Expat Issues

Send my kid to nursery in Spain? I must be mad!

I’d like to think that no parent in the world actually wants to send their child to nursery. I don’t mean that no parent thinks it’s a good idea for their kid to interact with other kids, learn how to paint using their finger, and pick up useful fighting techniques before they start the big school, but actually would chose playing with their own kids rather than having to send them into a class of snotty, uncontrollable, and future martial art masters.

Okay, I’m exaggerating slightly, but even though my son started nursery last week and he’s slowly getting used to it, I’d still rather have him at home making noise, picking my flowers out their pot, and trying to find every dangerous object in the house to see what he can do with it. Trouble is, I’m all for a good education and I know I have to let go.

Luckily my wife is off work so we’ve been able to put off sending our son to nursery for a couple of years. That dreaded moment came last week when we finally handed him over to a woman he’d never seen before (bad organisation) into a class of screaming, freaked out, petrified kids who were all wondering where their Mamas and Papas had gone.

Does everyone have a car like this? Photo by Valerie Everett

Of course I had to hold back the tears and show a brave face and all that for my wife. It was only an hour anyway. He went in crying, holding on to us, and reaching back, but when we picked him up he was happily playing on a giant plastic car. Happy days, I thought.

But as the week went on and the hours increased he began to realise he hadn’t just been sent off randomly to play for an hour. For the first three mornings he didn’t want to go in. Leaving him became worse, especially as I knew where I was taking him, but he still hadn’t cottoned on he’d be going back there, not until we got to the door anyway.

For me it was harder than I thought because it wasn’t what I expected. I thought he’d be joining an existing class of kids who had been in the nursery for a year or so. I’d pictured him walking into a class of kids quietly sitting at their desk painting pictures of the Giralda. So when the teacher opened the class door and we were hit by a wave of screams and chants of ‘Mama’, ‘Papa,’ and even ‘Abuela (granny)’ it made the whole process worse. I wasn’t aware that all the two year olds were actually new to the nursery and so they obviously hadn’t been trained to sit on cue yet.

As the week went on, the screaming and crying reduced, the kids seemed to be doing stuff rather than trying to escape, and I felt less guilty leaving him there. On the Friday he was actually all right about going in, maybe he realised we were actually boring parents after all, and he was having more fun walking round in circles and learning how to really pick his nose.

This morning was great and he actually smiled when he saw his teacher.  I know it’s good for him, and when he starts school next year, at the age of 3, he’ll be more prepared, but I do miss the little monster.

If you’re considering sending your kids to nursery in Spain then here’s some useful info.

How do you actually get them in?

We are talking about Spain so the process is not as straight forward as you might think. First you need to be empadronado (registered as living) in the area close to the nursery. We moved to an area where we knew there were three nurseries and then picked the one we liked best. After we met up with the director of each nursery we made the decision based on how close the nursery was, how sweet the other kids looked, how few insects there were on the premises, and how non-aggressive the teachers looked (some looked pretty mean).

Then in May we had to fill out a form with our personal details, proof of address, copies of the ‘Libro de Familia,’ passport and DNI, three photos of our son, details of work and income and a list of our favourite rainbow colours in descending order. (Just to let you know we just received the same forms to fill in again asking for three more photos, not sure what that’s about).

After a month we found out if our son was in ‘provisionally’ and then a couple of weeks later if he was really in, just to tease us. Then we paid up the matricula – joining fee, chose which uniformed aprons we wanted, and were told to turn up in September.

Costs, hours, and grub

Compared to nursery prices in the UK, it’s shocking to find that some parents here actually complain about the costs. When I told my sister it was going to cost 69 euros, she said, ‘that’s not bad for a day,’ but she went quiet when I said it was per month. It’s a ridiculous price really, and that’s with lunch every day. If we wanted we could leave him up to 8 hours as well. So it’s not going to bust the bank if you decide to send your kid to nursery over here. Incidentally that was worked out based on our income and how many mouths we have to feed, (dogs not included), so as we are four now and only I’m bringing in an income, we got a good deal. I think the maximum price if both parents are working was about 150 euros, and the least about 50 euros.

Hours are from 7.30 in the morning till 18.00, and you can leave your child for up to 8 hours. We send ours in from 9-9.30, until about 14.00. If he didn’t eat there we could pick him up at 13.00.

He hasn’t started lunch yet, but from what I remember the menu looks better than what my wife scrubs up during the week. I asked if I could come in and ‘help feed’ my son for a while (and maybe get a more balanced diet myself) but they said no. He gets a three course meal every day with starter, main course and a desert. The only things missing would be a chilled glass of Rioja, but he’s a bit young yet. I’d be eager to see how much of it actually goes in his mouth, and not on his top or in someone’s hair, as he’s just started feeding himself, so good luck with that one, teacher.

What will they do?

The main reason we chose this nursery was because it seemed the most organised with regards to what the kids were actually going to do. In about a week, once the teacher has them all sitting obediently at the table, they get a folder with classbook, workbook, and activities to do. I was really impressed with how much they were going to cover before starting real school.

This nursery is even bilingual (as I’m sure they all are these days) and the English teacher is a native speaker who seems very nice, and that also helped our decision. I guess my main worry of not seeing him so much anymore was that maybe his level of English would suffer, so that was a real bonus for me.

They also have a decent, safe-looking, patio where the kids can run about and knock into each other for half an hour, so it’s not all in the class and hopefully he’ll be suitable knackered when he gets home so he can continue with his nap, so my wife gets another hour or two break as I shoot off to work.

So there you have it. It’s pretty hard sending your kid to nursery, especially after having them at home for so long and not being able to really tell them that it’s perfectly normal for us to abandon him with a group of strange toddlers every morning, and that we will be coming back. Hopefully it will get easier, for everyone. I know deep down that it is good for him, and am starting to accept our society’s mean, awful ways of educating us. We must be mad.

So what experiences do you have with your kids at nursery in Spain, or abroad? Any horror stories? Positive and negative comments welcome.

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