Is the school only for Germans?

No, we are an international school. Anyone is welcome, irrespective of nationality, mother-tongue, religion or cultural background. Many of our children speak more than two languages.

My child does not speak any German, how will he/she cope?

From experience we know that children usually cope very well and don’t have any difficulties. The preschool, being a bilingual environment, offers an immersion language program by providing experiences in both English and German. The children will learn the way they acquire their mother tongue by being immersed in it during their daily activities as language is acquired most effectively when it is learned in a meaningful social context. 

How fast will my child learn German?

How fast a child will learn a new language depends on several aspects. Apart from interest, ability and development, one of the main factors is time. Children who attend five days will learn a new language significantly faster than children who come only two days a week.

Many children need time before they actively use their second language. Often they are acquiring the second language passively and beginning to formulate understandings about how to use it in certain situations. The time that it takes children to start using a language actively varies between individuals, but the emphasis here is that most often they do need time and space before the language becomes active.

Generally, children who are bilingual already, tend to acquire a third language more easily.

My German is not very good. Can I support my child by speaking German at home?

We recommend that families speak with their children in the language that is their mother-tongue (not the second language), as it is important for children learning a second language to have their mother-tongue as a strong foundation. The ability to be able to communicate in many languages is an immense enrichment for children. Children that  experience difficulties with language should not be discouraged from learning more than one language and it is especially important in these situations that parents maintain their home language with children experiencing difficulties – again so that a strong basis is formed.

Mixing languages should be avoided as well as it could confuse children and they might end up speaking neither language correctly.

Can we have one day only?

No, this is not possible as we offer an educational program and are not a child minding centre.  There are three options: three days (Monday to Wednesday), two days (Thursdays and Fridays) or five days (all week). This ensures that there are at least two fixed groups of children, making it easier to form bonds and build relationships. This also enables children to work on continuous projects and gives them security.

If children are not yet fluent with one of the languages, it is necessary to provide them with sufficient exposure. The more days, the easier it is for the child to adapt and learn.

Ideally all children would come 5 days as it is the norm in German Kindergartens.

If my child is only three, would it be better to start with 2 days only?

In our experience it usually takes longer for a child to settle in when he/she comes only two days. There will be a 5 day period without preschool in between visits, during which other children in the group continue with their projects and games. This makes it more difficult for the children to pick up from where they have left. Children who come more days usually settle in quicker and find friends more easily as preschool becomes a regular routine.

 How quickly children settle in usually depends on personality and experience rather than age.

Do children learn or will they just play?

Play is central to our program as it provides children with opportunities to learn in authentic situations where they are encouraged to discover, create, and hypothesize and to reflect on their learning. When children are involved in play with peers they have possibilities to create social groups in which they can question and challenge each other’s thinking which then leads them to develop new ideas, understandings and realizations. Children also have possibilities to access areas of the curriculum, such as literacy and numeracy, through play. An example of this can be seen in children’s role play where they become involved in writing activities such as writing shopping lists. Reading, writing and mathematical concepts are visible in many examples of children’s play from playing the in the sand where children have opportunities to pack and pour containers, exploring concepts such as measurement, volume and capacity to playing in the block corner where they become involved in thinking about shape and spatial concepts as well as measurement and depending on the investigation occurring, at times children enjoy writing signs for their constructions. These are just some examples of the possibilities that play offers in extending the children’s understanding about the world. Central to the role of play in our program is the opportunity for children to become involved in dialogue with each other as a means of not only developing their language skills further, but as a means of expanding children’s ability to think , to question and to enhance their desire to learn.

Is there a learning to read and write program?

Early literacy skills are developed and extended within the context of the program. We encourage children to engage in the process of reading and writing within meaningful, authentic and playful experiences.  Many children start preschool with understandings about books and how these should be handled and with some ideas that these convey print and messages and we build upon this knowledge. We provide children with resources that encourage them to experiment with and explore print further such as a comprehensive collection of books including fiction and non-fiction. Children have possibilities to read these in the book area of the preschool and they are often used to help guide an investigation further. Teachers encourage children after a group reading session to respond to books and stories using a range of media, and it is through these tasks that children often become interested in creating messages through writing. At this early stage writing can consist of random marks written on a page through to writing letters where there is some correlation between the letter-sound and symbol.

Do you have a curriculum?

We offer a bi-lingual preschool program which is based on an immersion approach. The pedagogical ideas are based on elements of best practice from around the world. We conduct the program in German and English language. Many of our practices are taken from German early childhood curriculums but our work is mainly based on the early years learning framework for Australia (EYLF) “Belonging, Being & Becoming”. We also use the NSW Curriculum Framework/Practice of Relationships as this document recognises the importance of the child as being protagonists and central to the development of the program. It also recognises the importance of relationships that children develop with each other, with staff and the importance of relationships between the centre and families. References are also made to the educational project of Reggio Emilia in Northern Italy within this document, and as this project is a respected model of early childhood education throughout the world much of our work explores practices used there. These include documenting the children’s learning and using this documentation to drive and develop the program forward, recognising the contribution that the environment makes to children’s learning and the importance of the child both as an individual and group learner.

