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Swedish School Vs English School

For those who have read the blog’s early posts, you will remember we  chose to home educate our little lady by taking her out of her school in England, and to not put our twins into the English schooling system.  However, when we moved here to Sweden, we realised that we had no option but to use the Swedish school system as you are not allowed to home educate in Sweden. But we were more than happy with that, as it was one of our big reasons for living in Sweden.  This post explains some of what we have found very different between Swedish school and English school.  Of course these are our opinions based on what we feel is right for our family, and I do realise that every school is different in both countries. So there will be some reading this that disagree with one or the other system (or both), and of course these observations are based on our children’s experience here.  What we feel is right for our children and family might not be right for yours, but I just wanted to highlight a few of the things that are working for us 🙂

So What Is So Different About Swedish School?

The Starting Age:

They go into förskoleklass (the year before the formal classes start) the year they turn 6 (so my twins were quite young, and most of the class were already 6).  This is in contrast to the class being 4 years of age starting in England.  You may think this would leave the Swedish children either struggling to catch up with their English counterparts, or that children in the Swedish system must be missing out.  However, there is research to show this is not the case.  For example, evidence has shown, that by the time children reach 11 years of age, generally reading skills have averaged out between early starters and later starters.  My daughter is ahead in maths, but only because she has had a 3 year head start on her school friends here, and it just gives her a little breathing space when she is coping with learning a new language.  They have many more years of just playing before their formal education starts here, and there is a lot that can be learnt through play!

The Length Of The School Day:

This is much shorter.  In England our daughter started school just before 9am and finished at around 3.15pm.  Here, in Swedish school, kick off is at 8am (OK that might seem rather early in comparison, but it gets rid of that ‘inbetweeny’ not enough time to really do anything space in the mornings!), and it does get the school day over and done with earlier leaving more time for….you guessed it, play!  The finishing times change, depending on what age you are and what day of the week you are on. So this took a lot of getting used to and has kept me on my toes….especially since I have 3 children in the school to get finishing times straight for. My twins finish at either midday or 1pm depending on the day of the week (12pm three times though and 1pm twice), and my little lady now has a longer school day, nearing the same sort of length as in the England. But this is the first year she has a few days like this and she is the equivalent of a year 5 in England, and then she finishes earlier on other days.  For example, on a Friday she is finished by 1245.  For us it also means we can carry on doing our own little things at home, similar to before they started back into a formal school system.

Outdoor Is Considered Important:

Those of you who knew us in England will know about my despair about children being cooped up indoors unnecessarily, the tipping point when one bright autumn day they couldn’t play outdoors because “the leaves were wet”.  Here they can be outdoors in almost any weather.  When it is raining for example there is a red flag up and the children are allowed to decide themselves whether they would like to head out or not (everyone invests properly here in their outdoor gear, and the children have proper footwear as appropriate too).  Those short Swedish school days also include a chunky morning play time, and an hour to play and eat your lunch.  So even though they are at school for less of the day, they still get outdoors just as much (if not more as they go off outdoors for some lesson time as well) than their English counterparts.

Homework:

Swedish schools believe heavily in the children’s time being their play time.  Forget homework coming home at 4 years of age.  Our daughter has started bringing some reading home now, at age 10 years, and even then it is one chapter a week and a few short questions (this I can imagine takes us a little longer than the average class mate due to our language issues), but it is still considerably less than what she was doing when we pulled her out of the English system in year 3 over there…..spellings every week for a test, some written English, and some maths on top of her reading.

Calling Staff By Their First Names:

There would be mass panic in England that this would reduce respect and cause discipline issues.  We have not seen anything of that over here.  In Swedish school there seems to be a mutual respect between staff and children and it seems to work just fine.

No School Uniforms:

Again this doesn’t seem to cause any issues.  In fact, it is a lot easier to dress them practically for the weather, whatever the season, when you are dressing them in their own clothing!  Her classmates have looked aghast at a photo that our little lady has taken into school to show what she was wearing, and that it was the same as everyone else, without hardly any deviation.

