We lived on island (STT) for two years with 3 kids
Many posts about moving with kids, so I thought I could address all of them with one post. Part of my story has not been told, because I felt it would have opened me up to questions I could not answer for many reasons. But now I am settled back in the states and have the freedom to be open and honest and not worry about questions as now I am not living the island life. We moved back to the states last August of 2006 and lived on STT for two years. We have three kids and at the time of the move they were 1st grade, Kindergarten, and 6 months old.
We moved to island with all expenses paid: shipped household goods, shipped vehicle, flights, 1st month's rent, company truck on island as second vehicle, pre-move visit, etc. We made more than average amount of money, had a bit of savings in the bank, and came with knowledge, research, and an open mind and attitude. It may sound cushy and perfect, but as you know we didn't stay. We didn't up and leave for one reason or for a few reasons. We left for a multitude of reasons. I will list a few, but please keep in mind - we made friends, we explored STJ and STT, we went to the beach, we went to parties, we ate out, we snorkeled, we sailed, we did lots of fun things; so it wasn't all bad.
One reason we left is for the kid's education. We could not afford private schooling. I even got a bar tending job and a job in tourism to make ends meet. Private schooling was for the rich, in my mind. Public school is what it is and I am so sorry to say that it was better than the worst, but not by much. I did expect it to be horrible, but at the time I didn't have a choice and gave it the best try ever. Language in the schools is a barrier to mainlanders. It is English and I can understand many accents, but for my kids to learn from a teacher and talk to other students took a long time with many stumbles and misunderstandings. The schools themselves are pretty bad. Even the locals are constantly concerned. One day they had a walk out when the water ran out in the school. Apparently the cistern had a major leak and they filled the tank with water frequently which had to cost a lot, but it ran out often as well. My children would not use the bathrooms and neither would I. They were bad. My daughter's Kindergarten teacher quit after the school year as she could not take the current principal and neither could I. I transferred my kids to a different public school the next year. They had a great principal there, but still many problems existed. I wanted so bad to support the public school system as I wanted it to work, but too many problems exist for locals let alone for mainlanders trying to fit in. I did try homeschooling, but it didn't work for many reasons as well. Even as I write this, I wish things could have been different and better.
We left because we couldn't afford to save money for our kids future nor for our own future. Money just came and went like the waves. We of course tried to budget and spend less on what we could do without. We did lots of free activities like the beach, swimming pools, parks, and of course would spend weekends on STJ (which wasn't free since we had to take a ferry there and buy food, etc. but was cheaper than flying anywhere). Food for a family of five is expensive. Silly things like being allergic to mangoes made fruit on island not an option for cutting back on costs. We shopped the bargain places and just got what we needed. Not a lot of snack food. We bought soy milk as island milk is horrible and stateside milk is expensive and goes bad quickly. Not to mention all the power outages made the milk spoil quicker. These things added up. We spent tons of money on formula for the baby. We could never get the same brand or sometimes size diapers twice in a row. Anyway, I am just saying that the costs of living on island x 5 for us was x 10. Every little thing you take for granted in the states was higher priced and many times hard to get on island.
Let me quickly sum up my point. We had every opportunity to make it work on island, but living on island is HARD and DIFFICULT. When you add kids to that, it is that much harder. We wanted to make a life of it on island, my husband was doing so well in his career (and still is), but we couldn't afford mentally and physically and any other way to stay on island. Locals living on island barely make it by, but it is home to them and they usually have support of family and friends. Many mainlanders think that because locals live on island with families or whatever that it is easier than we make it out to be. They have the same battles with schooling that I had. Many churches give discounts and scholarships to local families for private schooling and trust me they take it. You have to understand that the islands in general have problems with government and that they are still working it out, but their model is the United States Government and having those issues on a small scale affects you more than being a number in the states. Of course many people live on the islands and love it and work hard at it. You really have to be committed to it to make it work and you need some sort of never ending patience and perseverance and luck. Oh, yes, and money.
I don't like to be negative, but anyone considering a move to the islands needs to really understand why they want to move there. Ideals of a paradise type of place can be your undoing. We moved because of a job opportunity, we actually did not seek it out.
