As a traveling family, people often ask us, “What do you do about school for your kids?” Well, we send them to school.
“You’re choosing a different life for your kids,” my neighbor in Los Angeles opined as we stood on the sidewalk in front of his house. Our routine conversations were friendly and mostly consisted of talking about how the surf is and how we don’t go out that much anymore (which begs the question of why talk about the surf in the first place), our kids, and general neighborly small talk. But this day found us pondering that big question that so many middle-class 30-somethings I know like to ask each other: “What if we just quit our jobs, sold it all, and moved where life was simpler, less expensive, and slower?”
Being the surf-minded folk that we are, our wanderlust/mid-life crisis conversation led to fantasizing about a life in Costa Rica. We’ve both been before and know the surf to be plentiful, the vibe laid back, and the cost of living is reasonable. After wondering what it would be like to own a little hotel, rent surfboards, or sell fresh coconut water from a stand on the beach all day (answer: it would be awesome), I asked my neighbor what he thought about schools and education in Costa Rica. As a parent of two young boys, this one thing would be a major factor when considering the pros and cons of this massive life change. “You’re choosing a different life for your kids,” he said. “You’re not doing little league and spelling bees and birthday parties at the local fun zone, but you’re raising your kids in a place where people put an emphasis on family and nature and you’re in a beautiful environment. It’s just different.” It was an interesting thought and added another consideration to our “how we would pull it off” dialogue. But at the end of the day, it didn’t really matter. We weren’t actually going anywhere. This was all just daydreaming, small talk, and what-ifs.
Then my wife and I pulled the trigger, quit our jobs, sold our stuff, and traveled through Europe before landing in Costa Rica after all.
Cut to us now living in Santa Teresa for the foreseeable future, a small beach town on the Pacific coast scattered with restaurants, hotels, surf shops, and you guessed it, stands that sell fresh coconut water on the beach. It’s inhabited by a nice balance of locals, travelers, and a growing population of young international families. And we just put our older son in an international school.
Before making the decision to travel and move, my wife and I thought long and hard about what life would be like not just for us, but for our kids growing up. After all, I played little league as a kid. I went to prom and to the movies and played video games and hung out at the mall. That’s what kids do, right? We concluded a couple things. First, Casey is only three, prom is still a few years away, and we don’t need to stay here forever if we don’t like it. Second, and more important, even though it is ingrained in my psyche that the way I grew up is the way our kids have to grow up, it’s simply not true. There are tons of different ways to live life and raise kids. I’m not saying one way is better than another, but it’s important to pick one that works for you and your family.
Surprisingly, there are a number of school options in Santa Teresa ranging from public to private, from a
Pre-k daycare to an international school that goes all the way through high school. After touring a few, we enrolled Casey in an international private school we thought was the best fit for him and us as parents. Let’s be clear though, this school probably doesn’t look like what you’re used to. Parents drop their kids off on ATVs and dirt bikes, a pit bull is one of a few dogs roaming freely around campus, the cafeteria is outside, and every kid isn’t handed an iPad the moment they walk through school doors. But the curriculum is good. There’s an emphasis on play and Montessori style learning for kids Casey’s age. The staff has a real passion for education. And there are no active shooter drills because there are no school shootings here.
Casey’s day goes from 8am-3pm and he’s taught entirely in Spanish with two 45-minute blocks in English. Otherwise, from an American perspective, it’s a pretty normal school day. He wears a uniform shirt (super cute), we pack his lunch in a dinosaur lunch box which he carries in his Moana backpack. He takes a nap, he has music class, arts and crafts, and learns numbers and letters. And he loves it. This is a boy who currently says “no” to 99% of the things we ask him, but he always says that he loves school and wants to go back each and every day.
Chances are he would love school back in the States too, but like I said, I don’t think there’s just one way to live, you just need to pick what’s right for you. Who knows if we will stay Santa Teresa forever or where we’ll end up, but right now our entire family is enjoying living this different life, and Casey is getting a great Pre-K education.
Editor’s Note: The @danziglife follows the Danzig family, traveling the world with their kids and dog, currently living in Costa Rica.