No Shoes Indoors:

This is a concept throughout Sweden, not just in Swedish school and it is so good for their little feet  and their development!!  But it also means there is a home for the large winter boots on the shoe rack, or the wellies they need for when it is pouring with rain all day.  Plus it makes for excellent sliding along the corridors 😉

I do realise that the Swedish school system might not for everyone, and some people may find it a little too laid back. However, we find it works so well for our three and we can see the benefits of how things are done here.  There is less work compared to their age group in England, especially in the younger classes. There are longer breaks in the school day. There seem to be more holidays when you take them over the course of a whole school year. But the children are happy, and the adults here are well educated.  I can see a lot of working parents might raise a hand to have a problem with the shorter days, but with heavily subsidised before and after school care, known as fritidshem (somewhere in the region of £80 per month, per child) even that beats the private costly alternatives in England…especially when that involves holiday club care as well.Swedish School Vs English School, Swedish school, school in Sweden, Sweden education, www.mammasschool.co.uk

Inspiration Wednesday – Life Balance

Inspiration Wednesday - Life Balance, quotes, quote, balance, do nothing, sit still, www.mammasschool.co.uk

Campfire Gratin-A Tasty & Hearty Warming Meal.

A gratin dish is one that technically has a browned topping of either cheese or bread….ours might have ended with a more browned base than top, but it was still yummy!!

So what do you need to make your tasty campfire gratin?  You can prepare it easily at the campfire, but due to us hiking and it absolutely bucketing down with rain that day, I did the preparation at home 🙂

Ingredients For Campfire Gratin:

Diced potatoes

Bacon, chopped

Sweetcorn (any veg will do if you want veg in it at all!!)

Creme fraiche

Grated cheese (2 large handfuls)

Blob of butter

Method To Make Campfire Gratin:

To assemble your Gratin do the following:

  1. Pop the bacon, potatoes, and veg into the pan to fry in a blob of butter.
  2. Once browned add in creme fraiche and a hand full of cheese to melt into the sauce.
  3. Heat that all through.
  4. Once cooked, sprinkle the remaining cheese on top.  Due to the lack of heat over the top of the pan, this ends up more melted than browned, but that’s why it’s a campfire gratin 😉 And when something tastes so yummy, warms you through in a rain storm, and fills your tummy, technical details don’t matter!!!  Enjoy xx

Campfire Gratin, gratin, outdoor food, outdoor cooking, outdoor meals, campfire meal, www.mammasschool.co.uk

 

 

Get Your Vitamin N – June Outdoor Activity List

Back in February, I started uploading a monthly outdoor activity list which you can access under the freebies tab. You will need to subscribe to the blog and you will be sent an email with the password to access the freebies tab.  It is now time to think about the June outdoor activity list, which can be accessed under the freebies tab 🙂    If you don’t have the password, don’t worry, subscribe to the blog and you will be sent it in your confirmation email.  Signs of summer should be emerging now, and here in Sweden we have just 2 weeks left of school until we can enjoy the long, lazy, Swedish summer life 🙂

Any form of getting children into the outdoors is a good one.  Whether it is a gentle potter around the back garden or a good old hike for older ones across the countryside, if it is for 5 minutes or 5 hours, the benefits can still be reaped.  You don’t need to climb a mountain, a little dig in the garden is perfect too.  As the author Richard Louv famously suggests, we should be using vitamin N (N for nature) as treatment for nature deficit disorder.

That is why each month, at the start of the month, I am adding onto the freebies page, a list of 10 activities to help inspire you to head out there for your dose of vitamin N with your little, or not so little, people.  These are some of the things I do with my three to give me some direction and an aim for getting them out there, which often helps everyone’s frame of mind.  So head over now to the freebies tab and check out the June outdoor activity list.

The aim behind the ideas for the June outdoor activity list for getting vitamin N is that they are all very simple, so shouldn’t put you off.  And if you need a little more convincing about the ideas where mud is involved, head over and have a read as to why mud and dirt are worth all the extra effort 🙂  Vitamin N can be achieved without sitting in the middle of a forest, wild camping, and hunting for your supper!!  It can be achieved by just stepping outside your front door (or back door), into whatever awaits you out there.  Welcome in the long summer days using our June outdoor activity list to guide you for ideas.

 

I am hoping that through these activities you make a lot of happy memories, have fun together, and enjoy being outside.  If you need more information about an activity on the list, I have blogged about doing most of them, so if you type in a few keywords in the search box, you should then be able to get some more information, or see what we have done in the past.

