Tuesday, September 25, 2018

More on kids ...

I wrote this about 2 weeks ago but never published it.

School is going ok but it's definitely been a little bit of a challenge to make sure that everything that needs to get done gets done.

Anton is doing ok-ish in school - it's hard for him to sit nicely, some numbers and letters are harder than others (let's just say writing number 8 almost killed Chris :)).  He has occupational and speech therapy at school.  For now we also have him in local swimming classes as well as local soccer club, both of which meet once a week.  Part of him going to those 2 activities are to get him physically active, but part is to keep him involved with kids in our neighbourhood since he goes to school elsewhere.

Ilya is slowly finding his rhythm of coming home early, having lunch and getting his homework done.  He has the most extracurricular activities but most of them were chosen by him and he loves.  He  does art class once a week, Cub Scouts once a week and soccer twice a week.  He also started Russian class once a week via Skype for him and loved it.  He really enjoys his activities but they do mean that he has to be pretty organized as he was finishing his German homework at 9:20PM one day last week.  Unfortunately, Anton's swimming is on the same night as Ilya's cub scouts so we are still trying to make it all work.

Andrei has Boy Scouts and once a week he has a cooking club at school.  Andrei is still adjusting to 1) more independence in his school work but also 2) more requirements in his school work.  For example, every 2 weeks he will have dictation in his German class so he has to learn how to study for that without teacher specifically saying "memorize line 1-4 today and lines 5-8 the following day."   He also has math test on Wednesday, geography test on Thursday, dictation test on Friday, German test on Monday, and English test on Tuesday.  Honestly, it feels a little bit like too much but I guess that's what 5th class is like.  Can't wait for higher grades ... NOT.  Andrei will also start Russian via Skype once a week.

Friday, August 24, 2018

School update

It's been almost exactly 2 months since the last time I wrote here.  Our summer has come and gone as well as 3 weeks of school have passed.  The life has been busy but I knew that since all the kids are in new schools and our schedules are completely different from last year.  We are still trying to figure stuff out but anyway ...

Our house looked like that most of the summer 
Night before school

Anton has started 1st grade.  He goes to school for kids with hearing issues and from what I understood the kids in his class are all over the spectrum regarding their issues.  Anton does not have a problem with hearing but his brain does not process what he hears at normal rate and Anton's teacher knows how to work with him which has been good so far.  The school is a little bit further away but he gets picked up and dropped off right in front of our house and it's going good.  He leaves the house at 7:15 and comes home at 15:40 3 times a week and earlier on 2 other days.  Because we are in Germany, the fact that he comes home so late does not mean that he has classes all that time, it means that he has extended care on those day.  Generally speaking his classes are done by noon since he has 4 or 5 classes daily.  Anton has told me recently that his classes are too long and he gets very little time to play.  Oh my child - just be grateful that you are not in American school where you have actual school from 8 to 3 every day :) One lesson a week is German sign language and I (and many other I spoke to) was surprised to learn that sign language is different in every language so even American and British sign languages are different from each other so German sign language is not the same as American.  Anton also sees a lot of sign language as it's being used in school.  Also he is learning letters using words and signs and seemingly it's a little easier for him to process information that way.  He has started coming home with homework this week and so far we are slowly working through writing the letters and trying to connect the numbers.  
Writing L

Ilya is in 4th grade and this year we transitioned him into a regular German public school because his Russian school is moving to a new location in the middle of Frankfurt and our commute would be just too long and too painful, not to mention the fact that when Chris is not in Frankfurt I would not be able to get Anton ready and on the bus before having to leave with Ilya.  Anyway, he is now in school where Andrei went last time and he seems to be mostly happy.  He leaves home around 7:20 and comes home either around 12:30 or 13:20.  Ilya has more homework this year and we are finding out that his struggles with German might be a little more serious than we anticipated.  He has 2 extra German classes plus one additional one-on-one lesson all provided at school so we are happy with the transition since it's better to sort it all now and have him get help. 

Andrei started 5th grade in a new school as well.  His is the hardest to figure out because the kids are obviously older so there is not as much communication with parents and Andrei is not exactly the talkative kid.  He leaves home at 7:05 to catch a train and at this point I am not sure what time he is coming home, but he usually takes a bus back.  Overall his classes are done between 13:10 and 15:15 with an optional homework help until 16:00.  He does have an old-school phone - meaning no games, no internet, just a phone for calling us or vice versa.  He have 3 new classes which we are still trying figure out - ethics, NaWi (beginning science) and GL (social studies).   His homework is just starting up because they give kids about 2 week to learn the new routines before homework begins. 
Ilya was helping Anton with homework and Andrei jumped into the pictures

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Big changes

The last 2 weeks have been INSANE!  The school year is coming to end.

