Yesterday I wrote about letting children be children, and a big part of that is their schooling. This time last year we pulled the plug on formal, conventional schooling for our then 8 year old, as we were seeing her shrivel up before our eyes. It was one the best parenting decisions we have ever made. Over the next 6 months she grew and blossomed in a way that was so lovely to see. Living abroad here in Sweden, everyone has to attend school. It might sound harsh, but the reality is very different. First of all, formal schooling does not start until 7 years of age, placing priority on play for the years up to then. The Swedes recognise that a lot of important learning and developing comes naturally through a child’s play. Then once they start school, they are only there for the morning (this includes a mid morning break, lunch, and a lunch break). So, as you can see, still ample opportunity for children run, climb, and play both within the school day and afterwards. Our now 9 year old little lady does not bring home homework every week either. She may have some every couple of weeks, but even then it shouldn’t take half an hour (it can take us a little longer as we have to translate the Swedish!!). There are no standardised tests until well into their teenage years, so the pressure is off these young, curious, wanting to learn minds, and learning is there to be enjoyed. Having left a pressure cooker education system behind that has children exhausted, in tears, and feeling a failure, we are more than happy to embrace this positive approach to learning, and we mix it up by carrying on with our own home educating journey at home 🙂 School is important to us here as a place for her to meet others her age and learn the language, coming from an English speaking household, so it serves us well too. She calls her teacher by her first name (that is just how it is done here), and there is mutual respect between adults and children. It’s such a lovely environment….oh apart from the no shoes indoors policy….I have to keep a better eye out for the holes in the socks situation! But on the flip side she loves running and sliding down the corridors! The lovely island school has turned out to be what we wanted for our trio, and more. We never asked for them to give her any special resources/attention, but to help her progress in Swedish she gets some lessons when the others have English or maths (she’s been doing maths formally for 3 years longer than her classmates). She has Swedish language workbooks too. School has worked very well here so far, even despite her language barrier. This week she’s brought home her first written Swedish work, about space, for us to look at, and even their workbooks are much more attention grabbing for them! The mini men are at förskola, even though there is no requirement for them to attend. They go three mornings a week (a total of 15 hours) to be immersed in the language and meet little people their own age. They love it and have a lot of fun there. They are outdoors a lot, and the environment really suits them.
With three children, life can easily start feeling like a hectic race from the moment you get out of bed, until the moment you collapse into it at the end of the day. A huge reason for moving here was to slow right down, and commit to a much simpler way of living. It just seems a lot easier to do here. We have moved to a small island community (small communities are the norm), you can’t just pop to the shops to spend frivolously (the nearest are about a 30 minute drive, again not unusual), and there are no other material distraction, so life is lived at a more leisurely pace. We’re no longer sucked into things like a weekend chocca full of children’s parties, activities, or shopping. Instead it is full of family time, hiking, exploring, and lots of play! We’ve even streamlined to one car (the bus route to Dadda’s work is very good and he enjoys chilling on the bus). Even though we live in a remote area, public transport is much better than in the UK (even if the driving is a bit more haphazard!). So we don’t need 2 cars. We can get fresh fish by cycling down to our island harbour and buying whatever the catch is. The post doesn’t come at all at the weekend. No one rushes anything here. At first, trying to sort out all our immigration paperwork etc, it was mildly frustrating but we have learnt to roll with it better now. Even the bills only come after you’ve had something a while. Everyone just accepts that everything will happen in the end. The trust between people is huge too. You can leave your bike unlocked or your house open, and the worst that will happen is you’ll find a friend sat waiting for you to come home for a chat. As a British person this takes some getting used to, and I am not sure we’d ever get to the point where we’d leave the house unlocked, but it’s comforting to know that this is the kind of place we live. As well as life being simple, it is less rushed and hectic. This is a very large country with a smaller population than the UK. The roads are not busy, speed limits are lower, the shops shut early on a Saturday for people to be with family and friends at the weekend. I understand this would not be everyone’s cup of tea, but for us and how we want to raise our family, it is perfect.
Tomorrow I will be letting you know about how work is going for Dadda, and how we have found living with the white stuff!