Growing Pains

So, Kayla started school this week. Kindergarten in the rest of the world (well, the parts I’ve lived) and kindergarten (nursery school) in South Africa are vastly different concepts. ◄ This is something we’ve been learning really quickly.

I also know how much some of you loved the differences posts I did while we were living in Germany, so I thought I’d share some of the things we find strange now. And this time, I can do a three-way comparison. Obviously, this is written only from my personal references and everything listed here might be different in the different provinces of each country.

Disclaimer aside, let’s get started. 🙂

The curriculum is different for sure, but the most glaring difference is learning to read (which Canadian kindergarteners do). Nursery school kids don’t really learn how to read in South Africa. And by ‘don’t really’ I mean not at all. They learn the alphabet, sure. By the year they turn six, they learn how to form basic words and read small sentences, but the real reading only begins in the first grade. And teachers get pretty upset when kids already know how to read by the time they get to school. Believe me, coming from a family of teachers means this is a complaint I’ve heard often, because the teachers feel that kids who come with reading already in their learning arsenal, get bored in class too easily. From what I know about German kindergartens, I believe they start reading at the same time as kids in South Africa, in their pre-school year (Vorschule).

Playing outside is different too. In South Africa, if it gets too cold, the kids are kept inside for their lunch breaks. In Toronto and Germany, no matter how cold (except in blizzards or warning-calibre weather) the kids play outside in the designated outdoor times. In Germany, they even have this thing called waldschule, which means forest school, and includes kindergarten-aged kids. In these kinds of schools, the kids spend the entire day outside, no matter what the weather, and learn by play and exploring.

Then there’s the whole thing about indoor and outdoor shoes. No South African understands this concept. 🙂 We wear shoes inside our houses in South Africa, even the same ones we wore outside. *gasp* The same rule applies to school in SA – shoes remain on feet, even if they were used to trample grass and mud during the rest of the day. Here in Canada, we left a pair of indoor shoes (trainers that double as gym shoes) in Kayla’s school cubby. Those shoes don’t come home with her, they’re her school shoes. The pair of boots she wears to school are left in the cubby and put on only when she goes to play outside or walks home. The same rule applies to Germany, with the exception that the required indoor shoes are almost like slippers, with rubber soles.

School hours are longer in Canada and Germany than they are in South Africa, even at kindergarten level. You can expect a child to spend around 7+ hours at school in Canada and Germany, where even South African high school students spend no more than 6 hours in classes. Most South African schools have two breaks, where the Canadian and German schools we have some experience with, have only one break for lunch, with snack-times scheduled in between.

Then, the cost aspect. Here in Ontario, junior and senior kindergarten are free. Yep, you read that right. Free. In fact, all school years are free too. Our specific school even includes stationary, so we didn’t need to buy anything other than a backpack and lunchbox. The crayons, paint and whatever-you-can-think-of are provided by the school. Kindergartens in Germany have varying costs per month, though pre-school and school are free too. All schools in South Africa, from nursery to university, must be paid for, except in the cases of bursaries. So sending Kayla to school without any costs is a massive privilege and was also a little shocking. I still can’t get over it. 🙂

I’m certain as the time goes on, I’ll be able to list some more differences and similarities for posts like this one. We learn something new every day.

Have a good one,


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