My disclaimer: We lived on STT. STX and STJ may have been a different story, but who knows. I have never been to STX nor claim to know how much better or worse the schools are there. I do 100% recommend a pre move visit to see for yourself what the island is like. Every little bit of knowledge can help your decision to move or to know some things to expect. There are some happy stories of people who moved to island and made it work. Make sure you read about their experiences as well. They have insights that are helpful. My last disclaimer. I have no regrets about moving to island nor about moving back stateside. All my experiences are who I am and I love that I had the island experience.
So, good luck to all of you and your decision making and moving and future experiences. I hope those moving to island have good experiences.
I think what you said was spot on. It's not my experience but I didn't have children to educate here & wouldn't still be here if I did. It's really tragic what the government has done to the schools, especially the last administration with a Governor who used to be in education. I hope he's enjoying his antiques - all at the expense of the kids.
I too have had the same diaper and milk problem.
I have started stocking up at price mart on diapers.
I have had the problem of finding the same brand of formula twice in a row.
My child drinks Nestle Good Start. When I do find it - I try to buy every container on the shelf. Its so hard on a babies tummy to switch back and forth between formulas.
Thanks all for the support. I really do try to put a nice spin on things. If someone is set on moving to island, that is fine, I would love to help them find their way with my trial and errors, but if someone has other options, than I hope they make the best decision for their kids.
I did want to make a correction. Private school is not only for the rich. If you have two working parents and one child, obviously your expenses are not as high as in my situation. You could have a smaller home, less groceries, and only one payment for school. It could work a bit better, however you will still have many challenges and it isn't easy by any means. Okay, that's all for now. 🙂
I don't have children yet, but have a suggestion for those of you who do: we buy a lot of toiletries and other such items from drugstore.com and cvs.com. Both ship here, and we've found CVS to have great customer service. Consider purchasing formula and diapers from these sources, and you'll probably get them cheaper, and you likely won't have to switch back and forth between brands because of something being out of stock.
Thank you Teresa, i am moving to Stt with two children when i graduate from College, i hope to teach. My daughters are going to be 9 and 13 years old when i move. My family is originally from the Virgin Islands; however i dont really know my family there. I must say that you gave the most objective description of the hardships of island living. I know it will be hard, but i am going to give it a try. I do have friends on the island, so it may be a little easier for me. My main concern is housing, but i plan to leave the states (i live in NYC) with a good sum of money. I have a few years to research and plan my move.
Thanks for sharing. I added what you wrote to your previous 'entries' in the moving stories. For those that would like to read them all together you can find them here https://www.vimovingcenter.com/what_to_expect/movingstory13.php.
All the best,
I just wanted to bump this post instead of adding to other posts as I feel I have already said most of what I wanted to say. This is mainly for informational purposes for those with children moving to the V.I. I am not trying to keep people from moving to island as that would be hypocritical. What I hope to gain is to help people prepare for their move and to know what challenges they will face. (okay enough disclaimers)
My main point is this: If you are moving to island with children, make sure you have enough money allocated for their education!!!!!!!!!!!!! If you are planning on using the public school system, make sure you have time to get involved with the school, make sure you have time to do school work with your child at home, make sure you know the schedule (getting a calendar of events was near impossible), make sure your child can communicate with the teachers and students, make sure your child is safe and you can pick them up from school, and make sure it is the right decision and not your only choice. Homeschooling is not exactly the best option for most families. It isn't cheap, as you need to buy books and supplies, etc. Usually you buy a package for a couple of hundred dollars starting at the beginning of the school year and you spend more money adding to your supplies. You need to be very disciplined and you need help. Find a group or at least another family doing the same thing. But all of that takes time and if both parents work, it would be near impossible to give your children a good education. Private schools are all different and many are good, but very expensive. You will just have to check them all out and find the right one for your family. If you are trying to find the cheapest private school, understand that on top of the expense of private school, you also have a lot of extra expenses that are not included in the tuition. So, you should not only be able to afford the school, but afford more than just tuition. To throw some numbers out there: the cheapest private school we found was about $100/wk to start (add all the other expenses of clothing, transportation, different class fees, supplies, etc). The most expensive was over $200/wk per child plus expenses. Don't forget the fund raising, sports was extra if available. We broke it down by week, but some schools you had to pay monthly or all at once. So in summary, expensive for children's education let alone your basic living expenses (which is usually your biggest hurdle in the first place).
