July 13th, 2011

We have the Small Boy’s first grade class schedule – called the Studenplan – and classroom assignment. There are two first grade classes here in the village, and SB will be with the teacher he wanted (he wanted this teacher based on the second-hand information that a friend’s brother likes this teacher) and is staying together with his entire Kindergarten class minus one child who for some odd reason is the only one from his Kindergarten class going to the other teacher, which strikes me as awfully unfair for this particular child. (The life, it’s all about the unfairness right now.)

The first grade curriculum looks like this: he’ll have German (reading, writing, literature – this is the same as a US first  grader having an English class); math; “Natur-Mensch-Mitwelt,” which I’m assuming is basically social studies with some physical sciences thrown in; P.E., which they just call Sport here; art (including textile work), and music. There’s still a lot of down time – he only goes to school five mornings and two afternoons a week – though I confess I have no idea what the Swiss homework situation looks like in the first grade. I’m willing to find that out as we go along and if there isn’t a lot of homework all the better since he’ll have hockey practice twice a week and an extra “class” outside of school, from me.

I’m looking through first grade curriculums this summer – at the moment I’m reading What Your First Grader Needs to Know – to figure out what U.S. history Small Boy would get in the first grade, if he were going to the first grade in the U.S. and I’m going to put together a little extra class for him outside of school. I hope to be able to expose him to the highlights primarily through stories, especially in the early grades, so that it doesn’t feel like I’m sitting at the kitchen table tutoring him. Neither of us take to that particularly well, but he learns remarkably well  – and I pass along information fairly well – in the context of a walk, outing, or adventure. But him sitting there listening to me tell him Something Important? Not so much. I can imagine if I took him on vacation to Boston, for example, he would have a blast and eat up all the stories and learn ten times more about the Revolution than if I tried consciously to sit down and teach him about it. So I’m hoping for some good children’s books to lay the ground work.

Sooooo, American readers of young children, here’s where you come in. What should a first grader learn about US history? What are some good age appropriate books or movies? What did your first grader learn? (I’m thinking specifically US history here. I’m perfectly happy to have Small Boy learn world history in the depth and order the Swiss kids do. It’s just the U.S. stuff that he obviously won’t get here that I’m interested in.)

Aaand, expat parents of children of all ages, I’m looking for your advice too. Did you teach your kids about your home country? How? How much? How often? Which subjects were the most important to you? (For example, given time constraints, did you teach the literature of your native country on top of what they were getting in the local school?) Did you present it clearly as learning about where you came from, or did you just try to sneak it in in the form of stories and vacations? When did you start, and how long were you able to keep it up? Did your kids rebel against this extra workload? I’m looking for information galore here, so please feel free to pass a link to this post along to your expat friends.


And spare a thought for the Small Boy, who is about to be confronted with another of life’s little unfairnesses: he has to learn the history of two countries.