SHERIDAN — Emily and Colin Betzler made a decision to move beyond comfort and normalcy to show their children the diverse world outside their hometown. For the Betzlers, the payoff of exposure to foreign places was worth taking their children out of school for an extended period of time.
The Betzlers own and operate Bought Beautifully, a retail business of artisan-made products that “empower people, restore hope and provide transformational opportunities around the globe,” according to its website. Their most recent trip to Nicaragua and Costa Rica to establish new business partners meant taking their two young children out of school for two months.
“We love Sheridan, we love calling it home, but there’s not much diversity here,” Emily Betzler said. “We really want our kids to have a global perspective.”
Pulling Hudson, a first-grade student, and his little sister Storie, a preschooler, out of school for two months meant a lot of up-front work and collaboration with the schools in Sheridan and finding ways to educate the children while on their trip.
The Betzler kids attended a tourist-focused Spanish education school for the first two weeks. Then, the kids were invited to experience South American education in a public school setting.
The experience, to say the least, was different.
Lunch every day included homemade rice and beans from a rotation of mothers. Hudson found class time much less structured than Nicole Rice’s first grade classroom at Meadowlark Elementary School in Sheridan.
“The teachers are not like, ‘You get in your seat right now,’” Hudson Betzler said, imitating a yell. “I’m not trying to say they’re mean, but not as…”
“Strict,” his mother finished for him.
“(Nicaraguan students) really liked to break the rules, even the girls,” Hudson said.
Beyond the classroom, students enjoyed snacks in the afternoon paid for out of their own pocket and provided by community members frequenting the school grounds.
“You went outside to people that were selling it and you paid them money,” Hudson said. “It was the weirdest thing. And sometimes there were banana chips with this yummy chips. You have to buy everything except for the lunch.”
The contrast of atmosphere, structure and culture opened the Betzler children’s eyes to the riches they had at home.
“We wanted them to just expand their perspective and see how rich, culturally, the world is,” Emily Betzler said. “We also wanted them to see how rich we are as Americans.”
Hudson’s experience in the Nicaraguan classroom benefitted his peers at home, too. The Betzlers would share videos with Rice, and she would do the same. This gave Hudson a sense of connection to his classmates and allowed for the students in Sheridan to experience a new culture, too.
“I had a parent tell me at the PTA open house that it was so enriching for his class to be a part of that experience,” Colin Betzler said.
Diversity and similarity crashed together during the Betzlers’ time in Costa Rica. The family saw poverty surrounding the small native Costa Rican Reservation, yet every student walking off the school bus looked identical to American children with technology in hand and eyes glued to devices. Hudson and Storie both found commonality by indulging in games on those devices with new friends in the foreign country.
Outside of school, Hudson and Storie gained understanding of why their parents work nights and weekends to pursue excellence in their business.
“That you guys are actually really helping other people with their stuff,” Hudson Betzler said.
While the trip broadened the perspective of the young, malleable minds of their children, it also reminded the Betzlers of the importance of family. Nicaraguan culture drastically contrasts with America’s in that Nicaraguans place highest value on family.
“For us it’s a good reminder that material possessions do not equate with happiness,” Colin Betzler said. “In Nicaragua, family culture was so strong.”
Professionally, the fruits from the Betzler’s travels will be showcased in new products featured at The Union, Bought Beautifully’s storefront on Main Street in Sheridan. Personally, the Betzler children will carry the Spanish language and new cultural experiences with them into future classrooms and community interactions.