Not such an exciting title, but I know everyone's curious as to how they're doing and the answer is overall really great! Not all the time and not that we don't have bad days, but overall. Here's what's been going on with them:
1. Brandtley has a preschool!! Or will soon. He is on the waiting list for about 7 kindergartens, but none of them have a place for him. In Germany, kids attend "kindergarten" from age 1 until they start 1st grade at age 6, but most parents send them at or before age 3. Kindergarten is highly valued. By age 4 all slots are taken and there are fewer slots than there are kids. Entering mid-year did not help us. However, all of the kindergartens we spoke to agreed that it is extremely important for him to go to kindergarten at his age, and several promised that he would have a high priority for the 2017-18 school year (which starts in August) due to his older age.
I have been following up on a regular basis and there are 2 who have been very promising. I heard back from one last week that they will soon be opening a new branch and that he has been selected to have a slot at the new location! YAY! Only downside is that it is not convenient to where we live or our morning routine and driving the kids to school probably wouldn't make it any better. However, I've found that there is a bus from Jackson's school that will get us pretty close, so Brandtley and I may become daily bus-riders! Either that, or I'm going to have to find some magical way to incentivize Brandtley to ride his bike 3 km in the morning...which might take us an hour.
He is so very excited and ready to start! We've talked about our transport method and the bus makes his school that much cooler, though it means he will have to ride the scooter to Jackson's school instead of his bike. At least until we get a good sense of how crowded the morning bus is (his bike is little, so it could feasibly be taken on the bus if it's not crowded).
He'll also remain on the list at the other schools, so that if one has a spot available beginning later, we could switch.
2. Both of the kids started German language class last week and both are enjoying it. They each go every Wednesday and Friday afternoon. B's class meets for 45 minutes and J's class meets for 1.5 hours. The older kids seem to arrive on their own or get dropped off outside, but I'm enjoying meeting the parents of the kids in B's class who usually wait in the building during class time.
They each take 2 folders, paper, pencils, and colored pencils with them. Brandtley was thrilled that he now also gets a cool pencil case with pencils for his "homework". :) He calls it his school and loves that he gets to go. TBD on his German participation, but he's in the very beginner's class for kids ages 4-5 with no prior knowledge of the language.
Jackson is in a 2nd level class since he's been in German school for 3 months. The first day, there was only 1 other kid in the class with him and the 2nd day it was just him with the teacher. She's very nice and has given us good feedback. She told us there are a few more kids registered so the class might grow, but until it does, he gets private lessons! The courses are all government subsidized to help immigrants and refugees integrate, so Jackson's class was only $10 for the semester and B's was free.
3. Jackson seems to be doing well in school. We are fortunate to have a teacher who gives frequent feedback. He says Jackson is understanding more German and needing less frequent English instruction, so that's great news! He still doesn't speak yet, other than a few words when necessary. However, that's normal. Also, his vocabulary is completely different from mine so far. While I can navigate a menu or checkout counter at a store, he knows words for "sit down", "Listen", "put away your jackets", various games/instructions and basic math terms.
We've been told by other expat families that somewhere between 6-9 months he'll start talking and that we may not know it since he won't speak in front of us. I have heard multiple stories of parents who discover their kids speaking German to their friends when they arrive to pick them up from school. I so look forward to that day!
Until then, he's reasonably happy at school. He hasn't really made many friends, but there are usually a few kids around him when we arrive to pick him up. They are very curious about him and they practice their English on us. One 2nd grade girl (clearly practicing the only phrases she's learned so far) asked me how old I was and then thought I was 53! I corrected her and told her in German that I am 33 and she seemed surprised. haha!
4. Jackson is developing a love of reading. Suddenly and somewhat surprisingly. In the US, I had to force him to sit down & read as part of his homework. He was on par for his age, but didn't enjoy it. I expected his reading not to progress much for a while after the move, but we've seen the opposite. He is suddenly wanting to read everything and I've loaned him my 1st gen Kindle to keep him supplied with English books (we just discovered Amazon's Prime Reading which is like borrowing from a library). While I'm sure the kindle helps make reading fun, I'm also wondering if this is somewhat typical expat kid behavior. I have heard similar stories from several other families with kids in elementary school that their kids' interest in reading takes off after the international move. Who knows, maybe they find it more gratifying to be able to read & enjoy a story in their own language.
5. Jackson is still not in OGS. There is still not a slot. He asks the OGS teacher every single time he sees her, and every time she says no. I asked him if she smiles when she says no, and he said yes, she usually laughs. So that's a relief! As he puts it, she will say no until she says yes. It's as simple as that. Until then, we wait. haha! Such a German response too.
6. Brandtley seems to be doing well with his gluten free diet. He has accepted that there are things he can't eat and overall has a very good attitude about it. I've been surprised. There have been a handful of times when you can tell he's sad that he can't have something, but overall he is fine so long as I have an alternative for him.
His digestion seems to be improving, except when he eats nuts. I'm afraid this is yet another intolerance for him, so we're staying away from them at least until he has his 6 month bloodwork in April. Small amounts & traces don't appear to matter, but nut butters or pastries made with almond flour disrupt his digestion.
The hardest thing right now is keeping his hands out of his mouth. He also likes to lick everything (he's so weird) and put things in his mouth like toys or random things that he's found on the ground. For this reason, we don't bring bread, flour, or most other gluten into our house since crumbs or small flour particles will eventually end up on him & in his mouth. We also aren't going to most bakeries for the same reason - there's flour everywhere. I know (or at least hope!!!) that he will grow out of this eventually but trying to break him of these habits is driving us insane right now.
I think that's about it. I'm so happy they have each other - they are truly best friends and playmates and love each other so much.