All that being said, if your child has any disabilities or learning disorders, honestly I would say to stay in the states where you have a better chance of getting the help you need. It is hard enough for an 'average' child to make the adjustments let alone one with difficulties. There just isn't the support you need on island.
Let me also say, (as if you could stop me once I am on a roll...:)) my 9 yr old son (average kid) still talks about the island negatively. We lived there two years and he went to public school for two years. He was picked on, bullied, scammed out of money (a boy took his ice cream money), and he never understood the 'discipline' from the teachers. Spanking is still common and so is rapping the knuckles with a ruler. He is a smart kid and now makes straight A's in public school in Atlanta, GA. My dreams of the kids playing on the beach, drinking coconut wata (coconut milk), and chasing geckos was in reality complaining of sand in every crevice, sunburn, sand flea bites, hot, hated coconut wata, and never chased the geckos. In other words, my kids didn't like island living as much as I thought they would. I didn't like island living as much as I thought I would. My husband liked a lot of things about the island, but even he didn't like it after a while.
I know this all sounds negative and I can't help it. Through all the challenges of island living, we did make it and found our paradise. It just doesn't happen to be on island. I am so happy to have learned a lesson of life and where I am the most happy in life is where my family is most happy. I just hate to see other people go through the whole process when they could just find their happiness where they are instead of an imaginary dream island.
All that being said, I still do not have regrets. If I had to do it all over, I would have not brought all my stuff and would have lived with so much less (even though we lived with so much less than I thought I ever could) and I would have saved more money to get my kids in private school and maybe got out on the water more. But we would have still moved back stateside after two years. So are you parents going to be more prepared by my long post??? I hope so, because I am tired of typing - literally and need a break. GOOD LUCK and try to enjoy all the challenges and if you get really frustrated, just laugh. Laugh like a crazy person and the stress will literally fall off and people will be afraid of you and it may just help your cause!
Here is to you and your family finding happiness. Cheers.
I would like to add a story to this. I too think that people with children should really give this some serious thought. I knew a couple that moved here each with a child of there own ages 12 and 14. They sent their children to private school however one of the less expensive ones since that was all they could afford. After one year the 12 yr old was miserable and the 14 yr old loved it. the 12 year old did not make any friends and was picked on and bullied at school his grades also were slipping. There were no sport programs available to him like at home and his father had to work a night job and they rarely got to spend the time together as they did back in the states. The 12 yr old ultimately refused to go to school and demanded to go home to live with his mother.But unfortunately that was only possible temporarily. His father was so torn he loved it here he finally found a place he felt at home in. But did not want his child to be unhappy and he felt that his son did give it a years try and if he was so unhappy how can he force him to stay here. After a few months of agonizing over the situation He finally left his girlfriend who did not want to leave and took his son back to the states till he can work things out.
I guess the point I am trying to make is that if you are moving here with kids your happiness is not the only consideration. you might be able to deal with the inconveniences of paradise but what about your kids . They may adjust fine but they may not and this is something you need to consider how are you gonna handle it if they don't!
Good luck everyone.
Ok folks.....Just to let you all know it aint that bad if you make it through the first 5 years!
I have 4 kids...moved to STT after Hugo...Started out awful and is now this is the only place my children ever want to live. If you had asked them that question years ago they would have complained and told you stories about being called "white boy" "ugly white girl" and not just being robbed but being continually pushed away. I think it is the instinct to push away newcomers as a fear and a threat and yet it is the ignorance that needs to be educated and only those who remain here can change it.
If you can get through the hardships and really get into the culture..take time and become a local....you will see the beauty in the Virgin Islands.
No child in the world will ever be able to have the experience of culture and diversity that island life gives.
