Give A Little Bit: Starting A Community School in Huanchaco

One of the main reasons that Tree and I decided to slow our travel pace was so that we can participate in community. We want the opportunity to become part of local life—to connect to a place, its people and its culture.

By living in as opposed to traveling through a place, we experience the place more intensely.  By shopping for our groceries at the local Mercado, getting our shoes fixed by the town cobbler, frequenting the local bakery, and dining at the neighborhood eateries, we get to connect with the same people every day.

Willy delivers our water and gas, but he also killed our landlady's roosters and fixed the front door. He's the everything man.

And by connecting with the locals on a level beyond tourism, we are able to discover what the community needs in relationship to our particular skill sets and passions.

Recently, I have been asking myself how I can best be of service in Huanchaco.

I want to give a little bit back to the people that have been so welcoming of us, but I also want to feel inspired and invigorated by my efforts.

During our last dinner party, the answer was served up to me on a platter.

Our friend Kelly has a young daughter named Catalina, who is vivacious, very bright, and super headstrong, even by two-year old standards.  A few months ago, Kelly put Catalina into a local preschool, hoping to give her daughter a head start on education, as well as to socialize her with other children.  But after a few weeks of attendance, Catalina still had not come home with any drawings or projects indicating what she had been doing at school.  When Kelly inquired about the curriculum from the teacher, she was dismissed with a blank stare followed by an impatient wave of the hand.

Furthermore, Catalina’s behavior seemed to be worsening.  Whereas she had always been willful, now she was kicking, screaming, pushing, and biting.  And then, the final straw, Catalina came home from school with a new word—malcriada, meaning spoiled or naughty.

Kelly quickly deduced that not only was Catalina not learning anything useful, to top it off, the teacher’s misguided attempts at breaking her daughter’s willful behavior with punishments and name-calling were severely backfiring.  Kelly immediately pulled her daughter out of school—the only one in town.

But Kelly wasn’t going to give up on her daughter’s education that easily.  She found other mothers in town who were equally disappointed in the poor schooling options available, and they got together to start a community school for children ages two to five years old.  Still in the incubus stage, the moms set out to find teachers and contributors to the fledgling school.

This is where I come in! I get to be the English teacher, as well as a co-coordinator of the overall curriculum and weekly lesson plans.

So far the children only have school on Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays, but we hope to expand to five days a week in the coming months.  Aside from the standard time spent on learning to read, write, and count, our curriculum includes fun things like show and tell, art, dance, music, work in the community garden, and litter clean-ups on the beach.  On Fridays, we speak only English, and we play a decidedly American game that drives them WILD!

Nothing’s more fun than playing Duck-Duck-Goose with a class full of  Peruvian pre-schoolers.  In fact, I think “Duck” and “Goose” were the only English words they learned last week. Although, in all fairness to the english language, their Goose sounds more like Gaaaaaaaaaaaah, and instead of it prompting one child to get up and chase the other, they all jump up at the sound of it.  Apparently they think the name of the game is Duck-Duck-GEESE and the objective is to hit each other on the head, say Gaaaaah, and then marathon race around the ring until they tumble on top of each other.

Oh well.  What they lack in motor skills, they make up for in sheer cuteness.

We mix in intervals of free time and encourage the kids to play with whatever interests them, whether it’s the maracas and drums, the building blocks, the books and puzzles, the water and bean buckets, or the timeless favorite, the sandbox.

We end every class with a sun salutation, an Om, and a prayer for love and peace for all beings around the world.

I’m super excited about our little school. By having family, teachers, and community all involved in the children’s education, we are hoping to collectively teach them to live sustainably, to be compassionate, and to care for our environment. We want to show them the beauty of interconnectivity through direct action so that they appreciate it as truth for the rest of their lives.

And most importantly, we hope to instill in them a lifelong love of learning, exploration, and mindfulness.

In Peru, education is not free, and many of the local children cannot afford to go to school.  To help tackle this injustice, we are throwing a benefit party in a couple weeks to raise money so that we can subsidize at least half of our class, which we hope to get up to around fifteen children by January.

Right now, our means are small, but our vision is grand.  Maybe in a years time, the community school will have the infrastructure and revenue to make sure that every child in Huanchaco has a chance to learn.

