A Year of Gan

Congrats!  You’ve made it through day one…maybe you had one or two hours, or if you were lucky even a half day!

Did you get a copy of your child’s first art work at gan?  Do you know the hours for the next few days?  Were the food issues discussed?  Our kindergarten is requesting that we bring a second fruit for the second snack time which has been added due to the extension of the day.  (By the way, the program that has created the lengthened school day is called “Ofek Chadash” –New Horizion, which is supposed to enrich our children.)

The issue of the lengthening of the day has been dealt with by some “tzaharonim” (after school programs) but not by others.  The information we received still has the program going from 1:40-4:00, but obviously it can’t be starting until 2:00 when gan ends.  Keep on the people who run the program so you know when it is going to end.  In Maale Adumim I’ve heard the day is being extended by half an hour.

Have you added your teacher’s cell phone number to your phone?  Do you have the number of the gan in your phone?  If you haven’t already, you will shortly be filling out a form with your contact information and an emergency contact.  Don’t forget to ask a friend/neighbor/family member to be your additional contact.

Also if you’ve been given a date for the “ossifat horim” (orientation meeting) don’t forget to bring the checks, and maybe a dictionary so that you can write your “blessing” for your child’s year without too much difficulty..you can generally also take it home to have someone else help you fill it out.  Don’t stress too much about it—your child can’t read Hebrew either!

Well, just to make things different, my gan isn’t having a pre-gan meeting!  Here are all the basic facts as it should apply. The first day is Thursday, and is a short day, Friday is also short, and Sunday starts regular schedule.

  • Day one we have two hours 8-10AM.  We still need to include a 10AM snack.  (There will probably be hooks inside the entrance for you to hang your child’s lunchbag…make sure you label everything!)
  • Day two (a Friday) will go until 11AM. Of course, as snack as well that day.
  • Don’t forget to bring the postcard you received from the city which includes proof of registration for your child.
  • Check around the classroom and see if there is a sheet that people are signing…there is a good chance they will be doing the “Daf Kesher” which will list the names and numbers of the parents.  This can come in handy when you are running late, so make sure your information is correct.
The regular schedule, by the way, is now until 14:00 (2PM).  This sounds good, because you have an extra 20 minutes or so to arrive, but it means your child hasn’t eaten since about 10AM!  My kindergarten teacher has already stated, that the children should bring an extra fruit or crackers for around 12:00.  Check with your teacher, and don’t be afraid to say that this is a necessity for your child!
Note: when I say snack, I really mean small meal.  Your best bet is half a sandwich, a vegetable and some fruit.  Try to go somewhat nutritious, but do remember that if it is something they don’t eat, you may never know.  If you give junk, not only are you not helping your child learn proper nutrition, you are causing other parents angst as their kid says well so-and-so’s mother gave them X, so why can’t I have it?
Enjoy your two hours before you pickup your child, and I’ll be back in a few days with more information.  Please let me know if there are any issues you’d like covered.

Here is the official schedule from the Department of Education for 2011-12.  It is in Hebrew, but I’ve run it through Google Translate, and it comes out pretty clear.

Schedule of School Holidays (Hebrew)

Schedule of School Holidays (Google Translate to English)

Oh, and one thing not mentioned, you need to check how long the first day of school will be.  Sometimes they will end early on the first day because your child needs to “get used to” being in gan.  Sometimes the hours are even shortened for the first week.  This should be discussed at the meeting before school.

Make sure you know how long it is, and if you are still expected to bring a 10:oo snack for that day.  You don’t want your child to be the one without food.  You can put your food, and a well labled bottle of water in a small pack/lunch bag.  I suggest throwing an extra set of clothes in the bottom of the bag, just in case there is an accident. (More of an issue for the 3-4 year olds, but still a valid issue.)

This brings me to another issue..remember to show your child where the bathroom is at the school.  It doesn’t matter if they know where their drawer is, but this is rather important to know for the first days!


Posted on: 01/07/2011

Until this year, the school day (for Jerusalem) has been from 7:15 to 12:40.  I’ve heard rumors that the day is being extended until I think 1:30 or possibly 2:00. (If someone knows the official information, let me know and I’ll update the post.)

It is assumed that your child has eaten breakfast before coming to gan.  They are generally required to bring a ten o’clock snack (ארוחת אשר).  For many children this is a roll (with or without something on it) and a piece of fruit.  In recent years, the teachers have started to request that the snack comes in a lunchbox, and not in plastic bags, so the waste is minimized.

