Im not making any friends here by Rhianon

Here's our end of term report: 'must try harder' and that I'm afraid goes for us as parents as well as for ds1, our 6 year old at primary school in Germany.

[advert:mpu]The biggest complaint is the homework. This is supposed to take him 30 minutes [snorts incredulously into sleeve]. Not in our house! He has at least 2 pages of maths and writing - normally three for ds1 as his idea of a good day at school doesn't necessarily mean finishing up his work in class. And no matter what motivation, cajouling and - I'll be honest here - downright bullying we put into it the poor little devil cannot, cannot, cannot get down to it.

We've made a quiet space in our 50sq m for him, got him the right tools for the job and we're trying to make this footwork as interesting as it can be. But it's no good. Suddenly there are SO MANY distractions that this usually drags out to an hour, sometimes two, of me nagging and nagging him sit down, stop wriggling, save his pencils from death by sharpening and FOCUS, while poor little Loki cries and cries from neglect and protest at the strained atmosphere. He thinks the words to 'Horsey Horsey don't you stop' go 'giddy up it's homework time' and won't let me sing otherwise.

And why has his calculatingly chilled-out mother turned into a wicked, whip-crackaway persecutor? Who wouldn't faced with the wrath of Frau Sohlke? We didn't get any of the verbal messages she sent us via ds1, demanding that he clean up his act. Ds1 didn't have a vested interest in remembering them long enough to tell them to us when he got home. And it's tricky her to just call us, as my ropey German reaches a bit of a standstill on the telephone. So we had a nice, frosty meeting instead, where his teacher showed us examples of what other kids writing was like and how terrible it is to look after one child who wriggles and daydreams when there are 25 other little ones demanding ones attention.

I tried (I'm working with a Sun vocabulary of 250 words here, remember) to put his case – he's working in a foreign language, his imagination is his defence against all the upheaval of leaving England and well frankly, he's a boy, and boys aren't known for their ability to sit still. No, no, that wasn't it, she said, he's just too young.

Ahhh, there it is, I should have known. Germany and this school in particular are historically anti putting your kids in school before the age of 6 so in her opinion he deserved another year to play and his overbearing parents have not had the foresight to recognise this need. Again I explained that he needed this schooling in case we were to return to the UK imminently leaving him two school years behind. Plus she agreed that he's an able lad and likes to learn when he puts his mind to it.

But the elephant in the room was the cultural parenting differences between our two countries, and I couldn't let ds1 take the rap for this. In the nicest way I could I pointed out that German kids are simply brought up – at home as at kindergarten – to be a bit more organised. They're encouraged to look after their own stuff from a young age and have a different attitude to these things.

Ouch. As soon as I'm spoken I realise she had taken this as an accusation of some cultural insensitivity on her part. And boy am I gonna pay. If it was frosty when we went in, we're reaching for the arctic body armour by the time we leave. 

Ds1's now on review until mid-Feb. I purposefully didn't ask what this meant. I know they can't chuck him out of school but she did mention (just in passing, just for my interest) the case of a child who had to repeat his first year, recently. I must try harder, I'm thinking to myself, to help us all fit in.

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