Essential reading for new applicants
We've been trying to sort out a nursery for Orla and Hamish. It's a lot harder than I thought it would be. You have to get some forms from the Rathaus (town hall) and fill those out stating what hours you and your partner work and what your income is. The number of hours you work will determine how many hours your children get in Kita (nursery) and the amount you earn determines how much you pay towards it. Nurseries are a lot cheaper here than in the UK. We would expect to pay nearly the same for Orla and Hamish to each do a morning each for 1 week and for that to cost the same as it would for them to be in Kita here full time for a month!
With me not working it might be difficult to get them a Gutschein (voucher) that you have to have to get them into the nursery. However, with my need to learn German this might help as I need the time during the day to go to class. I have hit a bit of a vicious circle though. I need proof for the Gutschein that I have a German class to go to, but I can't book (pay) to go a German course until I know that they have a place in Kita.
Yesterday, I had an appointment with one Kita that was arranged through the relocation company, and had an appointment to phone one that I found that said they 'might' have places. I went with Claudia from the relocation company on the visit to the first Kita. It was massive. Over 150 children, from over 20 nationalities, set in a huge building over 6 floors. The focus the lady said in German which Claudia translated for me is "learning through play, with an emphasis on learning German". That, is exactly what I need. They set up the childrens groups differently to how they would in the UK. The babies from 0 - 2 years old are in one group and then the rest from 2 years old to 6 years old are split up in mixed groups. This is apparently quite the norm in Berlin nurseries. I am not sure that I think it's the best way: I tend to think that the older children are more likely to rule the roost and make sure that they have the best toys, etc. The lady, via the medium of Claudia said that it "encourages the older children to behave more like older brothers and sisters towards the younger ones". My point exactly, but I think we might be looking at it from two different perspectives. I don't doubt that some will have a caring, nurturing side to them and will look out for the younger ones, but I suspect that the 'I want that, I'm going to have that' urge is harder for some to suppress.
Apart from this, the place seemed great. They had loads of facilities and rooms for building, art, music, exercise and dance, and a fantastic garden. In fact it was in the garden that I saw one of the bigger boys 'nurturing' a large spade off of a white-knuckled 3 year old.
What is good is that they do separate the children into age groups for set activities during the day, and they do lots of different things with them. Unlike other Kita's I wouldn't be required to cook (argghh!) a meal for all the children once a week (phew!) and also this place has got space to take both Orla and Hamish. We had heard that it's difficult to find spaces in the Kita's, and that many have very long waiting lists, so the fact that this one is close by and has space is a bonus. On the other hand they can't give us the places until September and then I would need to spend a month going to the Kita with the children until they settled in. Another difference to UK nurseries- where I spent two half hours settling Orla and Hamish in to their old nursery, here they expect you to hang around for 4 weeks. I'm not altogether opposed to this idea especially as Orla and Hamish don't speak the language, but it does mean that I wouldn't be able to start German classes until October.
Later that day I phoned the other Kita that I found near my local supermarket. I really liked the look of this one - lovely toys, quite small, really close to the flat, and they have English lessons on a Friday. I had been in last week and they had told me to phone back when they would know if they had spaces. When I phoned it was a bit odd in that I was quizzed first of all on my level of German. I explained that this was one of the reasons why I was trying to find the children a Kita place, so that I could go and learn it. Once the quizzing was over, she said, "I will go and speak to my boss" and came back moments later and said "Sorry, we did have places, but we have a very long waiting list". Somehow, I suspect that the fact that I don't speak much German might have played a part in it. I was a bit annoyed about that, and I think the worst part is realising that you are a minority and that this is how minority groups tend to be treated at times. That for them it's just easier if they've got parents and children who speak the same language as them. I'll be fluent by Christmas and then I'll sort them out once I can argue the case for equal rights!