Today Czech schoolchildren return to the classroom – with many kids of mixed-nationality families joining them both in public and private schools throughout the country.
While most foreign parents sending their kids to the former have faced and will face challenges stemming from cultural difference and language barrier, we can likely all agree that some customs and traditions associated with Czech schooling have also become our own beloved customs and traditions.
Here are just some of the things we love to see our kids do in Czech school:
Bring First-Day Flowers to the Teacher
Bringing flowers to the teacher on the first day is something that is common practice, especially when your little one is entering the first grade, although some older students may bring a bouquet to paní učitelku (Mrs. Teacher) as well. In some places close to the German border Czech parents are adopting the Saxon practice of bestowing the first-day kornout upon their children, a huge paper cone loaded with sweets meant to symbolize growth and maturity.
Learn their Mushrooms from an Early Age
The Czech passion for mushroom hunting is well-documented so it’s really no surprise that Czech schoolchildren from as early as kindergarten are taught the difference between edible and poisonous varieties right alongside numbers, letter, shapes, and colors. In fact, you can even purchase a deck of flashcards for practicing mushroom identification – a useful skill for when the time comes to…
…Go On the Annual School-In-Nature Trip!
School in nature (Škola v přírodě) is a phenomenon that many foreigners raising kids in the Czech Republic are blown away by: a week-long trip to the forest or mountains, unaccompanied by parents and supervised by teachers is a big leap of trust for most parents not accustomed to being apart from their youngsters. But the pay off is huge. Kids spend a week hiking or skiing, studying up on nature terminology, and bonding with their classmates in the country-fresh air.
Sport Comfy Clothes and Slippers In the Classroom
The number of outfit changes that accompany the typical Czech school day can make uninitiated parents a bit crazy at first. All that extra laundry! Not to mention mentally keeping track of the Monday pajama change for nappers and the array of seasonal accessories – including autumn and winter scarves and caps, rain gear, and an entirely separate set of clothes for outside play. There are also bačkory to consider, special slippers that are required inside the classroom. While many of us foreign parents spend a lot of time grumbling about it, these practices do make a lot of sense.
Wear Costumes for Every Occasion
A tip for any parent planning on enrolling their kids in a Czech school: invest in a durable costume! Unlike countries where Halloween is typically the one occasion for a costume, you may be asked to dress up your little witch, wizard, or monster multiple times throughout the year. Witch burning (čarodějnice) celebrations, carnival (masopust) and autumn lantern parades (lampionový průvod) all call for costumes. Classroom parties are usually accompanied by dancing and retro Czech pop tunes, most beloved among them Saxana, a song about a witch that will run through your head forever!
Enjoy a Proper Lunchtime Ritual with Soup
While the healthfulness of some canteen meals can be debated (sugar-sprinkled and butter-doused fruit dumplings, anyone?), there are a number of things that parents will appreciate about the way Czech school lunch is served: on ceramic plates with cutlery – a knife and fork, no plastic sporks in sight – preceded by a soup course and accompanied by a cup of tea. Teachers like to say Dobré chutnání a bez povídání (Enjoy your meal without talking) which may seem a bit strict for chatterboxes but does encourage mindfulness when eating, while having a midday hot meal is, for many, a healthier option than a sack lunch.
Want to see a typical Czech cafeteria lunch? The What’s For School Lunch blog includes a round-up of Czech school lunches among its lunches from around the world.
Share your favorite things about Czech school.