If you come from the State and actually stay here for years..5, 10, 20 as we have you will realize how lucky you are.
To be able to give your children the diversity that more Stateside children need is a very important thing.
It is tough but well worth the journey....I worked very hard here was married and made good money..now divorced pretty poor yet still here with my children and proud to be here. Even with the problems life is short and I don't think I could have given my children a better life than what they have here.
When I am gone they will be the future and what they have learned, had to deal with, had to integrate is key to a better world.
Hang in there....it really is a Paradise you just need to find it.
Well.....I didn't have kids there, so maybe I'm speaking out of turn - I usually do - but Hugo was in 1989. Almost 20 years ago. The world is a different, even angrier place now, than it was then. There may be a test by fire for adults, but why in the world should a CHILD have to live through all of those things? I agree that integration and acceptance of culture and diversity is a key to a better world - but Rosa Parks should never have been denied a seat on a bus, and we're talking about things that are much harder on a child than getting a seat. Name calling and being the outsider is one thing - being beat up and robbed is quite another. This isn't a utopian society yet, but no child who is still developing emotionally and mentally should have their growth stunted by memories of violent episodes that will stay with them throughout their life. The Rosa Parks incident was also 50 years ago, and yet mainlanders moving to the islands are relating very similar stories today. I was bussed across town to a new school when desegregation began about 37 years ago. I will tell you it was not a growth experience for me, and enough said about that.
The world is shifting and changing and it is a violent time everywhere, but to compare bringing a child on island in 2007 as compared to 1990 - well, I just don't think that flies. The massive influx of outsiders in recent years probably has a lot to do with it - children learn what they live and what they are taught in the home. And I'm sorry to have to say, the islands are behind the times in many respects, and integration is probably one of them. I've sat in traffic stateside in "bad" neighborhoods and never been screamed at and called the names I was on STX. Yes, it was only one experience, but it is deeply engrained in my memory....a 14-16 year old girl screaming epithets at me for being white?
I'm just grateful my kids are grown - but to the last poster I would say this - my older son was moved to a junior high stateside in Arkansas in just about 1990, and how I wish I had never even exposed him to that experience. It was a result of a divorce, nothing could be done about it, but he lived in terror every day for 6 months. At least he spoke the language and was reasonably sure what was being said to him. If I had it to do all over again, I surely wouldn't put him through that - and the emotional trials and a substandard education in the public schools in the islands just seems to be too much. How sad that every poster that has children and is considering a move is encouraged by 90% of the people living in the VI and posting on this board to "go private" with the schools...that speaks volumes to me.
Perhaps the new governor will turn things around - Rome wasn't built in a day, though, and I suspect it will be a while and will also require the growth and change of local island adults to bring this full circle.
We lived there 5 years and my 20 yr old would have preferred us to have stayed on PR or moved back to the States.
I too was screamed at in traffic by two middle school boys.....f'ing white bitch. Charming.
In general, I would say that the older Crucians were more polite and tolerant of whites than the younger generation.
I agree that there is resentment, often based on the have and have-not system, but there is also blind ignorant, racism - ugly and 'backward' looking in today's world of diversity and change.
Why virtually no inter racial couples? Why are kids who supposedly have been educated to think better still using race as a cuss word?
Not only do I see a lot of interracial couples, I have found the people to be absolutely lovely, welcoming and helpful. The people are what make life in the VI the wonderful experience it has been for me thus far.
IMHO, race is not an issue unless you make it an issue. I have spent many years immersed in many different cultures in my life, and I have always found this to be the case.
