Well, we’ve made it through another year.
Today, J leaves primary school for the big bad scary world of Sekundarschule (“Sek”). Quite why I’m feeling so strange about this is a mystery to me – had we remained in the UK, he would have left primary school last year. I really feel that he has coped so incredibly well with everything that has been thrown at him over the last three years, I’m confident that he will cope with this next change without difficulty. He is used to being independent and taking responsibility for himself and his work. I’m incredibly proud of him and his attitude to life and new things, and he is, of course, very excited (and not just about getting a new rucksack, since the old one really is on its last legs). J is only 12 but this is the 4th school he has left, due to us moving around with OH’s job. This time he leaves with his peer group, for the first time, having achieved 3 years together in the same class. Having only ever been to 2 schools myself as a child, and those for 7 years each, I can appreciate that this is a huge thing for him.
The advantages of Sek are that the school is local – just another couple of minutes’ cycle further away than his primary school, and he can cycle all the way there on paths off the road, through the new park that lies close to us in the Dorf. He will also do a broader base of subjects, including things like woodwork and cookery. Had he passed the Gymi exam he would have had to be on the bus at 06.30am every day for the 07.25am start in the city – which would have killed me if it hadn’t killed him. And he would have been doing 5 hours of Latin per week – fine if that’s what floats your boat. In Sek A it is still a 07.25am start every day – but down the road, not at the end of a commute, and he has another 2 opportunities to try for the Gymi, when his German language skills will hopefully be stronger. For C next year the only change is the introduction of French as a third (fourth if you count Schweizerduutsch) language. His language skills are not his strong point, so he will need a lot of help with this. The rest of his timetable remains identical for the next year, which is great.
How have we progressed since 2008 ? Well, we’re older, the boys are taller, I’m no thinner, and OH has slightly less hair. We have friends in the village. Correction. We have Swiss friends in the village with whom we socialize, (say it very quietly) sometimes even in German. The boys are still happy, and they each have plenty of friends. They can speak more languages than us, and with ever increasing confidence.
The schooling system is not perfect, but then, show me one that is. The advantages of integration, in my view, for a family planning to stay here, far outweigh the disadvantages and that’s with no regard whatever for the financial aspect of such a decision. I know we have had a mostly positive experience, but that is partly due to our own attitude to our surroundings and the culture in which we find ourselves – we don’t continually harp on about it not being the same as it is in Britain – because we're not in Britain. Doh !
For reasons too numerous and complex to detail not relating to school, it’s been a difficult 12 months, and I’m not sorry to see the back of it. But I’m old enough and ugly enough to understand that life has both ups and downs.
Next year sees a new departure for me, as I undertake a full time online degree course, with a placement some 20km away, meaning that I will not be in the house every day to give them a hot meal at lunchtime, 1950’s housewife style. They are old enough to cope now, so I plan to leave them a cold “packed” lunch on the days I am not there at lunchtime, and on the days I am there, they will cook a light meal for themselves with minimal supervision. To this end, I have just finished writing a basic step-by-step cookery book for them to use, comprising their favourite lunch and tea time food, cooked just like Mama does. But not cooked by Mama. I am reclaiming my equal rights, which I left at the border some 4 years ago. They are already trialling the cookbook enthusiastically, and never has my kitchen floor worn so much hot bacon fat.
And there end the chapters for 2009-2010 and 2010-2011. Nightcap, anyone ?