German in the Afternoon

Speaking German with my little boys – bilinguialism one afternoon at a time

Story Hour Update February 6, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kate R @ 2:54 pm
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In the fall of 2014, I took over the leadership of the German story hour at our local library again. I had started the story hour back in 2011, but things got complicated when I was pregnant with Kearnan, so I handed over the reigns to another mom. But when she moved away, I became its leader again.

I’ve always had a theme for the books and songs of each session, but last fall I decided to add a little something more. We also do some kind of activity or craft that is aimed to help children practice some basic vocabulary.

Now with the beginning of 2016, I’m adding another layer. Instead of individual themes for each session, I’m creating a unit that will last 4 or 5 sessions. This way, we can rotate and repeat the books and songs, thus reinforcing some language input. As an adult, I think repetition can be rather boring. But when I watch my kids, I see them doing the same thing over and over … and over again. And I was reminded that they obviously thrive on repetition. It’s taken a lot of planning, but so far it’s worth it!

To help facilitate the unit, I’ve revived my old story hour blog. Parents can use it as a resource to learn about which books we’ll be reading, find a PDF download for the song lyrics, and also find links to crafts and PDF downloads to the activities I’ve created myself.

I thought some of you readers out there might enjoy following along. Or at least, you might be interested in some of the downloads. You can check out the blog over at German Storytime.


How I Do Love My Bilingual Kids! February 3, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kate R @ 5:49 pm
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This post was written for February’s edition of the Raising Multilingual Children Blogging Carnival, hosted by Adam over at Bilingual Monkeys. Inspired by Valentine’s Day, he asked that we share a post about the things we love about raising bilingual children, since we all too often write about the challenges. A wonderful idea!


The decision to raise our children bilingual was an easy one. I always knew I wanted to pass on my love of language. I just didn’t know how challenging it would be! But it’s been worth every moment :)

I swell with pride every time I hear one of my boys spontaneously speak German. It’s one thing to drag it out of them, insisting that it’s German time, so they need to answer in German. But when they do it on their own, I know it’s all worth it.

Here are a few little anecdotes of our small successes….

Aleksander attends a Montessori school for Kindergarten. When a child has a birthday, there are no cupcakes and party. Instead, they have a beautiful ceremony. The family is invited to attend, so Kearnan, my parents, and Julia (our au pair from Austria) all came along. I wrote out a little story of the life of Aleksander and brought in a picture for each year of his life (impossible task to choose just one for each year!). The birthday child is accompanied by two friends into the circle and is given the globe of the earth to hold. For each year, he walks around the sun holding the earth. The sun is laid out on the floor, labeled with months. Aleksander and Kearnan set it up before the ceremony. As Aleksander picked up the blocks for each month, he counted out the months up to that one. And he did it in German! There the two of them were, counting out loud for the whole class to hear. It may sound like a small thing, but I was overjoyed! And then, of course, I always cry during the ceremony :)

Lately, I’ve been hearing Kearnan singing a lot. He sings all kinds of songs that he knows. And the other day, I heard him singing “Ich bin die kleine Hexe” (from Die 30 besten Spiel- und Bewegungslieder). Woo hoo!!!! And we haven’t even heard that song in months! As if that wasn’t great enough, he recently gave us a little concert after lunch. He sang “Alle meine Entchen,” “Der Mond ist aufgegangen,” “Schlaf, Kindlein, Schlaf,” and “La, Le, Lu.” I was grinning from ear to ear! I had no idea he remembered the words to all those songs!

When I was putting Kearnan down for a nap recently, he was giving me some trouble as I tried to get him into a sleepsack. So I started asking him things like “Wo ist deine Nase?” (Where is your nose?) He knew all the words!

These may sound like small triumphs. But considering how inconsistent we’ve been with German, I take every little bit of production as one more step on the journey to bilingualism.

I don’t know if my kids will ever speak fluent German. But I still feel like it’s worth it to keep plugging away at it. I still believe they gain so much from it.

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Here are my sweet boys holding hands as we walked through Ikea :)    Happy Valentine’s Day!



A Whole Year?! November 11, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kate R @ 7:04 am
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Has it really been a whole year since I’ve checked in here?! Yikes! So here’s what we’ve been up to….

