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Moving to Frankfurt, wishing I could homeschool

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 
Very possibly moving to Frankfurt...

I'm not brave enough to go against the homeschool prohibition (we're not in the Army). So what are my alternatives?

Can I live in France and let DH commute to Frankfurt? Or would that be a heavy burden for him?

Are there alternative schools beyond kindergarten (Montessori, or better yet, something like Sudbury or free schools)?

Will my kids *have* to go to school on Saturdays? How heavy is the homework load (my oldest will be 7/8 next school year, so he'd be in second grade)?

I love the idea of moving to Germany, but I'd want to be able to take the kids sight seeing and, well, we've grown used to our homeschool freedom, and can't imagine not having it to explore and learn when living abroad!

Any advice for someone like me?!

post #2 of 19
First, living in France I think would be a HUGE commute, at least a few hours each way for him. Getting simply around Frankfurt will take a while with public transit, and driving shouldn't be much better because it's fairly congested. You would probably never, ever see him!

Unfortunately, I'm unaware of whether private schools go beyond Kindergarten (which last from ages 3-6 here). I know of international schools in Frankfurt that people seem to be fairly happy with, you could probably find them easily with an internet search. Frankfurt is very multicultural since it's a business hub, so there should be plenty of them.

Also, I doubt you'd lose too terribly much of your freedom even sending them to public schools. Most schools go from M-F (NEVER heard of Saturday school!) from about 9 am until noon or 1pm. The children can stay later if the parents need for them to. Otherwise, most schools around here (I'm across the Main from Frankfurt) don't even have cafeterias and let the kids out by lunchtime. That leaves plenty of time for sightseeing!

I also don't know about homework, but I'm sure you can find a few mamas here to chime in on that. I do know that it's totally not safe to attempt to homeschool! Unless you only plan on being here for a short time, and then you could possibly convince them that the children will do better without being integrated for a short time.

All in all though, German schools are very, very good. If anything, your children will gain an opportunity to learn a second language fluently, and that will really help them in the future with our growing global economy! They will also be able to learn other languages much easier. AND they can see how other cultures live and play. It is an opportunity most children don't get, and I think it is totally worth it!
post #3 of 19
I live about 30 min from Frankfurt in Wiesbaden. I was a homeschooler before moving here and felt the same. I looked into many schools ( I am a Montessori teacher) . Despite this, I chose the International School of Wiesbaden over the Montessori schools and German schools. It is a small school and is primarily english speaking, but they have integrative german 4 days a week. They use the PYP program which is amazing!!!! For me, its exactly what I was doing in homeschooling...taking a unit of inquiry and letting them run with it. The day is longer than the german schools ( 845-310) but they have music art, 3 recesses and so much "whole child" focus. My issu with the german school is that the days are short..but the academics are rigorous and they bascially sit in a desk for 3 hours. Very old school. I have an american friend here who was very intent on sending hers to German schools, andthey have, but now in first grade she is getting very frustrated with the authoritarian attitude and 60's style teaching. ISW is a bit of a commute from Frankfurt but perhaps you could live in between? I know many State Dept ppl. who live in Frankfurt and feel the commute is worth it. Hppy to share more if you'd like it. ISW is the sister school of Frankfurt International School- but MUCH smaller.
Hi Trinity!
post #4 of 19

Will this be a permanent or temp move to Frankfurt?

We were able to get special permission to homeschool in Germany. WE wrote to the Minister of Education, explaining that since we were not German and didn't plan to settle in Germany permanently, we wanted to be able to school our children in their native tongue and following the French curriculum (DH is French) so that when we moved back to France our children would easily integrate into French schools.

Of course, we didn't tell them we were not planning on putting them in school anywhere at all, and we didn't move to France in the end...

WE were able to HS two children for 3 years, but had to get permission each year. We also had to enroll them in the official French distance learning curriculum - maybe you could do the same with an American curriculum. I don't know how long we could have continued like that. Maybe they would have made us put them in German school eventually.

GOod luck with everything.
post #5 of 19
Thread Starter 
Thanks everyone for your perspectives. It's looking more and more likely that we'll be moving this summer!

Plain Leopard: do you have to show some sort of proof that your job is only temporary? Because we only intend to stay there for 3-5 years at the most, but the company isn't hiring DH that way-- they see him as a permanent hire.

Luke'sMom: was there something you disliked about the Montessori schools you saw? That would be my choice, though I'd love to check out your school, too. I worry that since DS doesn't have Montessori experience, they might not take him (he's 7) even if we found a school we love!

