Getting to know your animals

School in New Zealand is quite different from Germany. Not only do you start school the day you turn 5 years old - no matter if your birthday is in January, August or November... learning (from what I understand so far) also is a lot more individual.

When I started school in East Germany many many years ago (I was one of the few ones who started school at 6 rather than 7) we had our "Fibel" - the book that contained your letters and taught you how to read - we did our maths and biology, ... everybody learnt the same stuff at the same time. If you weren't fast enough you were just out of luck.

It's amazing to see Eliza who just turned 7 read book that have 20 pages or more, containing words like "gradually" or "hippopotamus". Lukas who will turn 5 in February knows how to write his name, can count at least to 20, often higher than that, and does easy maths (like 1 plus 1). Even Rachel who is only 2.5 can count. Was it like that when I was young? Can't remember...

Anyway... last weekend I experienced something else I've never come across at any school in Germany. Ag(ricultural) Day - or Calf Club Day. For weeks and weeks all the kids had to practice with a pet animal at home - either a calf, a lamb or a little goat. Learn about it - what it eats, how to feed it, how to clean it, when it was born, ... Lukas and Eliza spent a few afternoons leading their calves around, making the animals get used to them, brushing them, feeding them.

On Ag Day the whole school gets together. My family including Philip's brother Noel, his wife Louise and their kids Matthew, Ryan and Rachel plus two calves for neighbors' kids went here with seven calves!!! The kids all got a number to identify them for the jury and then everyone started preparing the animals.

Eventually all the kids gathered in groups to start the competition. They each had to lead their animal around a show course making circles, turns and stops to show they could handle their calf. A jury judged the performance and also tried to find out how well the children knew their "pet". Prizes were also given for good breeding.

Our kids did really well =D Matthew got third for Rearing and Eliza third for Leading. Even Ryan who attented Ag Day for the first time did a very good job. Here are the proud calf owners:

Matthew (7) and Sarah

Ryan (5) and Canada

Eliza (7) trying to convince Crystal to accept her ribbon :-)

The cutest thing, however, was to watch our little ones Lukas and Rachel handle their animals. Pre-schoolers are usually not allowed on the show course but Lukas wanted to have a go anyway. So he took Mustikka (Finnish for Blueberry) for a walk in front of everybody. Unfortunately Mustikka is more than stubborn and was dragging Lukas along the course rather than being led. But Lukas was very brave - he didn't let go of the leash until the calf had dragged im around a corner and ran off ;-/ Still he - and all of us!!! - was very proud when in the end he got a special rosetta for giving it a try.

Lukas (4) and Mustikka

And how about little Rachel? She dragged chockie (? - short for chocolate) around the course being determined to be the boss. What a little rascal =D


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