How and Why a School was Born
Jun 6 2015

I was recently given the opportunity to write my story about the founding of The Magellan International School for Latino Magazine.  Here’s the link to the article on our school site: How and Why a School was Born.  It’s been an amazing experience to be involved in the ground floor of starting such a phenomenal school!

I have not been involved in the day to day activities or in many of the big achievements since it’s founding because I chose to take more of a behind the scenes role.  I gave birth (and have the illustrative scars) to the kids who inspired it’s creation, so I think that counts for something. 😀

I decided to take care of myself and our kids while my ex husband and others did much of the heavy lifting to get us where we are today.  The kids seem reasonably well adjusted despite the chaos, and they have benefited greatly from being able to attend MIS!  I guess we will know if they turned out alright if they are sane in their 30’s.

It has been a while since I’ve posted.  I’ve been busy having a lot of fun as well as re-learning lessons that I should have learned the first time!  Lesson learning is tricky because each time the situation seems to have slightly different variables and different people involved so you unwittingly let your guard down thinking you should give the people and the new scenario the benefit of the doubt.  But then boom, you get a little blindsided. In hindsight it is much easier to spot the red herring. [insert red herring emoji]  However, the recovery time is faster, you see the signs earlier which means you don’t put your guard down as much, your good friends become greater friends, the experience makes you stronger, there’s a lot of red wine involved, and hopefully someone gets just a wee bit wiser.

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Magellan International School’s Entry for the Gigabot 3D Printer Giveaway. Happy Father’s Day!
Jun 15 2014

Printing CapabilitiesMy son’s 6th grade class at the Magellan International School, that was founded 5 years ago, is attempting to win a 3D Printer in the The Great Big Gigabot Giveaway!  Their video entry is on Vimeo here:  I was trying to find a way to embed the video, but it doesn’t work like YouTube so I included a photo of one of their 3D printers instead.

Please watch the video to learn how they plan to use the 3D printer to design and create toys for children at an area hospitals or shelters as part of their community service endeavors.  Then please go to to to create an account and vote for their entry to win. Their video is in the bottom row on the left.  The decision is based 40% on popular vote, so please vote and share this post with your friends.  Thank you!

Oh, and Happy Father’s Day to all you wonderful fathers out there!  You know who you are. 🙂

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MINIDonations, QR Readers, and Fundraising
Apr 20 2012

I was on the committee to help with my kid’s school (Magellan International School) big annual fundraiser, Noche de Gala.  I played a small part in a great event held at the Bob Bullock museum last weekend.  The theme was “peace” so most of us wore white dresses or suits.  There were many big and smaller items to auction

The lead organizers did an amazing job pulling everything together across multiple facets.  I was one of the people in charge of collecting payments on items that were auctioned off and this year we used some cool technology.  We downloaded free QR readers to our iPhones or Androids.  We scanned the QR codes on the back of the bid card of the person who won an auction item.  If the scan was successful, a page popped up hosted by MiniDonations with all their information pre-loaded.  We just had to enter their credit card information and the amount and it was processed and subsequently put into the appropriate school account.  It was kind of fun and neat to use and made me feel so efficient and powerful! 🙂   The only thing I would recommend that MiniDonations add to their interface is a field for comments so we could put a note regarding what item the bidder was purchasing.

I always like using technology that makes things easier while being fun to use!

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Back To School – 2011
Aug 21 2011

Here in extremely hot Austin, Texas pretty much all kids go back to school next week.  I’m a founding parent of the Magellan International School (MIS), where my kids go, and they are excited to see all of their friends.  The school has more than tripled in size since starting 2 years ago.  They are even opening a new location to accommodate the growth!  It really is amazing what the team has accomplished in such a short time.

My kids have been going to summer camp at the Y for most of the summer except for 3 weeks when they went to MIS summer camp and a couple of weeks of vacation with family. I’m glad they go to different summer camps and meet different types of people with various backgrounds.  They learned a bunch of new hand games (e.g., older kid versions of patty cake).  According to my daughter, mostly the girls play those games at the camp.  It’s so funny for me to see my kids (boy and a girl) playing those games together at the house or reaching across the table at a restaurant.  It brings back memories of when I used to know those games but now I can’t remember even one of those rhymes because the ones they do are completely different than the ones I knew.  The one they were doing today had something to do with grandma losing her hair and the words “And that’s the way I like it. Uh huh. Uh huh.”  But it keeps them preoccupied and laughing so that works for me.