Last Friday we had Abschlussfest which is basically a good bye party for Andrei which started at 5PM, Anton and I left around 9PM while Chris, Andrei and Ilya came home around 11PM.  The kids put on a concert which included recorder playing, singing, English theater, dinner, slide show presentation, a gift for the teacher, and lots of running around.  Andrei had his  It was a great way to end the 3 year adventure at his current school.  We have honestly love his teacher and his school.  I adore the idea that he had the same teacher who saw him mature, grow and learn instead of getting used to the new teacher every year.  

Last one on the right

Anton had a party on the same day at his kindergarten but it was just a general kindergarten party with lots of people bringing random foods so partially because of his nut allergy and the love of Germans to their nuts and partially because we had to get ready for Andrei's party, we only stayed for 30 minutes.  Anton will also have his Rauskehren this Friday.  Rauskehren is a sweeping out/graduation party so tune in next week to see how that will go.  My baby is going to 1st grade :(  He is ready and excited.

On Tuesday Ilya had concert and sleepover at school.  Apparently he slept from 1AM to 5AM.  Let's just say Wednesday he was one cranky kid.  The video is a little too big to post here but  here is the link - make sure to watch until the end!  

Biggest news is that on Monday we decided to pull Ilya out of his school.  For the last 3 years he went to a tiny private Russian-German school where his class was averaging 6 kids.  He was really catered to (all the kids were), he participated in extra curricular art classes for all 3 years, at different times he did dance and theater, his Russian has gotten SO MUCH better (he is still extremely shy about using it though).  Because the school is so small, all the parents know each other and it's honestly been a great experience overall.  However, there was always a small glitch within the school - administration.  At this point the school rent contract is coming to an end on October 31 and as of right now there is no new location for the school to move to.  The current location of the school works for us - it's in town but barely and we don't usually have to deal with too much traffic, it takes us about 20 minutes to get there by car.  The most likely scenario is that school will move further into the city and we would have to deal with driving to school for an hour (or more) and that means that I would have to spend nearly 3-4 hours in the car each day.  Not realistic, not fun, and not good for our family either.  After a lot of thought and consideration, I finally told the director that we were done.  I already went to our local school and applied there.  Secretary was a little puzzled by the request to change schools with only 4 days to figure out the details but did compliment me on my German!

So next year all 3 kids will be in 3 new schools.  Yes, I am a little terrified but hoping for good outcomes.  

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Venturing in Judaism

I don't usually write posts like this and this is not a rash decision, but I felt like I kind of had to do it. 

We are definitely not religious people, but our kids went to Catholic daycare that had nuns as care givers in their first years of life, then Ilya went to Jewish preschool which was a great experience for him and for our entire family as we made some really good friends at the synagogue.  We are open to religion and religious institutions.

Last fall, we looked all over Frankfurt and its surroundings for schools for Andrei for next year.  The search did include private schools as well as state-funded ones.   All the schools we saw were nice and friendly even though it was clear that some of them were not the right choice for us or for the school, but then we shook hands and left.

One school, however, was down right nasty when I meet with them.  When I came across the school online, it seemed like it might of been a good match with offerings of extra German classes if needed, informatics class and extra-curricular Russian classes as well as many others.  I set up an interview with the director, explaining to her in advance that we have 3 kids and looking for spots for all of them.  She asked me to bring in the kids last report cards.

I arrived at school a couple of minutes early, went through the security and then wondered the hallways because nobody would help me find the correct office.  Eventually I found this hidden door that led to her office on my own but the first couple of minutes were pretty not welcoming.  Once we met, I asked the director if we can speak English (instead of German) and she tells me that she would prefer German.  That's pretty weird because everbody with a higher education speaks English but I let it go.  Then they look at Andrei's report card which has good grades but also a note that he is in special German class and within 5 minutes, she tells me that her school is not a good match for our family.  She never inquired about the other kids, she never asked me any real questions, she just looked at that one note and decided that we are not good enough for her.  The meeting lasted approximately 5 minutes after which she stood up and made it clear that we are done.

A couple of days later I met with a woman whose children go to that school and who also have some learning difficulties and she told me that she had nearly the same experience until the director heard the child's name.  After the child's name was announced all over sudden all the difficulties were ignored and the family was welcomed.  The family was Jewish and the names of the kids were Jewish as well.

The school's name is I.E. Lichtigfeld Schule.   If you would like to click on the link, then the welcoming picture is that of the unfriendly director.  It is the only Jewish day school in Frankfurt and it is the only school in Frankfurt that made me feel like we are not good enough ( and I am extremely happy that I attended the meeting alone and Andrei was never made to feel that way).   

P.S. I also made a phone call to the Jewish community to see if we can join them, the response was to come to next years open house in 9 months.  Other than that they are not interested in new members.  I am thinking it's pretty safe to say we are done with Jewish institutions in Frankfurt.
Andrei in front of his new school

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Our little town - Bad Soden

Last year Andrei studied Bad Soden am Taunus and it means we ALL studied about it to help Andrei get ready for his test, I thought I would share the information we’ve learned since it's kind of neat.  We really do enjoy our area with everything it has to offer.

