School in Poland, Germany and Switzerland
Updated: Jan 3, 2021
I can only comment on the school in Poland from my own experience (when I was still attending it) or from the experience of friends whose children are currently attending school. As far as I know, education in Poland is at a poor level. Fortunately, I did not have the opportunity to find out about it. When I was still living in Poland, I was considering sending my children to Montessori school, or following the path of home schooling. Our life turned out so that we moved to Germany.
At first, I was very concerned about how my children would do. Fortunately, a completely random person dissuaded us from a Polish-German kindergarten, for what I am extremely grateful to this person. There are no coincidences. Children can very quickly adapt to new conditions, and if they would find themselves surrounded by a foreign language, with the option of using Polish, they would always choose the latter, because it is simpler, because why bother. So, at the time still fearful, we sent the children to a German kindergarten. The result was that they learned the language communicatively within three months. Incredible, right?
Personally, after many failures with kindergartens in Poland, the German system surprised me very positively. The approach to children was very individual and targeted, and the stage of the child's acclimatization in kindergarten was very well thought out. The kindergarten had female and male teachers, which perfectly balanced these two energies as educators of our children. The children went on day-long trips to the forest once a week. They had a lot of freedom and learned to be independent.
When it comes to school, I was also very surprised. The school year began with a celebration during which children may or may not dress nicely. There is no formal dress code, you can wear whatever you want. Each child receives the so-called "Schultüte", meaning "school cone". It is a huge cone made of paper (you can make it yourself or buy it ready-made), and inside you put various little things that are a gift for the child on the occasion of starting the school. The school rooms were very cozy, the children often had classes on the floor on cushions, or at their desks, which were arranged so that several children were always seated in a non-standard, free arrangement (not like it was in my time, that the desks were placed one after the other, along the length of the classroom, in several rows). The teachers were very helpful and patient.
I realize that not everywhere is as I describe it. It all depends on what you get where you are. Nevertheless, we succeeded brilliantly. We lived in a small town where the atmosphere itself is much nicer than in a big city. Books were provided by the Town, but you had to buy notebooks and small school supplies.
In the second grade there was more homework and more pressure began. The schoolbag was very heavy every day. I have noticed that my daughter doesn't like going to school anymore, what brought a little fear into my head.
School was free of charge. However, you had to pay for the kindergarten and this amount varied depending on the institution and other factors.
After Germany, it was time for Switzerland. We moved very quickly and the acclimatization of my kids went smoothly. As the region where we live in is German speaking, there was no problem with communication. Of course, Swiss-German is different from official German, but if you listen to it, you can understand a lot. Besides, the children at school learn the official German language, so phew…
from what I have heard, the Swiss education system is one of the best in Europe (in my opinion Scandinavian is the best). I must admit that it happened all very well for us again. The kindergarten and school are close to our home. In the kindergarten, a program is being implemented according to which children do not have toys, only articles for technical and art activities and other things like sticks, etc., The children have to be creative and think something out when they want to have fun. It also gives them more space to communicate with each other and to solve problems together. An approach that captivated my heart. The daughter is also delighted! Another thing that completely resonates with me is that children can eat their breakfast in kindergarten whenever they want. This means that there is no set time for a breakfast meal. It is different with lunch, but the morning meal is the decision of the child. It is supposed to learn to interpret hunger signals from his body rather than to eat just because a certain time has come. The kindergarten starts at 8.20 am and ends at 11.50 am. Classes at school exactly the same. Both kindergarten and school children have a break from 11.50-13.30, during which they go home. In kindergarten it looks like that the child can stay longer if the parent is working, but it is then paid and it is rather a lot. This is supposed to encourage parents not to work full time, but to devote their time to the family. Everything is properly calculated here.
In the first year, the child attends kindergarten 4 times a week (Friday is free) and comes back once a week after a lunch break for the afternoon activities from 13:30 untill 15:00.
At the school classes also start at 8.20-11.50, and then after the lunch break, the daughter also has classes in the afternoon from 13:30-15:00 - currently twice a week (with lessons such as art classes, sports, etc.). Once a week, everyone who goes to school has classes at the swimming pool (a heaven for my child). All notebooks, books and school supplies are funded by the Town. The daughter does not even need to carry a pencil case because she has everything at school (all children have the same). Now it turns out that the school backpack from Germany is much too big, because the daughter hardly has to carry anything in it. The teacher is also very helpful.
