Today was Cade’s first day of kindergarten. Technically, it wasn’t though. Kindergarten in Germany is quite different from kindergarten in America, so I thought I would take some time to explain the differences. But first things first.Here is our little stud muffin posing with his first day sign…
I just love that silly boy. If we still lived in America, we would be shopping for a new backpack, new shoes, sweet new threads, glue sticks, markers, etc. in anticipation of his first day in elementary school. He would inevitably walk into a Pinterest worthy classroom with awesome learning stations, colorful posters, and cleverly organized everything. Instead, he got up today and, after a three week summer pause from the last time he went to kindergarten, he picked out a pair of jeans and a t-shirt that were not new, threw on his little backpack that he has used for months (and which cannot reasonably hold more than his lunch and a light jacket), and laced up his filthy dirty play shoes before heading out the door.
When we arrived to kindergarten, Cade walked up to his cubby and did his normal routine: took off his backpack and jacket, took off his shoes, and put on his house shoes (Hausschuhe). Side Note: I LOVE that Germans typically don’t wear street shoes in the house. It totally warms my germaphobic heart. Next, he walked up to his teacher, shook her hand, and wished her, “Guten Morgen!” before running off to play with his friends doing an activity of his choice. The room is fantastic. There are areas where the kids can do art, shelves full of books and board games, a reading tree house, and -Cade’s favorite thing- bins full of toy cars. There are three classes in his kindergarten with about 25 kids, ages 3-5, in each class and three teachers assigned to each room. In the hallway shared by the rooms is an indoor play area with huge foam building blocks, ropes and ramps for climbing, and indoor vehicles. But the best part is that regardless of how yucky the weather is, the kids will strap on their Regenhose und Gummistiefel (rain pants that go over their normal pants and rain boots) and play outside for at least an hour. Every day Cade comes home completely dirty (hence the aforementioned shoes) and with many stories.
While Cade is at school, there is rarely direct teaching. The Kindergärtnerinnen (the teachers are called this, not the students) act more as facilitators of fun and social learning. They often do songs and stories, but there is no instruction on math or reading like he would get in the states. Throughout the day, the children play independently or with friends. The whole time. And you know what? I love it, and so does he. I love the German attitude toward children that allows them to explore their worlds without adults hovering and puts social interaction at forefront of the kindergarten experience. Without getting into pedagogy, I really believe that kids his age are often not mature enough to sit still and be proper students for a full school day. I am so thankful he has another year to just be a kid.
Cade is already an emerging reader and can spell almost anything he sets his mind to, so we still work on some of that (in English) at home. He loves math and is constantly adding and subtracting things for his own amusement. But he also likes to play pretend with his cars for upwards of an hour at a time. He loves to burst out in song and dance. He enjoys grabbing a stack of books and reading through each one, all the while being allowed to ask 100 questions per book. I am not saying one is necessarily better than the other, but I am saying I really appreciate the way it is done here in Germany.
Next year Cade will start first class (first grade) in Grundschule (elementary school). It comes with a huge set of fun traditions, and I look forward to sharing that with you.
By the way, here is what little sister thinks of big brother going back to school.
Thanks for reading!