Schule 101

A prereq. for understanding all things German Schools


I have learned so much about school here, and yet I know I really hardly know anything!  We registered the boys for DAZ (German as a Second Language) program offered at some of the regular schools here shortly after arriving.  However, we registered them just before the summer break, so we had to wait until August to actually see the schools and meet the teachers.  It’s been a long summer of some traveling and a lot of waiting for our life to begin (a.k.a. school), but it finally came.  August 1st we met with Jaxon’s school, and on the 2nd we met with Dallin’s.  My head was spinning after.  Seriously, I felt like so many things were different.

Of course I was already nervous about it all, it’s so unfamiliar.  But to make matters worse, we also had to attempt to get permission to miss the first 4 days of school.  You see, we scheduled our big family vacation for August 3rd, back in December when we thought all the kids would attend the International School that doesn’t start until the 16th.  But since then, Dallin asked if he could attend German schools.  We were shocked when he brought it up originally, but looked into it and think this is an amazing opportunity for the boys to gain a language skill.  We realize this is going to be a huge challenge, but I’m so proud of my boys for their courage and willingness to try something new.

Ok, so here’s the deal.  School is compulsory.  This is no joke.  No homeschooling!  Nothing!  You GO TO SCHOOL!  And if your kid isn’t there and you haven’t called in by 8:30, the police are notified (or so I was told).  I was SO SCARED to have to try to ask for these days off.  I’d read online that requests such as these almost never receive a go ahead.  But this is our last big trip before Janae leaves on her mission, we just didn’t want to sacrifice it.  And get this.  They were great about it.  I don’t imagine we will ever even think about missing a day again, but they were great.  Jason’s work has set us up with a relocation consultant/translator of sorts.  We just call her Karina.  We’ve joked at home that whenever we have German questions we just need to “Karina it”. like Googling it!  She’s been a lifesaver!  She went to these school meetings with us and had the stressful task of asking for the time off.  She did great!  And we were cleared for vacation!  What a relief!

Let me get back to the school stuff I’ve learned.  It seems kids here start early and rarely have lessons after lunch.  So Jaxon starts at 7:30 and is done before lunch.  His day is a little shorter I think because of this DAZ program.  He will have 15 hours of German each week until October, then they’ll evaluate his progress and add other classes like art and P.E.  He’ll continue learning German and phase into academic courses like math, English, and Science when he is ready.  The total transition is about 2 years.  We are hopeful!  The plan is similar for Dallin but he starts with 20 hours of German each week.

I was told at these meetings that Jaxon will need house shoes for school.  That children change into these for their indoor lessons, and use their outside shoes for recess and yet another pair of indoor-type athletic shoes for P.E.  They also have quite the school materials list and instead of leaving them at school like we do in the states, they transport theirs to and from each day.  And that most kids travel to school independently at a really young age.  Can you imagine little Jaxon sitting at a tram stop, and taking it each morning, getting off at the right stop and making his way to school each day.  Karina said that this may seem strange to me, but I will see that this is very normal here. So it may not surprise you that they have a solution for those heavy school supplies and those independent commute.  SPECIAL BACKPACKS.  Young School children use bags like these:

There’s a huge celebration for children starting school.  They start school at 6 years old here and receive a Schultüte (school cone).  It’s filled with school supplies and toys and sweets to help ease the anxiety of the first day of school and help the kids get excited!  Apparently it’s a tradition that started in Eastern Germany and in the Czech Republic.

I think it’s adorable, and it’s our kids FIRST year of school here in Germany, so I had to do a little something.

The supply list was a little overwhelming, Karina was nice enough to go shop with me.  Let me point out, that it might have taken me all day.  With her, it was a breeze!  I was surprised at how many things were different.  If you haven’t lived or traveled outside the USA you might not even know that the paper size is different here.  I remember that shocked me when we lived in the UK.  Or do you know that other people don’t have composition notebooks, or regularly use spiral bound notebooks, or 3 ring binders.  What’s school without a batch of freshly sharpened No. 2 pencils?  Well let me tell you, the German’s have some sweet stuff!  Did you know they are all about their fountain pens?  In fact, I got one for my birthday because I’m so enamored by it all.  So children use these inky pens when they are little.  Whereas in the US, we don’t even let kids use pens until they’re like in 5th grade, and even then they are just BIC ballpoints.  So check this out:

I mentioned earlier that the school day is typically shorter here.  And for my boys, it’s like WAY shorter.  Jaxon’s only going to school 4 days a week until 11:15, like preschool days (at least for a while).  But Dallin’s schedule is quite a bit shortened as well.  But I was told I should expect 2 hours of homework each day.  So maybe it all works out in the wash.  Time will tell.  And in now way am I an authority on all things German education system, these are just a few things I’ve learned as they relate to my kiddos right now.  I’m anxious to learn more.

So this is Dallin.  He started 9th grade Friday (only for 2 hours), and had a longer day today.  His school is quite close, he can walk or ride his bike.  He said there is a huge bike garage in the back of the school.

IMG_7238IMG_6617 I was so nervous about having him go.  It’s odd having your child off experiencing something you haven’t a clue about.  I won’t even know how to counsel him when things get tough.  I’ll never be able to say, I know how it is, because I won’t.  But he texted me:

By the way, in his classroom was a shelf with German Translation books.  There were two Italienisch, two Englisch, and about 12 Arabisch.  There is one class full with 25 students, and Dallin is one of four students in a second class, they expect it to fill up quickly.  Crazy.

Here’s Jaxon.  He’s just doing German and they will determine what grade to place him in later in the year.  He would be in 4th back home.

fullsizeoutput_d6d1IMG_6671IMG_6684Jaxon had a great first day.  He said that his teacher was great.  He said they worked on the alphabet and some cursive, he got his feet wet (his school has this whole wellness initiative and they teach it to the kids, it’s called Kneipp.  He said he learned some German, I asked him what he learned.  He said he wouldn’t tell me.  Ah well.

I drove him to school today, but we might try riding bikes or taking the tram tomorrow.  It’s too far to walk and a lot of busy streets and a bridge to cross.  At this point I can’t imagine him going on his own.  Here’s a few photos from the drive this morning:

The day was done, he was happy, and about an hour after school he looked like this:FullSizeRender 2

Here’s to new adventures and an exciting new year!  I’ll share Emily’s school info later.  She doesn’t start until Wednesday, and trust me, she’s ready.


3 thoughts on “Schule 101

Add yours

  1. So fun to hear about your adventures. Too bad we missed you in Utah, we finally made it out there last week, but obviously after you had already left. 😦
    We’ll have to see if we ever make it to Germany or if your guys come to DC! Love you guys!


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