Friday, September 21, 2012

1st day of Kindergarten!

James had his first day of Kindergarten on Monday. Here in Germany "Kindergarten" is similar to preschool/pre-k/kindergarden in the US. Kids start at 3 and stay until they start 1st grade at 6. Typically kids will do three years of Kindergarten. Like preschool in the US, kindergarten is not required, but most children do start some sort of Kindergarten at 3. Because of this, we've had a hard time finding kids James' age to play with because they are all in school. Now that he is also in school, he gets a lot of time to socialize and be with other children his age, which is great for him because he's a very social little guy.

Here in Garching there are two options for Kindergarten. Private, religious Kindergartens, and Public state run Kindergartens. Both are in German only. A bilingual or english Kindergarten would be 30 minutes away in Munich, and very expensive. We chose a public Kindergarten that is very close to our house, and which is also very affordable. With public Kindergarten the minimum your child can sign up for is 4 hours a day, 5 days a week. I think you can choose to not take your child all of the days/the whole time, but it is not recommended. I heard a lot of horror stories about how difficult it is to get a Kindergarten spot, but we had no trouble at all. Maybe it's easier in a village rather than in the city.

Before we moved to Germany I heard a lot about how Kindergarten in Germany is not similar to preschool in the US because the focus is entirely on play, and not learning. I'm sure this varies from school to school, but at James' school, that is not the case. There is limited formal learning, they are not spending there whole day at a desk or anything, but for three year olds, I think the play/structure balance is very good. They start each morning with a circle time where they play little games/sing songs/talk about the weather, and the calendar, etc. There is also free play time, structured snack time, and play time outside. A few times week they have "duck land" where they go and learn about things like counting and letters. Once a week they also pull some children out to work on language development, and once a week they do a gymnastic class. They typically have some sort of theme to each week, like "forests" or "oceans" etc. In addition to all of that, they have so many educational toys that they do with the kids like puzzles, matching games, legos, etc. They also have art supplies available which the children are free to use. It seems like a very good balance of learning and play for children this age. Similar to a montessori approach in the US I think.

So far James seems to be really enjoying Kindergarten. He won't really tell me a lot about what he does each day, but overall he says he had fun and he likes going. David has two mornings a week now where he is home with Mom without James, and he seems to be a little confused by that, but he also enjoys having the run of the house a little bit, and it's a great time for him and I to focus on projects/activities that are really geared at his level.

(please excuse my inconsistencies with word capitalizations, learning German where you capitalize all nouns has me completely confused as to what nouns need to be capitalized in English)