Monday, January 23, 2017

Anton's German kindergarten

As more and more of Anton’s American peers and their parents are starting to get ready for kindergarten, I decided to talk about kindergarten experience that we’ve had here so far and what is coming up for our high energy adorable boy.

German kindergarten is for children starting at age 3 until they start school at age 6.   By German law, all kids above 3 years old are guaranteed a spot at a kindergarten but that kindergarten might not be where you would choose to take your child.  There are some private kindergartens that will accept kids from anywhere but 90% of the time, the kids have to go to their local kindergarten provider and in our area you have to apply well in advance to get a spot at a place you want.  Private kindergartens also cost 500+ euros/month as opposed to local kindergartens that are roughly 200 euros/month (or cheaper).  In the last year before school (when the kids are 5 years old), the kindergarten is either free or mostly paid for.  I think we will have to pay 40 euros/month.

There are several types of kindergarten.  In our town, only one kindergarten is state owned, the rest are privately held and most are linked to different churches (Catholic and Protestant being the majority).  Being associated with the church, however, does not mean that they do any kind of religious education.  Anton’s kindergarten is part of the Protestant church.  The church itself is not on the premises either.  In real terms in means I get emails once in a while saying that church is holding a service of some type that I happily delete and nothing changes in our life or Anton’s.  

Next break down is between different concepts that kindergartens might adhere to – some are regular classrooms where kids get to stay together as a group, some are open-concept.  Anton’s current kindergarten is open-concept – in our case it means that kids (more or less) get to do whatever they want!  (After talking to some other moms, some open-concept kindergartens have more structure.) There are 4 main rooms – construction room, board game room, sport room, and art room.  The big hallway has several couches with books.  The cafeteria is separate.  It also has a big playground.  Different teachers are stationed throughout all of those stations and kids get to decide what and where they want to go.  There are 2 times a day when kids get in their groups – morning circle and lunch time.  Any other time, the kids are welcome to be where they like and are able to move to any location they please.  For example, the cafeteria is open for breakfast from 7:30 (opening time) until around 10:30, it’s set up as buffet and the kids can go, grab a plate and eat whenever and whatever.  Oh, the group are mixed age so kids from age 3 to 6 are all together in the same group.  Anton’s best friend is in a different group but they get to play together all the time which would be great except that putting those 2 kids together creates an explosive bomb of energy that teachers have a hard time containing! 

Next year when Anton turns 5, he will start vorschule – official pre-school time where he will be pulled out of his group for about 2-3 hours a week to work on his school skills.  I believe that some foreign kids have German intensive classes but we’ll see how works next year. 

Overall, at this point I am very happy that we are here and Anton does not have to start American kindergarten.  He is just not ready to sit at his desk and learn for 6+ hours a day and then do homework in the evening.  Giving him another year to enjoy free play seems like the right thing to do.

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