Trinity: you bring up lots of important points. Is Frankfurt set up as a commuting city? We're used to living in NJ and commuting to NY, is Frankfurt similar in the easy availability of public transportation? If we joined PlainLeopard in Weisbaden, would that also be hard on DH? Do people tend to live outside of the city? And how long of a commute is considered reasonable?

Thanks for the help, everyone! I've lived abroad before (Mexico, Egypt, France) and am really excited about giving my kids this experience!
post #6 of 19
Plain Leopard..I think we talked before I moved here. Probelm is ther are a lot of english speaking school here. I could have fought but my plan was to find somewhere with a strong hsing community or a fabulous school. I found the later.

I am a Montessori teacher. The Montessori schools TIMS and I think its Rims or something like that were ok. I think TIMS is only for the children's house (-5) and I felt that ISW was a great extention of Montessori. Its the PYP program which is the early years program of the IB program. Both my children have a strong Montessori foundation--and ISW outshinesthe other schools in my opinion.

I dont know anyone who commutes from Wiesbaden to Frankfurt. I used to to teach yoga--took me about 45 min in traffic. There are a lot of areas betwen frankfurt worth looking at-depending on the where the kids go to school. For me that was the dea--short short commute. (today I took them at 845 and because it such a nice day "rescued " them at 12 to go play in the park! I do those things a lot)

If you come for a looksie, Id be happy to show you Weisbaden-have you over for coffee, whatever. I am sure I can arrange a visit at the school...they will have summer session until about the 2nd week of July.
post #7 of 19
Thread Starter 
Does anyone know anything about the town of Friedrichsdorf? That's where the Rhein-Main Montessori school is.

Though I'll want to visit several different schools, I'm still emotionally leaning towards Montessori, and that school looks nice. Plus it's considerably less expensive than ISW...

The town looks lovely, too. Well, if we get to go for a visit soon, I'll be heading to Weisbaden and Friedrichsdorf right off the bat, LOL!

Also, does anyone know how much we can expect to pay in rent in or near either of those towns for a 3 bedroom house?

TIA for all the help!
post #8 of 19
I am in Wiesbaden which is the most expensive city in Germany...so many expats live a bit outside Wiesbaden ( A lot of ISW fams live in Bad Soden/Kelkeim/Eppstein....all out this way) I had been living in the Middle east and wanted to not be isolated!! In Wiesbaden, many ppl live in apts. Nice big ones. I have a big 5 BR house which my husband really fought for as he wanted a home office and Im a massage therapist who works out of the house a bit. We have German SHephard so we wanted a nice garden. Isnt your husbands company covering your rent and school tuition????? Most expat packages do! I will have to check but I think my friends rents outside Wiesbaden is between 2,000-2500 Euro (this doesnt inlcude utilities , hausmeister etc.) We pay 3200 plus ultilities...Again, we have been expats a long time and my husband was really firm about what we needed, would settle for etc...lots of negotiation. Typical packages include rent, school tuition, andd home leave tickets atleast once a year. Hope that helps
post #9 of 19
We have been in Frankfurt for 3 years and are now looking to return to the States because of the school situation. We were very pleased with Montessori before coming to Germany, but after several failed attempts we found that German ideas of Montessori were just not the same as the ideals in America or England. There are several Montessori schools in the Frankfurt area. German montessori's are in Hofheim, Kronberg, and Sachsenhausen. I don't know much about them except that they are more "montessori" and only accespt German speakers. Then there are the International Montessori schools RIMS and IBMS, which do both a German and a montessori curriculum and are regulated by the state. THis means they have an 8 to 4 program, non negotiable, all year round 6 weeks at summer. This is a very difficult schedule for small children. We tried IBMS and found bullying to be an extreme problem. You should note that "German" schools reserve the right to follow german customs on child supervision. Teachers can and do leave class early with no supervision, they can dismiss kids early and assume that the kids will walk or ride their bikes home, and there is a turning of the head toward aggression, especially when it comes to boys. Further, the classes fit german age/grade standards, so there is a discrepancy with American schooling. If you have kids who are struggling this can be a great second opportunity. If you have kids who are ahead, this will be frustrating for the early years. Further, many, many families pull out of IBMS for the utter lack of communication with parents and the philosophy they have that kids ought to know the materials and ask for them, however, all the materials are locked in closets so the kids can't actually see them. The directress feels this is "true montessori". RIMS is notably more "montessori" but, there are high student to teacher numbers. 30-35 kids to one teacher. I observed one day and saw 30 kids age range 6-11 in one class and the teacher wasn't there for the first 20 minutes that I sat in the class. Some kids thrive there. A lot of kids leave for the public schools, especially if they live in Bad Homburg which has really good schools. Rumor has it that the public schools often drop the kids from RIMS back a year or require that they get tutors. Many RIMS kids at the middle school level are kids who were not successful getting into Gymnasium and are looking for a second chance. TiMS goes from 3-6 years and it is largely a feeder for FIS. There are about 20 % germans. The teachers are kind. It is montessori influenced traditional preschool as the British would envision it. There are lots of extra curriculars. Don't expect to learn German there with 40 minutes 2 times a week of tutorials. All in all TIMS has the atmosphere of a montessori if that is your biggest concern, but the kids won't learn to walk around the work rugs, how to pour things, table washing, or montessori phonics. The school uses the Oxford reading tree leveled readers. Equally they won't learn how break other kids arms (my kid was actually taught this by a teacher at IBMS) or walk home from school on their own.

