Guten Tag, y’all!
One of the things that most excited me abut moving to Europe was the fact that my son would be learning at least 2 foreign languages. Because the Germans are so far ahead of us in terms of language education (my son started at age three, whereas I started at age 15), I assumed they’d be light years ahead in every other aspect. But actually…
…their pre-k education system could stand to make a LOT of improvements. All of the Kindergartens (preschool/daycare) we looked at were wildly different–unstructured, too structured, no diversity. Kindergarten classes here are not divided by age, which may be good socially, but I don’t think it’s particularly good for learning when everyone is at a totally different developmental level. And a Kindergarten spot is hard to come by, so much so that’s it’s become a hot topic among German politicians. All that to say: you may not find one that you’re 100 percent happy with.
Take ours, for instance. It’s bilingual English/German, which I love, and there’s an emphasis on independence that I don’t recall seeing in America. But the instruction is at a lower level than we were used to. In his daycare in the States, the Babycakes had homework, his teachers sent home alphabet flashcards to practice with and there was a BIG emphasis on reading. So while his ability to communicate in German (and with other children) gets better everyday, I definitely feel the need to supplement. Here are some of the things we use.
Super Simple Songs–a YouTube channel. Designed for English language learners in Japan, I’ve found this is perfect for preschoolers whose first language is English. Babycakes has learned a lot from this channel, including the days of the weeks. They actually make a lot of education materials for young learners, including free resources and a DVD that I think I’m going to buy sometime this year.
Sesame Street on YouTube–I know a lot of people aren’t advocates of children watching TV, and I definitely believe in limits, but I learned SO much watching PBS when I was younger. In fact, I still remember the words to a lot of Sesame Street songs (If you never ever waste a drop of waaater…you will never be a wasteroo! Anybody else remember that?). On its YouTube channel, Sesame Street has lots of entertaining, educational short videos that teach everything from letters to concepts like delayed gratification. And it’s so diverse!
Nick Jr.–Nick Jr. is one of the things I miss most about the United States! Every show on that channel is educational (and I could actually see the Babycakes learning from them), AND they are super diverse, with lead characters that are black, Asian, Latino and more. Since there are only a few Nick Jr. shows available here, I make do with its website and the DVDs that we brought with us. The website is a great resource, with online games and lots of printable activities.
My friend Marite’, a special needs teacher who’s one of the nicest, smartest people I know (she also makes very cool jewelry), recommended three other YouTube channels I’m going to check out:
Flashcards–Basic flashcards with the alphabet, colors, numbers and other concepts. I went to the dollar spot at Target before we moved and stocked up.
Workbooks–Workbooks covering pre-K topics like writing and counting. While we were in the US on vacation, I bought some at Wal-Mart and a LOT at the Dollar Tree. Low cost, high impact.
Sight words–Short words to help practice literacy. I found and printed words in both English and German.
Reading at night–If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know that one of my favorite sayings is “Read to your babies!” Most nights, we try to read at least one English book and one German book together before bedtime. It’s really helpful.
So that’s a little bit of what we do! If you have kids, how do you supplement their education? And if you have a product or children’s book you think I’d be interested in, feel free to contact me!