What to do.

Yesterday morning I sent a note with Rex and went in after his class to meet with his teacher.

I want you to know that I made a conscious effort to smile and be loving and tender; I didn’t bite anyone. No German kids were abused in the making of this post.

We sat down with her sweet student teacher (who speaks relatively good English) and talked about Rex. Here’s the run down.

Rex doesn’t pay attention in class. He’s good at getting his work done independently, but he doesn’t like to watch the teacher and he can’t understand what she’s saying, so he retreats to LaLa Land and ignores her. She’s frustrated.

In America, teachers in this situation simply call the parent in or send a note home. In Germany, they clench their jaw and bear it.

“Well,” I asked, “Do you think I need to take him out and put him in the American school?” She hemmed and hawed, shrugged her shoulders and finally asked how he feels about school? Is he happy? Sad? Does he hate coming?

With the exception of the other night, Rex comes home every single day with a bounce and a smile, sings me German songs, loves doing his little assignments, and has never once asked to stay home. He is happy.

I could tell this news was a big relief to her. The lack of communication has been a huge barrier for them and this little bit of information changed the entire tone of the meeting.

“I have an idea,” I said, “How about we start a sticker chart at home to track his behavior. Every day you tell me how many stickers he gets for listening and participating, and when he earns an entire page he’ll get something wonderful, like Mama Snipe.” Rex practically jumped out of his chair at the mention of Mama Snipe, who Baby Kevin pines for on a daily basis. She’s super expensive and he’s been praying that she’ll come live with us.

I don’t think the German’s know about sticker charts or parental support because she was amazed at my brilliance. Apparently I have invented a new and improved method of parent/teacher communication, one that involves, well, communication.

The other big problem is his German. It’s holding him back from making friends and following simple directions. She said the only German words he knows well are his numbers and colors. Funny, those are the only things she’s sent home with him to learn, and by gosh I’ve drilled them into his dreamy little head with the force of a jack hammer.

“Look,” I said, “Why don’t you send a list of German words home with him every few days for us to work on? I will teach him German, you just tell me what words he needs to know.”

Once again, I shocked her with my ingenious parental prowess.

(I also offered to come and volunteer in his class, but they all looked quite horrified at this suggestion and didn’t seem to know how to translate it. I don’t think they want the mama’s around.)

So yesterday he came home from school a new boy. His teacher (who really is wonderful) had made him a special little color-coded book. There are five sections for Rex to work on and at the end of the day she evaluates how well he did. He either gets a smiley face or a frowny face stamp, depending on how well he did in that section. Things like paying attention to teacher, working independently, interacting with other children, etc. She also sent home two pages of German phrases and vocab for me to teach him at home.

Day one he earned three smiley faces for his chart.

As far as the vocab goes, this is giving me so much direction when it comes to working on the language with the kids. Yesterday and today we’ve spent about 20 minutes on hard core German lingo game playing, plus I’m now attached at the hip to iTranslate. We worked on “open” and “close” all day long. You’d be amazed how often those words come into play.

He also gets an hour of German cartoons every day.

The best part? Today the primary president, Angela (one of my new favorite people ever), came by with a plate of brownies for Rex and two must-have German phrases written on an index card. They were pretty to the point.

“Go Away!” and “Leave me alone!”

We’ve made them priority number one.


*For those of you who feel the same worries and concerns for your little kindergartener, I want to post this response for all of us. It touched my heart and brought both Jason and me a great deal of peace. Thank you, everyone, for your thoughts and love on our behalf. It takes a world wide web to raise a child, of that I am certain.

“Oh Annie and Rex, my little guy and I went through the very same thing through his years of childhood. I can tell you that my own gentle, creative young man grew up, married, became a father, has a great job and is still the joy of our life. You will think of many ways to help him, love always does. I held my boy close ,and helped him excel at what he was good at, his self-confidence bloomed when he found music, debate, politics, Rex will also, he has a wonderful loving mother and family and there is nothing a loving family, standing together can’t conquer. Help him cherish the fact that he is different, there are not enough people in this world that stand out from the crowd.





  1. Okay, so I literally JUST read yesterday’s post and wanted to come over and hold your hand while you stormed in and went all gangsta on the German Schoolteachers Union. And now I couldn’t be happier to see how well things are turning out. Yay for involved Mama Annie. XOXO

  2. I’m so glad you guys were able to communicate and come up with a plan, that sounds so wonderful! I hope things continue to get easier for Rex and this experience will make him all the more better. Sent my little girl to Kindergarden today and I’m trying to let this post help me feel better! πŸ™‚

  3. When my husband served his mission in the Philippines he said one of the easiest ways for him to learn the language was through childrens books. That might be a fun family activity to help you and your children learn the language πŸ™‚

  4. This is great, Annie!

  5. My oldest was a “social late bloomer”; never liked sports, but loved creating things, science, movies, reading…..9th grade is when he hit his stride. He had a crush on a girl who was into theatre and, voila…..we suddenly had a very talented Thespian on our hands. Opened up a whole new world for all of us. His confidence soared and he’s now a very smart, well-adjusted senior who has his pick of any college in the country. Just continue to make his home a safe-haven full of creativity and his day will come. You are a fantastic mother. Raising boys is harder than girls, I think. God knew what He was doing when he sent these special boys to your home. I admire your adventurous spirit, positive attitude, creativity and mother-bear love.

