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.
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”!
Via gepostet DraftCraft App
Another school year just began! For my son it’s his 2nd year at nursery school in Graz. One year ago I was an absolute beginner and I encountered many questions and doubts along the way…
What kind of daycare to choose from?
How to get started?
What to expect?
How to get accepted?
This article is just for reference and it does not aim at replacing any research that parents should do on their own. The goal is to give a first guidance and to share some personal experiences, especially as this topic is missing on the Graz Expat Blog and I was asked to contribute. So here it goes!
The differences among the different centers are huge:
2. Finding a daycare center
4. Plan B
Here’s where you can look for one:
GOOD LUCK and happy beginnings!