So, at the start of the 2021-2022 school year, we had a student in first grade, another in kindergarten, and two in the pre-primary program. The tuition cost was about half of what we paid in the US. Conversely, private schools here and in San Jose (the capitol) rival the cost of private schools in the US. Our first grader had half of his subjects in Spanish and the other half in English, with two different primary teachers. In addition, Social Studies and history is about Costa Rica, with a primary focus on Central America. He was also enrolled in Spanish at second language study hall. Our kindergarten student had one primary teacher who navigated the day in Spanish and English. Our youngest two primarily received instruction in Spanish.
The youngest two have the best accents in the house. They pronounce words almost like native Spanish speakers. By April/May of 2022, our oldest was translating for us in the grocery store. Although our kindergartner did not grasp the language as quickly, socially, she made many friends. A beautiful smile quashes the language barrier. In 2023, at times, she now helps me with translations.
In addition to the academic experience, we placed the older two children in fútbol, jujitsu, surf, music, and parkour classes. We often ask the instructor or host of an event to speak to our children in Spanish. Further, when ordering food or requesting assistance, we ask them to speak in Spanish. It offers them autonomy and an additional chance to practice the language. One of the biggest challenges is that there are a lot of English-speaking ex-pats in our local footprint, but when we drive 45 minutes outside of the area, often times is solo español. When we have traveled to other parts of the country, our family has been forced to speak Spanish, which has inspired us to become more conversational. For me especially, it has grown a deeper empathy for interacting with people who are in a new country but don’t speak the majority language.
For children’s birthday parties, we were used to having to RSVP with the specific child we were bringing, and the time of the party was usually very rigged (11 am – 1 pm generally means you’re out the door at 1 pm). Here, our first party lasted almost six hours. I intentionally arrived 30 minutes late, thinking the party would end at 2 pm. The clown did not start until almost 3 pm, and the piñata was untouched until about 4:30 pm. At 5:45 pm, the party was still going strong, but I advised we were leaving. We left with full stomachs, bags of candy, smiles, and newly developed culture appreciation for being present for the celebration of life an amazing young child. During the academic year, we find ourselves at least three to four parties a month. One weekend we had two on the same day. The second party host was disappointed I did not bring all four children. The host insisted I take two extra gift bags for my two kids at another party.