School at home, on the road, or in the woods


Now that we are in München for a longer time, my mom had arranged 2 days of school for Audrey and I to see how the dynamics of German schools work. Emilia went to my mom’s old elementary school and decided that was where she wanted to go forever; her 6 new best friends were there!
How Bavarian schools work in a nutshell: K-4 is in a grundschule, or elementary. Then there is 5-12 in either a hauptschule, realschule, or gymnasium. Everyone wants their child to go to a gymnasium. Their grades in 4th matter, recommendations etc, but I can imagine it’s different for varying schools. My mom’s school friend still lives here, and she has a girl going to her second year in Gymnasium (so 6th) and a boy in 3rd grade (elementary). Audrey and I went to gymnasium and Emilia went with Robert. It was very different than in Chicago! Gymnasium is like a high school, with a lot more freedom than I was used to. There are no lines to walk in, no places you absolutely have to be, you can eat everywhere and anytime (except during class), and the older kids obviously make it feel like that. I’ve never had religion class, and here they did have it, we had a class on protestant religion. Also, the foreign language classes are taken very serious and I was surprised at how much they knew; especially in Latin! School in an actual school was interesting to compare to roadschooling.
Homeschooling, or roadschooling as my mom likes to call it, is definitely something different. Usually we have full days and half days, and a whole lot of no-days. On days where we take the entire day, we make a quick schedule, along the lines of “Lillian, first Math with Papa, then read, then German with Mama…” Audrey’s is “Audrey, first read, then Math with Papa, then Wordly Wise..” Do you see the pattern? Now, I’d like to say that’s how it always is; structured and intensive, but because we’re so free to do whatever whenever, that sometimes we get distracted by the good weather and go for a walk, or Mama and Papa have to book transportation in SE Asia and ignore us. We are probably doing a little less than we should be. At the same time, we are doing much more than we could be doing in school. Studying the Roman times isn’t the same thing as being at the Colloseum, nor is learning about the Ring of Fire (in Indonesia) and actually going there, or studying the architecture of the Eiffel Tower and going to the top. Some interesting projects also turn up… Audrey did a presentation and experiment on sugar beets after going by a massive pile of harvested ones in Maastricht. She learned about the history and how they make sugar from something that my mom describes as looking like a rat. We are also going to the Nature and Human Museum again after being there once and seeing it’s great for schooling; there’s a lot of interactive and informative science! Just being in museum teaches, or when your parents can explain all sorts of things while you are experiencing them first-hand.

Porch schooling in Nice, France

The classroom in Locarno, Switzerland

... and the classroom view

Of course, you can also just stick to the woods! Waldkindergarten, or forest kindergartens, are something not uncommon in Europe, mainly Germany. They are basically kindergartens situated in the woods, where the kids are outside all day long. We walked in the nearby woods, past one, and looked into it. Something like a movable RV is used to keep the things you need to teach, some tables for when there’s a storm, and other things you find in a kindergarden. There was a playground with swings and log balance beams and teepees they play in. The kids all had rubber pants on, so snow, mud, and dirt can be rolled around in; there’s plenty of room for that. Their art projects were all made of pine cones and leaves. The kindergarten is only a little into the woods; there’s a road really close, as well as a Tram stop, so it’s not so hard to get there. I think it’s a great way to spend your kindergarten years, outside in the fresh air.

The plumbing system

A table for lunchtime, crafts, etc

The indoor classroom among the outdoor one


7 responses »

  1. I found the Waldkindergarten interesting as well…fresh air, nature, quiet. I imagine that this is what pre-school was like for everyone, and probably not even that long ago. We’re trying our best to raise you kids, and I know that you are making the best of it too!

    • I think we are way less structured, but maybe faster in certain subjects we can easily teach… I think we are even 🙂

  2. Sounds very close to the Montessori approach your cousins are getting here in Michigan. They have a workplan everyday, but if they are interested in a subject or idea, they can research it and present it to the class. Independent, yet structured to get your basic math, reading and writing that is required. We, too, have Wordly Wise! How small the world is…

    • Yes, we are also familiar with the Montessori approach, Josephine’s German School followed that as well. We wish you all a great Christmas with Oma and Opa and all of the family! The Chicago Cousins

      • Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! May you all continue to have safe, eye-opening and healthy travels! We will be making cookies with Oom Parcival, going to mass on Saturday, bowling on Monday, and probably a lot of Catan thrown in there as well! Take care and kisses to your family!

      • You as well! It sounds as if you have a great Christmas time planned ahead, we will miss you all! Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year… Much love, the Chicago Cousins.

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