I know this post is about living here with children but has drifted off into racial issues. In response, I live here with a 3 year old and we love it especially my son. My son has not experienced any racism from the West Indian children he plays with or from their parents. However, he is only 3. I have a 26 year old daughter who lives with us as well. I asked her had she experienced any racism or did she feel that the locals racist. She has many friends here, continental, west Indian and white cruzan. Her response was no. Her feeling on the subject was that our differences were cultural and that she felt that the racism was more white directed towards the locals. I agree that has also been my experience. I did have one experience while driving. A black female teenager yelled racial comments at me from the car she was riding in while we were stopped at a light. I chewed her out as if she were my own child. She promptly shut up and her friends in the car were falling over laughing. It didn't bother me much and I was more put out by her just being a rotten ugly teenager and less by what she said. As far as living on the island with children. I guess your experience will be based on what you want for your child and if you can afford what you want. I could care less if my son goes to college or not. Already been there and done that with 5 adult children. I don't care if he is a doctor, lawyer or tatoo artist as long as he is happy and a good person. I have no experience with the public schools here. I do know that the elementary school closest to us has black, white and hispanic children going there. Anyway, that is just our experience here thus far. Have a good day.
Thank you Mell and Doug – We are planning our move to stx this summer and reading this post was kind of depressing me. You helped put things in perspective for me. People are people, and that means sometimes they can be cruel and difficult. But I imagine it also has a lot to do with the expectations you bring with you. We live ina fairly lily white place an I'm eager for my kids to have a more diverse experience. But they have to go to school, obviously, and that still has me a bit worried.
I understand that you do not care if your kid goes to college but at the same time are you not prepared to send them if they want to go? If you send your child to public school here there is a extremely good chance they will have a very hard time getting into a good college. Teresa was speaking as a member of the struggling middle class and it is a good warning for parents who are not as flush as others but still care about their child's well being. College is no longer simply important now days it is a necessity for a productive future. Sure there are always stories of people making it big without an education, but its like being a successful actor, the odds are it won't be you. On stx you will need $7k (means you qualify for scholarships) to $10k to send your child to a good private school that will guarantee your child will have a education as good as or better then what they will get stateside.
I do not wish this to sound condesending but why have kids if you only care about the 18 years they live with you. Don't you want to guarntee they have the best education they can, to be able to not only have a good future but to ensure they have skills to know what is out there and what they can get from life. Island life is not for everyone, and chances are the kids that grow up here will go to live in the mainland. Not just the transplants kids either. Local kids leave as well for the better job opportunities stateside. At 18 you should want to make your mark on the world not watch it slowly drift by.
Yes, but we're not talking about immigrants moving to the mainland right now, are we? We'll talk about that when we get a Moving to the Mainland board going on.
Tammy, I'm proud of you for chewing that child out - however, at the point this happened to ME, I wasn't sure what to do. In my "home" town, yes, I would lay them out with my tongue. However, I forever felt like the interloper on STX....and someone calling me a white f'ing whore and having a group to back them up? Sorry, that's not just ugly teenager, that's a nasty individual in the making......and it's acceptable to act like that even if you're a teen? I don't think "kids will be kids" quite fits here.
I couldn't care less if she was purple and I was wearing aluminum foil on my head......her remark to ME was racist, particularly since I had never even made eye contact before this diatribe started - and my gut instinct was fear, because there wasn't ANYONE jumping out of their car or stopping on the sidewalk to tell this little missy to shut her mouth....if anything, I got the sideways smiles and tooth sucking looks. SHE was racist - not me.
Hi Betty, My 5 adult children all had the opportunity to go to college. The ones that dropped out after the 1st year are the most successful and make the most money. The ones that stayed are struggling to find a job in their field. It has been my experience that you must have a masters degree or a doctorate to get a job out of college these days. Trade schools and technolgy schools seem to be turning out the highest payed graduates. If my 3 year old wants to go to college he will find a way. I went to 22 differents schools between kindergarden and 12th grade. No chance of an ivy league college for me as credits didn't transfer or different subjects in different states. I am now the president of a corporation because of good old hard work. As far as only caring about my kids for the 18 years that they are living with me. I'll let that pass. Too old to let that one get under my skin. In anycase my feelings about sending and supporting your adult children through college is for another post. I also was not advocating public school. I have absolutely no experience with the public school here. Just posting my observations. Maybe if all of us continentals put our kids in the public school and became involved things would change. I don't know. Just a thought. I am a firm believer that life experience is the best education. Anyway I think my orginal statement was your experience here with children will be based on what you want for your child and can you afford what you want. Have a good one.