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Old 31.05.2019, 05:39
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Helping kids integrate - what worked best for you?

I'd love to hear success stories from parents who moved to Switzerland and helped their children feel confident in a new country.

I'm moving to Zurich in September for just one year, and still wresting with the decision of whether to enroll my Grade 1 student in public German school (he speaks English/French) or homeschool him with help from his current school in Canada (more flexibility/together time but risk of loneliness/less exposure to new culture).

Did you find ways to meet children in your neighbourhood? How did you build community? Are there neighbourhood sports, scouts or other groups where parents/children can get involved, and if so, what words would you use to search for them?

I'd love to hear your stories and thoughts.
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Old 31.05.2019, 07:58
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Re: Helping kids integrate - what worked best for you?

Full immersion, don't make him a pariah.He'll adjust faster than you think.
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Old 31.05.2019, 23:03
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Re: Helping kids integrate - what worked best for you?

Sports are fairly easy to find, as for scouts: Pfadi (short for Pfadfinder), there are many groups around Zurich.

If you want to homeschool, do some research on the requirements first. They can vary from canton to canton. Depending on your budget, there are several different private schools available, some in English, French, or bilingual (eg, German/English).
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Old 01.06.2019, 07:47
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Re: Helping kids integrate - what worked best for you?

Put your kid in the local school. It will help you integrate as well.

In my small village there is one pickup point for all the school buses. Parents walk to the bus stop with their kids and chat with the neighbours while they wait for the bus. Same at lunch time and after school.

In towns the tradition is to walk to the school with the kids to and from school.
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Old 01.06.2019, 10:14
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Re: Helping kids integrate - what worked best for you?

Most public schools have programs for kids who can't speak the local lingo to integrate.
And not only for kids coming from outside Switzerland.
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Old 01.06.2019, 15:12
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Re: Helping kids integrate - what worked best for you?

We enrolled our daughter in the local school. She was in a regular class and received additional German support. At that age she also played with the other kids in our street and went to a local music class (singing, rhythm etc), and to a free sports class offered by our Gemeinde.

Most sports and other activities are not organised by the school but by groups in your community. Anything you enrol your child in will likely have kids from his class. You'll also find that throughout the year there will be quite a few local cultural and community events taking place that your child (and you!) will be involved in.

You'll likely find that there are big differences between the school system you're used to and how things work here, especially in the early years of school. But I'd treat this as an opportunity for your son to be immersed in a new language and to experience a different culture.

For your own sanity, you can use this group and also some of the very active facebook groups to meet people in your area.
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Last edited by tildaoz; 01.06.2019 at 15:13. Reason: add something
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Old 01.06.2019, 20:46
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Re: Helping kids integrate - what worked best for you?

Learn German yourself, too, as fast as you can. In addition to your own study of German, each day when your son comes home from school, get him to teach you some words.

Go and meet the teacher and speak whatever little German you can, even if, at first, it is only "Guten Morgen. Ich lerne Deutsch."

You are likely to find that the teachers do speak English, but your son's integration with be much easier if he can see you out there speaking German, at school, in shops, at the library, with neighbours and at sports practice, trying your best, giggling at your mistakes, not falling back into English when some well-meaning person tries to rescue you, but persisting with "Bitte helfen Sie mir. Ich möchte Deutsch lernen."

In other words, be a good role-model, seize the opportunity, enjoy the ride, become known as the newby who is making the effort and strides of progress... and your son's integration will be just fine.
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Old 02.06.2019, 10:33
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Re: Helping kids integrate - what worked best for you?

Start as early as possible with crawling and playgroups. Enrolling them to local school and the community's scouts and sports groups also worked wonders.
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Old 02.06.2019, 19:15
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Re: Helping kids integrate - what worked best for you?

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Most public schools have programs for kids who can't speak the local lingo to integrate.
And not only for kids coming from outside Switzerland.
Thank-you Rob. I think we've narrowed down to the community were we hope to live so I will contact the school and ask about this.
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Old 02.06.2019, 19:17
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Re: Helping kids integrate - what worked best for you?

