Sunday, August 7, 2011

Kindergarten Graduation-Germany

A few weeks ago, Olivia graduated from German kindergarten.  She's come a long way in the past year and we are so so proud of her.  It wasn't easy for her to enter German kindergarten last October at age five and half.  She and Lila were completely immersed and, for a few months, stuck as close together as they could.  Eventually, however, they each had best friends and soon they spent their school days almost entirely apart, maybe passing each other on the playground (Or, "The Garden" as they call it) or during snack time. Olivia picked up German more quickly than Lila.  Possibly because German is Olivia's third language (languages may come more easily to her now) and possibly because Olivia is really outgoing and has a lot to say - which pushed her to learn it more quickly (Whereas Lila is more laid back and quiet).  She just has to be heard!!

Kindergarten in Germany is a lot different than in the United States.  They learn by play.  Their particular kindergarten is an open-concept kindergarten.  Students rotate rooms throughout the day at their choosing (Limited time in each room, of course, and they have morning circle and mid-day circle in their respective homerooms).  There is a room for playing with dolls, a room for doing puzzles and games, a room for drawing (I've seen the teacher of that room set up still lifes), a room for making things such as forts, and so on.  The children who are going on to grade one next year have a half hour ABC class Monday-Thursday.  It's a structured class and prepares them for next year's classroom setting.  As a school-starter, Olivia also had swimming class twice a month and music class twice a month.

The one thing that is not taught, aside from learning how to write your name, is reading. I was very worried about this as many of Olivia's peers in the States will be entering first grade knowing how to read, some quite well.  However, Germans are not behind the learning curve in the long-run.  In fact, their top level of high school, Gymnasium, far exceeds most US public high schools academically (Children enter gymnasium between the ages of 10 and 13).  Olivia will start Class One in September at a primary school in our town (She choose to go to German school over American - we let her make the decision). 

That being said, Matt and I are diligently working on getting Olivia to read in English, as knowing how to read in German, and not English, will leave her behind when she reenters the US school system in a year or two.  Earlier this year, we started out with the Bob Books and Explode the Code Workbooks. Recently, she started doing Explode the Code Online.  Today, at the recommendation of some homeschooling parents, I ordered, "Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons." She does now read short sentences such as, "Matt reads a book.  The dog ran up a hill."  However, I believe it was by the middle of first grade that I was reading the "Little House on the Prairie" series on my own (I did not attend Kindergarten as, at the time, my parents would have had to pay for it. A year later, it became free and my sisters each went) and I want her to have the love of reading at a young age as Matt and I did.  We have been reading chapter books, such as the Ramona Series by Beverly Clearly, every night.  Olivia is obsessed with having us read to her every night. She will cry herself to sleep if we do not.  We've recently begun having her read to us before we read to her (Lila sits in too, of course).  Slowly, she is making progress and, again, I'm proud of her.  She's quite diligent and even asks to read to us.  So, she too is very eager to learn, which helps a lot. 

Below are some pictures of her graduation.  There was a slide show that brought tears to my eyes and then all the graduating students sang about seven songs.  At the end of the evening, juice was served to the children and champagne to the adults (I had juice, of course).

Revealing their ABC class workbook and supplies
Their Schultüte's (school cones) to be used on first day of primary school

Champagne is served!
Sadly, I didn't get any good shots of Olivia on her big night.  The few pictures I have didn't come out well enough to post.  Fortunately, the video clip shows her singing part of a song - at least it's something.

In mid-September, she starts Class One and with the help of Google Translate, our German friends, and a Mommy Learning German class that Lila's kindergarten offers me (free) once a week, I'll be able to help Olivia through the school year.  With a new baby on the way and a daughter in a foreign grade school, I'll have my work cut out for me.  Fortunately (so far) there are no deployments scheduled for Matt. So, he'll be here to help out too! 


Deb said...

Pretty impressive Natalie. Your children will be way ahead of the mark with the exposure you have given them to other languages as well as cultures. Hopefully one day they will be able to tell you how appreciative they are. Lucky kids!

The Dunns said...

Great post! (I need to post some school updates, too. Daniel started 2. Klasse today.) It sounds like Olivia is doing great with her reading. At least she is excited about it and wants to read to you. I work on it regularly with Daniel but I have to push him to do it. He'd rather play (or even do chores). :)

AudreyO said...

It's interesting to read about the kindergarten there. My daughter went to a private preschool and they too did the moving rooms thing. She went to 3 or 4 classes a day between 9am and 1pm. So many people told me she was too young for that type of school. Today she is done with school, always had great grades, always was able to accept change without panic etc. I think it's one of the best school systems around. I wish more schools offered it.