German Education: Lions, Tigers and Trees

The school year is coming to a close and so begins the season of school projects, class parties, and general year-end celebrations.  The various activities keep parents busy either attending events where the children proudly show off their projects, or skills; or there is the effort of getting children to different locations be it a forest grillplatz, or a outdoor swimming pool.

For my oldest daughter she is staring in a theatre production where the children have written the script, set the scenery and will be acting out their show for two different groups of parents, family and other school children.  As for my youngest daughter, there was the year-end grill party where we all got to say goodbye to one of her much loved teachers who will be moving.  A few weeks ago the same daughter performed with her entire school in a circus.

The circus culture is alive and well in Germany with any number of travelling shows that make their way from village to village setting up a large tent in some generous farmers meadow.  There are also, to my surprise, professional circus performers that travel from school to school.  The children get a week of circus training in areas which they can choose to participate.  Students get to sign-up for their top three activities in the hopes that they will get to be part of the team in that particular area.  Unfortunately, (or maybe fortunately) ours was not picked for anything she signed up for – the top being fire juggling.

I will admit that my initial reaction was a bit harsh and critical as I heard that there would be no homework, nor classes (in the strictest sense) for a whole week as the children practiced their ‘routines’ in circus training.  Maybe I was just a bit jealous of the deal.

A huge amount of effort was put into the production of the circus.  Two shows were offered, each show being about 3 hours long (including the 20 minute intermission) and had all that you could think of in a actual circus.  There was music, song, trapeze, lion taming (kids in the lion costumes were very funny), clowns (not so funny), rhythm and dance, fire juggling, acrobatics, magic show and even intermission snacks and toys sold by the kids.  The large gym hall was full of around 300 parents for each of the two shows, and the decorations around the room were made by a team of kids working as stage hands.  The various acts all had special costumes and the adult supervisors were very discreet in their stage presence so as not to detract from the show.  After having seen the show, it did occur to me that it was a bit sexist in that all the flame juggling kids were boys, and all the trapeze kids were girls. I guess this is my own resentfulness in not letting my own daughter play with fire.

As for my older daughter who performs in her class production in the evening, she has recently had a two week school trip into the Black-forest. This two week long trip was a forestry practicum where the class learned about the care and maintenance of the forest as a economic resource for the country.  As well, the kids had to work every day helping to construct wooden tables and benches that are frequently seen all over the place in parks and forest.  The professional foresters helped to supervise and teach, and the day’s were packed with activity and learning.  The students returned home with a growing sense of appreciation for the forest and plant-life, as well as, a sense of pride in the work of some basic carpentry skills have all been the result of a two week trip into the woods.

This evening we are set to watch my oldest daughter preform in her class theatre production and I am sure that we will be amazed and entertained at what has been learned, achieved and celebrated.

Despite some of my personal challenges and disagreements with the way the school system works in Germany, on the whole, the process of learning is good.  While I still disagree with the ‘streaming’ of kids at an early age that sets them up for a certain path in life; I do appreciate the style of learning which gets the children outdoors and active.  The circus week and the forestry practicum have certainly added to the learning accomplishments of our children, and their parents have been entertained and rewarded with all the learning and accomplishment that is put on display at the end of the school year.  Lions, and tigers, and trees, Oh my! – we are not in Canada anymore.



I suspect that this time of year, it isn’t only Santa who has a list.  Over the past several days my To-Do list has grown in size.  Just when I think I can check a bunch of stuff off the list, more appears.  Obviously, one of the things that has remained on my list is sorting out phone and internet at home.  I can confirm that my whole family is addicted to the contacts made via phone and internet.  I was able to keep some peace in the house by getting a cable to connect the old tv with a modern DVD player.

Various wires in our wall – on the ToDo List

Communication is really important, especially when one has recently moved to another country, as it would be great to hear a family voice over the phone.  Communication is also really important for me in preparing for worship and staying in touch with readers, musicians, and all who are involved in making worship…well, worshipful.

This past Sunday, the Fourth Sunday in Advent, we had a great time with a Nativity play, and following worship, we had a Christmas party in which the sanctuary was transformed and decorated into a dinning hall.  Many Christmas games were played, such as, get to know the Parsons Family BINGO.  I am certain that there are photos out there with Anke and I wearing balloon filled nylons on our heads as the children in the church transformed us into Santa’s reindeer.  Santa did show up and presented a gift to each child (I lost track at about 31 children of various ages so Santa has a better memory than I do).

Since I am madly communicating whilst at the apartment that the church still has until the end of the year, and in which I have been using as an office for now; I shall end this post with a nice video that I originally saw on the Guardian Newspaper website.  I think it fits the theme of communication well.




Ba, Bye, Black Sheep

IMG_20150219_165215As our relationships continue in Victoria, some have come to a tasty end.  Each week our girls help out on a small farm which friends own and over time we have added to the stock with our own chickens, rabbits, geese, turkeys, and sheep.  As we live in a small house we don’t have the necessary space for farm animals, not even an urban chicken or two.  Yet, both girls have done the hard work of raising animals and several have made it to our table.  I figure it teaches our children some responsibility as they care for and raise the animals, as well as some business sense, as they either sell, or eat what is produced.  There is a large 4H Club on the peninsula that the girls have never participated in, but have come close to competing with in shows for best chicken.

As a young child, my own dog and I rounded up someones unwanted chickens from a local park and we brought them home to look after.  The Plymouth Rock Chickens were great in the garden at my childhood home and it trained my Springer Spaniel on retrieval.  Unfortunately the chickens were illegal as it was against the village code in that area.  The chickens went to greener pastures.

Our chickens and Quail have produced loads of eggs and provided us with many soups.  As Thanksgiving weekend approaches, a new addition to the fridge has appeared after our children came home from their work on the farm…a massive turkey!

The turkey will certainly provide a feast, as we will be 12 people for supper tomorrow night.  There is a plan with all of this too, as our friends will help to load a small rental van with some of our furniture that we will be storing in Vancouver.  Ironically, the old furniture is from Hamburg and came as an inheritance.

Of all the animals on the farm, the one we will not eat, but we have recently sold to our friends on the farm, is our Black Faced Welsh Sheep.  The small herd of three sheep has certainly grown on our two daughters.  It amazes me that all our daughters need to do is call their names and they trott on over to nuzzle the girls.  It makes me reflect on the gospel parable in which Jesus refers to himself as Shepherd and us as sheep.  It certainly looks like we will know our name when called, and come running.