿De quién ________________ estas monedas?
Creo que _________________ de Ana.
3. ¿A qué hora _______________ la reunión? A las ocho.
4. Pablo, ya _________________ la una y media.
5. El padre de Carlos ________________ mecánico ¿no?
No, no. Su padre_________________ psicólogo.
6. ¿Quién _________________________ la novia de Carlos?
La novia de Carlos ________________ Ingrid.
Completa con ser o estar. (presente)
Complete the following using the correct form of Ser or Estar.