For older kids there are several non-Montessori international schools. German (erganzschule) have the 8-4 german curriculum guidelines included and tend to be largely german populations fo very wealthy kids. This has its plusses and minuses. These include: Erasmus, Phorms (great head, lots of emphasis on sport and manners, british but 2 years off schedule since they begin reception work when kids are 6-7 as Germans don't do any schooling till kids are older), and Metropolitan which opened a couple of years ago. Metro is like FIS in that it follows the PYP and wants to offer a lot of options, but it hasn't really gotten off the ground in after school activities. THey have a lot of incoming kids so this may change quickly. Its about half the price of FIS, but then everything is a la carte on top of basic tuition.

Then there are the two big schools, FIS and ISF. FIS is a very, very good school, that gets a bad rap occasionally for being too easy. They do differentiation very well and the kids do extensive projects that are interdisciplinary. So, for example, first graders now are learning about "now and long ago", so they are working on a play about old classrooms, doing reenactments, reading about the 19th century in reading groups, doing interviews with grandparents for writing and working on math using an abacus. For good bugs, bad bugs, they did a lot at the pond and learned about biology, labs, microscopes, etc. The kids are stretched beyond the "classroom" with regular field trips, but they probably don't do much with say "memorize your times tables" until about 4th or 5th grade. it is integrated though subtly. The brighter children are stretched and encouraged and kids who need help get special ed. Out of pocket for the first year it costs about 18k Euro. ISW, by the way, is the Wiesbaden branch of FIS.

ISF is different everyone is tested and placed in their group. Class ages are not as strict as FIS which goes purely by birthday and then differntiates within age groups. ISF grade 2 (US 1) is kids 6-8. THere are more German kids. THe books are English translations from Lebanese. The SABIS schools were developed in Lebanon, and can be googled for more info. All materials are regularly tested (each subject every other week and spelling tests once a week). Kids are tested before they can take books from the library. One family I know found that their high reader was prevented from taking out books at his level because he might make others feel less competent. So don't have a first grader reading at 5th grade level. All kids do each lesson by the book at the same time on the same day. If they finish early they get plenty of personal reading time. Some kids who struggle can do very well there. Its good for kids who do really well with high levels of structure. The program is especially praised in the Korean population as the maths are much stronger. It is a very different feel to FIS. Both are quite expensive schools. FIS has a bus for a fee.

Hope this helps.
post #10 of 19
all the above is very well said......and I agree with most of it. While I was ver intent on ingreting my children as much as possible, it hasnt worked out quite as well as I planned as it seems there is an old school German attitude that is still somewhat prevelant in the school system.
post #11 of 19
Thread Starter 
Wow, KBD! Thanks so much. That's exactly the kind of rundown I needed. It answers my questions about why the Montessori schools don't seem to be considered great choices

So based on your description, I guess RIMS is not really a good choice for us.

So I guess I'm back to thinking that Wiesbaden and ISW is going to be what we tend towards, as LukesMum suggested from the beginning . It really looks like a beautiful school on the Web site.

LukesMum: we haven't gotten to the offer yet, so I'm not sure if we'll be offered the ex-pat package. So far all we know is that they really, really want my husband's combination of experience and language, and don't seem to be able to find it locally. It's a German company--not an American one--though it is a huge multinational one. So we have to assume they know what's what as far as ex-pats packages go.

We were Googling around yesterday trying to get a handle on cost-of-living, average salaries for the position he's being offered, and income taxes. Frankly, if they don't give us an ex-pat package, then I don't see how we would be able to make ends meet unless they give us a humongous amount more money than what he makes now. We live comfortably in Miami on his salary, but FL doesn't even have state income tax, LOL! Not to mention that rents are quite cheap where we live. If they do pay tuition and rent, then just a normal raise will make it possible for us to do fine.

