Living in Germany

What do Kids Need to Know Before Starting School in Germany?

What do kids need to know before starting school in Germany?

Starting school has been a big topic in our house these past few months. Birdy couldn’t be more excited to finally be a “school child” next year. While I’m not concerned about her readiness for school, this is a new ground I know little of.

And what better way to learn about than going a googling spree and sharing the results with you guys? Let’s start with a simple question: What should a kid be able to do to before starting school in Germany?

This is what I found out.

Einschulung: the School Start

But, first things first. Before I get to the fun part, here’s what you need to know about school start in Germany.

In Germany, education is compulsory for all children between six and 15 years of age. Homeschooling is illegal. While some things are similar across the country, education contents and standards are decided on a federal level. For example, as I recently learned when posting about Birdy starting preschool (Vorschule) on Instagram, such a thing does not exist in many Bundesländer.

View this post on Instagram

In the blink of an eye I no longer have two daycare kids. Birdy started preschool today and is beyond excited! In Germany kids start preschool at the age of five. It’s a year of preparation for the “real” school that begins at the age six. It’s slightly more structured than the daycare but still predominantly play-based. And as a mom a preschooler I have a new item on my morning to-do list: prepare a breakfast box. A task that requires more time than I anticipated, this morning I was running so late that I had to do my makeup at work ? #preschool #vorschule #mkbkids #momsoninstagram #momsaroundtheworld #schoolaroundtheworld #lifeinGermany #livingingermany #lifewithkids #growingup

A post shared by Ilze ✏️ Let the Journey Begin (@ilzeievina) on

In case you’re interested, you can read more about education in Germany on Expatica.

The school start itself is a really important and, from the viewpoint of the kids, an extremely exciting rite of passage. There are giant paper cones filled with goodies, special school bags, and significant first-day rituals. As I have no experience with this yet (one more year to go!), you can head over to The Piri Piri Lexicon to learn more.

Okay, with that out of the way, let’s get back to answering the question:

What does a 6-Year-Old Need to Know when Starting School in Germany?

The list below is based on dozens of articles and lists that I found online. Surprise, surprise there are quite a few things they do not agree on. But don’t to worry, I’m not going to let that get in the way of the fun task of making an ultimate compilation of school starting skills.

Consider yourself warned and take the list below with a grain of salt!

  1. Standing and jumping on one leg
  2. Throwing and catching a ball
  3. Knowing his/her name and address
  4. Building with building blocks
  5. Independently browsing books
  6. Dressing him-/herself
  7. Making up a story
  8. Drawing a person
  9. Riding a bicycle
  10. Helping another child
  11. Saying NO
  12. Brushing teeth
  13. Verbally expressing his/her feelings and wishes
  14. Understanding amounts (e.g., that five is more than three)
  15. Cutting with scissors
  16. Resolving conflicts without the use of force
  17. Following rules and instructions
  18. Occupying him/herself
  19. Going to the toilet by themselves
  20. Doing basic rhyming games
  21. Understanding colors and forms
  22. Writing his/her name

Did you notice that only the last point is a typical “school skill”? The rest is a mixed bunch of language skills, social/communication skills, as well as fine and gross motor skills.

Sure, quite a few items on the list would fall under the foundational skills for learning to read, write, and calculate. However, nobody expects a 6-year-old to be able to read, write or do arithmetics. In fact, most advice about starting school in Germany focuses on something entirely different:

Let the kids be kids.
Everyone develops at their own pace.
Foster fun and positive emotions.

While the German education system has its faults and is certainly not perfect, I appreciate its comparatively relaxed attitude towards teaching young children.

What do children need to know when starting school where you live?

And what age do they start?

Starting school in Germany
Cover photo by pan xiaozhen on Unsplash

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