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My little boy is turning three years old this summer. That means he will start kindergarten in the next fall. It seems unbelievable to me how time flies. I still remember the start in nursery school and now, soon a new stage in our lives will begin.

Looking for the right kindergarten is a real challenge over here. There are so many factors to consider. The location, the opening times, the rooms, the pedagogical concept and so forth. However, what is most important to me are the teachers. I must feel sure about having my son being taken care of by people who are kind and loving. People who respect children and who are humanists like me.

I have visited a total of 6 kindergardens in Graz… I am probably the only mother who did so. I even visited one of them twice because my little fellow really liked it there and I wanted to be really sure before I indicate that kindergarden as my first choice. Because here you can indicate three in order of preference. The chances you get your kid attending your first choice are not that great, so you need to really take a careful decision.

Until today I was unsure. BUT today I am happy. I got to know of a “hidden gem” and I am very impressed. For the first time since I started this quest for the right place, I actually felt like I wanted to go to kindergarten myself. For the first time, and I mean the first time ever, the director did not waiste my time talking about administrative issues but she really explained to me how important children are to her. For the first time I heard a director saying “working with children is not work, it is a vocation!”. And for the first time I had the feeling diversity is not just a word but it actually is part of the lives of the children and teachers in this kindergarten. Indifferent of their religion or colour. And for the first time, I was introduced to all the staff in this kindergarten. Shouldn’t that be standard I asked myself? How was I supposed to choose a kindergarten if I don’t even know the names of the people who will support me in raising my child? How strange, I thought to myself.

Through all this process I often wondered if I am alone on this boat. I mean, am I the only one putting human relationships in front of all things? When it is about trusting my most precious treasure to those who will be caring for him, I am not supposed to expect warmth and a loving atmosphere? Now, after having visited this kindergarten, I am happy and relieved. It seems like at last we have arrived.

In the information folder for the parents I found this beautiful poem, which immediately made me cry. Sorry for not having it in English, maybe one day I will translate it. It is about feelings being like children and how you should care for your feelings, listen to them and give them the room they need.

Ein Gefühl ist wie ein Kind…
Ein Gefühl ist wie ein Kind,
das in uns lebt und weint und lacht,
Hunger hat und bemerkt sein will.
Wer zu seinem Gefühl zu oft sagt:
„Sei still, ich habe jetzt keine Zeit für Dich“,
dessen inneres Kind sitzt eines Tages
in einer vergessenen Ecke und trauert,
wird krank und verkümmert.

Mit Gefühlen soll man umgehen,
wie man mit einem Kind umgeht:
Man sieht ihm freundlich und aufmerksam zu,
man hört, was es klagt,
man leidet mit ihm, wenn es leidet.
Denn Gefühle sind die lebendigsten Kräfte in uns,
und keine andere Kraft in uns
bringt so viel Lebendiges hervor.

Ein Kind hat auch Wünsche,
die nicht immer zu erfüllen sind:
berechtigte, gut und schöne.
Dann nehmen wir es in den Arm
und sind mit ihm traurig.
Aber wir schicken es nicht weg.
Ein Kind kann verstehen,
dass es nicht alles haben kann.
Aber lieben muss man es,
ihm Mut geben und Fröhlichkeit
und Raum, seine Kräfte zu regen.
 
Joerg Zink


A German author once wrote:

“Being forced to be alone is one of the most difficult things. But being able to be alone is one of the most beautiful ones.

For me it is easy to grasp what Hans Krailsheimer meant, for I am an expert in being with myself. Just me. Myself. And I. In fact, I enjoy being alone very much and it has always been like that. As a teenager I often stayed at home, in my room, listening to music and reading or writing. Even at school, it did not represent a problem for me if my friends were not there during the break and I hanged out on my own.

As an adult I consider myself quite reserved as well. Not introverted but reserved and that is something different. I can spend hours with my own thoughts and if I have a good content to read, I can just stay at home and go with the flow. It made me wonder what it is like for children.

As a parent we tend to keep our offspring busy and to offer them all kinds of activities that promote their development: games, puzzles and toys. Our own unability to be alone and “to sit around” is immediately projected in our children and we are constantely keeping them busy. But by doing that we are imposing our own expectations about how free time should be spent. We are not really allowing them to find out what they are able to do and what they like to do… and that is not helping them in their development.

Some of us – parents – even feel guilty if we only sit in the living room reading a newspaper and not playing with our kids… so we keep stimulating their creativity by offering them fun activities at home. That is perfectly fine and it can be a lot of fun. BUT it is what happens when we are not the ones suggesting something that can be even more exciting!

I love watching my son playing on his own without any interference. He makes up his own role plays and immitates different voices. He gets immersed in his own fantasy world and he does it all based on what his creative mind has to offer. It is fascinating and sometimes (on good days) this is all we do in the afternoon. Just stay home. Do nothing. Let it flow and leave the cold outdoors 🙂


Children aged 1-3 are the audience of a series of concerts taking place at Orpheum starting in November ’12 and with dates in 2013 as well.

