Living with Kids in BA — It’s Not Easy

Now that our family unit is back in BA, I thought I would share some of the challenges we have been facing living la vida expat with kids, as well as some of our crazy plans to address those challenges!


  1. School hours are long. We appreciate that the Zs don’t have as much homework as they had in the US. But, they attend school from 8 am to 5 pm, which we are finding is just too long. By the time we pick them up, get home, cook dinner, eat, and clean up, it’s time for bed. It leaves little time for them to have any extracurricular activities or hang out with their parents and still get to bed at a reasonable hour.
  2. The English half of the school day is underutilized time. We thought that sending them to a Spanish/English bilingual school might be a good idea so they could have some time in English to balance out having to learn Spanish from scratch. In truth, the English level of their peers is well below a native-speaker’s level, so the class time is less than engaging.
  3. The Zs are losing some of their Mandarin. We try to speak Chinese as much as possible (it’s our secret language when we’re out and about in the city), but there’s little we can do for their writing since I can only reproduce a few characters. And, with their current school schedule, it’s hard to find time for additional tutoring.
  4. We are always working against the Argentine schedule. I call the kids here “Coca-Cola Powered” because it’s gotta be the caffeine that keeps ’em going. Wee Argentinians are up about three hours later than my kids but seem very perky in the morning. Unfortunately, my stodgy American kids need a lot of sleep to feel decent and not be growley all day long. It’s tough to maintain a reasonable sleeping schedule when you are fighting an entire nation’s predilection to stay up late. (Yes, there is a theme here — getting our kids to bed at a decent hour is nigh on impossible.)
  5. Healthy eating is a struggle. Argentina does wine, ice cream, and beef really really well, but fruits and vegetables…not so much. Of course, we are incredibly spoiled coming from the Pacific Northwest. It’s hard to adjust to having only two types of apples available (Granny Smith and Red Delicious), no heirloom tomatoes, no multiple varieties of locally-grown cherries, no amazing berries, no farmer’s markets… . But aside from lamenting the loss of PNW produce, the lack of produce variety as well as the poor quality makes it very hard to feed our children in a matter that we consider to be healthy, even when we are doing our own cooking. (Luckily, the girls are able to choke down less-than-tasty produce because they understand the importance of eating fruits and vegetables, even if they don’t taste as good as they did back home.) This was not a challenge we anticipated before moving here.

CRAZY (and mundane) SOLUTIONS

  1. We are going to begin “Worldschooling” (a phrase coined by my friend Mel and also by some other traveling home schoolers). We approached the Z’s academic institution to ask them if they would allow us to enroll the girls in the school for only the morning portion of the day (which is Spanish) and one afternoon a week (which is field day). For four afternoons a week, we want to bring them home for some learnin’, Michele and Tom style. (Yes, I know…never say never!) To make a long story even longer, we met with the various functionaries at the primary and administrative levels yesterday (biting our nails) and they gave us the green light! (All the while stressing that this has never been done before and that they are only approving it on a provisional basis which will not be extended to any other families.) So the great experiment begins.

    We want to use the afternoons for private Chinese tutoring (the girls and I will take classes together); English, math, and geography homeschooling; and, extracurricular sporting activities (we may take up some family horseback riding lessons and family time at a tennis center). Crap, writing this makes me realize how much freaking work we have to do!

  2. Try alternative produce options. Please see my thread on BA Expats about possible produce procurement options. A lot of contributors had great ideas and we will be trying some of these. Also, we are going to attempt to integrate food shopping into school pick up time in Belgrano, since it will be in the middle of the day, and incorporate meal planning and prep into the home school curricula.

7 Responses to “Living with Kids in BA — It’s Not Easy”

  1. Buenos Aires Expats - Online Community of Expatriates and guide to living in Buenos Aires, Argentina

    […] the same villa (slum). this time i arrived at the volunteer office at 9am, no earlier. the van … Living with Kids in BA — It’s Not Easy[] Now that our family unit is back in BA, I thought I would share some of the […]

  2. Sara King

    You know what I noticed in BA? No one has patio or terrace gardens. It would be so easy to grow herbs and tomatoes (I would think), but I never saw it. Have you thought about growing your own on the terrace (if you have one now)? I’ll send you seeds if you need them!

    I totally expected to see them in BA. When I was living and traveling in Europe, it is not uncommon to see makeshift gardens everywhere.

  3. Michele

    One of the drawbacks of moving around as much as we have is that we cannot really garden very effectively. Boy have I been tempted though. Unfortunately, we are going to move again in the beginning of April…sigh. I think the bottom line is that spice, herbs, and veggies are just a very low priority. For instance, we had an asado a while back and I brined the chicken breasts and put a cumin/lemon/garlic/olive oil moist rub on them. The Argentines in attendance thought I was crazy! They enjoyed it, but the thought of putting even salt and pepper on the meat before grilling was sacrilege!

  4. Janine Thomas


    I live in Vancouver, BC and have 2 kids – Grade 7 and Grade 9 and are thinking of perhaps moving to BA or somewhere else – I found your comments very interesting and want to pass onto you a website, just in case you are from BC. I don’t think it will work for you if you are from the US side, but there is likely an equivalent. – for online courses – my son has just started it, half way through Grade 9 and loves it. Might work for your afternoons. Keep posting!

  5. Angela

    hi michele! thanks for blogging. i really enjoy reading about your experiences and appreciate the humor in your writing. we are also a family from the PNW (Seattle) who has moved out here to BA. we have been here for about 6 months now! i wanted to ask you if you could email me offline about the “worldschooling” as we have a similar setup with our local private school. however, i am doing a little research on how much of a discount your school was willing to give you, if you don’t mind my asking?

    on another note, i would love to meet you sometime! i am chinese american and can speak mandarin too.


  6. melissa s.

    hey! you’re worldschooling, yay! where have i been???

    do you think your current academic institution would agree (or find it at all funny) if we moved there and asked to do the same exact thing??? i could say “but you let micheeeeeeeeeeele do it” in my whiniest american voice!

  7. Michele

    Yah, we’re kind of afraid that all of the expat parents in the school are going to start asking to do the same thing and then they’re going to get mad at us and not let us do it anymore. Of course, the downside is that the kids are in school all day, so perhaps there is no bad option there…haha.

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