The daily program is relatively flexible and is shaped around a combination of opportunities to play freely, to participate in guided activities including small group activities, circle times, mealtimes and quiet times. The children’s ideas and needs take priority over planned programs and we consider their needs to be of primary importance in forming the day. Questions and inquiries of the children are grasped and used as a means of developing projects (Inquiry based projects). The length and depth in which these projects are explored as well as the direction and shape that they take varies and is dependent upon the children’s interests and needs.

Do you provide meals?

The parents will provide all meals. Please remember to separate morning tea and lunch into different containers so that we can refrigerate the food. It is important to choose only healthy and nutritious food e.g. fruit, vegetables, cereals, yogurt or sandwiches. Sweets, cake or crisps are only allowed on special occasions. Drinking water will be supplied throughout the day.

Learning about healthy nutrition is an ongoing topic at preschool and discussions about food are consistently incorporated. Children are encouraged to compare the food in their lunch boxes with the food pyramid displayed.

The children can decide when they would like to sit down for morning tea. This gives them the opportunity to make choices, be independent and enjoy their meal in a small group of friends. Some children prefer to eat early while others who may have had a large breakfast are not hungry until later. All children who have not eaten will be reminded by the teachers. At lunchtime all children sit and eat together. We find it very important to create a pleasant atmosphere during mealtimes and want the children to perceive food as something enjoyable. We will not force a child to eat. Food that is left over will be brought home in the lunchboxes so that parents can see what their child ate during the day.

Please note that the Australian food handling regulations prevent us from heating meals in the microwave oven.

Do children sleep after lunch?

All children who need a rest after lunch have the possibility to do so. Children who do not wish to lie down have the possibility to play quietly in the room. Sheets, cushions and blankets are to be brought from home and taken back regularly for washing if you would like your child to sleep. Please note that we will never put a child to sleep against his or her will.

Is there an after school care for Preschool?

We offer a preschool program only and are not a long day care centre. This would result in additional requirements, other legal obligations and significantly higher fees.

The After School Care program for school aged children at the Terrey Hills Primary school is legally not permitted to care for preschoolers as they fall under a different legislation.

When do children start Kindergarten?

Children that are of a suitable age to start school and are ready developmentally make the transition to Kindergarten at the end of the school year.

In Australia children must start School in the year they turn six.

The cut-off date is 31st of January. All children who have turned five by then will automatically move on to Kindergarten.  There is the possibility to apply for early school entry if children are deemed ready and have their fifth Birthday before end of June. In this case the child will be assessed in various areas of development before a decision is made. Sometimes there are situations where it is not clear cut as to whether a child should start and in these situations we meet with parents to discuss the best possible options for the child. In making these decisions we consider the needs of the child and how they might be best accommodated. The welfare of the child is of upmost importance and takes priority in any decision making.

Our transition concept is unique in that it involves collaboration with primary school colleagues as a means of preparing the children for the next year. The children have opportunities to work with a support person in the preschool throughout the year and then transition with this teacher into the Kindergarten. This allows a gentle transition with a familiar person that children can utilize for assistance and support throughout their year in Kindergarten. Older primary school children are also involved in the process through a ‘Buddy System’ and are there as a support to the children as they start Kindergarten.

What is the structure of the day?

During much of the day the children are free to decide what activities they would like to participate in as we want to encourage the children to become actively involved in their learning experiences. We do not view the children as passive consumers who need to be entertained but as capable individuals who actively initiate activities and take responsibility. There will be a mix of self-chosen activities which may be guided by a teacher and teacher-directed activities. The children are free to decide when they would like to have their morning tea. Usually small groups of children sit down together while others continue with their activities and projects.

Before lunch we have group time during which the children are usually split into smaller groups, often according to their language abilities. Lunch usually takes place around midday but we are flexible, depending on how children are engaged at group time. All children sit down together during lunch.

After lunch children have the possibility to rest, find new activities or continue where they left off in the morning. Whist there is no fixed time for afternoon tea, some children may choose to have another snack before they are picked up in the afternoon.

Can my child bring toys from home?

Your child is welcome to bring toys or other items from home if he or she wants to share them with others. Please note that we will not take any responsibilities for lost or damaged items, so consider carefully which toys you will allow your child to bring. Breakable or valuable items are not recommended. Should any problems concerning toys/personal items arise, we will use these situations as opportunities for learning and facilitate discussions with the children, encouraging them to develop problem solving skills. Depending on the outcomes of these discussions we may ask that your child leave a particular toy or item at home.