As far as I know, these are the only concerts for such a young audience here in Graz.

Don’t miss the chance and enjoy the music with your baby. Click here for the program.


Somehow I didn’t want to believe it – the weather forecast was right! It’s SNOWING already.

October was so beautiful and sunny, with some cool days but still felt like Autumn.

Well today it’s Winter, I’m telling you! Temperatures are between 2 to 4 degrees Celsius…

I am posting this photo for my friends and blogging fellows in Singapore. Hope you like it!

I am hoping this Winter is not going to be full of dark foggy days though. Those days depress me.

But I am looking forward to having fun in the snow with my son! That is gonna be cool.


If you have time on your hands and you are looking for lots and lots of blogs related to kindergarten, then have a look at

Kindergarten Blogs

It’s a collection of blogs related to this topic and very handy when looking for one source with different bloggers.

Enjoy your reading!

 


What does it mean to be foreign? How do different people from different nationalities perceive this feeling? One interesting view has been given by another blogger in Graz and I am reblogging it here. I hope you like it too! The blog is called Mokdong Magpie – sounds intriguing, right?

Mokdong Magpie

Tomorrow is my first day as a high school teacher here in Graz. The school systems in Austria are organized differently than in the U.S., so I will teach ages 11-19 at the “Gymnasium”. The students attending Gymnasium are on a college-bound track; after a few years of general study, they will begin to choose specializations.

I am teaching at two different schools, one specializing in sports and one emphasizing music.   I’m excited to work with older students, as most of my students in prior years were elementary or middle schoolers, and I hope that I can inspire them to care about my lessons. The TA’s I trained with last week went to one of my schools and brought back reports of both lovely and terrible classes. This is normal. I had some classes in Korea that I looked forward to every day, and some where I felt more like…

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What a lovely idea. The Kinderatelier Vasata in Graz started a project especially meant for children and teenagers. The atelier is a place where kids can give their creativity room and space without being subject to pressure or competitive thinking. However, Vasata is a European project and it’s not just located in Graz/Austria but also in other places in Switzerland, Greece and Germany.

Through the arts work, the little artists build on their self-esteem. It is not important to be the best! It is important to feel welcome and accepted and to have a place where they can concentrate on the creative process alone.

This process of concentrating on their artworks alone without any negative feelings from the outside can also support the young artists in dealing with any issues that might be stressing them.

In our ever changing and incredibly fast world where children often need to “function” without being left with room for their own interests and moods, I believe this kind of offer is very meaningful. I will surely check it out!

For all details you can visit the website: www.kinderatelier-vasata.eu or find them on Facebook!


Last week’s “Quick Tip: Be the Perfect Guest” has inspired me to write this post. It’s about a subject that has been on my mind for long and I finally managed to hit “publish”.

For those who haven’t read the Quick Tip, this is about comment moderation on blogs and some tactics on how to engage with your readers and promote thoughtful conversation. The article really made me laugh as it approaches the most common maleure suffered by many of us poor bloggers: when ONLY your MOTHER writes comments to your posts! Yep, I too know this problem and although I appreciate ALL comments, I sometimes wish there was more conversation going on besides “Oh dear, I didn’t know you felt that way! But tell me, are you coming home for Christmas?”. This said, I suppose many other bloggers know what I mean…

Most of the times after I hit “publish”, I am fully aware that I am doing it for myself. I started blogging because I have always loved reading and writing. I studied to become a teacher of foreign languages and I am addicted to blog reading. So my primary need for food for thought is already pleased just by reading stuff like “Freshly Pressed” and many other great blogs. I love it, it’s my thing, let it go. Even if it keeps me awake at night when I should be getting more sleep.

But the truth is, bloggers HEART comments! We do! Reading your comments is one of the highlights of the day 🙂 It’s like an additional bonus to all the rewards of blogging and what it does to you on the psychological level. It’s the cream on top of your cupcake. It’s the flowers on your birthday. It’s the smile on a stranger’s face when you walk past them on the street. So YES, I will blog for comments and I am not afraid to say so. 🙂

By the way, congratulations to Michelle W. who wrote the Quick Tip and was rewarded with 170 great comments! Some more creative than others like “Great post, I agree!” (just kidding) but ALL sent on one common ground:

WE ALL BLOG FOR COMMENTS.

Thanks mom for all the previous comments and thanks Pilar who always visits me and offers me kind comments! All others must be just voices in my head…


33%

This post may sound a hint too critical, I am sorry for that in advance.

In Graz there is a number of early education centres such as nurseries and kindergardens. For more details, the curious reader is invited to see the post “Preschool Education in Graz”. The government guarantees that ALL children in Graz are provided with daycare, i.e. as long as both parents work and thus need this support from the state. This need is in ALL cases catered for. So they say on the media.
 
Well, the small print is:
“The goal is to provide daycare to 33% of all children below the age of 3 as set by the EU”.
 
