Sorry for disappearing for a while! Since I last wrote, a few irksome things have happened…several new teeth (no sleep + cranky baby), an ear infection for Quinn, a mild head concussion for Jillian, and touch of post-partum depression for me. All in all, nothing too serious, but frankly it has felt like we have been treading water for the past few weeks.
There have been some bright spots in all of this, and that has included a wonderful day with new friends and a trip to their Waldschule. I wrote about our kids’ experiences hiking into the forest for school days, but this is a real Forest School! The photos ARE the school. There is no heated lodge and bathroom cropped out of the frame of these pictures. Rain, sun, snow, thunderstorm — the kids are here. The old German saying is that “there is no bad weather, only bad clothes”.
Here is the music and dance “room”.
This forest school didn’t exist in the area, so our new friend Johannes decided to start it. Kids attend the school until they are ready for Kindergarten, which is either age 6 or 7 in Switzerland. The forest school is made up of mixed ages, but this particular classroom is for 2-6 year olds.
The logistics of all of this is a lot to wrap my brain around: the place is not fenced, and on cold weather days they build a fire for warmth. On the other side of this is a steep ravine and a stream. How do they manage all of this with multiple small children? But, what a magical way to spend childhood.
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!