This year, the stars aligned so that . . .
1) we weren't on vacation, and
2) Clara was finally old enough
to attend Vacation Bible School!
OK, truth be told, she and I helped out at Vacation Bible School at the International Church when she was 1, so this wasn't exactly the first time.
But this time it's at our neighborhood Catholic church and,
1) it's her first time going by herself
2) it's all in Spanish (OK the International Church one was, too)
3) we could see snippets of how "Vacaciones con Jesus" works without this year's Christian-Publisher-of-Choice's-Themed-VBS-Curriculum. For those of you doing VBS in the US--don't get me wrong, I've done plenty of VBS in the US and have experienced and enjoyed that pre-packaged, themed curriculum. But I miss singing standard songs, as opposed to Themed-Song-of-the-Year. (On CD, with full band accompaniment . . . I used to be the piano accompanist. I'm still a little bitter about getting "fired" because my job got automated (although I realize the necessity in most communities.))
First of all, it may prove helpful to give one a little background about summers in Mexico:
1) school gets out at the beginning of July. Kids only have 6 weeks of summer vacation.
2) Everywhere and their brother sets up a side business during those 6 weeks, offering "Summer Camps." Camps often in the loosest terms, as the library runs a 6-week long "camp", many gyms offer "summer camp", the museum offers a "camp", even an apartment down the street from me that was for rent a month ago, is now offering "summer camp". (There is the occasional place that is actually a camp. Whew!)
3) All of these places charge a hefty fee, of course. Why else are they all crawling out of the woodwork? (OK, I don't think the library does. But everyone else does.)
4) Did I mention that you send your kids there every day, almost all day, for the entirety of their summer vacation?
Now, yes, I realize for most families these are needed and wonderful services, because most families don't have a parent at home for most of the day. So, yay Summer "Camps"!
However, we're not one of those families. Organized activity all day, every day for my four-year-old sounds a bit much to me.
So I was thrilled when my church announced VBS for preschool-elementary aged kids for two weeks this month. Two weeks. 10-12. For free. Awesome.
As I told Clara, it would be practice for school. She'd have real teachers, have to navigate Spanish on her own, and I would not be there. Good practice for both of us.
It has been excellent practice. She was a bit nervous the first day, but fortunately for us, our neighbor, the oft-mentioned Rosario, who Clara loves, was teaching VBS the first two days. Smooth sailing.
Then, in typical Clara-fashion (much like with her failed dance class in January) she decided that she had enough of VBS after the first day. Too bad. I told her we committed and that she was going every day. This is why this is practice for school. I can see her coming back from school her first day, brimming with stories of the things she did and how she loved it. Then declaring that she had enough and was not going back. Sorry, kid. That's not how school works.
Anyway, we plowed through, and she was a bit sad that there wasn't any VBS on Saturday or Sunday. We arrived a bit late on Monday, and when we walked in it didn't look like there were any available seats. But after a second or two of standing in the doorway a table full of girls pulled out an empty seat and enthusiastically waved, "Clara--come sit over here!"
There are only about 4 preschoolers in the group, and Clara is the only one without an older brother or sister, so she is very popular!
So how does VBS work without the pre-canned program? Stretch your memories people--just like it did in the US twenty years ago! (This is one of those instances that I LOVE when Mexico seems to be a generation behind the status quo in the US.) They sing--sometimes without accompaniment! They color. They hear stories. They play games. They have snack. It seems to work out well.
And do the volunteers get exhausted by doing VBS for two weeks? Not at all--every two days, there's a new group that does it! At first, I was a little concerned about this staffing shift. Who would watch out for my baby? Not to worry--Clara's new best friends (of the 8 & 9 year-old set) are all tripping over themselves in the effort to help her.
She mentioned today that they love her and she loves them.
I think VBS has been a success!