Some may think the spring lockdown never quite ended- only lessened. However, I feel like the summer gave us a huge and much needed break in Germany. Sports were back in session, stores loosened their restrictions, restaurants opened back up for indoor dining, and country borders were released! Wahoo! The possibility of surviving Bavarian lockdown 2.0 never crossed my mind.
This meant traveling, sanity, and seeing friends.
Read further to see how we have navigated life in Germany during 2020, and how we are currently handling our déjà vu lockdown 2.0
Let's rewind, shall we?
The first weekend Germany opened its borders in June, we took off for a long weekend in the Czech Republic.
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And the last full week in June, we headed down to Switzerland and truly felt like we DID Switzerland!
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Being able to get out and travel was such a breath of fresh air!
That's who we are and the number one reason we moved abroad...and also relocated to another continent after a few years. Traveling is the life blood of an expat - at least for us.
However, all good things must come to an end. And an end did come. September ushered in tighter restrictions, and October clamped down even more. Over 6,000 employees of hubby's office were sent packing and set up for official home office. The boys' athletics and after school activities were also put on hold along with restaurants returning to spring protocol: offering take-out only. We were only allowed to hangout with one other family where everyone in the group equaled a number less than ten. The gyms, churches, theaters, etc closed their doors once again. If you were not a grocery store, pharmacy, doctor's office, bank, or post office, then you unfortunately must close up shop. No shopping, renovating, or DIY buying. Must be essential business. The newest regulations began yesterday. Déjà vu! Although, I keep wondering if and when we can exchange items bought for Christmas...hmm.
What did we do over Christmas break if we couldn't travel?
A few months ago, we booked tickets to Dubai in the UAE. After you've lived through one German winter, you learn to schedule a sunny holiday in January if possible. Ahem (the reason for the trip to South Africa I recently scripted out). You learn quickly the sun does exist in other places on Earth and does set after 3:30pm in January. I digress...
We were supposed to be in Dubai over New Year's this year. But alas, our flights were cancelled. And even though our typical holiday cheer found around Europe at the Christmas markets was also cancelled, we had a momentous amount of fun staying at home. We baked, we cooked, we painted, played games, suited up for frigid games of basketball in the driveway, went rollerblading, biking, scootering, running around the playgrounds, rebuilt all of the LEGO sets (there are many!), went sledding, made snowmen, and walked downtown more than I can count. Meandering around streets with medieval buildings is enough to keep one entertained for hours- even with small people in tow.
This lockdown blessed our friendships tremendously-
Per "one family" rules, we stuck to that and invited others over for dinner. The kids ate it up, because they got to play with their friends, and we also enjoyed adult conversation with other people outside our home. We mainly stuck to rotating dinner dates with three families. I know it sounds corny- but since our normal meet up spots were shut down, it forced us to foster these authentic relationships in our own home. Deleting social media was also a driving force in seeing other people in person as well. We cooked together, made drinks/desserts, and watched movies. We even played a few rounds of Twister with one family. Good 'ol fashioned fun!
We also joined up with others on snowy hikes or strolls through the forrest.
Mainly to let our boys burn their miles and miles of energy, but I can't get enough of the winter air in Bavaria. It's so crisp and refreshing - delicious, really! SO great for the entire family.
It was all a perfect concoction of goodness up until now.
Now, we hunker down. Now, we hibernate and have one friend over at a time. No more playdates. And since we now have a 9pm curfew, bff sleepovers
might have become a thing. They aren't only for kids. Sanity savers for moms and dads who can't go to dinner with friends or meet up for a drink after work.
My one saving grace until now? Germany kept the schools open!
Children above age six were required to wear a mask starting in the spring when moving about the building and playground. It eventually tightened down to an all day accessory, except for when they were eating. This made learning a bit challenging for my eldest - simply because German isn't his first language. He's fluent in Deutsch for a six year old (due to enrollment of public preschool), but it's still tricky with new vocabulary. And although I'm currently taking German courses, I'm nowhere good enough to assist with his homework without the help of Google Translate. Ahhh!
