Central America

Para me? Un orden el ceviche mixto, frijoles molidas con queso y papas tostadas, aguacate, y uno agua…This is my go to order here; essentially mixed fish and shrimp ceviche with mashed beans and chips, sliced avocado, and a water. Occassionaly I mix it up by braving a “casado”, or typical lunch, featuring rice and beans, plantains, a salad, and meat of your choosing. The food is amazing here as long as you stick to plant based options as we’ve learned that ranchers sell their best cuts to the united states; shocker, right? But, despite the limited variety of food at the “sodas” (mom and pop restaurants), we’re loving our adventure and new lifestyle!

And, what an adventure it has been. I researched this freakin’ country ad nauseam for months to find the perfect location for my family. As small as this country is however, there’s damn near 30 microclimates and even more variety in cultures. The country is divided into various regions of beaches, valleys, mountains, and forests. Not only does the climate change drastically every few kilometers, but the animals change, the fruits and vegetable options change, the cost of living, transportation needs, internet access, and so on and so on. After six months of extensive research I chose an area of the country I felt I vibed with and then a community I felt fit our lifestyle needs and then narrowed it down to a house I thought was perfect only to find out on our THIRD visit to it that its infested with mold! Ever stayed up all night holding your baby wheezing, gasping for air? Well, I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy. The morning after our first night there I said, “Hell no! We’re not moving forward with this home”.

The beauty of living in such a tight knit community though is this- I posted on our community app regarding the situation and within minutes a neighbor (whom I’d never even met) invited me over to view her home and offered it up to us for six weeks while she travels abroad. What? Are you kidding me?! ¬†This fairy godmother just literally shook my hand and handed me her keys. That would NEVER happen in the US without lawyers and contracts involved lol.

The home is divine, too! It has amazing airflow, which is crucial in the tropics as most places don’t have AC. The breeze off the river that flows behind the property is surreal and our “yard” is covered with lush grass, tropical trees, and the most exotic plants you’ve ever seen. We can hear howler monkeys in the distance and play “I Spy” a yellow bird in the mornings.

Living in the rainforest comes with a few nuances though that can make it feel like permanent glamping. If you can get over those things, it’s paradise! We’ve embraced the no makeup face, dreadlocked hair from the humidity and the jungle stinch that comes from sweating all day long! The surprise cold shower is humorous, the trace ants have become my frenemies, and I’m learning that the low cost of living only applies when you stick to fruits and ceviche from your local fruit stand. In fact, I’ve stopped by this one particular “fruteria” nearly every night and taken home bananas, plantains, avocado, papaya and ceviche for the following day. My “fruit friends” love to play with my babies through the car windows, “Hola guapo” and “que lingo” as they tickle them and bounce their chunky cheeks.

I’m learning alot about my strength as a mother and a woman. I am capable of living without modern ammenities and I can adjust to differences in lifestyle. I’m also humbled by some of the homes I pass each day and the people I’ve met. Their homes do not mirror any Pottery Barn magazine I’ve ever seen and their clothes have no labels, or even tags for that matter. They don’t wine and dine in the five star restaurants of the capital city and most of them have never been outside of their own villages. However, they are kind, warm, friendly, and embrace life every day for each beautiful moment. They try to speak my language out of respect just like I try to speak their’s, both literally and figuratively. I did not come here to teach them my ways, but instead I am here to learn from them. I want to learn the “pure life” and step outside my comfort zone for a cultural awakening!

Pura Vida,

That Girl

 

House of the Seed

An old petting zoo converted into a school in the jungle of a developing country. Children are barefoot, half dressed, and running amuck. There are no teachers, no whiteboards, no computers, and not a textbook in sight. There is no curriculum and no testing. In fact, it’s unclear who is in charge…if anyone.