I often wonder how they will look back on this time in their life and how what I do or don’t do will positively or negatively effect them.  I think as parents if we thought about that too deeply, we’d freak out.  I think of how my parents played a big role in my life whether they were paying attention or not, but at the same time my friends seemed to play an even bigger role at the time.  Right now, I can’t remember many of the kids I played with when I was their ages.  The few I do remember, I have no idea where they are or what they are doing but I know they had an effect on me at the time.

So now they go start another school year, see old friends and make new ones.  I wonder if when they are my age they will still be friends or at least know how to get in touch with the friends they are making in school right now.  Who knows!  Our kids were born knowing about facebook so maybe they will be.

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Race To Nowhere
Feb 14 2011

This past weekend, I saw the documentary called Race To Nowhere.  It was screened by the school my kids go to called Magellan International School.  It was a fascinating documentary about the pressures put on kids in the public school system and in school in general.  They interviewed many parents and teens about the amount of homework, studying, extra curricular activities, etc. that they all felt compelled to do in order to be able to get into a “good” college.  It depicted the stress levels of these kids, and highlighted one really smart kid who committed suicide because of the fear of doing badly in school.

Honestly, it was crazy the amount of homework these kids had to do.  I don’t remember having 2 to 3 hours of homework every night of the week when I was in middle or high school!  I also don’t remember requiring a parent to help me with my homework.  I agree with their premise that less homework is better and kids should spend their time learning in school and after school they should have downtime.  I don’t think you should eliminate homework all together as some experts suggested in the movie, but I think expecting elementary school kids to have homework every night is excessive.  They need time to be kids and have unstructured play with their friends or siblings.

I like the homework schedule at my kid’s school.  They usually get homework on Friday and it’s not due until the following Thursday so you can help them learn to pace working on their homework during the week.  Apparently, the country who has the highest amount of homework is Turkey and they perform the worst in tests when compared to Finland which has the least amount of homework and their kids out perform the kids in most of the rest of the world.  But then again, the social structure in Finland is different than most places.  They have liberal parenting leave, flexible work schedules, etc.

Since my kids aren’t yet in middle or high school, I can’t really say from first hand experience how stressed out those kids are these days.  However, if they are taking lessons from their overworked, stressed out parents who are trying to do everything without much of a family support system, then really we should look at the entire social system in the US.  Many of us are so used to working all the time, that we sometimes miss the forest for the trees.

The movie was a good reminder to pay attention to our kids and their signals about what’s going on in their life.  We all still need to live in the existing academic infrastructure so we need to make sure our kids know how to navigate that system but at the same time make efforts to begin changing the system by looking at different ways of educating our kids like they do at the Magellan International School.

Happy Valentine’s Day! <3

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Volunteering Made Easy
Oct 27 2010

Last weekend, my kid’s school, Magellan International, had its first Fall Festival.  We were one of the founding families of the school and it was a great event with lots of kids, booths, sno cones, dragon dancing, and pinatas.  I even got my hand painted with henna in classic Indian style.  It has made my recent business meetings quite interesting because I feel compelled to explain the ornate henna tatoo on my fingers and palms so that people don’t think I have some rare disease. 🙂  My daughter decided to get her face painted as Spiderman…but fortunately not with henna!

There are always so many things going on that are school related that I’m really impressed with the parents who coordinate events like these.  As a full time working mom, I feel like I can’t keep up most of the time so I’m grateful for the other moms & dads who get involved and organize events like these for the school.

The coordinators for this event chose to use VolunteerSpot as their tool to help organize the other parent’s contributions and activities.  I was excited they used VolunteerSpot because a friend of mine, Karen Bantuveris, is the founder of the company.  I had lunch with Karen last week and told her how I liked using the tool.  I signed up to bring paper plates and volunteered my time at one of the booths (mask making for the Brazil booth).  It was really easy to sign up and then I got an email reminder before the event letting me know what I had signed up to do.  I try to get everything on my calendar but as life and kid’s activities get more complex, I appreciate every little reminder I get.

