The most common question we get as a nomadic family, (after questions about our unique vehicle), is about how we're educating our kids. Arjuna was homeschooled for the first 2 years that we were on the road. Before that he attended a Waldorf preschool and kindergarten. We wouldn't say that we're proponents of any singular education system but we've always been particular about schooling and curious about alternative models. When we decided that we wanted to stay put somewhere for 6 months, the possibility of sending Arjuna to Costa Verde International School in Sayulita was a huge draw to this area.
After being home schooled for 2 years, Arjuna was excited about the novelty of attending school. It's been a nice change of pace for him to have that consistency, and being able to participate in after school activities. We noticed that making friends was easy for him since he got so good at making friends all over while traveling. With home schooling, we never really knew if we were doing a good job of it... so we were relieved that Arjuna didn't have any problem with the subject matter of his grade 2 class, and even said that he'd already learned some of the math concepts they were covering.
Our main reason for choosing to send Arjuna to Costa Verde is the alternative model that the school follows, and the fun of socializing with other kids. We wanted him to have the experience of attending school -- especially a school with such a high focus on the environment. Costa Verde is a bilingual school, so the kids do one day in English and the next in Spanish. There are kids from all over the world who attend, and also local kids. The school is privately run and receives no governmental funding, so it's up to the kids and parents to volunteer their time and resources to fund the scholarships for numerous students each year, and all of the community building activities that the school participates in.
Unlike schools in Canada, the weather in Mexico allows for all of the common areas to be outside. Even at school, the kids really feel connected to the natural world. The school is a green school with a focus on environmental sustainability and cooperative learning.
The kids are involved in growing vegetables in the garden at school together. We hear weekly progress reports from Arjuna on how the garden is doing and what they are growing. The students are also involved in picking up garbage, cleaning up the beach, and doing art projects with recycled materials. The school organized a nature photo contest for the kids during Earth Week. And on Earth Day we met up with other parents, teachers and students to pick up garbage from the river bed prior to the rainy season. We also filled 2 litre pop bottles with sand, which will be used in the construction of a bodega at the local recycling centre.
This hands on learning about the environment comes home with Arjuna. During Semana Santa, when Sayulita gets very busy with tourists, our family decided to walk the beach at dusk each night collecting garbage and debris. Arjuna couldn't believe the amount of cigarette butts and plastic we picked up!
We also appreciate the focus on the arts at Costa Verde. Arjuna has participated in several musical performances with his school. The kids take dance classes and recently put on a huge dance show with a live band, which they practiced for for months. We know he does lots of arts and crafts, as he comes home almost every day with paint everywhere -- on his hands, in his hair and on his school uniform!
The school also participates in the local community by setting up a table at the weekly Mercado Del Pueblo, where kids, teachers and parents participate in selling eco-friendly toys, metal straws, and re-usable shopping bags. The school also sells locally made rash guards and t-shirts with slogans like: Surf + School, Stop And Think, Save My Ocean, and Save My Planet.
And if learning Spanish, environmental stewardship, and getting a healthy dose of art weren't enough to set this educational experience apart, surfing is even a part of the curriculum! Grade 2 isn't quite old enough, but in the next couple of years, Arjuna will be able to participate in weekly surf classes as part of his education at Costa Verde.
We are so proud of the amazing progress Arjuna has made in his surfing over the last few months. He definitely was not a water baby when he was younger, but he took up boogie boarding last year, got comfortable swimming, and now surfs each time we go to the beach. We arrive, and literally before I can set up the umbrella and beach blanket, he grabs his board and says: "Bye Mom! I'm going surfing!" Arjuna does a surf lesson once a week as part of his after school activities (he also does break dancing and soccer), but surfing has become a family activity that we all participate in. We almost always run into people we know at the beach and Arjuna surfs with his friends. It's part of the culture of this place both at home and at school.
Connecting home, school, and local culture, Costa Verde is hosting its annual Surf-a-thon Saturday April 28 at the Sayulita beach. It's a great opportunity for students, teachers and parents to get together for a day at the beach swimming, boogie boarding and surfing and fundraise for Costa Verde.
Of course Arjuna is learning normal school stuff as well like reading, math, science, and social studies -- and this is important too. But we've found that the stuff that really sinks in for him and that he's excited to talk about and participate in, are the topics that cross the border from school to home to the local community. Arjuna is learning Spanish in school, so Josh and I are taking Spanish lessons so we can all practice together at home and speak Spanish when we're out in town. We've always tried to live sustainably and especially traveling in our tiny-home-on-wheels we've become hyper-aware of our consumption of power, water and fuel. We love that Arjuna is learning about eco-friendliness at school too so that we can all participate in raising the awareness in the places we go. And learning to surf and taking part in school sponsored surf activities like the Surf-a-Thon is pretty awesome too!