Sunday, October 21, 2007

Mom's Arrival Brings Snow (& German Schooling 101)

"You talkin' to me?"
Had lunch with Destene this afternoon. We went to Seidel's, our favorite local bakery. The owner is planning to move to Florida this early in the new year. They have wanted to start another cafe over there for years and are finally getting the opportunity. The owner, Irena, speaks very good English and has been a huge help in providing information for us. We have talked about keeping in touch when she leaves so we can check up on each other. I would like that very much so I hope it works out.

Irena talked a lot about her concerns about the school system here with respect to her kids. In the fourth grade, the kids take a test here to determine which school track they will continue with- academic or more vocational. Personally, I think that is a little young to label kids, and it seems to put a lot of pressure on them. Then again, the U.S. education system is not all it's cracked up to be either, so I guess it's all relative. In case you're interested, I've included a more extensive breakdown of the school system at the end of this post.

Went to dinner this evening at a local pub in town. There was a welcome meeting for parents of the Bavarian School and other parents new to the area. It was a nice way to make some new connections and finally be able to see some of the children of the parents I've already met. The downside is that I smelled of smoke when I left. In fact, the smoke was so thick in the front part of the pub that you could actually see it.

Mom leaves tomorrow to come here, and I'm really excited. I hope the baby actually arrives shortly after she does. Although I love visiting, I don't wan to waste all her time here without having another grandson for her to help with. After all, that's the primary reason she is coming.
Frightening Family Resemblance???

Update on Crazy Dog Lady:
Apparently, CDL actually filed a complaint and Francoise received a legal notice, to which she had to prepare a written response after consulting her lawyer. I think at this point, it either continues or just dies, depending on who reads the response and how seriously they take it. I suppose there could be fines involved, but at this point, I'm just not sure yet. Per CDL's complaints, the notice lists various dates and times that our dogs supposedly barked (with little notations stating if the barks were continuous or with "little interruption.") Most of the dates state continuous barking for multiple hours. I
nteresting enough, some of the dates she mentions are way off. One of the dates/times is actually at a time when Gerard and I have photographic time-stamped proof that we are out of the house walking our dogs in the forest for several hours. The downside is her complaints occur BEFORE we started documenting our own evidence via a video camera and audio. We were able to record the dogs while we were away and see how much barking, if any, was actually taking place. Of the several days of recording, there was ONE occasion where a dog 'woofed' for less than a minute, but that was it. Now, CDL basically states that whenever we were gone, our dogs barked incessantly. But I have to say that I find that REALLY hard to believe considering all the evidence we have to the contrary. Am I to believe that the dogs barked incessantly every day before we started recording, and then somehow KNEW we were recording so they stopped??? I highly doubt it. I think mostly she just waited to see when we left the house, began documenting barks, and thought there would be little we could do about it because we were away and would have no proof. Francoise mentioned that she and CDL have had disputes over various other things, so maybe this is CDL's way of "getting back at Francoise" in one way or another. The whole thing just floors me.


We all got up early this morning to discover snow. Yes, actual snow. I am really glad that I bought some warm socks, gloves, hats, and jackets for Gerrit and me because we definitely needed them. We picked mom up at the airport and have had a really pleasant day. Gerrit absolutely LOVES having his grandma here. He laughs and plays with her, and it's really comforting to know she'll be here when the baby comes.... well, hopefully, anyway. She will be here for three weeks so I really hope I'm not STILL pregnant when she leaves.

Waiting for Grandma to arrive
A Happy Reunion

Mom brought a little fireman's costume and we went to a Halloween Party sponsored by the International Women's Association here in Munich. It included games, food, and a costume parade. It was cute. Gerrit didn't really "get it," but he did enjoy seeing all of the other kids in costumes. One of the gal's I am taking German class with was also there with her husband and daughter.

Throwing rings around candy at the Halloween Festival

Isabella & Gerrit

This evening we all went for a little walk in field near the plaza in town. Still no contractions, but both mom and Gerard tell me I look really uncomfortable when I walk. I think it's because I'm waddling A LOT. I'm MUCH bigger in the front than I was with Gerrit, and this baby is already much bigger than Gerrit was when he was born. I have another doctor's appointment tomorrow, and this time I'm hoping they will give me a time line for when they may consider inducing me. I'd rather not deliver a huge baby AND well... I'd rather not be uncomfortable for any longer than I have to be.

