How I Became A Mexican School Bus Driver
Homeschooling can be hard for both kids and Mom, we needed a break. Knowing our next stop was Oaxaca I looked up what schools they had and found just the thing for my wild girls, Paz Montessori, a bilingual child-led Mexican school in the countryside.
At first my girls weren’t too excited to go back to school. They were picturing traditional school, sitting in desks all day and doing what they’re told. Montessori is different, freer and more open to letting the child make their own choices. If you don’t know anything about Montessori schooling read this for a basic explanation.
When we went to see the school June had warmed to the idea but Rory still wasn’t too enthusiastic. Then they saw it, a house in the mountains outside of town, children doing different activities, some with teachers and some on their own, some at tables and some lying on the floor. This wasn’t like any school we had ever seen, and it was a little daunting.
There’s a rescued dog that roams free around the school and a rabbit that the kids help take care of. The chickens next door aren’t part of the school but it’s nice to watch them through the wire fence as they scratch and cluck. There is a garden that makes up part of the lunches they eat and a creek down the hill kids sometimes go splash in on warm days.
Unlike most Mexican schools Paz (which means peace in Spanish) has no uniforms. A library of English and Spanish books to read and check out made me want to sit right down myself, and there were interesting math tools with beads that we had never seen before. Puzzles and maps and art supplies, all the work areas open to the air. My girls were starting to realize that school might be more fun than before.
We toured the buildings until we got to the kitchen where it was mentioned that kids could help with making the food. Both of my girls sat right down to help cut carrots and were given knives to do so as they chatted with another girl. I knew then that they were sold and resisted the urge to tell them not to cut their fingers off.
We’ve been in Mexico for more than 2 years now but Oaxaca has been a big adjustment for all of us in the few weeks we’ve been here. It’s very different than anywhere else we’ve been.
For one thing the traffic is horrible, rude, aggressive drivers clogging the roads into the city. I chose a house in the country just north of the city that still looked pretty close on the map (ha!) but the roads are often full of holes as well as topes (speed bumps) slowing us down. The combination of these two things means that it takes a long time to go anywhere like the grocery store or the sightseeing areas in Centro.
Paz Montessori is not close to our house either, even if we take the shorter, bumpier route over the mountain. I leave an hour before I need to be there to pick them up or drop them off. That’s a whole hour in heavy traffic if I go through town or creeping through giant muddy holes if I go over the mountain. It’s a lot of work to drive them there and back every day, but it turned out that they love the school so I’ll keep doing it.
To help everyone be able to afford the school you have the option to work off part of your child’s tuition by volunteering with the school, and I thought sure, I can help clean up or work in the garden, I’ll do whatever they need. When I brought this up during our tour I was slightly surprised to hear that what they really needed help with was transportation.
The school is up a bumpy mountain road, and having all the parents drive up and down every day would damage it even more, possibly upsetting the neighbors and making them want to shut the school down. To help keep traffic down and preserve the road parents are told to bring their kids to a park in the city for pick up and drop off, and the kids are transported in the school van.
I didn’t think about the fact that 60 kids won’t fit in a van, so more than one vehicle is needed to help get them up and back every day. I told the director that we do own a very large truck, and I already had to be there to get my own kids, what was a few more?
Our Suburban will seat 9 people with seatbelts, and more than that if you aren’t concerned about seatbelts. (This is Mexico, no one is very concerned with seat belts.) That first day we left the girls happily chopping carrots after our tour and when I came back at 3pm to get them and take my first load of school kids down the hill we put 12 kids in my car, including a few happily squealing in the cargo area as we bumped through giant pot holes. Another thing for my large collection of “things that would never be acceptable in the U.S. but are totally normal here.”
So that’s how I accidentally became a Mexican school bus. I did say I would help however I could and I’m glad our giant truck comes in handy between moves.