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Magellan International School – First Year
Jun 4 2010

The first year of the new Magellan International School (MIS), founded by the father of my kids (Erin Defosse), is almost over.  And it was a really great year!  I always believed in the vision of the school when Erin first told me he wanted to start it.  It has been a phenomenal entrepreneurial success and it was wonderful to see the kids at their end of school year performance speaking in Spanish.  I remember when I first met Erin how impressed I was that he was fluent in Spanish and often told him he should use the language more often since it was such an asset.  I can understand about 60% of what people say in Spanish now.  During my recent trip to Portugal (See post 1 and post 2) and Spain (will do a post soon) I was able to get by with my limited Spanish in Spain.  Portuguese has some similar words to Spanish so I could pick up some of what people were talking about.  I wish I knew other language other than English, but I don’t.  My parents know two other languages but they don’t really have the opportunity to use those languages much since they aren’t commonly spoken.

I couldn’t argue with giving our kids the gift of another language and only hope they will take every opportunity to use it when they grow older.  My son has already helped me on occasion communicate with someone who only speaks Spanish.  It makes me so happy that he can help me translate!

Erin and the head of school, Marisa Leon, have done an amazing job getting the school off the ground.  I remember meeting/interviewing Marisa in a Thai restaurant in downtown Austin, Texas and knowing immediately that she was the right person to head the school.  She has a great mixture of the ability to communicate with parents and children which is so important in a school.  I trust her and my kid’s other teachers completely with our kids.

MIS started the school year with about 45 students and ended with about 65.  Next school year is anticipated to start with 100+ students!   Plus, next year the students will start learning Mandarin!  The amount of work it takes to get something like a successful, private school going is tremendous.  Although I wasn’t involved in the day to day of getting the school off the ground, I did play a supporting role even if people didn’t see or know what I did, and I don’t believe it’s my place to say how and what I did as well as the sacrifices/compromises we made as a family to make it happen.  All entrepreneurial endeavors require strategic resource allocations (time, money, etc.), but I can say confidently that I did gave birth to the two kids who inspired him to build the school…and I think that is a visible contribution that counts for something. 🙂

Although Erin and I are no longer married, I have always believed in his ability to make the school successful.  Our kids are very happy there and the teachers are all world class and caring.  They have worked with us during our family transition and have kept the kids as their number one priority which means the world to me.  When my kids are happy, I’m happy or shall I say happier than I would be otherwise!

So if you want to give your kids the gift of another language as well as a wonderful learning environment that uses the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme (coordinated by my daughter’s teacher Ms. Alexandra Castro) and Singapore Math teaching methods, check out the Magellan International School!

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First Week Of School
Aug 23 2009

School starts next week for most kids here in Austin – public or private.  Many parents are in a flurry getting ready to get their kids back into a routine if they haven’t had one during the summer. For dual working parent families, like ours, who probably had our kids in summer camps it’s probably a shift back to more stricter bed times and potential looming home work days.

For us this is a very special first week of school because our kids will be attending the new Magellan International School (MIS) founded by their dad, Erin Defosse!   It is Austin’s FIRST multi-language (Spanish, English, Mandarin), International Baccalaureate, Primary Years Programme school (pre-K to 2nd) ever and has already set the record for enrollment numbers for a new private school with about 45 students on Day One!  Most private schools start with significantly fewer students.

They will be offering art, music and physical education as part of the standard education and will be teaching using the ‘units of inquiry’ model.  You’ll have to go to the site to learn more about how that model works.  As a person who is rediscovering her passion for singing, offering music is well ‘music to my ears!’

The kids have been involved in getting the school ready from helping to paint, potting plants, running errands, and assembling furniture.  It’s been a great experience for them to see how something that never existed before comes to life.  They might just get the entrepreneurial disease bug.  🙂

As an entrepreneur, it’s amazing to see how much has happened from vision to fruition.  In March 2007, we moved our son to the Austin International School (AIS), a wonderful school whose primary language is French.  Erin grew up in Mexico so he had a strong desire for the kids to be fluent in Spanish.   We really enjoyed the environment and teachers at AIS but given that neither of us knew French, Erin began searching for different alternatives and didn’t find anything suitable so in the Spring of 2008 just before I took the steady, day job, he decided to look into creating one.

