Before we moved to Switzerland we had already decided that the kids would be enrolled in the local public school. The International School teaches essentially a US curriculum and the classes are spoken in English, but tuition is around $30,000 a year per child! So, yeah, just a tad outside our financial reach. Our hope (and frankly, our only expectation) was that if nothing else happened, they would learn German and make some friends. Everything else can fall into place in due time.
We have always been homeschoolers, so this has been an education for all of us. Slowly we are all getting the hang of the school schedule.
The Swiss schedule absolutely works best for homes with one parent at home. School in Thalwil begins at 8:20am and shuts down each day from 11:55am to 1:40pm. Depending on the age of the child, some days they go back until 3:20 and some days are home for the rest of the day. Every Wednesday is a half day of school for everyone. Quinn has two ‘whole’ days of school per week, and Jillian has four ‘whole’ days.
From Kindergarten (age 6+ here) forward, kids are encouraged to walk (or even take mass transit) by themselves or with friends. Depending on their size, small kids wear a school-dispensed “collar” with reflectors for crossing streets. Quinn was ecstatic to be tall enough to not have to wear the collar!
The school calendar has taken some getting used to — one full week of school followed by a week-long “ski holiday”. Then two weeks in session followed by a long weekend or a “spring break”. I’m thinking they avoid the traditional summer “brain-drain” by keeping the vacations dispersed throughout the year. The Swiss school summer vacation this year is only 5 weeks long.
The days are spent doing lots of (Swiss) math and with German tutors, but also include lots of recess/play time, and trips to the swimming pool or ice-skating rink. The kids have each already taken a trip to the woods where they hike and then build fires to roast sausages. In a couple of weeks, Jillian’s class will be spending time in the forest building a bridge. 🙂
All in all, the kids are loving school and have adapted far better than we could have imagined. And in only a few weeks we are astounded at how quickly they are acquiring the language — and friends. Yay!