This is the school my children will be attending and Im stoked! Why? Because, despite how it may appear to the untrained eye (or through the lenses of first-world glasses), this school is the future. This school is based on brain development, rather than content development. Its focused on a holistic view of the child as an independent, spiritual being, and believes the child is driven innately towards creating, exploring, learning, and loving. It is understood by the adults, who have over thirty-five years “teaching” experience”, that play is not only how children communicate, but it is how they learn. They incorporate learning into daily projects led by the children and provide a Renaissance-esque education for them that no public school in the states could ever provide.

I dreamed of this school a while back, which was either me putting it out into the universe, or the universe bringing it to my attention, but either way, we found each other. The past ten years have been bringing me to it’s doors. My years as a teacher in the public school system witnessing children with anxiety, depression, anger, and frustration built up a disgust for our education system. Listening to fellow teachers complain daily about the poor behavior from students, the lack of drive or ambition students had, the minimal parent support, and the bullying amongst peers in the classroom. I knew the drop out rates were increasing and the college attendance rates were decreasing and when I had my two boys I began experiencing my own level of anxiety about their educational future.

No, I don’t want Montessori, where they practice adult skills every day and learn shapes, letters, and numbers before they’re even three.

No, I don’t want a private school where they’ll likely be surrounded by elitist peers who care more about who’s wearing what and what their daddy’s do for a living.

No, I don’t want the Lord of the Flies preschool where they run around like wild banshees and their emotional needs may be overlooked in the “every man for himself” philosophy.

Then, I discovered the “House of the Seed” school via a mom blog and thought I was still dreaming! It exists! It’s real! A place where children lead their own learning and where culture, arts, and logic are all incoporated into the day. Where children learn to think, rather than memorize! A place set in nature that promotes respect for the environment and helps children understand how to be a part of the world, not just use the world. I fell in love and began begging my husband to take me there so I could see it in action.

Last week, I was fortunate enough to visit in person and I cried! I cried because I watched my boy’s faces light up from the inside and I watched the other children welcome them with open arms and show them things, teaching them without even speaking the same language. I felt I was finally at home and I knew they would thrive in a place like this and that my dreams for them could be realized if I could only get them here.

They can’t technically “attend” until age three, but I can take them daily since we will be living in the community part of the year and I can assist them in their transition and support their learning experiences daily. The leaders of the school encourage parent involvement because they understand the parent-child bond and respect the parent’s role in their child’s ability to learn. Parents enrich the experience rather than hinder it and they’re welcomed daily.

Some naysayers will wonder how children can learn without a clear curriculum or schedule. How can they learn history without a history class or learn literature without taking a Language Arts course? Math is so important to brain development and logical reasoning so how can the students be successful without that? The thing is- they’re learning ALL of this and more every day through projects, activities and play.

For example, while I was there I saw students building an organic garden together. They chose seeds from the kitchen to plant, they learned the different levels and types of soil as they used real gardening tools to prepare each row. They studied various insects before deciding which ones were helpful and which ones may be harmful. Some of the students didn’t care to help with the garden, but instead decided to make signs for it. They went to a construction zone and selected materials, measured, cut, and sanded the wood. Not only are these students learning life lessons, but they’re learning (and applying) science and math skills! They’re also learning about cooperation, communication, teamwork, patience, and nurturing the environment.

All of the materials I saw in the school were designed to provide concrete experience, and reach every type of learner, whether they were visual, kinestheic, or auditory learners. The students were engaged, happy, and self-directed. I loved every magical moment of my time there and can’t wait to go back.

Bonus? When the director noticed my son’s interest in animals and invited us to visit the stables so they could feed and pet the ponies. Winning!

Where is this place? I can’t tell you! I’ll keep this gem a secret in hopes it inspires people to create one in their own community all over the world and ignite change! It’s time to unschool and raise children to be lifelong learners who know how to think rather than memorize.

Stay gold, 

That Girl

We finished up our day with a dunk in the Rio Macheuga! Feeling the earth on your skin is so therapeutic! Dirt, water, sun, air…