This raises a number of questions, which need to be carefully considered and which are directly related to socio-political systems. First of all, in Austria there is a maximum maternity leave of 3 years. Aha, so you don’t have to go to work for 3 years?? In theory yes, that’s true. Whether that is the best solution for both mother and child, and on the other hand to society in general, is another question.
 
What are these 3 years based on? What are the beliefs and convictions behind them? One could say…
a. “It’s for the children’s sake because dueing the first 3 years they are best taken care of by their mother as says developmental psychology”
b. “It’s for economic reasons because other people are employed during your maternity leave and create new jobs”
c “It’s a pure patriarchal system embracing the women’s role to be at home and not working”
 
Where I actually believe in the validity of argument “a”, I still find it difficult to grasp why this system is designed to enable families to dedicate themselves to having kids, while on the other hand we all know that the labor market is not waiting for us women for 3 years. Besides, this is not a compulsory maternity leave. You could legally even go back to work after 2 months. Not that I stand for that but legally it’s a possibility.
 
So what about the women who decide to have a family and still get back on the professional track after 1-2 years? What about them? Oh, they are probably the mothers to 33% of the kids in Graz, I see… Being one of those mothers I can only report what a difficult endeavor it was getting a place for my son in a nursery. And you have to face so many compromises:
 
1. you are not able to choose the best institution for your kid. You are possibly given a place somewhere and you MUST be really grateful for it.
2. when you go back to work, you’re back for real. You can work part-time but what about the times your child gets sick? Who will look after him/her? Not to mention awful situations like the Summer holidays that will force you to find a “solution” for your kid for up to entire 7 weeks while you still have to go to work. That solution could mean you hire a babysitter, if you can afford it, or your toddler is placed in another nursery for that period where he is looked after by complete strangers.
3. once you were generously given a place you are not supposed to get involved in any pedagogical discussions, let alone complain about anything because nursery and kindergarden teachers have a much harder life than you do* and BE REALISTIC – you are in no position to be picky…
 
All in all, this is reality in early education. I have to be fair though and say I’m fully aware that there are much worse realities and at least we know our children are staying in daycare centres with all necessary infrastructure, food and a warm bed. Most teachers are very committed. The teacher-student ratio at nursery level is actually very good – groups with up to 12 kids are entitled to up to 5 teachers depending on the kids’ age. That is really good.
 
However, by the time your child hits 3 you are forced to deal with much higher challenges like finding a kindergarden in Graz which:
a. is open beyond 1.30pm
b. allows a nap time
c. has more than 2 teachers for 26 children (this one being an illusion as it turns out)
 
In the end, you need to make your choices as you believe them to be the best for your child. Compromising is probably something you need to adapt to.

*Refer to the study by the Karl Franzens University “Wissen, was los ist”!
http://www.graz.at/cms/dokumente/10023271_394423/14245642/Wissen%20was%20los%20ist_Endversion%20Studie%20Wustmann%20Dez%2010.pdf
 

Find out why Vienna is ahead of the game with nursery places:
http://www.austriantimes.at/news/Education/2012-08-01/43280/Vienna_ahead_of_the_game_with_nursery_places/a>s

Via gepostet DraftCraft App


Children face countless moments of pain, frustration and anger. This sounds dramatic but it is a completely normal thing and it is part of growing and becoming a social being. They suffer when we have them vaccinated, they experience frustration for not being able of doing things they want without your help, they get angry when stopped by intrinsic barriers imposed to all of us, not only as children but our whole lives actually.

As a mother (probably as a father too but maybe in a different intensity?) you suffer with them EVERYTIME. If you could, you would make the world a better place for your kid and well, for all children too. You would move mountains and raise bridges where needed for your child to get where he/she wants. You would protect him from getting sick, being disappointed and heartbroken. As a mother I personally developped a much more critical view on many societal issues because I see the child’s perspective. When you go to the doctor you cry with your baby as he experiences the pain of getting an important vaccine and you know, there’s just no way you can explain WHY you didn’t safeguard him from feeling that pain, so you feel guilty inside, even if you believe that it was important for him and society that he got the vaccine.

If you could, you would give him all he longs for and when you are the one with the power to decide he’s not getting something, even if it’s good for shaping his personality, you still feel you said “no” but you wanted to say YES. I have met a mother of multiples (2 boys and 1girl) and she once confessed to me “I wish I didn’t have to say NO all the time, I don’t want to but I must!”. I saw it in her eyes how she struggled with this duality we have inside of us. This saying NO although you’d much rather say yes.

And even if you are fully aware that life is hard and you should not create an artificial world around your baby, otherwise he will not be fit to survive, you still hurt everytime your child hurts. Everytime.

I wish myself and all other parents the strength to stay calm and the inner ability to be strong and to stand mighty as a rock when all you feel is like crying together with your baby. Empathy is vital for their development so lets not be cold and heartless, but let the Universe give us mothers and fathers the strength to be their rock when their feelings hit them as a high wave.



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