Kidpats

We moved to Panama a little over 4 years ago, and when we made that decision to move, we tried to make it a family decision. We were lucky in that our kids wanted to move to Panama to be closer to their abuela (grandmother), abuelo (grandfather), and their primas (their cousins). 

Not every kid being whisked away to Panama (or to any overseas location) has relatives already living there. And not every kid gets to be part of the decision making process. I’ve received numerous emails from people stating that they were on their way to Panama because the husband or the wife was hired by either a Panamanian company or an American company with a Panama branch. 

At Parque Omar in San Francisco (Panama City)

It’s not only people from the U.S. facing this situation. When I first moved to Panama, I met several of the dads from my kids’ school and we were all in the same boat. My friend from Finland was here because his Panamanian wife wanted to be close to her family. They had two kids. One of the other dads was from Costa Rica and his wife was an American here managing a call center. They had a young son. My Mexican friend is a pilot on contract here and has a wife, two daughters, and a son who’ve all been relocated to Panama. It’s happening and it’s happening a lot.

Estefania (11), Victoria (8), Matteo (5), and Nicolas (5) have all gone through this. None of them spoke Spanish when we moved to Panama. The girls understood it a little bit from hearing my wife speak Spanish from time to time and hearing their grandmother only speak Spanish when she’d come to visit, but they definitely weren’t fluent.

Just regular kids who’ve been there, done that

They’ve been through many of the trials and tribulations. They’ve tried three schools here, they’ve taken ballet classes, they’ve swam in the many rivers, played in the many parks, shopped in the many malls, and forced themselves to make it through the countless hours of ridiculous homework. They’ve done it all and they want your kids to know that if they can do it, your kids can too. They’ll show your kids the fun stuff to do in town and give your kids some tips and pointers from time to time.  

In this new video series, Panama For Real presents Kidpats, they’ll be showing your kids what it’s like to live here as an expat kid…or what we’re calling Kidpats.

Check the submenu to see all the videos we’ve put together and be patient as they’ll be rolling in slowly. 

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13 Responsesso far.

  1. Joris De Saedeleer says:

    Hello Chris

    All very interesting posts. But how about having kids in Panama? So from pregnancy to birth to the first few years, regarding care, costs?
    PS I have also sent you an email with some other questions on cmpowers56@gmail.com

    Thanks
    All the best,
    Joris

    • Chris says:

      Hi Joris,

      Hmm…about having kids in Panama. We moved to Panama after all four of our kids were born, so I can’t speak from experience. I’d have to do some research. My sister-in-law, Dr. Darlene, is Panamanian, lives in David, and is pregnant, so I might be able to get some info from her. I did receive your other email and I’ll respond to it as soon as I can. Thanks for checking out the website and for commenting. Sorry I don’t have a better answer for you.

      Chris

  2. Lisa Anderson says:

    We will not be bringing the kids this time. Just us. I have high hopes for this trip and I am very excited!

    Lisa

  3. Lisa Anderson says:

    Hi again. I was wondering what the school calendar is for the year? Are they on a similar US, Aug start date, and June finish?

    Thanks!

    • Lisa Anderson says:

      Also, I really wanted to thank you for all your replies. SO vey helpful! Can’t wait to visit soon.

    • Chris says:

      Hey Lisa,

      Good to hear from you again. The school calendar depends on which system you enroll your kids in. You’ll find schools on the American system, schools on the Panamanian system, and I think a few schools on other calendars. If your kids are on the American system, it’ll be just like you’re used to. A friend of mine has his daughters on that system because he’s from Mexico and they’re the same as in the U.S., so when he takes his kids back to his country, it’ll be an easy transition. The Panamanian school calendar is a little different. The kids take their “summer” vacation starting in December and it goes until the end of February. Since you’ve been talking about fully immersing your kids in an all-Spanish speaking school, I’m assuming you’ll have them on the Panama system. If that’s the case, they’re on break right now and will be returning at the end of February. 🙂

      Chris

      • Lisa Anderson says:

        Thank you. Well that makes things a little more difficult. I do want to put them in the spanish speaking schools so I will probably have to do the Panamanian schedule. Which does make it difficult as my daughter is going to start 6th grade here in Aug. So I wonder how that will work… and if I only stay a year going back home in Jul, where will that leave her? I can supplement with homeschool I guess… Ick! this is all food for thought…