I know that the median age of our pupils is only two and a half, but I see a class full of tomorrow’s community leaders—tomorrow’s hope.  -Stevie

P.S. If anyone knows of any great homeschooling websites that offer free printouts, let us know! We are open to all suggestions that aim to help us achieve our goals. (Thank you Bree for your list of suggestions xo)

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Comments

  1. I believe you have found your calling, my dear…and, most likely, your home. What a perfect fit for you. I love that you end each class with sun salutation and OM. So Stevie! What lucky little ones. Good luck with this beautiful venture. Much love, c

  2. Que’ magnifico su trabajo! Que’ compasivo su corazon!

    I love that you two put your beliefs into action – “Right Action.”
    Painting orphanages . . . Sharing your resources, van, and friendship with others on your journey . . .
    Blogging on important issues . . . (and also FUN topics!) which gives your readers insights and laughter . . .
    Supporting Occupy, where EVER you are . . .
    and now . . Planting seeds of goodness and education in the hearts of children.!
    . . . Just another way you contribute to the well-being of the world. (And isn’t it FUN?!!!) —
    To play with children is one of the greatest joys of life. (AND – you get yourself ready for the future education of your own Little One!)

    The world needs all these things.
    I am so happy for you, so proud.

    mom

  3. John D. Wilson says:

    That’s great, you two. Good for you – hope you spend enough time there to have to take a border run, always a joy!
    I suppose this mean another delay in the guest post 🙂
    Enjoy the people, the city and the beaches, That is what traveling is all about.
    Play nice and travel safely,
    John D. WIlson

  4. Monica Kelly says:

    Awesome!!!

  5. I’m sending you spanish curriculum from “Grupo SURF” ASAP. I worked from this http://advocatesforyouth.org/publications/393?task=view — Como Planear mi Vida. You’d have to adapt this to the age range, but it is really good stuff. I’ll send more! big hugs!

  6. Diane Trujillo says:

    Hi Stevie~

    Hats off to you! What a great idea!! Can’t do enough exclamation points for how excited I am about your new venture with a positively amazing mission statement….you go girl!

    Soooo…here is a web site I found….having done curriculum for the years I was in Special Ed…I did learn how to hunt out the sites that were applicable to what I needed…hope the following works to be a good site for you:

    http://www.tlsbooks.com/preschoolworksheets.htm

    In google search I always use the word ‘free’ first…that always gave me a good start on the research…good luck….hugs & love:-)Diane

  7. Paul Lyttle says:

    Stevie, What a wonderful thing you are doing. I for one am very proud of your effort and inspired to help in any way I can. What do you need the most from the states?
    Paul

    • Greetings Paul!

      Thank you for the kind words and your desire to help. I’m excited to help build this small school into something that will last long after Tree and I get rolling again. We’re going to be here in Huanchaco for a few months more at least, so I have some time to get it settled.

      Right now we have a list of things that we need like paper plates, crayons, non-toxic paints, glue, kid scissors, and construction paper for art projects, as well as tiny masks and gloves (for litter pick-up), baby yoga mats, etc… But, Tree and I just had four pounds of mail sent to us from Oregon, and it cost $250. Soooooo, we’re going to have to procure these items from Peru. We should be able to find most of them, and we’ll just have to get creative and make the things that we can’t find, like little yoga mats.

      Of course, if you come down to surf with Tree, then I will definitely ask you to pack a few goodies for us in an extra suitcase 🙂

      Tonight I’m meeting with the moms for an after dinner drink/meeting. I will tell them about the outpouring of support that we’re getting and suggest that we set up a Paypal account.

      I’ll keep you posted. Thanks again for your willingness to help.

      Stevie

      • Amulet's grandma says:

        I am really excited to hear what you are doing with the little ones….Amulet’s dad is my son…i would love to send some of the supplies that you need…as i have access to just about everything…crayons…paper…etc.but it is to expensive……i think if there were a way to send some money to you, occasionally…it would be easier for you to buy supplies there…everytime i send a package to my grandbaby ..it costs me close to a hundred dollars…most times the freight is worth more than the contents. you have my e mail and you know Rossana and Dave…so keep in touch

        • Hi Amulet’s Grandma! Thanks for commenting on our blog. I’m so happy that you’re excited about the school too. I’m going to work with the mamas and help them set up a Paypal account so that our stateside family and friends can contribute too. I’ll be in touch with you soon with the details! And keep checking back….I’ll be sure to post more pictures of your adorable granddaughter 🙂 If you ever need to get in touch with me via email, you can use the Contact Us page here on the blog. Thanks again for your comment and support. Warm wishes!

      • monique king says:

        please contact me when you have a paypal account set up. I’ll be more than happy to contribute that way, say “Hi” to kelly for me <3

        • Hi Monique! We did it! We got the PayPal account set up 🙂 Click on the post that says “Benefit Fiesta For Our Community School” and there is a link that will take you directly to it. And I will be sure to pass your message on to Kelly. Warm wishes and many thanks.