One more question... at least for now If we were to live somewhere between Wiesbaden and Frankfurt, what are good towns to focus on? Would it be possible for DH to commute by train or bus into work, allowing us to buy only one car? What about commuting to school at ISW, is that possible by train or bus? Could we get away with no car? (That's the environmentalist in me dreaming about being carless, LOL!)

Oh, and also, LukesMum, how is homework at ISW? I have a 4 yr-old and a 7 yr-old (he'd be going into second grade in Miami next year), will we be spending the evenings struggling over homework? That's one of the big reasons we homeschool now...

Thanks so much for everyone's help, I'm feeling a little less overwhelmed by all the factors involved in moving there!
post #12 of 19
rehomework...my son rarely has it and when he does never more than 20 min. (3rd grader) Depneds on the teacher but Ive never heard complaints.

Re CR i USE public trans a lot.Once you are outside the cities its not so easy. I bought an older used car that I use to run back and forth to school.my husband has a co. car Im there a lot for various things. They have an excellent bus system and enourage parents to use their system (for enviromental and safety reasons) We will use it next year. I cannot live without my car but did reuse (used) and reduce (often ride my bike/walk/or take the bus)

I know someone who lives in Bad SOden (far) Kelkeim, Eppstein, Hochheim...i also know kids who live in Frankfurt and come to our school. I perosnally thing its too far for the kids after a long day. You need to wait until you arrive and get with your RE agent who can help you. I like being close to the school. ALso some of the outlying towns are not very enkligh-speaking....as much as I have worked at it--the German language is a tough one
post #13 of 19
Thread Starter 
Thank you for talking me through all this, LukesMum! I'm getting more and more excited about this! I agree--I'd want to live as close as possible to school and I guess let DH do the bulk of the commmuting. My kids would love to ride the bus to school, LOL!

Anyway, I'll let you know if/when we'll be in Frankfurt, I'd love to meet you and tour the school. It sounds like our kids are close in ages!
post #14 of 19
Id be happy to show you around...gotta tell you when I ws in Bahrain, a mom came with twins. i did the same and we have been best friends for 3 years.

I know several ppl who live in Naurod and walk to school (no car). Naurod is a small German "village" and part of Wiesbaden but youd have to take the bus in to town. They have banks, groceries, msall shops in naurod so-doeable. I used to drive into Frankfurt in the a.m. on Mondays for a yoga class I taught...took me about 45 min.

Also if there really is a good chance you are coming, id call the school ASAP. They are buckling down for next year with the economic crisis and may be limiting some grades to one class.....you can ge tthe number on the website. If it were me..Id get the app in and a deposit as soon as I thought it may happen. You can also email Helga...she's the admin lady in the office (ISW) We started the process in May--and she was awesome--she held a spot for us and we faxed our app to her directly. There was a waiting list this year. I always thought Id homeschool while waiting for a spot, but we got in no problem.
post #15 of 19
Thread Starter 
Thank you! I will call the school as soon as we know for sure that we're going.

If we weren't able to get in, would that be enough of a reason for the German government to allow us to homeschool at least for the first year?

Hmmm, you lived in Bahrain? I'd love to chat with you about that! LOL!
post #16 of 19
Originally Posted by LauraN View Post
Thank you! I will call the school as soon as we know for sure that we're going.

If we weren't able to get in, would that be enough of a reason for the German government to allow us to homeschool at least for the first year?

Hmmm, you lived in Bahrain? I'd love to chat with you about that! LOL!
..and SIngapore, London, Cuba...Ive been all over!!!

Its not ok to homeschool but I hear you can get away withh it for about a year before they figure it out......Id beg my way in....I'll hellp with that as I work there
post #17 of 19
Thread Starter 
Awesome! Thanks! Now just keep your fingers crossed that DH's negotiations go well... LOL!
post #18 of 19
Originally Posted by kbd View Post
For older kids there are several non-Montessori international schools. German (erganzschule) have the 8-4 german curriculum guidelines included and tend to be largely german populations fo very wealthy kids.
Hope this helps.
I dont understand this as I have many german friends whose children get out very early (like 1130 or 12!!) It is my understannding that until about age 12 , the days are very very short....?? Thanks for explaining
post #19 of 19
The difference in the times is that the erganzschule- private schools that prepare kids for private and gymnasium, follow their own curriculum and the state curriculum, so they have a day that is twice as long as the german public school day and they follow the same full year curriculum. This is nearly twice as much schooling. Also, most erganzschule are trying to attract German families that have working moms who need after school care and they provide music/art/sport that is not part of normal German schooling. IBMS, for example, does the german material till lunch, then specials, and then a required daily after school activity, like Ju Jitsu or photography. The specials are non negotiable as they would be for general german kids who would choose their activities and join vereins.
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