Family of Four Taking Flight to Financial Independence

How To Enroll Your Kids In School In Spain

Let’s back up a little bit.  If you are new to joining us, we FIREd (financial independence retire early) fully in April 2021 of this year.  We obtained our Non-Lucrative Visas to Spain, and we arrived in Granada, Spain in April (with a short pit stop in Madrid prior).  Want to back up even further and see how we did that?  Read our About Us and Start Here.

We have two kids currently 10 and under.  Despite embracing an alternative learning style unexpectedly during COVID-19 (we started City School in Houston) ...with a strong interest and practice in World Schooling (more on our ideas around World Schooling here and here), we knew we had (and wanted) to enroll them in school in Granada, Spain.  Why enroll them in school in Granada, Spain?  My understanding is even though it is not technically “illegal,” not many Homeschool in Spain.  We didn’t look into this really closely since we knew we were going to go the traditional school route at this time.  But the more important reason for why they will be entering school is for full immersion into the language.  Luckily I am confident we found them a fantastic school.

I’ve been asked quite a few times since we moved abroad from Houston to Spain or even prior (What about school?) so I would like to share our story today.

View of the school we chose (Ave María Casa Madre) from the Alhambra in Granada, Spain (if you look closely you can see two different building complexes with outside courts for playing sports).

First, it is important to know (similar to the Non-Lucrative Visa process!) the school experience may differ or will differ by city, by school, (by family!), etc. in Spain.  Second, some areas of Spain may teach in different dialects. One reason we chose Granada, Spain is because the kids would learn Spanish in school (yes, we know they have a thick accent here).  For example, I believe in Valencia children learn Catalan (Valencian) in school.  I am definitely not an expert on this, but do your research first.  This influenced us on where we would live.  Third, you need to also understand your schooling options in Spain which to me are different from the US (Again this may vary somewhat by area ... some areas may be more competitive or more children than others.  Some areas with a higher expat population or higher population in general, it may be harder to get your children in the school of your choice.). Finally, you need to know what you are looking for in a school for your children in Spain.

Let’s look more closely at the schooling options in Spain and my final point (what did we want in a school in Spain for our kids?  What do you want?).  

Schooling Options In Spain

There are state schools (public), semi-private (colegio concertado) which means they are private but receive some funding by the government, or fully private schools (colegio privados).  It is my understanding that some of the state schools are also bilingual.  There are also International Schools (private).  I found these two links to be helpful Expatica (Schools In Spain: State, Private, Bilingual, and International Schools), and this link on Expatica (A Guide to Education in Spain).

Some of our walk to school (Ave María Casa Madre) would be up a steep hill, but not much of the walk.  It is about a 10 min walk from our apartment to their school in Granada, Spain.

What did we decide on?  Why?  What is best for your children?  

We initially assumed we would enroll them into a public / state school because we wanted a full immersion experience (and it is free).  This was before we knew about and understood some of the other options like colegio concertado schools (semi-private).  We knew we wouldn’t go the private route because of cost and lack of full immersion (International Schools).

First, why full immersion?  We are in Spain ...why not?  Some parents want a “softer landing” for their kids (again this choice completely depends on the child, family situation, and other factors), but I think for the most part, the majority of kids would do fine with full immersion.  Our children are currently 10 and 8 so I think they will adjust well.  They also had 4 years (for our oldest) and 2 years (for our youngest) of Dual Language in Texas (50 percent of their public school day was in Spanish).  And half of their class (supposedly) had Spanish as their first language. This past school year we did pull them from public school due to COVID-19, but we kept up with practicing Spanish the best that we could (including with live 1:1 classes with Homeschool Spanish Academy).  We are not sure how long we will be in Spain, but one of our goals ideally would be for the children to become fluent and bilingual (and for us adults to get as close as possible to that).  A school offering full immersion would be a great first step in that process.

What type of school did we decide on in Granada, Spain?  Initially I thought we would send them to a local state school in our neighborhood (Albaicin) that seemed to be constantly recommended by other expats.  But I am grateful another expat told us about a colegio concertado, Ave María Casa Madre.  We are confident it will be a great fit for our kids.  First, we like that few expat kids go there.  I think it is great to meet other expats kids and families, but if there are too many at a school our kids may rely or gravitate more towards the English speakers (and therefore not be as fully immersed with Spanish).  But beyond that we heard of many other great things about the school including a quality education, smaller class sizes, and more unique approach to education including a priority on outside learning and integrating nature.  After everything I’ve learned over the past year or more through City Schooling, spending time outside has definitely become a priority (including learning about nature).  And finally, you can’t beat the location, beautiful campus and surroundings (and like I mentioned previously they integrate the surroundings into the education).  Ave María Casa Madre is at the foot of the Alhambra along the Darro River.

Erik’s favorite pull up park is less than 5 min from their school.  It is also at the foot of the Alhambra.  Erik is carrying my Tortuga Day Pack (Granada, Spain).

Alhambra in Granada, Spain.

On Carrera del Darro ... we would take this street up to their school along the Darro River (Granada, Spain).