  6. What about the bullying? Was that addressed? Did the teacher say that is something they would help with and prevent or do they consider it “kids being kids?”

  7. Annie, you have to also keep in mind that you haven’t been there very long yet! This is a HUGE learning curve for all of you! It’s going to take 5-6 months for Rex to feel comfortable with the language. When I went and lived in Sweden, it was about 5 months before I felt like I could understand a whole conversation in Swedish let alone, speak the language myself. One suggestion for the teacher (if possible) is for them to give him instructions in German and then say them in English. My host family did this for me for the first few months and this really helped me to be able to hear it in the language I was trying to learn so that I could hear what it sounded like, but also understand what was being said. The teacher could decide how long Rex would need this done for him, but I’d have them try it for at least a few weeks to see if that would help him. Obviously they won’t be able to do all the instructions in both languages, but enough for Rex not to feel lost. Maybe they are already doing this πŸ™‚ You are an amazing mom and you are putting systems in place for him. It won’t be easy, but I think if you give it time, he will be successful in this class.

  8. My husband was stationed at Ramstein 2001-2004. We had been married only a year when we got there, so we never had the school issues while we were there, but I did have several friends that did have school age children and the question of German schools vs American schools on base. I know of one family that couldn’t wait to get their little ones in the German schools, and as far as I know, didn’t have many problems, but I didn’t know them to well. A family I was better friends with did something similar to you, had two kids in school on base and put one in the German schools. I think he was in first or second grade. I think she had an easier time enrolling him then you did because the teacher spoke some English, and she told me a few things about it. One thing that she said is that a lot of Americans put their kids in the schools and the kids have a hard time because of the language, the child gets bad grades, and the parents yank the kids out. The teachers have been burned several times, and so the ones that do speak some English, don’t, because some of their thinking is why try when they will be gone soon. The teacher told my friend, it will be hard for him, he will come home in tears, he will have bad grades, but if you are willing to stick it out, it will “click” and he will be fine, you just need to help him the best you can on his homework, work on the German at home and it will click for him.

    It seems like you were guided in every step of this journey to German schools, and still are. And it seems, despite the bullying, he really is enjoying it. And, I think it is amazing that he can not pay attention to the teacher and still get his work done, correctly. You area great mom and doing a great job. Keep it up!

  9. Thanks for the inspiration Annie. You are doing a fantastic job!

  10. Your last three posts are breaking my heart… I just hit SEND on a long letter to my 4th grader’s teacher. My daughter who, if not brilliant, is normally pretty darn smart, is having a really hard time adjusting. And we only moved a half hour away, not across an ocean. I keep telling her, “This is your adventure!” because she’s told me after reading a lot of books that she wants an adventure. She’s asked me to stop saying that.

  11. Good teachers are invaluable. Rex is a lucky boy.

    I need a sticker chart for doing the dishes and folding laundry. I wonder if Dave would reward me with an iPad? πŸ˜‰ It’s worth a shot.

    p.s. What happened with your house hunting? Did I miss that post?

  12. Annie, I’m so glad you got things figured out, or are working on it. I am constantly surprised at the teachers in Poland and how many things they say and do that you would NEVER see in America. It’s hard for me to not want to offer advice, but awesome that you had a chance to make an impact when it was specifically about your child. This may be an experience for the teacher that will change the way she relates to parents and the level of involvement she considers parents to have.

    But the real reason I’m commenting is because I can’t leave a comment on the chicken pot pie post, presumably because it was from before you changed your site? Anyway, today I decided to attempt my first pot pie and was deciding between Cooks Illustrated and Annie Valentine. You won! πŸ™‚ I used your recipe mostly as a guide because I was missing so many ingredients, but it was DELICIOUS!! So, so good. And I can’t wait to try it with cream cheese instead of sour cream in the crust, and celery and corn instead of green beans. Thanks for that. The crust was so delicious and I am NOT the roll it out type of person, but doing it just as you explained was very simple. You’ve converted me. I CAN do it. πŸ™‚ Thanks for a great recipe!

    • annie valentine says:

      I’m so sorry you learned how to make it, it’s addictive. The crust makes killer lemon tarts fir the holidays.

  13. This was a great post to read. It sounds like Isaac and Rex are a lot alike. I’m thankful I don’t have to teach him German along with all the other things school brings for him…you are amazing πŸ™‚