Brief history:
1191 – first mention of Soden anywhere
“Sode” means salt/soda production and for extremely long time the town was known for its salt/soda with the main purchaser being Frankfurt.  In 1812 the salt production shut down since Frankfurt went elsewhere to shop for their needs and the fire broke out in the factories.
1701 – Frankfurt doctor discovered spring water is good for health and Soden became known as a spa town.  At this point (2018), we unfortunately do not have any spring water pools but we do have an awesome pool.
1839 – Wiesbaden and Frankfurt train line was created.  Wiesbaden in the capital of Hessen and is only about 30 minutes away from us by car
1843 – train station in Bad Soden was built due to the spa popularity
1922 – name change from Soden to Bad Soden

I think it’s absolutely crazy that our little town has been around longer than the United States of America exists.  I am also extremely happy that we found Bad Soden – we have 2 elementary schools, however, no upper schools (grade 5 and up) so kids will have to take public transportation or a bike to wherever it is they go.  (We do know where Andrei is going next year - yeah!) We have dentists for all of us within walking distance from our house, we have regular doctors (as well as some specialists) for adults and kids also within walking distance, we have at least 3 pharmacies, train that goes directly to Frankfurt’s main train station, all the supermarkets, etc.  One of the largest malls is also within walking distance but is easier with the car :)

We have 4 parks, numerous playgrounds, many restaurants ranging from German (obviously :)), several Italian places, Thai, Indian, etc. + of course Lieferando (delivery service).

We have several festivals every year - Christmas is a fun one that only goes for one weekend but has Gluhwein, train rides for kids, and several sellers who sell both food and fun stuff.  Last week we had Weintage Festival and it seems crazy but so much fun.  Our local park sets up several (probably around 8) winery booths plus food booths and the entire town spends more or less every evening at the park.  The kids usually just run around while the parents enjoy the wine.  The pours are fairly generous for about 3 euros.  We are going to have a summer festival in August which is all about kids with lots of fun rides, swings, etc.  We also have music festival in September and I am sure there are many more that I can't think of right now. So yeah - come check Bad Soden out!!!

Look at the size of the pretzel
Tons of kids at the wine festival!

Saturday, May 26, 2018


Last part of our Spain trip with my friend was Toledo.  It was highly recommended by many people as a must see when in Madrid.  As with many other things - things did not go exactly according to plan!  We did not buy tickets in advance because when we looked online, it seemed like the trains were going nearly every hour so we figured we'd just show up and buy tickets.  We did show up,  but buying the tickets was much harder as the train station has several different ticket offices and it took us a while to find the right one and of course by the time we found it, the train we wanted to take left and we had to wait  for the next one.  We decided to grab some brunch and nearly missed our train because the platform was pretty hard to find (as stupid as that sounds!).

The train trip was nice and short and when we got off the train, there were several tourist busses from which we picked one that seemed the best for us and took us to the scenic parts of Toledo and then left us in the center of the town (more or less).   After that we wondered the streets, and it was truly wondering because the map that we had was completely and entirely useless!  

Impression of Toledo - cute, small town but was it worth all the hype?  To my friend and I - not really.  Maybe we are spoiled by our travels, but I would say that Toledo is not "a must."

Live turtles in Madrid train station

Main cathedral
Main view of Toledo

Just a tile on the ground - Toledo used to have large Jewish population

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Running a "marathon"

For the 3rd year in a row boys participated in Lauf für Mehrsprachigkeit a couple of Sundays ago.  Thankfully the weather was pretty nice this year and Ilya's school while sponsoring the event, did not participate in the entertainment section of the run.  In the past years they played on flute, danced and singed and while it was fun, it was pretty long and the stage is a bit small and gets crowded.

Last year Anton participated in the Bambini run which was 200 meters but this year he got upgraded to the elementary school-age run which is 900 meters and he ran that together with Andrei.  Ilya got upgraded from 900 meters to 3 km.  The upgrades for both of the kids were my decisions and I have to say that everything was successful.

Andrei and Anton run together and I told Andrei to keep an eye on his brother in case Anton has problems with breathing.  Anton ran most of the way but told us that he walked a little bit in the middle.  Running is not Andrei's thing AT ALL so putting him in charge of his brother was also a good plan.

Ilya, however, is a runner.  Moreover, he is a long-distance runner and he was the only kid from his school that ran 3km and out of 91 kids (many much older than him as) he came in 45th place.  It was really cool to see his best friend meet him when he had about 500 meters left to run and run with him.  His best friend, by the way, got 2nd place among the Grundschule kids (1-4th grades).

Here are results for this year: Anton (5,5 y.o.) finished in 5:43, Andrei (10, 5 y.o. )5:40, Ilya (9)18:12
Last year - Ilya (8 y.o.)  4:55, Andrei (9,5 y.o.) 5:11
2016 -  Ilya (7 y.o.) 5:49, Andrei (8,5 y.o.) 6:20

Andrei walking, Anton running and Ilya is cheering his brothers!

Kid in blue is the friend