I highly suggest two things: find a nice lunchbox (we use the Lock n’ Lock boxes) and only give your child food they will eat.  The teacher isn’t going to have time to tell you how much of the food they ate, and a tremendous amount of food is wasted.  For my girls, I generally gave half a pita with peanut butter & jelly, just jelly, cheese or hummus, some cut up fruit and cut up vegetables.  I am a fan of bento, so I put the cut up stuff in small silicone cups to make it more attractive.  (Links are provided just to get an idea of materials…).

A word of warning…two things are going to happen that are very frustrating to the average Anglo parent. The first is that despite any requests from the gan, children are going to come with snacks in hand…it might be a plastic bag with cornflakes, but it could even be a bag of Doritos.  You can try discussing with the teacher, or even with the other parents, but it is a very uphill battle.  The second thing is the fact that some parents will bring very unhealthy snacks, and eventually most children will complain that they don’t get chocolate spread in their meal, or they don’t get pudding cups.  I survived until school age with this one, and we now do chocolate spread sandwiches on Fridays only.

UPDATE: Jerusalem is also handing out plastic containers for lunches.

Hopefully, you know who your teacher (גננת) is.  Generally 2-5 days before the year starts, there will be a meeting with the staff.

Come armed with:

  • Your date book for the coming year
  • A few blank checks
  • A pen
  • If your Hebrew is poor, you might want to bring a pocket dictionary, or you can just hunt down a bi-lingual parent.

Aside from the primary teacher, there will be an aide (or if you are lucky two).  Most teacher work only 5 days a week, so there will also be a substitute teacher (מחליפה) who is there regularly.  The aide will most likely have a day off as well.  They might give you this information at the meeting, but then again they might not.  Feel free to ask, if this is something that concerns you.

The initial meeting can be either for both parents and the kids, or just for the parents.  You can usually tell by the invitation and the time of the meeting.

The subject of the meeting can include:

  • Electing a “Vaad” (parent’s group) to keep track of the money sometimes this is called (דמי שיכלול) enrichment funds.  Or it is used for parties, supplies (yes, even toilet paper and paper towels).  It also often covers the gifts to the teachers at the end of the year and before holidays.
  • This leads us to the annual fee…it can be anywhere from 500-1000 per year.  Don’t get too excited if it is on the lower end…they will ask you for more money during the year for anything from transportation to the zoo, or a meal for some holiday.
  • Filling out a form including allergy information and emergency phone numbers.
  • Determining how birthday parties are managed.  Depending on the gan, some require parents to be at the party, other don’t.  Some do group events where the kids have someone come, or they even go out.  It is dependent on the teacher, and sometimes parents are expected to make cakes, and others because of religious/kashrut reasons nobody bakes and you are required to bring store bought cakes.  (I’ve seen these discussions take 15-20 minutes!)
  • The teacher’s learning plan, what she hopes to cover during the year.
  • If the children are there, it will be a chance for them to meet the other kids and to see where they will be learning.
  • They might hand out a schedule but more likely you are expected to hunt it down for yourself.  The education department publishes the schedule on their website.
  • If parents and kids are together, often you will make some sort of craft project for the child, if it is just the parents, you will often be expected to write a blessing or wish for your child for the coming year.  This is very frustrating for those of us with poor Hebrew.  You might want to come with something in advance if you don’t have the Hebrew.
  • Meal expectations: the children have a ten o’clock snack (ארוחת אשר) which is generally provided by the parent.  Sometimes the teachers will provide their suggestions regarding what they would like you to bring/not to bring.
Ask the questions you have, make sure you leave there with the phone number for the gan itself, and the teachers if possible. Check if the teachers have specific times where they take phone calls for school.

The school year is about to start, maybe it is your first child going to kindergarten (גן) here in Israel, or maybe you can’t remember how things work since your last one started school.  This blog is here to help you through the holidays, parties, special events, and even just the day to day interactions which can make having a child in Gan so difficult.

The majority of the information applies to all kindergartens, but some will be specific to the city run kindergartens which run on the department of education’s schedule, and don’t have all the “extras” which private kindergarten can provide.  I’ll try to make a note if something might not apply.


Feel free to ask questions, and add any comments from your experiences, so that we can all help each other.