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Old 30.10.2009, 00:23
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Swiss School for my 4 Year Old - advice/experiences

Hello,

We have been in Geneva about 3-4 months but have not settled in an area and will be putting our 4 year old son into the local school near our house.
Because of when his Birthday falls he goes a year earlier than in the UK, which is fine with us because he really needs stimulation and to mix with other children, he misses his friends a lot, its just been me and him for a while and my husbands been at work.

So, he doesn't speak any French at all....and neither do we - although we plan to have lessons asap, a lot of the information assures me that putting him into the local school will have him fluent in French within 6 months etc...and its the right thing to do.

However, I'm thinking he's going to find it all a bit strange, his speech for a 4 year old is fantastic in English! - how long do we expect before he can converse with his classmates? Will this put him behind for a few years whilst he catches up on the language?

If you have any similar experiences of putting a similar age child into kindergarten here I would be grateful to hear of them.
I guess I would think that putting a 2 or 3 year old who would know less words would be easier.

I just feel like we're really throwing him in at the deep end.
He went to a nursery/creche in Geneva city centre for a few hours every week and the nursery assistant told me he got upset when the other children didn't understand him.

I'm sure this better for him in the long run but I just don't think its going to be quite as jolly and more of a struggle than its made out to be!

Sorry for the essay! Thanks for any advice!
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Old 30.10.2009, 00:27
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Re: Swiss School for my 4 Year Old - advice/experiences

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Hello,

We have been in Geneva about 3-4 months but have not settled in an area and will be putting our 4 year old son into the local school near our house.
Because of when his Birthday falls he goes a year earlier than in the UK, which is fine with us because he really needs stimulation and to mix with other children, he misses his friends a lot, its just been me and him for a while and my husbands been at work.

So, he doesn't speak any French at all....and neither do we - although we plan to have lessons asap, a lot of the information assures me that putting him into the local school will have him fluent in French within 6 months etc...and its the right thing to do.

However, I'm thinking he's going to find it all a bit strange, his speech for a 4 year old is fantastic in English! - how long do we expect before he can converse with his classmates? Will this put him behind for a few years whilst he catches up on the language?

If you have any similar experiences of putting a similar age child into kindergarten here I would be grateful to hear of them.
I guess I would think that putting a 2 or 3 year old who would know less words would be easier.

I just feel like we're really throwing him in at the deep end.
He went to a nursery/creche in Geneva city centre for a few hours every week and the nursery assistant told me he got upset when the other children didn't understand him.

I'm sure this better for him in the long run but I just don't think its going to be quite as jolly and more of a struggle than its made out to be!

Sorry for the essay! Thanks for any advice!

Sorry I meant to say that we HAVE settled on an area and that this is a permenant move! Which is why we have decided to go with the local school. I also wondered if anyone had any idea what kindergarten is like here? Do they get to still play - sand pit/painting/having fun!?
Thanks
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Old 30.10.2009, 13:50
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Re: Swiss School for my 4 Year Old - advice/experiences

I am sorry I can't help much in terms of kindergarten, our kid is only 3. I'd say, do what's best for YOUR kid, not what is generally thought to be ok with every kid. We were told that it is just fine to leave a child in the creche and she adapts. I think all kids do at the end but some with more work to do, sometimes the work is so heavy it frustrates them too much and isolates them. It would not work for our little one, just to leave her in a bunch of kids speaking foreign language. Plus, some teachers in daycares help a lot, some not at all.

Since our child is not very verbal, she just started speaking in 2 languages not so long ago, it would have been a mistake to drop her in a french speaking daycare earlier without some kind of prep work.

What we did differently was to take things in smaller "baby" steps in terms of adaptation and it seems to work really well. It stimulates just enough and does not hinder her developement in those already existing languages (Cz and En).

1) You must immediately get your French going, it will foster language acquisition of your child. Be optimistic, kids feed of parents' attitude. Make it fun for for all of you. Try to get your child say hello, thank you and bye in the stores immediately to get him used the language

2) I have taken our child to French speaking playgroup (organized by form. Ecole des Parents, they do have that playgroup in Ge I am sure), I stayed there with her and played with her and moms and kids, eventhough I spoke my mother tongue to the kiddo and broken french with others, she got used to being with Fr. speaking kids (our playgroup is 3x a week, it is even more often in Ge). People appreciate the effort, too, and help you out. We also did Mommy and me classes in French (it was fun despite me nor our kid's zero French).

3) Now I take our child every day to Haute Garderie (ours in in Migros mall) and stay there with her, planning to start leaving her there 5-10-20-60mins soon, alone. I am instructing her how to ask for toys in French, how to ask other kids to play with her or share toys, how to say "follow me, sorry, let's do this, let's sing" etc..It will take you very little to learn these few phrases but the effect it has on your child is immense. The biggest thing was to teach my child how to ask the teacher for things and help with bathroom. The kids here also seem way rougher than back home, so it is good she has me near her for a few times before she is there alone, so I know what language she needs in french ("we do not hit" -push, grab toys from others, etc.). It must be scary to be aggressed by a child who on top of that does not speak your tongue and you feel you can't ask for justice. You can also get a French speaking student to do this process with your kid, instead of you. Babysitter, nanny, etc. for a few weeks.

