German grade school is typically over at lunchtime.
Yes, you see the problem. Working parents scramble to get a rare state funded spot in a Hort, where they feed and help your kids with homework until you pick them up. Failing that, you might get a non-Hort childcare spot, where the kids play in the basement of some school until you pick them up.
And failing that, parents can send their kids to private school, get a nanny or the mom can quit her job. Actually I don't want to be sexist here, there are at least three stay-at-home dads in Germany and maybe more. Ralf would love to stay home but he earns more than me.
Before we moved to California K was in a Krippe, or preschool that accepts babies. The other baby in her group was Korbinian, a solid, mellow baby with a distinctive thatch of curly blond hair.
When we returned to Munich from California we ran into Korbinian's parents, who own a local business specializing in IT firewalls, and they (like us) were pondering what to do about the lackluster after school programs in our town.
Their solution? What anyone would do, really: Build an on-premise Krippe, Kindergarten and Hort at their place of business and get the community to pay for it.
Now, you've hopefully read some of my writings about the difficulties of getting stuff done in Germany, where everything's a problem until it's been done so many times it's a process, so I'll leave it to your imagination what sort of colossal undertaking that was. But they succeeded while we were back in California this summer and even managed to get the all-important and elusive signature verifying that they have enough toilets for each child.
This is where L goes in the morning and K joins her at lunch time in a private shuttle that is included as part of the overall package.
You might think that such busy people wouldn't have time for their children but au contraire. Somehow in the midst of all that running a business and opening new schools, they also have plenty of hours to spend with their children playing games, building a life size castle out of cardboard and reading Faust.
To give you an idea, on the first day of the school Korbinian, who is 6 like K, taught one of the childcare professionals how to play monopoly.
L went to a birthday party for their younger son this weekend and came home not with the ubiquitous goody bag and sloppy handmade crown but an actual stick horse they had made themselves. A stick horse! With hand grips! And a red felt mane!
Who thinks of having twenty 4-year-olds build a stick horse?
The Joneses have nothing on these people.