recap: Rex and German school in a nutshell and what we’re doing about it

This one is for the paper. I thought it was worth summing up and printing.

“Last week Rex (6) came home from school and quietly informed me that the kids in his German school are hurting him.

As a mother, I like to think I’ve got the power to protect him from the world. Why can’t my love be strong enough to shield him from all the bad things, like mean kids and painful experiences? Sometimes I wish I could love him right into a bubble and keep him safe.

This was the first time in his three weeks of German school that I had heard anything negative from Rex. He comes home every day happy, never cries about going to school, does his homework assignments with enthusiasm–no signs of trouble. Plus, the few notes I’ve received from his teacher have all been positive.

The next day I went in for a visit. It turns out things are not going smoothly for Rex. The kids won’t play with him, he has trouble paying attention to his teacher so he isn’t learning the language (she only speaks German which is also one of the reasons he has trouble paying attention). Everyone was frustrated. All in all, the situation is about as fragile as glue soaked tissue paper.

In America, I would have received some kind of note or a request for outside assistance. In Germany, they seem more inclined to keep home things at home and school things at school.

Because three weeks isn’t long enough to warrant giving this a good try, and because we don’t want our son to grow up thinking that we run away from difficult situations, Dad and I both feel that we need to stay in the ring and help him work through this. Anything worthwhile is worth fighting for, even when you’re six.

So I presented his teacher with a plan that is nothing short of genius: a sticker chart. Apparently in Germany parents don’t usually approach the teachers with fantastical ideas like working together so she was quite enthusiastic about the whole scheme.

In addition to his behavior chart, I told her that if she can give me lists of words and phrases, I will teach him German.

I’ve been so adamant about the kids not watching television this past month, but I’m suddenly realizing that Rex should be spending every spare second in front of German cartoons. He is now on a strict diet of six movies a day with a short break for dinner.

My kids think they’ve died and gone to German heaven.

We have been here for six weeks and up to this point, every time I think about trying to get a toe hold on the language I feel overwhelmed and panicky. It’s fast, it’s furious, and don’t believe anyone who says “it sounds like English” because they haven’t tried to shop for motzarella cheese at the local market.

But the moment my boy’s welfare and happiness entered the equation something changed in my head. Don’t ask me how but I am like a German sponge. For the past week, every single word I learn I remember. Phrases are rolling off my tongue and my little handheld translation tool is my new best friend.

I am a mother, and if learning German to help my child succeed is what I need to do, then stand back and watch me go. There is no motivation in this world that can even touch this kind of love. He is my child, and if I have to sit and watch German soap operas for the next year then so help me, I will.”



  1. You give me the chills Annie . . . . . you go girl!

  2. The Lord truly is watching out for your little guy….by using his tiger momma.

  3. yvonne stewart says:

    Ah, mother love at it’s finest, you are amazing and I am betting on you and Rex!! Keep it up, he is going to do great and you are learning how to speak German at warp speed…you are showing all of us the meaning of strength and hard work, love reading all about your adventure!!!

  4. I got chills, too. YAY YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  5. You go girlfriend!!! I’m so proud of you guys for giving this a try and sticking with it! BTW, I had my baby and it has now been four weeks! Time flies when you’re having “fun” 😉 Great to catch up with your recents!

  6. I always feel nervous when a parents makes it sound like the two options are 1. letting your child live in a bubble and 2. Allow them to suffer unnecessarily at the hands of other children. It is understandable that one hopes to teach their children how to deal with conflict in life, but being hurt by other children seems a very high price for a Kindergartner to pay to learn this life long lesson.

    • annie valentine says:

      Obviously things are much more complicated than this one post can possibly capture. I always feel nervous when people jump to conclusions about other people’s choices.

  7. I came across an article in NYT Magazine today that was basically about an ex=pat family that was living in Russia and placed their children in a Russian language school, how hard it was, and ultimately how rewarding. It reminded me of what you’ve been sharing on here, so I thought it was worth passing along.