Wow. Just wow, you guys. The transition to Germany has not been all sunshine and roses… I mean, it’s pretty cloudy here, to be honest. However, the land of amazing preschool is all ours. And yes, that’s what my wow is about. It’s a Kita WOW. Rowan literally skips her way to the “Krippa” side of the building and yells, “Bye Mama!” as she excitedly enters her world. Each night, I tuck her in and she says, “God bless Lena!”–her favorite teacher at school.
But, I’ll take you back to the beginning. The Kita wisely recommends starting your kids at 1 hour and increasing that by 30 minutes more per day for as long as it takes to get to “full time”. For us, full time is an 8.5 hour work day… which is long. Most parents collect their kiddos at 1 or 2:30 (and I’m guessing give their exhausted children naps!). So, we started at 1 hour and added an extra hour each day and were up to full time by the beginning of week 3. And yes, their day is way long. They are incapable at the end of a day of getting from the car to our front door. There is crying. There is fussing. There is all sorts of power struggle. And then they (ok, the elder one) falls asleep and peace (once again) reigns. So yes, they are exhausted. BUT! The beginning.
On our welcome tour, I was embarrassed to slip on the plastic booties over my shoes, unaware that this was par for the course. Here, we do house shoes. If you don’t have house shoes, you take your outdoor shoes off or put plastic over them. Keep the indoors clean! I can get behind that. And I did. I bought house shoes for George. 25 €.
I’ve been eager for my kids to be in school–especially George. On the first day, he walked up to a table and picked up (non-toddler) scissors–something he’s never held before–and successfully cut paper… (because they weren’t those stupid toddler sicossors!). At the end of his “intro weeks”, I painted his hand and foot so they could document when he started and you should have SEEN the look on his face. “MAMA! You’re painting me!?” Yeah. He was ready. And this OCD-leaning Mama was grateful to have him make a mess in someone else’s space. Hah. I was glad to see him cut and paint. Honestly? I have never given my toddler paint. Call me crazy. (Playdough all day long, yo.) So, I’m happy to give him access to a place where freedom and messes are fine.
But, I digress. What’s the kita like?!
- No home room. No classes with desks. The kids pick whatever room they want to, as long as it’s not maxed with too many kids (indicated by the “STOPP” sign). There’s a library, toy room, and climbing room. For special days there’s a tool room (with real saws!) and a theater/dress-up room.
- The teachers are almost all relaxed. I swear. It’s almost crazy.
- Don’t interfere. The adults do as much non-interfering as possible. They attempt to neither hinder (STOP!) or help (carry them up a ladder). If the kid is capable of climbing a ladder, s/he will figure it out.
- (It feels like) no rules. Kids run through the halls in excitement and no one yells at them to stop. They smile and the kids are fine.
- Each morning there is “Morning Conference” (for George) and “Morning Circle” (for Rowan). They are learning German songs and playing games. Each morning they count the number of kids in their room.
- Each afternoon, around 1 p.m., they go outside. Snack comes out at some point, but mostly it’s just outdoor play with no agenda. Brian and I can watch them play sometimes from the second floor balcony from our school. That’s kind of fun.
- The rain pants. Everyone has them. Go buy some. Seriously. Everyone. It’s snow pants, but for rain. And with rain boots and a rain coat, send your kids outside. It’s raining and I don’t care. Goodbye, have fun, see you in 20 minutes or three hours. A German mother couldn’t believe that we didn’t use them in America. “What do you do when it rains??” I said, we go crazy and check Pinterest. And then go more crazy. Go buy some Regenhosen.
- For George, nap time is optional. In other words, George doesn’t nap at school. Rowan gets a nap, but usually about an hour (2 hours less than if she were to nap at home, in a quiet dark space, alone.) Basically, they’re exhausted a lot.
Those are just a few things that come to mind. But honestly? The space is great. They spend almost 3 hours or more per day in the garden. They eat meals at round tables with other children, learning to carry their plates across to their table (for George). Then there’s the ball pit–the favorite feature for both of our children. It’s really an amazing place for them.
The language piece is coming. George doesn’t like to report anything German. He doesn’t like us to speak it…. BUT. We get reports that he’s using it and starting to communicate with other kids and sing songs. Rowan on the other hand is yelling, “Bis Morgen!!!” to all her friends at the end of the day. They both love to count in German. We’ll get there… and they’ll surpass us quickly, I’m sure.
We are learning the German way… even if it is different than our way at home. (I’m guessing this is true for most places of education… no matter where you live.) For example, I asked in the first couple of weeks about how they handle hitting. I asked if they require the kids to apologize. The answer was, “No. That’s a gesture of the adult world.. and they are not in the adult world, yet.” We are learning that they put up with a lot more than we would at home… so we are trying to claim our family culture and enforce it… with love.
I can tell they’re happy. I can tell they’re happy because their shoes leak sand when they come home. I have teeny tiny pebbles in the lint trap of my dryer… and I’m thankful that they have such an opportunity. Bring on all the dirty clothes, happy faces, and ok ok ok… we’ll even put up with the germs! 🙂