The Schools our Children Encountered

“The possibilities of any child are the most intriguing and stimulating in all creation.” Ray Lyman Wilbur

I suppose dreams are forever but at times those dreams may die while still in the heart of a child. I’ve seen some dreams never revive for a child has been dropped into another country and language without proper preparation. There is a struggle. They feel lost not being able to communicate well or keep up with a strange language in a strange school. Stories surfaces of a child’s life warped by the inability to cope. On the other hand some children, when given encouragement, their experiences help make them more successful in later years. In this post, I’ll only touch on our own family and the reason for that I suppose is that I’m trying to hold on to days long past.

Our children grew up having Portuguese as their first language. Without doubt they spoke it with less of an accent and with fewer grammatical errors than either of us as parents. While we lived in Rio de Janeiro they had a wonderful private school—all in Portuguese of course. But when we moved to Sao Paulo our only option where we lived was to send them to a Brazilian school. Monica transferred into grade 2 but Vernon was not accepted because of different age requirement. So when Monica entered grade 3 Vernon was starting grade 1. That alone really wasn’t too much of a problem.

Right away Vernon faced some difficulties in school for I imagine his Portuguese had become a bit rusty after a year out of school. Much worse, his teacher had no patience with her class. She taught her students with a ruler under her arm and Vernon quickly learned that no answer or a wrong answer earned him a rap on his knuckles. For a while we were unaware of the situation and then we didn’t know how to cope with it. The problem surfaced at home when we would ask our children something from the Bible story we read to them every day. Vernon would freeze up, was scared to death of any question and be unable to answer even though he knew the answer. The pattern had been set at his school. The two of our children used to walk the kilometre to school each day with Vernon apparently taking courage from his sister. How so? Well, if Monica was sick at home, there was no way to get Vernon to go to school alone. He simply refused and we would not push the issue.

The city school in Sao Paulo was tough, at least according to our standards. Monica in her 2nd. year needed to know the names of the different bones of the human head—some twenty-two of them. . Vernon was required to learn long division that first year. One time we discovered that Monica had a rash so we were off to the medico. He suggested that when her exams were over that without doubt it would disappear. And it did.

As I discussed this bit of history with Doris she raised the question we’ve pondered more than once, “What else could we do?” Oh, I suppose then there were options or we can now put together in our imagination; but in our situation none of them looked acceptable. A committee had placed us in that exact home with a church planting project in mind for that part of the city. To even think of bucking the system never entered our minds. Oh there was an excellent American school that taught in English but it was not a possibility for it was on the far side of the city of São Paulo. I recall with sadness the words of James Mannoia who had his PhD in education. He said, “The difficulties in school here in Brazil may make education tougher later in life.”

I will say this that our children adapted not only to the school system in Brazil but later as well when were transferred to Haiti. The transition was tough for Doris and me but it no doubt was more difficult for our children. But the school in Haiti was a Godsend—teachers of top quality and all in English.

As I remember and write, I’ve given you a bit about the education equation our children encountered. The travel experiences, other languages and schooling systems all expanded the horizons of our children so that in many ways they looked at life with wider horizons than some who lived all their time in Canada. Only God has the answer to this puzzle. Some of those answers will come as the song says, “Bye and bye when the morning comes…” Perhaps what I’m doing is trying to relive days gone but that of course cannot be done. Now we all do the best with the cards we’ve been dealt, trusting our loving Father to make the changes so that in the end everything turns out right.

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