Gerard calls this my "pygmy hat"

Although I am actually pushing my tummy out here,
this is still proof that I AM as big as I say. At least
this time Theo can't claim that my bottom is bigger
than my belly and that the baby is growing out of my A**.

German School System

The German education system is different in many ways from the ones in Anglo-Saxon countries, but it produces high- performing students. Although education is a function of the federal states, and there are differences from state to state, some generalizations are possible.

Among the charges is that it is decided too early, after completion of the 4th grade, whether a child is bound for the universities, and hence for the more prestigious and better paying careers. This rule has been modified somewhat, and it is theoretically possible for a high achieving student to get back on the university track at a later stage. This is not a frequent occurrence though.

Children in Germany start school at the age of 6, and from grades 1 through 4 attend elementary school (Grundschule), where the subjects taught are the same for all. Then, after the 4th grade, they are separated according to their academic ability and attend one of three different kinds of schools: Hauptschule, Realschule or Gymnasium.

The Hauptschule (grades 5-9 in most German states) teaches the same subjects as the Realschule and Gymnasium, but at a slower pace and with some vocational-oriented courses. It leads to part-time enrollment in a vocational school combined with apprenticeship training until the age of 18.

The Realschule (grades 5-10 in most states) leads to part-time vocational schools and higher vocational schools. It is now possible for students with high academic achievement at the Realschule to switch to a Gymnasium on graduation.

The Gymnasium (grades 5-13 in most states) leads to a degree called the Abitur and prepares students for university study or for a dual academic and vocational credential. The most common education tracks offered by the standard Gymnasium are classical language, modern language, and mathematics-natural science.

Grundschule teachers recommend their students to a particular school based on such things as academic achievement, self confidence and ability to work independently. However, in most states, parents have the final say as to which school their child attends following the fourth grade.

The Gesamtschule, or comprehensive school, is a more recent development and is only found in some of the states. It takes the place of both the Hauptschule and Realschule and arose out of the egalitarian movements in the 1960s. It enrolls students of all ability levels in the 5th through the 10th grades. Students who satisfactorily complete the Gesamtschule through the 9th grade receive the Hauptschule certificate, while those who satisfactorily complete schooling through the 10th grade receive the Realschule certificate.

No matter what kind of school a student attends, he/she must complete at least nine years of education. A student dropping out of a Gymnasium, for example, must enroll in a Realschule or Hauptschule until nine years have been completed.

Beyond the Haupschule and Realschule lies the Berufsschule, combining part-time academic study and apprenticeship. The successful completion of an apprenticeship program leads to certification in a particular trade or field of work. These schools differ from the other ones mentioned in that control rests not with the local and regional school authorities, but with the federal government, industry and the trade unions.

German children only attend school in the morning. There is no provision for serving lunch. There is a lot more homework, heavy emphasis on the "three R's" and very few extracurricular activities.

A free higher education could lie beyond a German Abitur. No tuition is charged at Germany's hundred or so institutes of higher learning, but students must prove through examinations that they are qualified.

There are several varieties of university-level schools. The classical universities, in the tradition of Alexander von Humboldt, provide a broad general education and students usually attend them for six and one-half years. The Technical Universities (Technische Hochschulen) are more aimed at training students for specific careers and are usually attended for four and one-half years. There are also Hochschulen for art and music.

The whole German education system, including the universities, is available at no charge to the children of bona fide expatriates. The catch, of course, is that the classes are conducted in German, which is usually all right for school beginners but becomes more and more of a problem as the children get older.


At October 21, 2007 at 4:34 PM , Blogger wendi said...

yep :) you are ready to have that baby!

At October 21, 2007 at 8:29 PM , Blogger Adrienne said...

Gotta love it when your preggo shirts don't cover the damned ugly preggo pant elastic crap!

I've been feeling a bit like Chris Farley lately hiking my pants up constantly, too!


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