Our year with Lisa flew by! She finished in May, and then we had a lovely woman helping out for the summer. She spoke French, though, not German :)  So we tried to work it in where we could.

In July, we traveled back to the Netherlands. This time, PER had the idea to fly in and out of Frankfurt (mostly because of the nicer airplane!) and then drive the 4 or 5 hours to the Netherlands. It worked out really well. On the ride, Kearnan was beside himself with joy every time he spotted a windmill! :)  But the best part was that Aleksander’s awareness of the culture and language was definitely perking up. By the time we were ready to leave Oma & Opa’s, he told me that we should move to the Netherlands, so he could learn Dutch!

Okay, but the very best part was that on our way home, we actually spent 3 nights in Frankfurt!! We had a hotel right near the Fußgängerzone, so we could walk everywhere. The boys were still pretty young to really appreciate it :)  But I just LOVED it! On our second day, Lisa drove up to meet us!! It was so wonderful to reconnect with her again. We all went to the zoo together (an easy 15-minute walk!) and had a fantastic time.

A week after we returned home, our new au pair, Julia, arrived from Austria. She’s been amazing, too! I think we could always have more German in the house, but it’s so helpful to have her here – on so many levels!

I’ve started leading the story hour again at our local library. I’m really getting into it this year. I’m trying to make it more than just books and songs by adding a little learning for the children. I sometimes have vocabulary words to share with them (pictures, mostly) and also a project. We had some fun with colors and Eric Carle’s Brauner Bär, Braunder Bär. Last week, we celebrated Martinstag and made lanterns. We even paraded through the whole little library!

Even more exciting for me is that I’ve started teaching a German class at Aleksander’s school!! I go in every other week for a 30-minute lesson with his pre-K/Kindergarten class. There are about 17 children, ages 3 to 6. I’m absolutely loving it! I wasn’t sure exactly how it would work. I’m so used to going in to story hour and just speaking German! So I had to change my approach and realize that I’m not there so much to teach as to expose the children to the language at this point. That being said, I was THRILLED when one of the children remembered both auf wiedersehen and tschüss from our previous lesson – even after 2 weeks!! We also worked on colors for our first lesson and then talked about Martin last week. The teachers in the classroom are extremely supportive. And another thrill for me is hearing a little voice pipe up with a beautiful German accent …. and then realizing it’s my own Aleksander :)  He really has been listening all these years! He doesn’t like to speak up when we go around the circle to repeat phrases, but with a little coaxing, he does!

This whole process has never been perfect. There are always a million more things I wish I were doing to help further my kids’ language learning. But it is still happening!


Nikolausbücher?? November 22, 2014

Filed under: Christmas — Kate R @ 10:43 am
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Help!!! I’ve got story hour coming up in less than 2 weeks and need a book or two to read about Nikolaus. I thought I had some, but I don’t. I’m having trouble finding anything online – it’s so hard to tell if it’s appropriate without actually holding a book in your hand. Any suggestions?? Even if I can’t get them for this year, at least I could have them ready for next year!

Tausend Dank!! :)


Eins… zwei… drei… November 7, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kate R @ 10:23 pm

Kearnan started counting in English a few weeks ago. He still mixes up the numbers sometimes, and he doesn’t quite have the whole concept down, but it’s really adorable when he tries to put them all together!

Yesterday, he was sitting at the table eating a mini bag of M&M’s from Halloween (a rare treat around here). I was busy decorating the Mickey gift bags for Aleksander’s birthday party in a couple of weeks. I heard him counting them out. And then my ears perked up, and what did I hear?! “Eins… zwei… drei…” What?!? Yes!!! He was counting in German!!! It went something like this: “Eins … zwei… drei… vier… fünf… sechs… sieben… acht… neun… … fünf!!” For some reason, he thinks that 5 comes after 9. But he says it with such great enthusiasm!

Later that day, Lisa told me she had also heard Kearnan counting in German. Funny that we both noticed it on the same day. It’s such a thrill!


Surprising Progress November 4, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kate R @ 12:30 pm
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Sometimes I still feel like I’m not doing enough. I don’t speak German enough. I don’t plan enough activities, projects, or lessons for either of the kids to do to enhance their German. And then some days I am granted the wonderful surprise that we are indeed making progress!