        I am sure I will be bugging you again soon!
        Thanks!
        Lisa

        • Chris says:

          I’m sure there has to be a school here that is all-Spanish, but has some sort of program that keeps kids on the American schedule. I honestly have no idea which school that would be. San Augustin, the school I told you about in Costa del Este, might have something like that since there are a lot of Americans living there, and Americans working out the embassy. The problem is, most of those Americans, want their kids in an English program since they’re only here temporarily. So, this is a doozy. Are you guys still thinking Costa del Este? You might have to supplement with homeschool. If any readers out there have gone through a similar situation, please share your story.

          Chris

        • Chris says:

          Ah, and one more thing, remember, some schools have waiting lists, so be careful. Once you know you’ll be moving here for sure, and the date, you need to start contacting the school you’re interested in to make sure they’ll be able to get you in. For example, St. Mary’s in Albrook. When we first moved here, we took our daughters to that school and they had a waiting list of like 2 years or something like that, so we had no chance of getting into that school. That’s a popular school for the children of embassy employees though. Keep this in mind because sometimes it’s not like in the U.S. where you just show up and enroll your kids the same day. It can be at some schools, but at others you’ll hit a brick wall. Good luck!

          Chris

          • Lisa Anderson says:

            Sorry, I just noticed this. It doesn’t email me that you have replied. Thank you. We are headed to DR this weekend on the suggestion of a friend, and then as I said in two weeks to Panama. Maybe we could meet up? I really am leaning towards Panama, I guess I will know more after this weekend. As for schools, that is why we need to see the areas where we think we will want to live. I agree with your comment about the costa del este. I really don’t get why parents don’t want their kids learning spanish! I have encountered so much resistance here about what we are doing. Its crazy. Hell, maybe we are truly crazy!!
            Thanks again!!
            Lisa

          • Chris says:

            Hey Lisa,

            I hope you have a blast in DR. Wow, your Panama trip is coming up really soon. Are you bringing the kids along? Don’t worry about all the resistance you’re getting there. It happens to all of us. Moving overseas seems like such a crazy idea to anyone not considering it. I’ve explained to people that, when I lived in Columbus, Ohio, and my mom lived in San Diego, California, it was hard for her to see my kids. So, Panama isn’t much different really. I think Panama is closer to San Diego. It’s really not that far away. Good luck on your travels and yeah, we should definitely meet up.

            Chris

  4. Lisa Anderson says:

    How long before the kids were fluent? Were they in a mostly spanish school right away? You said they changed schools, so not sure if it was a language issue.

    Thanks,

    • Chris says:

      Hi Lisa,

      Thanks for writing. No, it wasn’t a language issue. The first school we enrolled them in was called Instituto Cultural, but they had an all English side of the school. I really just didn’t like the way the school handled things. The administration was horrible. For example, my daughter went through I think 3 teachers in one year. The teacher would show up late, stuff like that. Other people seem to love the school, so maybe I just had bad luck that year. The second school was an all-Spanish Catholic school, where my wife was practically raised, and again, just not the greatest leadership. We had a serious bullying issue there. A 16 year old girl was tormenting my then 8-year-old daughter and no one would do anything (I think her dad was someone important or something like that so they wouldn’t kick her out or do anything about it). Now, they’re in their 3rd school, all-Spanish (except for English class) and they’re fine.

      So…that was the long way to answer your question, lol. My oldest daughter had the hardest time with the language barrier. It took her a couple of years to really grasp it (and she grew up hearing it quite often). My youngest daughter started kindergarten here (in English), but just soaked up the Spanish like a sponge when we took them out of that first school. Kids are amazing with that stuff. If you’re able to afford to put them into one of the better English curriculum schools, I’d advise you to do that. My daughters understood quite a bit of Spanish when they got here from hearing my wife and their grandmother speak Spanish to them. It’s important for them to learn Spanish, of course, if they’ll be living here, but even most English programs will have Spanish classes, plus, they’ll be surrounded by Spanish speakers in everyday life so they’ll learn. Hope I’ve answered your question. Thanks again for getting involved with the site!

      Chris

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