What is best for your children?  I certainly can’t answer that, but I think knowing what is best for them, what you are looking for, how long you may stay in Spain and so on will help you make that decision.  I would also join Expat groups (I am in several on Facebook), and ask around to get as much information as you can about the school options in your area.

What was the process like to enroll them?  

This Garden is right down the street just a few steps from their school (Granada, Spain).

I was told we would need our padron to enroll them (read the link for more information), but our particular school didn’t even ask for the padron.  Of course I would still try to take care of that ASAP when you arrive though (we are still waiting to finalize ours!).

In early May (school ends mid to late June here) we visited the campus of Ave María Casa Madre.  A friend told us exactly where to go so that was helpful considering the school is kind of “hidden” behind walls and you can easily miss it!  The main office was labeled and easy to find when we entered on the left.  I had what I wanted to say translated prior in Spanish so that was helpful.  The Administrative Assistant only spoke Spanish.  She gave us paperwork to fill out for next (2021 - 2022) school year, and she asked an (what I assume was) Administrator that spoke some English to talk to us.  He was very kind to talk to us about the school and showed us around a bit.  The campus is huge and beautiful.  We happened to run into an English teacher, and she was also very kind and took over our “tour” and showed us around even more.  It was definitely a great first impression.

I filled out the paperwork right away, and I believe we turned it in the next day.  What else did they need?  One thing I have learned about Spain is if we have any kind of appointment or situation where I think we may need paperwork, I carry all our paperwork in my handy Tortuga Day Pack (it has an area for laptop and papers).  I should have written it down since I can’t recall exactly what they took copies of (I always have extra color copies too).  But I believe it was our Passports / Visas and copies of the kids Birth Certificates (and everything else that goes with them).  The Administrative Assistant or Office Manager asked us to return a specific day the following week to see if they were accepted / enrolled for next school year.

What was the paperwork?  It seemed like some of it was for the city / region (Junta de Andalucia) and some of it was for the school.  Most of it was just basic information about the kids and parents such as birthdate, address, and so on.  Luckily it wasn’t too difficult to figure out.  I did use Google Translate to get through it so that made it more time consuming.

Another thing I’ve learned in Spain is you often visit a place multiple times before you get what you need accomplished ...we’ve often heard come back tomorrow, or make a new appointment and so on.  I am not complaining, but I am just sharing our experience.  Luckily since we FIREd (financial independence retire early) we have the time to visit multiple times!  This was definitely the case with getting an answer with the school.  I believe we visited 2 - 3 times to see if they were enrolled before we finally got an answer.  Sometimes I feel like things are literally lost in translation, but it seemed like the kids were accepted.  And we were asked to come back between June 1 -8 to fill out more paperwork.  (Yes, more paperwork!).

Yes, that is another thing.  Spain seems to enjoy paperwork!  

Surprisingly I received an email prior to June 1 with the paperwork attached.  I was told I needed to either fill it out and email it back in for each child, or I needed to bring it to the school (by June 8).  Since they emailed it this made it slightly easier for me since it saved me an extra trip to school.  I had the paperwork printed in color (if color was on the original) at our local school supply / copy shop.

What was the additional paperwork?  One was a letter about their parent organization and supporting the school through monetary means (sort of like PTA or PTO back in the US it seemed).  The donation was minimal.  I did sign us up, but they didn’t ask for payment yet.  There was also more paperwork for the city / region (Junta de Andalucia) which again asked for basic information for each child / the parents.  The last two paperworks were for the school.  One was about personal information and permission such as taking photos of your child.  The last paperwork was for either choosing for your child(ren)to receive Catholic education (or the alternative social and civic values).  We chose Catholic education.  That’s another thing ... as you can probably guess from the school name, Ave María Casa Madre is a Catholic school.  This didn’t factor into our decision making too much, but I do like that the kids will be getting religious education also.  They missed going to our church back home (we stopped when Covid-19 hit - a Methodist church; they really loved the kids programs at the church).

Good news!  At that point they said see you on September 10 so all was final!  What a relief because we really wanted the kids in this school.

Walking outside one building for their school (Granada, Spain).

I realized afterwards that I had a few questions for them so I emailed Ave María Casa Madre, and I got an immediate response. My questions were ... 1) Do we need to turn in any additional paperwork to the Education Department (with the city)?  I was told by a few people this may be the case.  Luckily they told me we did not need to do that - our paperwork was complete.  This may differ by school.  2) What uniform or colors did they specifically need (I wasn’t sure if it differed by grade level)?  They told me or clarified to me where to get the uniforms, but they didn’t say anything beyond that.  We will probably go try to look at it soon before things are sold out in August.  3) What school supplies did they need / school supply list available?  School supply lists are a big thing back in the US, and the cost often adds up quickly!  I was told the teachers would give them books and let them know what they needed when school begins.  It doesn’t seem to be a mad rush of things like back in the US.

There you have it.  Our thoughts on where to enroll in school in Granada, Spain (for our kids at least) and how the enrollment process went for us.

What do you think?  If you are abroad with kids, what did you choose for education or schooling?  Or if you moved abroad, what might you do? Comment below.

Read our previous post on a trip to Málaga, Spain here.  Want to join us on your own flight to Financial Independence?  Comment below or email us at


No comments