Since that time, he along with someone he hired to help him get things off the ground by finding the right Head of School, not only found the perfect Head of School, Marisa Leon, from Colombia but also 3 great teachers – one from Spain, one from Colombia, and one from Chicago.  They all have very sweet personalities and awesome backgrounds.  I’m excited about the kids getting to work with their respective teachers.  It will be interesting to see how they all adapt to living in the United States in a city that’s had over 100 degree temperatures for quite some time now.

So 20 or so months ago, MIS was a vision in Erin’s mind and now it is reality.  I know it will positively effect thousands of kids who will surely go out and make a wonderful difference in this world in not only one language, not even two, but three languages.  As a writer, I have come to appreciate the power of language both written and oral in changing one’s own world and the world at large.  Oh to have such power in more than one language…what a gift to our kids.

So cool! 8)

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A New International Multi Language School in Austin
May 3 2009

Some of you may know that my husband, Erin Defosse, has been spearheading the formation of a new amazing private international multi-language (Spanish and Mandarin) school for the Austin community – The Magellan School.

Since we both fancy ourselves entrepreneurs, we understand each others need to try new things and hopefully make a difference.

The location was just announced (see a copy of the latest newsletter below) on Far West/Mopac and it will be the first of its kind here in Austin!

The Head of School, Marisa Leon, is fabulous!  I interviewed her and have met with her on several occasions since then.  She is remarkable with kids, brilliant, and extremely observant.  As a parent, I am so thrilled that she will be leading a school that my kids will be going to!

I will be the only one in the family who probably won’t be fluent in Spanish so I’m foreseeing a future where the kids will be saying things about me behind my back. 🙂  But it’s a risk I’m willing to take for my kids to be global citizens and be able to communicate with so many more people in the world.

They are still accepting applications for the Fall.  Even if you don’t have pre-K to 2nd grade school age kids please consider donating (tax deductible) and be part of the founding financial supporters of the school to help ensure its continued success.

The early years of any start-up/entrepreneurial endeavor are so critical and any financial or volunteer support you can give will go a long way to making Austin one of the key global centers in the world!  I firmly believe that schools like this will attract companies and families to our fine city.  Giving even just a little goes a long way.  Check out the Magellan Giving page for more information.

When a child discovers that he or she can change the world for the better…the world usually changes!

Please help spread the word!

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The Magellan International School
has found a home!

Dear Parents, behalf of the Board of Directors of the Magellan International School we are delighted to officially announce that MIS has found a home! After many months of searching for the ideal location and negotiating a lease we can now tell you where the School will be located. The address is:

7130 Chimney Corners
Austin, TX 78731


The School facility is conveniently located in Northwest Austin near the corner of Far West Blvd. and Chimney Corners and across the street from Doss Elementary. It is just a few minutes from Mopac. The facility was originally built as a school. Here are some of the highlights:
• Over 8,000 square feet, most of it comprised of very large classrooms
• Designed to meet the requirements of a primary years school
• Ample playground with a fully built out playscape and separate areas for Pre-Primary and K+ students
• Secured access with digital keypad in main entry
• Easy drop off and pickup driveway
Most independent schools don’t have the opportunity to start off in such a facility and in fact many start out in a home, retail space, or within a church. Being able to start on day one with a real school building is truly a blessing. So, make sure you spread the word and also remind those you know that we are still accepting applications for Pre-Primary through 2nd Grade. Visit our Admissions page for more information.

From now until August the MIS team will be busy at work on the facility giving it a new upgraded look, performing any required maintenance, and filling it with the furniture and supplies that will be needed to start classes on August 24th, 2009.

As a non-profit school we ask for your support as we work on our facility. We will be patching, painting, cleaning, decorating, gardening, and many other ‘INGs. If you believe that you can assist us in any way please don’t hesitate to contact us at (512) 961-6431 or We would love to get your help!.

Securing the facility involved many of our supporters, including Board Members and families, that came together to provide the financial backing that allowed us to sign the lease. To all of you that have supported our School and, indeed even enrolled your children before we could even give you a street address, we thank you immensely for the trust and faith that you have placed in us.

We are very excited about having reached this major milestone in the history of the school. That said, we still need your financial support in the form of tax deductible donations to enhance and grow our program even further. Please visit our Giving page for more information.

In summary, we are delighted that we now have ourselves a facility and eagerly await the beginning of classes on August 24th!


Erin Defossé
Founder & President

María Isabel León
Head of School

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