Last week R started school. School is such a big reason we made this move. Not only do I believe that Germany has a better school system, but I also believe they value education to a level we do not see in the States.
In first grade, they have a huge ceremony and children take a huge cone to school called a schultute. Inside are school supplies, a toy and some candy. We got to see our cousin’s 1st day of 1st grade. Whole families came, aunts and uncles, cousins, younger siblings, opa’s and oma’s. There was a service at the church where each child got blessed. Then outside for pictures. Then we walked over to the school where the upper classes sang songs and preformed skits to welcome the first grade class. Then the kids finally went up to their classrooms while the parents got some new information from the staff before everyone went home to celebrate some more with the rest of the family. It’s a huge deal here.
R started 2nd grade. We gave her a schultute when she started Kindergarten in Arizona as her 1st day of school and celebrated with just our family. So this year, it was just back to school. But here is so awesome! Let’s start with the fact it’s so close we can walk to school in 10 minutes and bike it in 5. The grade school here (1-4th grade) keeps the same teacher every year, so 1 teacher moves up with her same class for 4 years. It creates a bond for the kids and helps the teacher really get to know her students. They promote independence here (a lot!) and encourage kids to walk to school on their own. It’s taken me a week, but R walked to school with a classmate this morning. She was all excited, I was a nervous wreck in tears. Tomorrow she’ll start coming home by herself too!
The school day for grade school is from 8-12:30. That’s it. After that your child can sign up for free afterschool programs. I was told I couldn’t pick for my daughter, she’ll pick the classes that interest her (promoting that independence). Unless it’s a paid program like dance or learning an instrument. Then I get to help pick. But she could choose from soccer, dodgeball, yoga, adventure playgrounds, cartoon design, cooking class, dog therapy, and a few others I can’t remember now. But all of those classes are free after school.
I do need to tell you though that is not a Germany wide thing. The city where we are living has a very progressive mayor and they are funding the afterschool programs and the pre-schools in this town. Unsurprisingly, this has driven up home values because everyone wants to live here now. Sadly, it means we are still searching for a place to live because rentable homes here are snatched up before they even get listed on the market. We are spreading the word to family and friends.
Food is also pretty well laid out here too. I send her with a small lunchbox that contains 2nd breakfast. A roll, fruit and veggie that they all get to eat in the classroom around 10 am. Then lunch happens after school is over at 12:30. So for parents who want to pick their kids up they would have to feed them. I pay 30 euros a month for the lunch program. R’s school is pretty big with lots of kids, so the upper classes eat in the cafeteria and R’s class eats in their classroom. They get real plates and real silverware – including a butter knife to eat their lunch with. Once they serve themselves what they want to eat, they put a mat at their table and then after lunch they have to clean their spot themselves.
Speaking of keeping things clean, the kids are required to bring house-shoes for the classroom. Took me a while to figure out what they meant by house shoes. It could be slippers, crocs or just slip on shoes. But basically clean shoes that aren’t bringing in the dirt from the outside into the classroom. So the cleaning lady doesn’t have to work so hard cleaning mud from the floor. Yup, teachers don’t have to clean their own classrooms here.
R’s favorite part of the day is recess. I know, right? They can play before school starts on the playground. Then there is a recesses during the morning. Then if the weather is nice, they are out 2 times after school is over too. And they have a huge garage that has larger toys for the kids to bring out and play with during recess. They have balls, scooters, I saw an old fashioned bike yesterday – you know the kind with the large front wheel and the tiny back wheel. One girl was riding around that. Then all the kids clean up after recess and put the toys back before they go back to their classrooms. Each classroom also has a secondary room next to it with games, books and a quiet area for kids who need a bit more space to do homework. It just feels so well rounded keeping kids more active.
R’s happy to go to school in the morning. I’m happy because I know she’s learning and having fun during the day. And we all love the extra recesses.