How do you deal with conflicts/ bullying /difficult behaviour?

Our aim is to encourage positive behaviour and manage challenging behaviour in a way that will assist the child and minimize or eliminate the reason for it occurring.

We will ask ourselves:

  • Why is the child showing this particular behaviour?
  • What are the child’s specific needs?
  • What is the child trying to communicate?

We encourage positive behaviour by focusing on ‘catching the children doing the right thing’ and giving them feedback, instead of focussing on mistakes they might make or disciplining unwanted behaviour.

All children have the right to express their feelings. It will be acknowledged and accepted, when children are upset, sad, angry, crying or do not want to join in. When behaviour starts having a negative impact on the child or on others it will not be accepted any longer and an intervention plan will be set into place.

It is important to understand that at this stage of young children’s development that they are in the process of learning to control their emotions and much of their behaviour, often seen as being inappropriate, arises because they are developing self-control.

We establish clear rules and limits, which are consistently enforced by everyone. We believe that children learn through consequences and not through punishment. Just like each child has rights, they also have responsibilities.

We help the children develop the ability to recognise unfairness and bias and the capacity to act with compassion and kindness by noticing and listening carefully to children’s concerns and discuss diverse perspectives on issues of inclusion and exclusion and fair and unfair behaviour.

We promote this learning by engaging children in discussions about respectful and equal relations, such as when a child dominates in the use of resources. We explore the diversity of culture, heritage, background and tradition and recognise that diversity presents opportunities for choices and new understandings.

Can I stay with my child during the settling in period?

We acknowledge that all families have specific wishes and needs that differ, so we are flexible and try to accommodate for everyone. You are welcome to stay as long as you feel your child needs your support. It is also possible to come later or to pick up your child earlier during the settling in period. Some children might not have any problems at all, while others might take some time to feel comfortable. Often children are excited and interested during the first weeks and are happy to stay but after a couple of weeks, when the novelty has worn off or the first conflicts arise they might start crying when you leave.

Once you feel that it is a good time to leave, tell your child that you will go but will come back to pick him/her up. Once you have said good bye, please leave promptly as any delay will unnecessarily stress the child. In most cases the child calms down quickly after the parent has left as it is mainly the parent’s departure that creates anxiety. You are more than welcome to call us anytime to hear how your child is doing.

Can preschool children use the school bus?

No, the GISS bus service is only available for school children from Kindy to Year 12.

Do the children use computer?

We have computers available for the children to use and we believe in the importance of using these as a tool. Children are immersed in technology as part of their daily lives and it is important that they have opportunities to interact with it as part of their preschool day. Therefore children use word programs for engaging in the writing process, drawing programs for encouraging this skill using technology (another medium) and for scanning their drawings and writing.

Do the children watch television?

We do not use television as a resource as we believe that there are other important ways in which children can interact with technology ( such as the use of computers as a tool). We occasionally view DVD s that have relevance to our program or projects and the children have possibilities to do this in our multi-function room on a large screen.

We do not use television for amusement or to keep children occupied.

My child has not been mentioned in the daily report for a while. Is he/she not participating?

The reports are written to help parents better understand our approaches and how these are linked to the EYLF curriculum framework. They also inform about some arising topics or some activities that went on during the day. As these reports are not about showing what individual children did, not all children will be mentioned on a weekly basis. This however does not mean they were not involved. There is so much more happening throughout the day that we could easily fill a book. The daily report is just a tiny glimpse of what happened and hopefully gives families a better understanding of our pedagogical approach.

Is there a Preschool / School readiness program?

The entire preschool day is structured in a way to allow for a maximum of learning situations and exploration to occur and we focus on developing the individual child’s full potential.  This is much more than school readiness. We challenge the children to develop into responsible, reliable, competent and confident people by fostering skills they will need to lead a successful and fulfilling life.

Our inquiry-based approach encourages problem solving skills, hypothesizing, researching and investigating.

When determining school readiness, we focus not just on literacy and numeracy development but on communication skills, resilience, independence, inter personal skills and body awareness.

Do you do worksheets, stencils and colouring in activities?

We do not use stencils or pre-fabricated templates as we want to foster creativity. We also do not draw for the children because this may create an unachievable standard and discourage them from trying themselves. We would also create a format they merely copy without actively developing ideas themselves.

Colouring –in activities limit the child’s imagination. Instead we speak to the children and ask them about what they know about the object they might want to draw. Transforming their knowledge about something experienced in real life into a two dimensional drawing can be a huge challenge and affords complex problem solving skills. By giving the children a format we rob them of this learning experience.

Before children arrive at this stage, they require plenty of experience with resources and tools. They go through many various “scribbling stages” before they have acquired the fine motor skills necessary to lead the pencil in a specific direction.