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Learn German yourself, too, as fast as you can. In addition to your own study of German, each day when your son comes home from school, get him to teach you some words.
I totally agree. Good post. Also, I've found in previous efforts to learn French and Spanish that the biggest thing to learn is how to communication with the little language you have. Just getting out and talking to people is huge, and that's something key to model.
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Old 02.06.2019, 19:21
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Re: Helping kids integrate - what worked best for you?

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We enrolled our daughter in the local school. She was in a regular class and received additional German support. At that age she also played with the other kids in our street and went to a local music class (singing, rhythm etc), and to a free sports class offered by our Gemeinde.

Most sports and other activities are not organised by the school but by groups in your community. Anything you enrol your child in will likely have kids from his class. You'll also find that throughout the year there will be quite a few local cultural and community events taking place that your child (and you!) will be involved in.
Thank-you for this. We will definitely be looking for ways to get involved with our Gemeinde as soon as possible.

Can I ask you about your experience at school? How old was your daughter when you enrolled her in German school, and how long did it take for her to speak well enough to be comfortable and learning her core subjects well?
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Old 02.06.2019, 21:05
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Re: Helping kids integrate - what worked best for you?

If you are going to be here for just one year, I am not sure that local school is the best option. We've done both. Once we decided we were staying, we switched from int'l to local school. That worked for us. But in the course of one year, it might be easier to go the int'l school route if you can afford it. There is a built in English speaking community and it is easy to make friends and build up a social network. Most of the people there are also looking for social connections. You can certainly do this too going locally, but the language will be an issue and will require a lot more effort on your part.

As far as local activities, there is a Girl Guides/Scouts in Zurich, local clubs like Jugi (gymnastics and poly-sport), Handball, and other sports. Also, make an effort to meet some of your neighbors by bringing around some cookies or cakes (nanaimo bars?). When I first moved here, I had to put myself out there and extend a lot of invitations and be far more extroverted than I am naturally.

You can also check out your local library. Some have special evenings designed for people who want help integrating. You can also volunteer at organizations like the Green or Red Cross, and meet lots of local people that way.

Good luck!
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Old 02.06.2019, 21:18
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Re: Helping kids integrate - what worked best for you?

Sorry - I just saw that homeschooling was your other option. My friend just moved back to the US and she homeschooled her two kids (10 & 11) for about 1 1/2 years here. It was difficult for her to integrate as they did not speak the language, and local kids that age don't speak English well, unless their parents do too. I could put you in touch with her if you would like to talk about her experience homeschooling here. She enrolled her kids in local activities, but the language was the main issue. However, as they were only slated to be here for a year, they did not make much effort to learn German and it sounds like you are more interested in integrating into daily life here.

#1 most important thing for integration is learning the language, for parents and children.
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Old 03.06.2019, 10:54
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Re: Helping kids integrate - what worked best for you?

1. Grade (or 2nd Kindergarten depending on how old your child is) have short hours, usually finishing by 12pm 2 days a week. You'd probably have time to cover the homeschooling curriculum too if you wanted to.

The school year in Zurich starts 19th August this year, it's easier to settle in when everyone is new to the class if you can possibly arrive earlier than September and there is a 2 week long holiday at the start of October.
My 5 year old started with no German. The first 3 months were challenging, but things improved quickly.

Best wishes!
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Old 12.06.2019, 20:58
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Re: Helping kids integrate - what worked best for you?

Another thumbs up for full immersion of putting kids in the local school and learning German yourself (I'm still working on that bit)

I brought my kids here in 2011 when they were 5 and 7 (they already spoke fluent English and Spanish) and put them in the local school. By 6 months they were switching to German between them at home and now Swiss people can't tell my daughter isn't from a Swiss German family as her Swiss German is so good.

Another friend did the same in France with the same results (with French obviously).
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