  8. Grandpa Don says:

    Hello Tree and Stevie
    What a wonderful idea you have to help teach the youngsters of the community. I wish I could
    offer wisdom from my vast collection of ideas and my great age, but I haven’t a clue. Never
    the less, Keep up the good work. Well back to watching the rain and television–the rain is boring
    but my Cougars won last night!!! Good luck to you all and lots of love.
    Grandpa Don

  9. Started reading your blog via Corrin Philips and Mark Nilsson. We home schooled for many years, these two sites have lots of links to places where there are plenty of free printouts….

    http://homeschooling.gomilpitas.com/

    http://www.homeschool.com/

    Loads more out there as well. The gomilpitas one also has a forum that is useful.
    kristy

  10. A beautiful cause and something worth giving to. How about setting up a PayPal account so we folks in the states can contribute.

    • Hi Greg. That is a great idea! Tonight I have a meeting with the moms, so I will bring it up to them. We would greatly appreciate any donations/support that we receive, and the best part is that a little bit of money goes a long way down here.

      Thank you so much for your desire to help. It warms my heart that we’ve received such a willingness from people to be a part of our little school.

      I’ll keep you posted!

  11. Zaina Shuibi says:

    Oh stevie teach them kiddie yoga like reach for the sun and touch your toes. then superman on the ground and happy baby! So cute have a blast!!!

    • I wish we could fly you here to teach kiddie yoga! I will do my best in your absence. I’m actually looking online to buy a DVD that teaches kids yoga, like how you are describing. I figure that I can model my class after it, and then in time, maybe the kids will actually do the class with the DVD alone. If you know of any moms who have good yoga DVDs for kids, ask them what the title is so I can look it up online. Much love to you. xoxo.

  12. Zaina Shuibi says:

    i WOULD LIKE TO donate send me a paypal address and you should facebook this for donations!!

  13. Looks like you guys are making a home! We loved it there and I eyed some of the ‘se vende’ signs pretty closely. Best of luck with the new venture… and nice VW bus!

    jason

    • Well….’home’ for now. We love it here, but there’s still a big wide world to explore. We plan to be here for up to six months, just long enough for me to help get the school on its feet, I think (hope). We are definitely loving our time here though. And, yes, the VW bus is a main attraction at the preschool. All day the little tykes try and get into it with a fervor and determination only known to two and three year olds. Future nomads, that’s all it can mean 🙂

  14. Emily Tarpley says:

    this is why i love you.
    i’m sending you my starfish and the whale. sorry there’s no pictures yet. maybe you could have the kids color their own. it may be too advanced, but if anything, you can enjoy it. i’ll let you know if i think of anything else that may help you in your phenomenal endeavor.
    the world needs more people like you, stevie.
    much love,
    em

  15. Timothy Iller says:

    That sounds really awesome what you guys are doing, especially all the arts and yoga you incorporating into the learning. One of the schools my friend in Tepotzlan, Mexico sends her kid to a kindergarten where they do similar things, hiking, painting, yoga….really awesome childhood. What a way to grow up.

    I have a friend who is a teacher in Cali and I emailed her to ask for some free websites that have printable material. She works with special needs children but I’m sure she will know of something. I’ll let you know when she gets back to me. oh, and we have a song in spanish, but are working on recording it.

    Blessings
    timothy

  16. that’s so awesome Stevie! I hope you’re having fun teaching and creating this program; it must be rewarding to see the smiles on the kiddies everyday. I’m sure the parents appreciate having another options where the kids can learn to play with each other and explore their creative side.

    Good luck with your benefit party.

  17. Hola Stevie, here i m sending the facebook webside of the party ELECTROSUSHI for donation to create our dream the “CASA DE LOS NIÑOS” on the community of Huanchaco…
    We will have sorprice and electro music fest!
    good energy and love
    We meet tomorrow!
    Thank you
    http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=148522455249399#!/event.php?eid=148522455249399

  18. Hello lovely lady, time flyes only two more days oefff, we are so so happie you came on our path.

    I really feel we are planting a seed with this different kind of education here in huanchaco can you emagine, our kindergardenkids will teach there parents to trow things inthe bin and not leave garbide on the beach, our kids will love to learn because they get motivated do develop what they like to learn.

    Thanks for helping us to really realize this project, this is going to change childrens lives

    Love Kelly

  19. It sounds like you are never leaving Huanchaco

  20. ps good work my dear

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