Children who are foreigners take classes in improving the German language (it is run by the man from the Czech Republic, so sometimes my daughter will exchange a few sentences in Polish-Czech with him). Children do get homework, but they are much shorter than those in Germany. My daughter doesn't feel so much pressure anymore.
Nevertheless, I still think that she went to school too early. She started it at the age of 6 because it is required so by law in Germany. I can see that now would be the suitable time for her for the first class. It would be better for her mental development to have one more year of fun in kindergarten than to learn at school. However, we did not have much choice at the time to do otherwise for her.
I am an ambitious person, but I try not to transfer it to the children. I make sure that she learns a bit more than her peers, but this is only because she is not in her native country. She learns both German (as the first language) and Polish (as a form of entertainment in home schooling). It is important for me that my children can speak and write in Polish. French will soon come as the second language at school, and then English, so then it will be too much to start to learn Polish. That is why she is learning the basics now.
The lunch break from 11.50-13.30 disturbs my agenda a bit. If I want to do something and get into the flow of work, it disrupts my day a bit. On the other hand, it gives me a great opportunity to control what my children eat. Girls always get fresh fruit for breakfast, which they choose from what we have at home. I choose dried fruits the day before because I always soak them in water (to get rid of the condensed sugar and to soften their structure. Then it is easier to chew them and they do not stick to teeths as if were glue). During "lunch break" at home, I serve them a green smoothie. If they go out for the afternoon classes, they take a vegetable dish or some nuts (raw). Sometimes I make them sandwiches with home-made bread (buckwheat and oatmeal). After all the classes are over, I wait for their signal that they are hungry and I am serving a meal - it is either raw or thermally processed, depending on the schedule of the day.
The younger daughter has a very strong character. She loves fruits and doesn't care what others say. The older one is very sensitive. Once, she told me a story from school in Germany, when a friend laughed at her because she had sprouts. He said he eats grass like a goat. She shared this information with me and, on my advice, the next time, told a friend that it was not grass and explained to him what sprouts are. The boy was confused. Fortunately Nel's teacher joined in and looked into Nel's breakfast box. She gathered the whole class. When everyone came, she pointed at what Nel had in box and said that she had never seen such a healthy breakfast in her life. That this is an example of how good food should look like and everyone should strive to eat that. The daughter was spread with pride. And well done to the teacher!
Here in Switzerland it was similar. This time no one laughed at Nel, only the teacher herself announced to the whole class that this is how every student's breakfast should look like and everyone should follow Nel's example. I always prepare more fruit than I know that the girls will eat, because at school children often come to Nel, asking whether they can have a treat. And yet these are only fruits.
I solved the birthday celebrations at school or kindergarten by first talking and making arrangements with my children, and then we implemented the solutions. How does it look like? At school / kindergarten, the teacher always has a bag (prepared by me) with healthy snacks for my children in case other children bring something as a birthday treat. My children are aware and understand that we are vegan and that we do not eat sugar. They are completely satisfied that they do not eat what other children do, but need an alternative. Additionally, we have a rule that we do not eat sweets during the week. The sweets during the week are dried and fresh fruit. So when someone has birthday at school, then I allow that my girls have an exception to this rule. At the weekend, however, I allow the possibility of eating other sweets (but in a healthy version) than fresh or dried fruits. This means that at the weekend I can make a healthy cake (e.g. raw, allowing you to break the principle of not combining fats / proteins with sugar), or I make waffles myself... sometimes I buy something in a bio-shop, a RAW bar, or RAW chocolate (sweetened with dates, xylitol or coconut flower sugar), or other. Sometimes I let my children eat jfruit jellies (as long as my requirements are met: vegan, sugar-free and without any other ingredients that could seriously question their existence). However, I never propose such things myself. My kids see what other kids are eating and ask me if there are alternatives they might try. But only sometimes. They do not ask for everything. So if I find something suitable, I let them experience it. I only do it so as not to limit them and to keep a balance between what I strive for in my healthy world and what is outside my world. That my children could find themselves in it, seeing and understanding the differences. I always talk to my daughters a lot and I try to explain everything to them so that they can comprehend and understand it on their own level of understanding.