Let me know how you get on with the June outdoor activity list in the comments below, I will love hearing about your experiences.  You can also share your experiences on social media too, it will give others ideas and I can keep up with what you are all doing.  Use the #fridayoutdoorfun on your Instagram  photos, and don’t forget to join in with our Friday outdoor fun thread on Facebook (every Friday). And if the children have got mucky, then join in with our Mucky Mondays thread (every Monday) over on Facebook .  Go and have fun in June 🙂June Outdoor Activity List, June activities, June outdoors, outdoor activities, summer activities, Vitamin N, outdoorplay, nature play, www.mammasschool.co.uk

 

 

Inspiration Wednesday – Nature Therapy

Inspiration Wednesday - nature therapy, quotes, quote, soul, me time, self care, www.mammasschool.co.uk

Our Summer Bucket List – Long, Lazy, Days

It is the start of a new season, and time for us to reveal our Summer Bucket List.  We have enjoyed doing the activities on our spring, autumn and  winter ones, but we are looking forward to wearing less clothing out in the sunshine, and enjoying the VERY long, slow Swedish summer days and holiday.  School is out for the summer on the 15th June, so not long to go!  So let’s see what’s on our list for the season of summer.

Our Summer Bucket List:

  1. Celebrate midsummer 
  2. Make a strawberry cake 
  3. Lie on the grass and listen to the birds
  4. Go strawberry picking
  5. Go raspberry picking
  6. Go blueberry picking
  7. Make a daisy chain
  8. Paddle barefoot
  9. Go wild camping
  10. Swim outdoors
  11. Collect pebbles to paint at home
  12. Read stories outdoors
  13. Go crabbing
  14. Make some beach art
  15. Go on a hike
  16. Make some air dry clay figures
  17. Go and visit the älg/elks again
  18. Explore lots of the islands in our archipelago 
  19. Play in a stream
  20. Raise our own butterflies from caterpillars
  21. Play on beaches
  22. Paint with special paints that develop in the sunshine.

I hope we have given you some fun summer inspiration with our summer bucket list (just click on the links if you need further help or information about them) and let me know if you try any of them and how you get on.  Enjoy and have fun!

Our Summer bucket list, summer activities, summer, summer outdoors, www.mammasschool.co.uk

6 Campfire Problems & What To Do

You have packed up and headed off for an outdoor adventure that includes lots of fresh air and nature.  You have also decided the best and most cosy way to cook your food would be on a campfire…..a person after my own heart!!  Who doesn’t like a warming campfire and making memories around them?  However, you hit a problem with it.  Let’s face it, building, lighting, and keeping campfires going is an eternal learning curve, but a fun one.  This post is designed to take you through some of the more commonly occurring campfire problems, and what to do about them, so you can (armed with a bit of helpful knowledge) get on and enjoy a successful campfire 🙂

  1. Too smokey:  A smokey campfire is one of the more common campfire problems, and as you can tell from the photo, it can take even the most prepared bush crafter by surprise – the cause, wet wood (I was convinced mine was dry here…obviously not!!)  Wet wood will be hard to light, and will produce a lot of smoke.  I’m not talking about wood that has previously dried out and has now been exposed to a little rain…yes, that will smoke a bit, but on the inside it will still be dry.  Some types of wood also cause smoking.  Generally if you stick with harder woods you should be fine.  Light with smaller softer wood initially to get it going (they light easier), then swap to harder woods as they burn hotter and for longer.
  2. Lighting the campfire in the rain:  Look for naturally protected areas to light your fire.  For example under tree canopies, or cliff overhangs.  But don’t, whatever you do, light it in the protection of your tent!  Start with very small and very dry kindling and tinder (refer to my building a campfire blog post).  I usually carry some of this just to ensure we have a successful lighting, but if you need more, look for it under things where it has been protected from the elements.  Also, if you have a knife or axe you can split the wood, as the inside may be dry and then it will light better with that exposed rather than the damp exterior.  You could even shave some off with the knife as extra kindling, or feather a stick for even better chances of lighting the fire.
  3. Reigniting embers when the flames die down:  If your campfire dies down and you still need flames (if like me you got distracted with children and forgot to add new fuel to the fire), then you can direct a gentle blow into the base of the hot embers, and after a few attempts you should see the flames spring back into life (just make sure you aren’t blowing hot embers all over the countryside as you’ll start a fire!  You need to make sure they stay in your fire pit).  
  4. Keep the fire burning:  Before your flames die down, add another log to them, but make sure air can still get into the fire to fan the flames, don’t suffocate it.
  5. Wood burning too fast:  This usually means that it is too windy and your campfire needs some protection from the wind.  For example, above we have built a wall from rocks, preventing the wind from burning through our wood fuel so fast.  You could also dig a hole into the ground if the area/ground is suitable.  If you do use rocks, don’t forget to cool them down afterwards, and also replace them to where you found them.
  6. Food is not cooking or warming up:  This usually means, for some reason, the heat is not reaching your food.  For example, a very windy day will make your fuel burn rapidly and have huge flames, but the heat will be blown away before it has much impact on your cooking.  On those kind of days, the food needs to sit right on top of the heat source.  If you have foil wrapped food that isn’t so hard, but if in a billy can or balanced on a grill you need to get a little more inventive.  Usually things can be solved with some well positioned wood to balance a pot, or some foil to wrap things up in so they can go straight onto the fire….just remember to check them more often as they will now cook fast!

