The most common question I get about living in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua is about schooling for the children of expats.
I always try to give an honest and unbiased explanation of the three most popular options foreigners have to choose from. These options are San Juan del Sur Day School, Escuela Adelante, and home schooling.
Some expats choose to send their kids to one of the local public or private schools, but they are a small minority.
San Juan del Sur Day School
San Juan del Sur Day School is about the only non-homeschooling, English-instruction option for kids aged five or older.
Located high on a hill, set on farmland, it follows international education standards and is MINED-accredited (MINED is Nicaragua’s Ministry of Education).
Alongside regular curriculum topics, students practice yoga and meditation, enjoy swim lessons, and learn about gardening.
They use the surrounding nature to teach the curriculum and students spend a lot of the day outside. Respect and compassion are high priorities for the day school. Students receive a word of the week that correlates with these values.
My daughter has attended this school since we arrived in SJDS in 2015.
We love the diversity and flexibility of her education. She has excelled in the program and is growing into a kind, caring little girl. My daughter is confident in her education and I am astonished at how much she is learning and retaining.
Recently, she was teaching the family about evaporation by putting a bowl of water out in the sun. At five years old she is learning letter sounds and how to read. They are doing simple math, and with the diversity of the school, geography is part of her education. Her best friends are Spanish, Brazilian, and Canadian.
Escuela Adelante offers bilingual preschool education for kids 18-months to four years.
Located right in town, this school enrolls 80-percent Nicaraguan students. The other 20 percent are kids from Greece, Spain, France, Germany, the US, Canada, the UK, and more.
It is also MINED-accredited and most of the teachers are Nicaraguan.
There’s a quaint outdoor play area in the middle of the school and there are even a rabbit cage and a turtle pond.
The school consists of several classrooms, a computer room, and a library. As the students get older, Escuela Adelante will grow with them. Adding Kindergarten, first grade, and so on as needed.
My two-year-old son has been attending this school for the last year. I love that there is instruction in both English and Spanish. He loves his school and his vocabulary in both languages has expanded in a big way. The staff is very kind but definitely emphasizes education even at this young age. The teachers are very kind, but they definitely emphasize education even at this young age.
It is only $100 per month, with a price reduction for those who need it, which is why so many of the students are Nicaraguan.
Escuela Adelante also offers a unique after-school program for students 10-14 years old. The aim is to bring kids together from all backgrounds in a bilingual learning environment. Course materials are in English, but they offer Spanish translated materials as well. These classes use hands-on projects to keep the kids interested and learning. This program is a great addition to those who choose to homeschool their kids.
Homeschooling is the only option for children 13+ years who want an English-based education. Many families with younger kids also choose this option.
Homeschooling parents say they enjoy the freedom that it offers their families, with the ability to hold a class anywhere in the world. A creative parent can use what exists in their environment to create the necessary curriculum. Homeschooled kids usually excel quicker than those in the traditional classroom. They often test higher than their grade level.
I have many friends who homeschool here in Nicaragua. They mostly use K12 for the curriculum or create their own using sites like Singapore Math. They supplement using STEM projects and things found on Pinterest that go along with their educational goals and curriculum. Khan Academy and BrainPOP are great online sources as well.
Local Public & Private Schools
A few expat families choose to enroll their kids in one of the local public schools.
Instruction is completely in Spanish. It takes an outgoing or Spanish-speaking child to feel comfortable with this option.
We sent our daughter to a public preschool for a month when San Juan del Sur Day School was on a break. I loved dropping her off in her school uniform and watching her make friends with the local kids.
But the school system is very different to what I was used to. There is less time spent on education. And without substitute teachers, there were many days that there was no class or the kids got out early. I struggled with the daily time changes, trying to plan my day around what time school would be out. That said, her teacher and the director of the school were very kind. They welcomed the little gringa in the class for a month.
Colegio Nuestra Señora de Fátima is a faith-based private Nicaraguan school. It is where the more wealthy Nicaraguans in the SJDS area tend to send their children to.
A few integrated expats kids go to this school as well.
Located in Rivas, 30 minutes from San Juan del Sur, the education is a step above the local schools. It’s in a well-constructed building and there’s AC in the classrooms.
Although all instruction is in Spanish, there is an ESL class taught in English. They plan to make the school bilingual one day.
In San Juan del Sur we have more choices for schools than any other town in Nicaragua.
As a mother, this was a major part of the decision to move here rather than to another less populated beach town.
Whether you want to integrate your kids into the public school system and watch their Spanish flourish or care more about their education staying on track with your home country’s standards, there is a school option or combination that will help you achieve your goals.
Nicaragua is paradise for kids, with the warm weather and freedom to explore. Also, they love children in Nicaragua. Moving to this country was a gift we gave our kids.
Jenna Reid moved to San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua with her husband and two kids in March 2015. She helps her husband operate a website development company and she enjoys freelance writing. Her personal blog is The 1 Less Traveled By.