We are also moving to Freiburg in Jan. 2012 but will only be there for 6 months. Our daughters are currently in 5th and 2nd grades. Can you give us any help about what kind of support schools give to non-German speaking students? Are there any schools in Freiburg that are bilingual German/English? Is it worth it to throw them into a German school for such a short time? My back up plan was to homeschool them as I am a teacher, but now we have discovered that homeschooling is illegal. Any advice would be appreciated.
We are in Freiburg right now with our kids (ages 9 and 12, in grades 4 and 7 respectively) and we like it very much. One thing we discovered is that because of the location, much of the second-language training here concentrates on French. While this is good for our kids (we're Canadian, but don't speak much French), it makes it a bit harder if your kids don't speak German yet. Our older daughter has ended up in a French-German class, which is OK as she likes a challenge. Our younger daughter's Grundschule does a little bit of French and a little bit of English. (Our kids are not native German speakers but have been attending a bilingual German/english school in Canada, plus we spent a year in Germany a little while back, so they did not come in starting from scratch.)
The Kepler-Gymnasium offers bilingual German-English, but it's only 6 hours per week and that's ON TOP of the regular lessons. Their website is here: http://www.kepler.fr.bw.schule.de/joom/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=75&Itemid=70
I haven't been able to find any info about Grundschulen that offer bilingual English.
While the teachers at our kids' schools have been generally helpful and interested in their progress, it is a more hands-off system than in North America. We haven't been offered -- nor have we requested -- extra help. Although my younger daughter's teacher did set up a couple of extra sessions to talk 1-on-1 with her to make sure she was understanding things because my daughter didn't say much in her first couple of weeks at school. She also made sure we as parents knew how the math program was set up, etc. and we found that quite helpful. This is at the Paul-Hindemith-Grundschule in the Mooswald area - it has a combined-classes system that has also worked well for our daughter as she is in with grade 3s and 4s so she can tune in to what the grade 3s are doing in case she hadn't covered that already.
Another part of the issue in Freiburg is school location vs. where you live. I don't know exactly how the schools choose who gets to attend, but it is certainly an easier life experience to have the kids go to school in your own neighbourhood. So if you have accommodations already lined up, start with the schools in that area. Letting your kids walk to school is one of the best parts about being here! In my book, the hassle of arranging transport would far outweigh the potential improvement of one school over another. And since accommodation seems to be harder to find here than schools, that might be your starting point.
So generally, we have had and expect to continue to have a positive experience with school here. Much depends on your kids - how they handle new experiences, how good they are at languages, etc. As many have noted, kids do pick up the language quite quickly. In 6 months they'll generally have a good accent and be able to get along pretty well - more so than many adults in that time period. We've definitely found the overall experience of living overseas to be excellent, and well worth the minor educational disruption of moving in and out of schools.
Good luck and sorry for the verbosity.