I hope these hints about campfire problems will give you a helping hand in having a successful campfire or two.  They are such fun to do and we love making one on our outdoor adventures.  Be sure to read my post on campfire basics and tips as well, which covers how to build one and safety amongst other things, and go and enjoy your campfire!!6 Campfire Problems & What To Do, Campfire problems, campfires, fire pits, bush craft, survival, www.mammasschool.co.uk

Inspiration Wednesday – Feel Alive

Inspiration Wednesday- feel alive, happy, happiness, feel alive, quotes, quote, www.mammasschool.co.uk

Campfires – The Basics & Tips

We get a lot of enjoyment out of making and using campfires as part of our outdoor experiences.  It adds an extra sense of adventure to our outdoor trips, whether hiking, camping, or just visiting a beach to play, and in the cooler months it makes our meal break a very cosy one.  I haven’t always been happy with fires though and learnt a lot through forest school back in the UK before we moved here.  Since then I have tried to carry on the experience of eating by a fire as the children loved it.  I have learnt a lot over the last 12 months and I thought I might share some basics and tips to help you get started, or give you more confidence if you are new to it.

How To Build A Campfire:

  1. You will need some supplies first!  This is what we use with a lot of success:  Newspaper, cotton wool, Vaseline, tiny kindling (very small twigs, or we prefer silver birch bark we have shredded), bigger sticks (thumb width), and larger wrist sized logs.  Don’t forget to sign up – you will then get the password to access our freebies page, and you can see what is in our fire starting kit!
  2. Build a tepee like structure:  Small amount of newspaper in the middle, with some cotton wool on top (that has a bit of Vaseline on – this helps light the fire).  Then place the kindling around that in a tepee shape, then the larger sticks around that, and then the bigger logs around that.
  3. Our stacking system:  This is a system we use very effectively for our campfires so you could give it a go too.  It doesn’t go so high as a tepee structure so is easier to pop a grill over to cook on.  We place the smaller sticks in a crisscross square shape, placing a loosely crumpled piece of newspaper and cotton wool with Vaseline on in the middle.  Then place a larger log across the top of the stack.
  4. Once the fire is lit, make sure you top up the fuel before the flames die right down to get it really going at first.  If it dies down too much, you need to try blowing under at the glowing embers to get the flames going again.  Once it has calmed down a little you are ready to cook on it 🙂

How To Put Out Campfires:

  1. Never leave a campfire before it is fully out as it may harm the environment and wildlife.
  2. Let the firewood all burn down to ash, and spread the ash and embers out a little
  3. Gently pour on some water slowly.  We carry extra water for this, to make sure we can always put our fires out. Or if we are by water we take a bucket with us.
  4. Mix the embers up with a stick, allowing the water to infiltrate more, and bring anything that is still glowing and alight underneath to the surface to be dowsed with water.
  5. Pour on a little more water; you will hear hissing doing this and produce smokey steam (watch where you are standing!).
  6. Again use a stick to spread the embers out and stir water in.
  7. Keep repeating until you are confident nothing is still alight/glowing.

