Our search for a Guanajuato preschool was a bit of a saga. In this post we detail the ins and outs of finding, enrolling in, and equipping ourselves for preschool, and what Spencer’s school has been like so far.
Preschool or Daycare?
In Playa del Carmen, Spencer attended a guarderia or daycare, with about fifteen other children between the ages of two and five. Now that he’s three and a half, we had to decide whether to search for another guarderia, or enroll him in a Guanajuato preschool. Preschool begins at age three here. Depending on the size of the school, your child may be in a class with only other three-year-olds, or may be in a mixed class of kids from three to five. Unlike guarderia which can run the full day, preschools generally run from 8:30 to 1:00 pm. Because David and I had flexibility in our work, we were leaning toward searching for a preschool rather than a daycare, so that Spencer got to play and interact with other kids and still spend a large portion of the day with us.
Guanajuato Preschool: The Search
Our first step in finding a Guanajuato preschool was to ask around on the local expat forums. There’s one on Facebook, and one with its own website called gtolist.com. (If you know of others, please let us know!) Because the expat community here seems to skew toward the retired community, we only received one recommendation, for Instituto Guanajuato A.C. We looked at its website and while it looked like a great school, it would have been a 15-20 minute drive from our house. Since we’re trying to get by without a scooter or a car, we figured there had to be a closer school.
Well. A google map search didn’t come up with much. We found two Guanajuato preschools within fifteen minute walks from our house, and we set out to find both of them. Walking with a three-year-old up and down the callejones turns a fifteen minute stroll into a thirty minute high-intensity workout. We arrived at one preschool only to find that we’d taken so long to get there that it was already closed for the day. Fine–I’d nixed that one anyway, because there was no was I was doing that walk every day, let alone pregnant. The other school was a multi-grade-level private school, also about twenty-five minutes away. Since David often trades in the early morning and I’m only going to feel more like a beached whale as the days go on, there had to be a better option.
David had the bright idea to take a digital “walk” through our neighborhood using Google street view, and lo and behold, he found one! A preschool not advertised online and not listed in Google maps only an eight minute walk from our house. Amazing.
Guanajuato Preschool: Mi Hogar (My Place)
We made sure to visit early when school was in session, and were greeted by La Maestra’s husband, who gave us a tour of the preschool and explained how everything worked. He was very kind but spoke in rapid Spanish, so we spent most of the tour making sure that we understood what he was saying. Mi Hogar is a Montessori style preschool with an attached guarderia for infants. In the preschool level, about fifteen children from ages three to five are taught by la maestra (the director) and her assistant. They play, paint, draw, learn colors, numbers and the alphabet, visit the computer lab upstairs, and play on the playground equipment outside. We were happy to see that all of the children there were extremely friendly, inquisitive, and generally happy. The building was also light, airy, and clean. La maestra’s husband introduced us to two foreign children ages five and two, one from Germany and one from California. Both spoke to us in Spanish. Yes! In a few months, we could expect Spencer to be understanding Spanish and well on his way to speaking fluently.
Guanajuato Preschool: Costs, Documents, and Materials
The general model for a private preschool is that you pay a one-time enrollment fee, and a monthly tuition fee. I’m not sure if Spencer would even be eligible for one of the bigger multi-level federal schools seeing as we’re only here on a tourist visa, but since Spencer doesn’t speak Spanish yet we didn’t look into them. We wanted a smaller school where he could receive individual attention. At Mi Hogar, the school year runs from December to December.
The costs at Mi Hogar were significantly less than Instituto de Guanajuato, and slightly less than the other multi-level school we visited. They included:
- Yearly registration fee of 2,800 pesos or $141 USD at the current exchange rate (includes registration fee, some school materials, accident security deposit, and English book)
- Monthly tuition fee of 1,400 pesos or $70 USD
- School sports uniform, a jacket and pants worn every Wednesday, for 300 pesos or $15
- 28 pesos ($1.40) every Wednesday for a communal breakfast that the kids make together
- Lunch to be sent with him every day but Weds costs us about 10 pesos to send him with a boiled egg, a fruit or veggie, yogurt, bread, some cheese, and his water bottle.
Since this is the first time we’ve enrolled a child in school, I’m interested to know how this list compares to other school material lists. We were able to get most of it between our local market and the Mega store in Marfil.
- One white tee shirt and pair of white pants to be worn on Mondays (this seems to be a Mexico-wide tradition. Does anyone know its significance?)
- One old tee shirt for painting in
- One extra change of clothes
- Two plastic mats (one for eating on, one for painting)
- Two old magazines for art projects (no TV novela magazines, please! I assume because they could be racy)
- Toothbrush and toothpaste in a cup
- Six rolls of toilet paper
- One package wet wipes
- One tube anti-bacterial gel
These vary slightly from school to school. The smaller the school, the more likely they can give you wiggle room. The first preschool we went to wanted us to go to the civil office downtown to get an official translation of Spencer’s social security card! At Mi Hogar, they were content for us to provide a copy of Spencer’s passport instead of the Mexican CURP.
- 2 copies of birth certificate
- 2 copies of the CURP (Clave Unico de Registro de Población, or the equivalent of a Social Security Card)
- 2 copies of vaccination records
- 2 photos of Spencer
- One general health certificate including weight, height, blood type, and any special notes. You can get this from the on-call technician at one of several local pharmacies for 40 pesos ($2.00). To get Spencer’s blood type (how did I not have this?) we went to the laboratory around the corner and paid 70 pesos ($3.50) to get his blood typed.
- In case of foreigners, copy of both parents’ passports
Factoring in the registration fee, the tuition, the materials, and what we paid for documents and copies, we’re paying about 1,800 pesos a month ($90) not including the lunches we send from home and the clothes we already had. For five hours a day, five days a week, this is $3.60 per hour. This is slightly less considering the money we would have spent to feed Spencer on Wednesdays, and the clothes/uniform that we can keep and use throughout the year.
Guanajuato Preschool: So What’s It Like?
The first day we showed up at 8:15, having given ourselves plenty of time to walk. I think we annoyed la maestro’s assistant who reminded us at 8:30 that school doesn’t start until 8:30. Since then, we’ve been showing up between 8:30 and 8:35, and that’s gone fine. At 1:30, all the parents gather at the gate and the maestra sends the kids out individually. All the kids including Spencer are happy and in good moods. This is a huge positive recommendation for us. Spencer was often overwrought and weepy when we used to pick him up at 4:00 from the daycare in Playa.
Sometimes we can get him to tell us a little bit about what he did that day and he often mentions the “nice babas,” his word for babies. We haven’t gotten to know any of the other parents yet, but we exchange greetings when we get there in the afternoon. In our first week, Spencer was sent home with a notebook and a homework assignment to trace a big and a small circle three times. I’m not big on homework for three-year-olds, but this was a quick and easy activity to do, and so far we’ve only gotten homework once. I also had to draw margins on every page, and cover the notebook in plastic. I don’t mind a little outsourcing to parents!
Spencer still doesn’t seem to understand much Spanish, but it’s only the first week. Overall, we consider our Guanajuato preschool search a huge success. Are you moving to or living in Mexico as an expat, or do you have any other questions or experiences to share? Please let us know in the comments, or use the contact form to drop us a line!
Feature image credit: Mimzy at Pixabay