School started two weeks ago for my oldest two loves, Rachael and Abi. And I just have to tell you, dear friends and family, I am SO INCREDIBLY proud of them. You will be too.
(Their first few days of school were uniform free days. =) )
Let me start with a little context: Rachael and Abi go to school for 5 hours each morning and then return home for lunch. This is a normal schedule for elementary school, with most schools dividing the younger kids in the morning and the older kids in the afternoons. That being said, we’re thankful for Rachael and Abi both being in the morning slot so they can share morning snack/recess time (called “interval”) together.
The learning curve is a steep uphill one between the Portuguese and the cultural stress. The girls have been taking it pretty well. Yes, we have had reports of tears amidst the overwhelm. Having been in a similar state of overwhelm myself, Rachael and Abi have taken comfort from walking through these growing pains together and have remained really beautifully hopeful about school. I can tell that is an answer to all your prayers.
So here’s how school works: I drop off Abi and Rachael at school at about 10 minutes before school starts. We use this time to walk in, set their backpacks down at their desks and sometimes walk around the campus a bit. The girls like to be early and to chat a little before school starts. Sometimes we find a friend or two and sometimes not. When the bell rings (old school walking the property with a handbell style), the children run from EVERYWHERE to get into their lines.
Once in their lines they go through a series of “warm up” marching songs to psyche themselves up for school. Hehe. Hey man, it’s Africa, every morning is a pep rally. 😉 The girls report from the frontlines that this time is SUPER loud in the gym and many times they, and other students, plug their ears while marching and yelling. Way to be resourceful, ladies. 😉
(Sorry about the toddler crying in the background of that last film clip. Some are less excited about the preschool program here in these first weeks of new routines. 😉 )
Then the children split off and head to their regular classroom routines. Rachael and Abi are in the same cement building with no AC and one or two fans per room. Needless to say, the 100 degree weather can be rough sometimes, so the teacher happily allows any student to bring a water bottle and drink freely as they desire. As you will see in the video clips, Rachael and Abi’s classrooms have tile plated walls, cement floors, one large cabinet for all the student’s school supplies and a chalkboard a piece. Student desks are crowded, but joyful and the teachers hand-make all their wall posters since wall posters are not a normal here in the land of mud houses. It’s amazing how excited the children get over the brightly colored wall posters. =) It’s the simple joys, really. =)
Rachael’s class studies: Portuguese (which also includes social studies in the book), Mathematics, Science, Music, Physical Education, and get this: English. Oh yes! Rachael is rocking her English class. 😉
Abi’s class studies: Portuguese (also including social studies in the book), Mathematics, Music, Physical Education, English (again, she’s nailing it), and some occasional Science.
One notable area of difference is writing. In Portuguese, much like studying English in elementary school, all the children learn handwriting. Remember how they teach print first and then cursive (if any) in the States? Yeah well it’s flipped here. So the cursive writing in Portuguese has been a steep uphill, but the teachers have been quite the encouragers. Since Abi is young, this is the year that reading and writing in Portuguese is taught so she has an advantage in this area. Rachael, on the other hand, while working through sheer understanding of Portuguese, is also learning to spell and write in cursive. So she is working three times as hard as everyone else in the class who a) know the language b) have had three years of spelling the language and c) have had three years of cursive. Um, yeah… this kid deserves a metal for her incredible effort!!! I am SO thankful that her teacher is encouraging and can already see Rachael’s willing and hardworking little heart. At home, I have made some posters to help teach cursive (a bit different than the US type), Portuguese words for numbers and geometric shapes and a few other helps. Rachael and Abi are also continuing their Portuguese tutoring with Elsa, which has now turned into homework help. Elsa has been a WONDERFUL help to the girls, freeing them to play and have a carefree evening with us at the completion of our afternoon language session and their homework session. Rachael and Abi have homework nearly every night, but they are learning well.
(I took this picture after Rachael had a hard day staying late in the class through some of her recess and late in the day to try to get this homework assignment copied from the board. She was in frustrated tears because she desperately wanted to write it quickly like the other kids, but between the cursive and the Portuguese it was a huge challenge. I took this picture because this dear child was so determined that she returned home, used this picture to write the words in her homework notebook, wrote this a second time on a piece of paper and returned to school the next morning to paste the excerpt into her school notebook from where she had not completed it the day before. This child is one HARD WORKER! People, her determined heart is just so beautifully encouraging.)
Nope, it’s not all roses, sweet family and friends. The cultural stress is very real. The language barrier is hard. But we are all thankful for Elsa’s past teaching sessions really helping the girls with basic communication in and outside of the classroom. And while someone is always excited about dropping her sisters off at school,
my little ladies that stay for the 5 hours a day are bravely riding this very real rollercoaster.
One harder morning of drop off, Abi cried and needed a few more extra hugs than usual. As Abi shed tears kids began to come around her and I asked Abi aloud in Portuguese so everyone could understand me, “Where is your friend?” Instantly a little girl from the crowd shot her hand up and stepped closer to Abi. … That was a beautiful gift of Jesus. Abi calmed down and stood with the little girl while the class began their normal routine. Thanks be to our God, the Provider of comfort amidst hard steps forward.
Rachael reported having a few times of tears and laying her head down on her desk to cope. In one such moment her teacher kindly excused her to the bathroom to collect herself. I was thankful for the grace of a few minutes away. Rachael capitalized on that time and returned to the classroom ready for the next task.
But even with the harder days popping up here and there, Rachael and Abi also have some very wonderful days that leave them bubbling over with delight at the end of the school day and hugging their teacher as the class files out. It’s not all roses, but it’s not all thorns either. 😉
So without further adieu, I’ll let them share a few things themselves.
Thank you for your continued prayers, love and support as we all adjust to our new norms here in Mozambique. We feel your prayers and the girls have taken great comfort in your encouraging words as you have sent them through WhatsApp, Facebook, Slack, and email.
We love you all and thank you for continuing to love us ever so well.