Thursday, October 17, 2013

Seb goes to Kindergarten in Germany

Sebastian has started Kindergarten! Before you panic, it’s actually preschool (he didn’t magically age two years overnight). I think I mentioned in my last post, but am obviously too lazy to go back to check, that Kindergarten in Germany is the term used to encompass ages 3+ until 1st grade. It’s optional until age 5, I think, (which is U.S. kindergarten age, right?) and the schools here are very flexible. There seems to be a general understanding that because this is optional, bring your kid when you want and when it works best. You’re doing it for the child, not for us, or for the system. Sebastian’s kindergarten is open 5 mornings each week, but he’ll only be going 2 to 3 of those.

We chose to send him to the Evangelische Kindergarten, which is the branch of protestant schools. There are also Catholic, state, and Waldorf kindergartens very nearby. Our decision to send him to this particular one is largely based on recommendations we received from other parents, the fact that they miraculously had a spot available, and it’s extremely close proximity to our apartment—3 minutes! 

Cody took Seb again this morning, and he wanted to show Cody some of the things he likes to play with. They went in and Seb saw one of his teachers, and said, “That teacher is the nicest.” She is one of those people that you know just by looking at her that she must be incredibly sweet and kind. Seb also got to feed the fish this morning, and Cody assured me that the teachers were making an obvious effort to engage the other children into play with Sebastian.

This morning I was able to put words to something that I had been feeling for a while. I am glad that Sebastian is going to Kindergarten because we simply don’t have the space or money to be able to make our home the kind of place that I feel it should be for our young children. Now I am not saying we have a terrible home environment, and no good toys, or that it’s bad for our children to be here (I’m so glad they’re here!), but that I want our home to have things and an arrangement that nurture creativity, inspire movement, and foster independence. Right now, Kindergarten can provide a bit of that for Sebastian in a way that I can’t, or at least don't know how, and I’m happy for that opportunity for him. He is thriving from the special kind of independence of going away on his own for a few hours, and this morning, right after he asked if he could go to Kindergarten “right now,” he asked if he could put on his new big boy watch—a gift from us so he could be just like Daddy going to school. (Plus, can you imagine him as teenager saying, “Mom. Dad. I can’t believe we lived in Germany for a year and you didn’t send me to Kindergarten so I could learn German!!! I COULD know German right now!!!” Yea, I would like to avoid that scenario, but imagining it helps me gain some perspective when I get sad about my little baby leaving me for a bit.)

This is not every day, and this is not permanent, but right now, this works, and I think it’s where God has placed us and Sebastian. I am still very interested in homeschooling our children someday, and want to look carefully into future school/education options, but what I’ve been realizing is that I need to focus on what “home” is and means for our family before I get swept away by the inevitably overwhelming school years. I can’t consider homeschooling our children until I have a better understand of home, and a confidence in ours. All orchestrated by divine providence, I’m sure, I just started reading Happier at Home, by Gretchen Rubin, and can hardly put it down. I’m only one chapter in and I feel so inspired and have started filling my brain with new ideas of how to make this home thing work better for all of us.

I would also like to request recommendations for any home-related books that you’ve found particularly inspiring and helpful. And for all of you early-education peeps out there, I am realizing that I want our home to be a kind of kindergarten, as strange as that may sound. But I need songs, activities, and ideally, books about songs activities, schedules, rhythms, you name it. I’ll be forever indebted to you!

P.S. You can see a few more photos of Seb's first day of Kindergarten here and here.

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