4) The next step will be to enroll her in daycare and leave her there alone.

Little kid's life is full of these intricacies, it is hard not to be able to relate to peers. It is very isolating and can be scary for some children.

Once my child joined some running around and throwing toys, she was much more at ease to accept the new language. It helped we did it in mini steps and allowed to take her own pace. I know few more other children here who were just like our kid and did well with making the process slower.

Good luck and pm me if you need to.
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Old 30.10.2009, 14:08
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Re: Swiss School for my 4 Year Old - advice/experiences

Hi, my daughter (birthday April) started kindergarten this year, my husband is Swiss, so she spoke german as well, but she didnt speak entire sentences in german. Its been 2 and half months. she now has entire conversations in german.
Kindergarten here in zurich, has alot of play time, and there is of course alot of crafts. There is about 45mins of actual learning.
i can understand your son's frustrations about not being understood, my daughter had the same problem in playgroup. Nobody played with her, i eventually stopped it.
maybe there is a French/english playgroup that you could send him to.

good luck, I hope he adjusts quickly.
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Old 30.10.2009, 14:15
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Re: Swiss School for my 4 Year Old - advice/experiences

My daughter (only spoke English) started kindergarten in August. Prior to that she spent about a year going to a local nursery two days a week. They were very supportive but she was basically thrown in the deep end. I think it worked in her case, though, as she was very happy there.

By the time she stopped going there she seemed to understand a lot and would speak just a little bit. But since starting kindergarten her language has just improved out of sight. She chatters away now in Swiss German, makes up songs etc etc. It really is amazing to see.

I think the best thing you could do in preparation is take your child to something regularly, whether it be a playgroup, daycare, forest group, whatever. And then, when your child does start at least the basics will be there.

My husband and I are both learning German but until she started at kindergarten our daughter always yelled at us to stop speaking German (was it that bad?!?), as I really think it was out of context for her. Now, though, she asks us to only speak German of an evening, or asks us what words mean and so on. It's certainly a challenge for us!

Anyway, good luck. I think the more exposure the better.

Kate
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Old 30.10.2009, 21:32
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Re: Swiss School for my 4 Year Old - advice/experiences

Just do it !! We arrived in Feb this year & faced a similiar dilemma with a (just) 5 & 10 year old (we are in German speaking Switz). After visiting the 'local' international schools (one not inspiring, one a 40min drive away) we visited the local schools/kindergarten. We have put them both into local school/kindergarten & have not looked back. Other than having the 'convenience' of having them both educated in English we could think of no other reason to send them to an international school. My husband & I are English so the children do not get german at home. Within a week of arriving at kindergarten/school both children were receiving german lessons this was supplemented by german lessons provided by my husbands firm, both have built up a strong rapport with both teachers & are eager to learn. Incidentally neither of them are alone in their class with having German as their second language, it seems quite normal!

The eldest took to school like a duck to water, shes very outgoing, confident & has more front then Brighton. The younger one is very shy & it has taken him longer to slot in. No, it has not been easy for him, we too had lots of grumbling from him that no one listened to him or that he didn't understand what people said - but perfectly normal. He has a lovely kindergarten teacher who's very understanding & speaks a little english, other than that he has to muck in & get on with it. Six months down the line he walks to kindergarten & back by himself with a 'gang' of other kindergarterners chitchatting away, he's not fluent but he's well on the way. His german teacher expects him to be fluent within another 9-12months. He's accepted by the others & as a result he see's himself as being Swiss because he lives in Switzerland! To this end we have enjoyed several social evenings at k/g with other parents happy to practice their rather good english on us whilst we murder some german with them!

For me one of the best parts is my son telling me he's going out to play with X, Y or Z & if he's not at so & so's he'll be at such & such's. I have to write on the back of his hand the time to return! All his chums live within 100m of our house. Had we made the decision to send our children to international school this would not have been the case, nor would they become as fluent as fast, nor would they (& hopefully us in time) have integrated into the local community as fast. I don't know if we will stay in Switzerland but we certainly weren't going to pass up the opportunity of trying to be Swiss! When in Rome ....

Another point is that kindergarten is quite different from the UK, independance is encouraged & it all seems a lot less structured, goal orientated & monitered. Common sense rather than health & safety prevails & they have a lot of fun into the bargain, cooking, gardening, woods morning, trips out. Summer trip was a train ride, a bus ride to the teachers farm, a horse ride, a picnic & barby (inc cook your sausage!) in the woods, a walk, then a boat ride home - no parent helpers just the teachers! Would this have happened in the UK - no way, they wouldn't have got out of the door.

