Teddy and Patrick have adjusted quite well to the Grundschule (primary school). They have come home with their little complaints as well as some great accomplishments such as mastering the fine art of asking to go to the bathroom in German (Kann ich auf die Toilette gehen?). Patrick is quite timid when it comes to speaking the language. He is afraid to say things wrong. Of course this is all part of learning a new language. During their school day, they are receiving 2 solid hours of German instruction. Teddy's pride was a tad bruised when he realized he was the oldest student in this classroom who does not know how to speak German. Most children are in 2nd and 3rd grade. Most children do not attempt to integrate into the German schools at 4th grade.
However, we have met one family who put their 4th grade son Dakota in the German schools two years ago. Their son is finishing his second year in the 4th grade where Teddy and Patrick attend. Dakota now speaks fluent German. He will go into the Gymnasium middle school next year for 5th grade. Germany has three levels of secondary schools. Gymnasium is where the highest performing students go. The next is the Realschule for intermediate performing students. The lower performing students go into Hauptschule which is more or less a trade school.
The boys have made many friends at school, several of which are German. Patrick had a problem for about a week with two German boys that he said were "picking on him." It concerned me only because German children are much more physical in the school yard. German teachers also let the children work it out "physically" to a certain degree. It is not uncommon to see boys wrestling around in the mud on the fussball court (soccer field) going at it. Patrick came home one day with a bloody lip saying he and one of the boys got into it in the school yard. The bottom line is they tried to push Patrick around and he stood his ground. Apparently the boys were able to work it out because just last week I showed up to walk home with the boys from school and Patrick was peddling a three seater tricycle with the two larger blonde German boys on the back. I caught his attention and asked, "is that hard to peddle Patrick?" He responded, "Not too bad Mom!" One little boy jumped off the back and started to push from behind. Apparently Paul and Mason (these two blonde German boys who speak very little English) are buddies with Patrick now.
Teddy has also come home with holes in the knees of his jeans from wrestling his friends Mason (a different boy from Patrick's friend) and Dexter in the school yard. Teddy and Patrick are out riding bikes, going to the park, skateboarding, and roaming the neighborhood with several other boys who live here.
I am so grateful for this experience. They have freedom. They have the freedom to explore, experience, and discover with limited restrictions. I am so thankful they are able to figure out how to solve problems, establish relationships, work with those they typically would not choose to work with, and navigate their environment on their own terms.
Rowan starts German Kindergarten tomorrow. She will start at 8am, come home for lunch, and then return until 2pm. She also had her first German birthday party yesterday. She has made a very sweet German friend named Laura. There are several cute German birthday party games the kids played. The first one was The Chocolate Game. A chocolate bar is wrapped up with several layers of wrapping paper. The children sit in a circle. The children take turns rolling a dice. When one of the children rolls a six they yell, "SIX!" The child then has to put on a winter hat, scarf, mittens, and attempt to cut through the wrapping paper with a butter knife and fork. In the mean time, the other children continue to take turns rolling. When the next child gets a six, that child yells, "SIX!" The other child has to take off the hat, scarf, mittens, hand over the fork and knife, and wait for another turn. If the children make it through the wrapping on the chocolate bar they can eat it.
The next game is called "Topfschlagen," or "Hit the Pot." A circle is formed by the party guests with one child in the middle. That child is the seeker and wears a blindfold. The other kids turn the seeker around 2 or 3 times in order to lose orientation. Meanwhile, the birthday child hides a small cooking pot somewhere in the same room. There is a price inside the pot (or underneath the overturned pot). The seeker is given a wooden spoon and told to start looking. The seeker must crawl on the floor, banging his spoon on any object he comes across. The other children yell out "Hot!" or "Cold!" Once the child finds the pot they can take off the blindfold and claim the prize. The game continues until all the children have discovered a prize.
In recent travels we went to Metz France.
Just outside of Metz, we visited the largest WWII cemetery in Europe with over 10,000 resting soldiers. We visited the Saint- Etienne de Metz Catholic Cathedral, dating back to 984. It is one of the tallest cathedrals in Europe, and has the largest expansion of stain glass windows.
We visited Saint Pierre, the oldest church in France dating back to the 4th century.
Lastly, we visited Fort Jeanne d'Arc, built at the turn of the 19th century by Germany after the victory of the Franco Prussian war. There was a lovely park in this area complete with a zip line that the kids could not get enough of.
We toured Worms Germany where in 1521 Martin Luther stood before the Imperial Diet accused of heresy after nailing his theses on the door of the Wittenberg Church. The Edict of Worms declared him a heretic. We were able to view the memorial.
Daniel and the kids at the Martin Luther Memorial in Worms.
A few weeks ago we enjoyed a hike about 40 minutes here up to the castle, Berg Grafenstein. It was presumably built between 1150 and 1200 mainly for protection. Teddy has had a fantastic time using his camera, capturing his own memories.
We have had a relatively mild Winter. I have a standing running "date" 3 other women I have met here. We meet 3 days a week and start out at 5:30. This week was the first week we actually encountered ice on the trails. I am grateful for these women as they have pushed me to run much further than I ever have before. Saturday I completed a 9.3 mile run with one of them. I am shooting for a half marathon.
Teddy has recently joined a German soccer team in the next village over, Rodenbach. These boys are incredibly good. Teddy came home the first night a bit discouraged because of their skill set. We told him to stick with it and he will improve tremendously playing with them. He has gone back 3 weeks in a row. I am so proud of him.
All in all life is good. We are being challenged on a daily basis and taking advantage of every opportunity that presents itself. Life is good!
Hiking the trails of Weilerbach
A cute little Christmas tree in the middle
of the forest.
Taking advantage of a mild Winter.
Kids playing on the log piles on the trails.
Feeding the ducks on a warm Winter day in Weilerbach.
Daniel and I in Worms.
The Fort in Metz France.
Teddy on the zipline.
The view from Berg Grafenstein
Teddy on Berg Grafenstein.
Daniel and the kids at Berg Grafenstein
I see you!
Liam turns 4.
Teddy at the Cemetary in Lorraine France.
Daniel in the kids in Lorraine France.
Rows and rows.
Cathedral in Metz France.
Liam and Patrick, Metz France.
Oldest church in France.
Time for a coffee/soda/beer.