Fast forward to today-
Yesterday, began our journey with distance learning. Momma Merkel (among others) decided to keep schools closed after the winter break. We went to the school on Saturday to pick up what our son needed for the next three weeks...the time span in which they will be home. I personally believe it will be stretched longer. But for now, I can live with three weeks. Many of my friends and family back in the States have been navigating home learning since March.
Nevertheless, we have joined forces with the rest of the world in distance learning. It's not necessarily full-on virtual learning like some schools, but two WebEx calls a day is enough. And with momma not fully understanding all the teacher communication on the call, it is a lot of pressure on my son.
Homeschooling him in a foreign language never crossed my mind when we registered for school.
My First Grader's Schedule-
- Virtual Call 8:15am-9:00am
- Work Block 9:00am-10:30am
- seven German assignments, two math pages completed, and four pages read in a specified book
- Virtual Call 10:30am-11:15am
- Wednesdays Only- Deutsch Plus Virtual Call 11:15am-12:30pm
Read Also: How to Normalize Technology for Distance Learning
Keep in mind, children don't start formal education until first grade in Germany. This is age six, and some parents make the conscious choice to hold their kids back until age seven. Through the early years, there is a huge emphasis on learning through play in the German culture. Learning letters at the beginning of first grade to full scale comprehending a book by Christmas happens somehow. Same with adding and subtracting by the holidays. It blows my mind how quickly they learn things, and how much is taught during that short time. It shouldn't surprise me though, because the German mindset is very structured.
I often get questioned about the school being let out by 11am. What are they learning in that short time? I will tell you...all work and very little play. Kids are allowed to walk home after 11am, or they can stay for lunch, recess, and after school help with homework. All depends on what works best for each family.
...back to the school work. It absolutely amazes me what they expect the kids to complete within one hour and fifteen minutes of distance learning. Yesterday, we did everything but reading. Today, we crushed it!
It's difficult keeping one child focused on school work while little brother is going rogue. Keeping him occupied for three hours is quite challenging.
*Some have told me to turn on the TV.
*Some have told me to give him an iPad in another room.
*Some have told me to give him an activity book.
While all of these are great suggestions, none of them hold the attention span for more than 15-20 minutes in our house. Our fellas are busy busy busy. Luckily, my little guy is obsessed with LEGOs. But the attention span for that only lasts for so long as well. Anyways, we are only a few days in. I know we will get into a rhythm, but I also know it takes time. Are you in the same boat?? Open to suggestions and what has worked best for you in the comments!
The spring lockdown taught me : STRUCTURE IS KEY.
Even though neither of my kids were in traditional schooling back in March, it helped tremendously to have a schedule for most of the day. They knew what to look forward to and what to expect most of the time.
We will continue giving it our best every day.
And we will be digging DEEP for the proverbial patience each child deserves. Overall, I'm very thankful for our situation. We only have one child in home learning. We are fortunate to live on one income, so I can focus my attention on serving my kids during this season. My husband doesn't have an essential job, so him working from home is a blessing if I need him in a bind. We are safe. We are healthy. We have people in the homeland who love and support us from afar, and we have friends close by whom we can count on. This is a difficult chapter in life to be thousands of miles from "home," but I'm thankful for technology and the growing anticipation to go back this summer.
This season is one of perseverance, hope, flexibility, and resilience.
I pray you can look within and readjust the "I have to's" to "I get to's." It's not easy and won't be a smooth affirmation every day. But I pray each of us realizes we are here on Earth right now for a reason. It is a gift!
Y'all, God has given each of us a unique set of tools and equipped us to flourish with what we are being dealt right now. This is where I would tell you...YOU CAN DO IT! But I mainly feel I'm pep-talking myself. Ha!
Read Also: How A Global Pandemic Changed My Views on Living in Germany
What is your inspiration for 2021?? Let me know in the comments below! A girl has to diversify.
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