Since Aleksander is in school, he has had less German. Lisa (and I mostly) still speaks German with him at breakfast. Yesterday – I don’t even know what she said to him. But he replied – with NO prompting whatsoever – “Leider nicht!” [unfortunately not] I didn’t even know he knew that phrase!! Lisa and I caught each other’s eye and grinned :)  Success! Progress! He’s doing it!!!!

I don’t know what – if anything – has changed recently. But it seems to me that he is speaking more German. Still not a whole lot, but at least he is not so deeply resistant to it. There was a time not too long ago when he absolutely would NOT say a single word in German, especially when we prompted him. So what’s going on? Is it just the “normalcy” of it, since Lisa is in the house, and he hears it more often? As I said, it’s not as if he’s hearing it more – he’s actually hearing it less.

I think I mentioned in my last post that the kids have also been listening to German songs (mixed in with English) and watching a German dance video Singen und Bewegen. Not only is Aleksander singing along, we sometimes hear him singing the songs throughout the house, all on his own! Music to my ears!

Kearnan is getting more German, as he spends a good deal of time with Lisa. He understands just about everything we say to him in German. And as I said before, he is speaking German mixed with English. Yesterday, Lisa prompted him to say “Danke” [thank you] to me. And all on his own, he said, “Dankeschön” [thank you very much]!! My jaw dropped :)  Hurray! More success!!

I still don’t know just where this bilingual experiment will lead. But it’s so exciting to experience it all!


An update – request granted! October 23, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kate R @ 10:34 am
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I recently got a request from a fellow blogger to give an update on how things are going! So here goes….

Things are going great. Life is super busy. Aleksander started school in September. It’s a pre-school / Kindergarten mixed class. The first couple days were rough, but once he settled in, he loved it :)  Whew! It’s a wonderful Montessori-based school just down the road from us. I couldn’t be happier!

School has changed how we have to do things with German, however. No more German in the mornings for Aleksander. Kearnan still gets a lot when he’s one-on-one in the mornings with Lisa. For Aleksander, I just fit it in wherever I can.

I’ve started a new learning project with Aleksander. We’re working on letters. It’s such a challenge here in the States!! Everything related to learning letters is matched up with English words. Sometimes it works: A is for apple and for Apfel. But more often, it doesn’t work: B is for butterfly, but S is for Schmetterling. So I have embarked on a massive project to collect little objects that begin with German letter. I then gather clipart for the words and make little cards to go with the objects. We play games with the objects and cards. And I make some fun worksheets to fill in the letters. So he’s learning both the sound and how to write the letter. It’s a lot of work for me, but I really love it! I just have trouble keeping up with it all :) Here’s a picture of the objects we used for the letter F:

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(Fünfeck, Fee, Fuß, Flasche, Flugzeug, Frosch, Fahrrad, Feder, Flamingo, Feuerwehrauto, Fuchs, Fisch, Farbe)

The best part is that Aleksander is really having fun with all this. We do the letter work as part of his nap/quiet-time routine. He’s learning a lot! (I’m planning on starting a sister-blog with all the materials I’m creating. But right now, I’m barely keeping up with the creation, so the sharing will have to wait a bit longer….)

Recently, the boys have also started watching Singen und Bewegen, a DVD from Detlev Jöcker. I tried to get Aleksander to watch it ages ago, but he would just sit and watch. Now the boys are dancing AND singing! Yes, singing along in German :) Hurrah!

So the long and short of it is that Aleksander understands a TON. And he is finally starting to speak some German without being prompted. It may sound like a small step, but it feels huge! He spontaneously answers ja and nein, for example. I’ll take it! And he’s asking questions about the words, too. We also listen to German stories that I download from (a monthly fee of about 10 Euro) in the car on the way to and from school. It’s great!

Kearnan’s language is amazing to me. Since Aleksander didn’t talk until he was 2, I wasn’t expecting it. But he’s been talking for months now, and at the age of 22 months, he is putting 3-word sentences together. And he repeats EVERYTHING we say :) Including German. Some words he only says in German, like blau instead of blue.

I’m leading the German story hour again at the library, too! I didn’t mean for it to happen, but it did, and I’m really enjoying it.

Mostly we’re just having fun with it all and taking what we get! I’m trying to to push it too much. Lisa has been a gem! I don’t think we’d be doing half as well without her :)



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