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Reflections on a Year of Preschool in Valencia

What a year of transitions, frustration, growth, adaptation, and patience…

Everybody tells you, “kids are so adaptable!” but this was A LOT: a big move from the only home Jacob had known since he was born; leaving the daycare and preschool he’d attended since he was four months old; extended travel across five countries over the summer prior to arriving in Spain; learning to adjust to a new country, language, and culture; being far away from familiar faces of family, caregivers, and friends. It would be a lot to deal with for any adult, let alone a 3-year-old.

We had many difficult days, weeks, and months, especially in fall 2022 and early winter 2023. Fortunately Jacob’s loving teachers and devoted school administrators at his Spanish Montessori preschool provided a tremendous amount of support, encouragement, and resources. This certainly wasn’t the first time they’d welcomed children who moved from other countries and in fact, the school’s population was quite international and multi-cultural in makeup. The school’s app (though a bit technologically clunky) proved useful in receiving regular updates from his teachers, understanding what may have transpired during a given day, and communicating and coordinating how challenges would be addressed at school and at home. Regular extracurricular activities in Spanish such as yoga, music, and art classes as well as swim lessons helped Jacob to absorb and integrate the language while also having fun and spending time with local Spanish children and instructors. And through other friends we’ve made who were also dealing with similar expat move challenges (and in particular, with the support of a former Montessori school administrator and friend who gifted us with his time, wisdom, and practical perspective), we eventually learned how to better support all the feelings and emotions around transitions and defining what is “home” for our family and this unique situation.

Jacob has blossomed and become very independent, in large part (I believe) due to the approach, values, and methods cultivated in a Montessori educational environment that we have tried to integrate into what we do at home. He enjoys doing many daily tasks on his own, like watering plants, folding laundry, cleaning up messes … we’re impressed! We observe that he’s bonded to his school community, friends, and babysitters. He’s also the only person we know who actually enjoys flying RyanAir (not just as a way to get somewhere) – maybe he senses our collective resignation at having to use terrible budget airlines to travel around Europe and decided to have a more positive outlook?

We’re proud to see how far we’ve come as a family after a year of preschool in Spain. We hope his experience as an expat child will continue to enrich Jacob’s life, no matter how long we’re on this adventure.