Some Rules For Campfires:

  1. Use fire pits where you can, or carry a lightweight and portable stove with you.  By using provided fire pits, or carrying your own stove, you are helping to protect the habitat of creatures in the area that you have decided to cook in, plus reduced the risk of fire spreading.
  2. You need to consider any fire dangers for the time of year (e.g. is it very dry?) and bear in mind any local restrictions.  You don’t want to spread your fire.
  3. Take only wood from the ground, never from the trees, and gather it from a wide area.  You don’t want to remove everything from one small area as it has a job to perform in the ecosystem providing nutrients and habitats.
  4. Allow your wood to burn completely down to ash, and then spread them out when you are extinguishing your fire.
  5. Put out a fire with water not dirt,
  6. Avoid building your fire on rocks as it will scar them.  Also, if near coastal water that covers them after you’ve been and gone, when the water rapidly cools the rocks it may cause them to crack.
  7. Never leave your fire unattended, it is a fire risk and a hazard to any inquisitive animals.
  8. If you have moved any rocks, for example to make a bit of a wind break, make sure you return them to where they were.
  9. Make sure you take all your rubbish home again, to avoid harming animals and the countryside.

I hope these tips will help you to either give campfires a go if you haven’t before, or help you get more confidence if you are a newbie.  They really add to the outdoor experience and are so cosy to be around.  They also help teach children basic bush craft and outdoor skills (whether that be lighting a fire, looking after a fire, or thinking about nature and the environment when using a fire).  However, they must be made and used responsibly and always thinking about safety and nature.  Don’t forget to check out our outdoor cooking recipes for inspiration for what to cook on your campfire!!  We have lots of ideas both savoury and sweet, so go take a browse and enjoy them 🙂

Campfires the basics and tips, campfires, how to make a campfire, campfire rules, outdoor cooking, camping, hiking, www.mammasschool.co.uk

The Swedish Kitchen – Cooking Outdoors

The beautiful Swedish countryside is full of outdoor fire pits, making cooking outdoors very accessible to everyone.  They come in all shapes, sizes, and conditions, but there is no doubt about it, being able to do your cooking outdoors on a hike or a camp, safely and responsibly, adds to the experience and memories, especially for our three children.  

There is no knowing what you will find until you reach one.  Some are marked on trail maps, others are not, but they are little gems tucked away in the Swedish countryside, usually complete with a stunning view to admire whilst you eat your tasty treat.  Some are very basic, just a few rocks.  Others are luxurious, with the ability to set your grill rack at different heights, and complete with picnic tables.  Sometimes a kind person has provided wood for the fire and left it in a little shelter, and occasionally there is a bucket which you can use to collect water in (which we then have standing next to the fire as a safety precaution).  Due to not knowing what we will come across, and being out with three small children, I carry our fire wood (I’m getting quite strong!), just to be on the safe side.  As we get more experienced and the children get older, then we can think about rummaging around the ground for fuel supplies. There is something very special about being able to cook over an open fire, and we now have made a habit of doing this at least once a week, rain, sun, or snow…..in the winter it provides a well needed warming meal, and in the summer, a break in the hike to relax while the children play for a few hours.  If you need any ideas of what to cook (both sweet and savoury), I have lots of outdoor recipes that are quick and easy 🙂 The provision of the fire pits have benefits far more reaching than just being able to do your cooking outdoors.  They allow you to connect together, and pause a while from whatever adventure you are on.  Usually we are hiking.  The children either immerse themselves playing in nature, or are busy helping me, learning good bush craft and survival skills as they go along.  They have now all learnt what you need and how to start a fire, as well as looking after it, and putting it out safely.  Also, importantly, they have learnt how to behave around a lit campfire.

Top Tips for Cooking Outdoors

  1. Carry your food, water, and fuel for the trip
  2. Have a little fire starting kit ready made up.  You can see what is in ours here
  3. Allow lots of time.  This is not an activity that can be rushed, both for safety and enjoyment reasons.
  4. Be prepared to improvise, whether with cooking accessories, or fuel supplies.
  5. Let your children help.  It teaches them valuable skills.
  6. Leave no trace of you being there, so there is less impact on the environment.  If you’ve moved rocks to create a windbreak, put them back etc
  7. Use fire pits when you can, or a stove if there isn’t one.
  8. Take ALL your waste home.
  9. Put any fires out completely before you pack up and leave.  We don’t want wildlife hurt, nature harmed, or it to become a safety risk.
  10. If you are using firewood from the surrounding area, only use from the ground.  Don’t go chopping or tearing branches from trees and bushes.

We really enjoy eating our food cooked on a campfire, and I find the children tend to eat better too!!  Make sure you check out our outdoor cooking recipes, and next week I will go over campfire basics, and campfire problem solving here on the blog.The Swedish Kitchen-cooking outdoors, Campfire, campfires, outdoor cooking, campfire cooking, bushcraft, Sweden, www.mammasschool.co.uk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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