Tights and waterproof pants: check. Extra socks and hiking boots: check. Undershirt, long-sleeve shirt, and fleece jacket: check. Insulated rain jacket and gloves: check. Hat and backpack with extra clothes, snacks, water, and a towel: check. Phew. Just a normal day getting ready for Kindergarten.
Judah and Elias attend a “Waldkindergarten.” A preschool in the forest! Literally, in the forest. Their playground is the woods, their chairs are logs and rocks, their bathroom is the little area behind the fallen trees, and their heater is a fire. We are grateful that the boys got to join the group for our short time in Germany, and it has been a learning and growing experience for them in several ways:
- They are soaking up the language! They are surrounded by native speakers; a dream for anyone raising bilingual children. They are also picking up “Schwaebisch,” the local dialect here, which is pretty hilarious in combination with their American accent (Judah produced his first Swabian sentence yesterday, “Des hab ich net.“). They are learning useful rhymes like “Jungs sind Piraten, Maedchen sind Tomaten” (Boys are pirates, girls are tomatoes), and have mastered vocabulary that I don’t even know (when I asked Elias what that poky thing was on his chestnut-necklace, he matter-of-factly said, “Buchaecker.” Beechnut. Never heard of it before).
- They are learning to make friends. In the States, their friends and playmates were always handed to them on a silver platter. We either lived around 14 cousins and their church-nursery buddies, or on a campus full of like-minded families with young children. Friends were just there. Right beside them. Now they had to enter a group of completely new kids by themselves (Judah and Elias are in separate groups). They’re the newbies with the accent. They’re the ones who don’t know anyone else’s name. It’s been a challenging process for them, but we see how they are growing and are being taken care of by their Good Father. That Good Father, for example, sent a blessing named Mia, who grabbed Judah by the hand the first day and hasn’t let go since (but he still wants to marry Selah, so no need to worry, Sharpes 😉 )
- They are faced with what to do when Mami and Daddy aren’t watching. Our boys have always been pretty supervised, which means we have been there to watch them, help them resolve conflicts, and coach them through what to do when a kid takes your hat or steals your water bottle. Now, for 4 hours a day, we’re not there to do that. We pray they will remember what we’ve taught them and experience first hand the blessing of showing love in the face of injustice.
- They have freedom. Freedom to be bored and freedom to be creative. The first day in Kindergarten Elias asked me, “Where are all the toys?” I pointed to the sticks on the ground. “Right there,” I said. I don’t think he was too happy about that. I see great value in children not only spending a good amount of time in nature but also in not having a lot of “stuff” to entertain them. Because it opens new doors of creativity. It delight in Judah showing me his handmade spiderweb-slingshot, hearing him tell me the story of how he climbed up a tree and got stuck and then un-stuck, and listening to Elias describe the cool stick that he found (you know, the one that he found for me, the one that would help me fly).
On to more adventures in the woods!