Ellen - Hövelhof, Germany
I am a lapsed art and design historian, now stay-at-home mother of two children. My husband and I met in Detroit, then lived in South Florida, next Boston, and now live in his hometown, Hövelhof, Germany. It's a small town, in the northwest part of central Germany (2.5 hours north of Frankfurt, 3 hours south of Amsterdam). We have been here for just over three years and generally enjoy it. We are close to his entire family (VERY close to his parents, who live downstairs! It's a two family house, so we aren't really loving "together"), as well as my nephews. My husband lived in the US for 17 years, is a dual citizen, and we never planned to move here, but it is surprisingly (for me) a very comfortable place to raise children. Life is a little bit slower than in the States and the children are thriving. Both are completely bilingual. Our daughter (7) is in the first grade at our small, local school (4 grades, 1 class per grade) and our son (4) is in Waldkindergarten (outdoors, ALL the time, beginning from age 2). Only problem is that we are far from my parents in TX, my US friends, and the culture I know, and the work opportunities for me are pretty slim.
6:35am. Alarm goes off the first time
6:45am. Alarm goes off the second, "For Real", time. I have to get up now or my always-eager-to-wake-up daughter will catch me still in bed!
7am. Prepare breakfast, as well as 1)lunch for my husband, 2)sandwich and fruit/veg for my daughter's school snack, and 3)sandwich, fruit, nuts (oh yes, nut allergies are virtually non-existant here), veg and tea/hot chocolate for my son's "snack". Apparently, the kids get hungry running around outside all morning!
7:35am. My husband takes our daughter to her bus stop, steps from the house
8:15am. My husband leaves for his 10 minute commute to work. My son and I leave for kindergarten
8:45am. The remaining morning hours are generally consumed by various household chores (laundry, cleaning up, ironing(!)), grocery shopping and errands, and ideally, some exercise.
11.45am. My daughter comes home from school. Yes, that's right. 3 times a week, her school day is finished at 11:35, and the bus has her back to me at 11:45! That translates into 4 "hours" of class, with a recess. One day a week, two hours are taken up with swimming, and every other week, they have two hours of PE and 2 hours of swimming. Every day has German and Math, and mixed in with the sports are Art, English, and non-denominational Religion (in a public school).
Two days a week, she has school until 12:20, home by 12:30. She stays 2 to 3 days a week in the After School Program, until 1:30. However, she still eats lunch at home (hence the big "snack").
Her school does have a longer After School option where students can stay until 3:30 and are fed lunch. From what I gather, the school lunch isn't the most delicious/healthy, and since I'm home, she comes home early. Not very conducive to 2 parents working full time, right? Many of my friends do work, but part-time: either 20-25 hours per week (mornings) or less. There is another school nearby that has a longer After School Program, but it's not in our catchment area, so no bus.
Oh, and yes. What you've heard about German schools is true: No reading or writing is taught before 1st grade, but the kids then pick it up very quickly.
12:15pm. I pick up my son from kindergarten. He can also stay until 2:30, but he comes home earlier if he has afternoon activities, the weather is bad, etc. Days that he stays later, he's fed a fresh-cooked, organic, vegetarian meal. Only problem with it is that he is a typical, picky 4 year old and doesn't always eat!
12:45 on. I'm "on call" for the kids. First, make us lunch. For us, that usually means sandwiches, quesadillas or something small, but most germans typically eat their "big" meal at lunch. If my son is at home, he invariably eats a tortilla, mashed avocado and grated cheese. I swear that our local market stocks more avocados since we moved! I can buy packaged tortillas, but have also learned how to make them. The secret is vegetable shortening. I'm not proud to be using it, but I feel it's a sacrifice I can make in order to foster my children's appreciation of their Texan heritage!
We then spend the afternoon going to the various afternoon lessons and activities (music class, recorder lessons, swimming, soccer), or having friends here/going to their houses. My daughter does her homework (10 minutes) and practices recorder. We live near a few small forest areas where we can take child-friendly walks, but also have a large yard that the kids constantly use (& it is expertly maintained by my aforementioned inlaws). In the late afternoon, we also often FaceTime with my parents.
5:30-6pm. The kids and I come back inside or get home from whatever we've been doing. I get them cleaned up and start dinner. My husband usually comes home around this time, too. Depending on what the kids need to do, they watch some TV.
6:30 or so. We all eat dinner together, and if the kids have cleaned up what they need to, behaved, etc., there may be a little more TV time.
by 7:30pm. PJs on and teeth brushed. My husband and I take turns reading aloud and putting the children in bed. For instance, I'm currently reading a Ramona book to our daughter, while he is reading a german book to our son.
8pm. The house is quiet. I finish what needs to be cleaned up, my husband deals with the garbage (EVERYTHING is separated--raw food scraps in our compost, cooked food/meat/cheese/bread in the city compost can (no garbage disposals in Germany!), glass returned to stores for a deposit or put in the class bin, paper in one can, plastics and foils in another can, and finally, the little bit of leftover trash in the trash bin)
After we've finished whatever we need to do, my husband and I often go for a walk or meet friends. Although living with my inlaws was never my dream, having in-house babysitters is something that we appreciate. Very, very much! If we stay at home, then it's TV for us (local=German or Apple TV=English) or reading.
11pm. In bed