Jump in with both feet - you just might find you start to swim!!
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Old 30.10.2009, 21:57
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Re: Swiss School for my 4 Year Old - advice/experiences

I just started my 4 year old (April birthday) in the Swiss kindy in Zurich so I can give you the benefit of her first few weeks. She only speaks English but she is learning the ropes. There are many students at this school that speak different languages, including one other English speaker. According to the teacher, she tries to participate and sing along with the Swiss German songs and the other kids are very encouraging. Overall, it has been a rather promising start.

I am a little jealous, I speak French and had we moved to Geneva, I could teach DD French. As it is, none of us speak Swiss German.

GL and I hope it goes well.
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Old 31.10.2009, 00:59
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Re: Swiss School for my 4 Year Old - advice/experiences

My daughter started enfantine last August with zero French - she too was an amazing English conversationalist, thanks to us and her older brother - and it's been fantastic. By Christmas, she was understanding everything said in the classroom (quite easy, lots of repetition and physical prompts) and started speaking a little after. By the end of the first year, she could converse happily with her playmates with perfect pronunication. She can even do those complicated sentences with pronouns, past tense, negation, etc, and get ALL the words in the right order.

To un-French-speaking ears, she would now sound fluent, but I know that she lacks the vocabulary of her peers. I firmly believe, though, that by the end of this school year she will be pretty much fluent and once she starts to read and expand her vocab there will be nothing to distinguish her from the others.

Go for it - I appreciate your son had a more difficult experience at the daycare place, but once he's with the same group of kids/ same teacher day in, day out, I'm sure it will be easier.

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Old 31.10.2009, 12:55
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Re: Swiss School for my 4 Year Old - advice/experiences

This has all been said before, either in other Threads on the Forum or in the posts above, but to recapitulate:

Kids vary. Some join in games whether they understand what is going on or not. Others are more retiring and take more time to acclimatise and need more support from their parents.

If the child is unhappy that he cannot understand the other youngsters, one can admit that ‘out shopping this morning no-one understood me either. Let’s have a BIG moan together / have a drink of orange juice to cheer ourselves up / go out and feed the ducks, THEY understand us!’ Just show that you feel for your child’s difficulties.

CD’s or children’s TV programmes in the new language help the child to get accustomed to the sound and rhythm. ‘That sounds like kindergarten’. Listening and guessing what the French speaking person said mostly comes long before a child is ready to speak the language himself (particularly a shy child) but it comes in time.

One comforting thought – a recent report (these expensive surveys take an age to come up with the obvious) said that children who have a broad vocabulary in their mother tongue have an advantage when picking up a second language in that they are learning ‘the equivalent expression’ as opposed to learning the conception itself. In our family for example, it is not a question of ‘what is an apple?’ The child has already learned that it is something ‘round, green and red, good to eat but I don’t like the pips in the middle’. Carrying on from there it is simply a question of ‘‘what Mummy calls it’ and ‘what Granny calls it’.

When you have a moment, search through all the reports in the Family Matters section of the Forum. There are children who find it difficult at first but mostly their parents are, after about six months or a year, green with envy at their child’s ability to speak the language fluently, while they themselves are still battling with the first lists of vocabulary
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Old 31.10.2009, 13:04
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Re: Swiss School for my 4 Year Old - advice/experiences

We put our son in a local Swiss school and they were very supportive with extra German lessons. He now tends to correct us when speaking German and even gets embarassed on our behalf! The point about watching local TV is a good idea as I do this myself and find it very helpful.
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Old 31.10.2009, 20:15
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Re: Swiss School for my 4 Year Old - advice/experiences

Thank you everyone!!!

I think he will take to it quite well - just needed some reassuring stories so thank you all, I feel much more at ease about the whole thing! ;-)
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Old 01.11.2009, 00:11
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Re: Swiss School for my 4 Year Old - advice/experiences

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Thank you everyone!!!

I think he will take to it quite well - just needed some reassuring stories so thank you all, I feel much more at ease about the whole thing! ;-)
The most important thing to remember is this that kids, especially young ones, have a different way of learning languages than we adults.

My daughter recently found the index cards I use for learning German on my desk and could see not use for the things at all! Later I heard her telling her brother all about the cards and he turned up as well to examine them. He just thought it was a weird way of doing it! I was told the proper way to do it was to "Look, listen carefully and keep trying to talk". My son, who is 11, also pointed out that doing it my way would mean that he'd have to learn the word in one language before he could learn it in the other, which I suppose has its own logic to it! Mind you my kids are bilingual so that may make the difference as well.

Good luck with that,

Jim
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Old 01.11.2009, 14:36
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Re: Swiss School for my 4 Year Old - advice/experiences

4 years old is a perfect age to really settle into the Swiss school system. He will probably enjoy it very much. If you do want extra English classes, there are many possibilities to continue English in the private system.
English play groups
English lessons on Wednesday
etc.
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