Three weeks ago, my little man started a new chapter in his life. Five days a week, from 9 to 12:30, he spends his mornings at Jardin de Patri, playing and doing activities with 15 other 3 years olds and two teachers.
The preschool is an inviting place: spacious, bright and colorful, with lots of toys, and pictures on the wall. Lucas’ teachers, his señoritas, Ana and Karina, adore every single student, and everyone gets hugged and kissed on a regular basis. The curriculum includes P.E. class with professor Pablo, folklore class, where the children put on traditional Argentine clothing and learn about Argentine customs, excursions to a farm to feed the animals, and various fieldtrips throughout the year. This includes a camping trip. Yes, you read correctly: they take all the 3 year olds camping. As is the custom in Argentina, all the children where uniforms. In this case, it is a yellow and green smock that they wear over their clothes. It’s to help keep their clothing clean, and it is unbelievably cute.
The best part is that Lucas loves it. His first week, being the new kid, he got special attention from the señoritas, and now he’s totally enamored with them. Ana and Karina report that he is adapting well to the group. He especially loves snack time, because he has discovered the delights of warm milk sweetened with sugar. The teachers are amazed that Lucas drinks so much milk --three cups at a time. I’m not -- if it’s sweet, he’ll go for it.
Some of the other daycares we checked out had the kids on computers every day, learning how to manipulate the mouse and playing games. Technology, however, hasn’t much reached Jardin de Patri. There is only one computer in the building and it appears to be about 15 years old. It is used to print out little announcements for the parents that are then individually glued into each students’ notebook. All notes and recordkeeping are written out by hand in a huge book that looks to be from the 1950s. There are only two telephones in the building, answered by whoever is around. (There’s no secretary) With only one line, you have to go searching for the person.
Jardin de Patri is one of the more expensive daycares in the city --it’s setting us back 280 pesos a month (about $90 U.S. dollars). There are always the free, state run daycares, which are a godsend to many of Argentinas’ working class. Other private daycares offer English classes and computer instruction. But we didn’t come to Argentina for the English, and he’s got his whole life to learn about computers. We’ll take the Argentine folk lessons.