There are three kinds of schools in Sweden – the Swedish, the International and the Bilingual. The Swedish schools follow Swedish curriculum and it’s Swedish medium. The International schools follow International curriculum (eg. Cambridge) and it’s English medium. Bilingual, as the name suggests, is a mix of both!
Kaity and Krissy go to Swedish schools. It is a common practice for Indian parents on temporary residence here to send their kids to International schools for obvious reasons – kids learn English and find it relatively easier to catch up with Indian education on their return. So when I tell my girls go to Swedish schools to other Indian parents, I get a mixed reaction of shock and surprise!
Well.. Here is why they go to Swedish schools 🙂
In Swedish preschools, children play outside at every opportunity. Even in the depths of winter they are bundled into one-piece overalls, hats and gloves and taken outside. To the surprise of many foreign-born parents, smaller children will often have their midday nap outside on all but the coldest days. So-called outdoor preschools, where the children are outside almost exclusively, regardless of the weather, are also popular. (www.sweden.se)
When I first walked into Krissy’s preschool, I was actually shocked when I saw 1.5 year olds sitting under bushes, climbing rocks and covered in mud! Eventually, I started to enjoy and marvel at their system of education.
From the earliest of age, the education system focuses on – valuing themselves and others, the importance of play in a child’s development, exploring, reasoning, imagination, conserving the environment and Gender-aware education which strives to provide children with the equal opportunities in life regardless of gender.
‘Simply cramming a lot of facts into the left side of your brain is useless. We need to add fantasy and creativity to mix it all up. I call this “the chaos of learning”.’ – Per-Olof Nilsson, a retired professor who runs an experiment workshop called The House of Learning in Gothenburg in the west of Sweden
A few days ago, Krissy’s preschool teacher to me, ‘This week, the kids are learning how to understand their emotions and others emotions! We are doing activities to teach kids when to empathize!’
Two months ago, Krissy was given this polar bear called ‘Polarn’ at her preschool and was asked to do little things that would save the planet for polar bears. So Krissy put newspapers, bottles and food waste in respective recycle bins. We walked and took public transport to conserve fuel!
Once a week, the kids are taken for a walk in the neighborhood to a park or they travel by the local transport to a different place. Her teacher told me last evening, that they went by train to a lake and fed geese!
To me, character, outdoors and play mean a lot more than grades. I value outdoors so much because we didn’t have much of outdoor back in Hyderabad. We lived in the concrete jungle of Nizampet. The kids had no play area in our apartment or in the neighborhood or even in their school! Our nearest play park was 8 kms away and took an hour and half to reach wading through the Kukatpally traffic only to discover the swings and other items were broken or poorly maintained! (No offense! Just stating facts!)
We do not know how long we will be here. But for however long we are here, we would like our kids to enjoy their childhood the Swedish way!
Here’s the main reason why we continued to stick to Swedish schools!
We did not choose the Swedish schools! The Swedish schools chose us!
When we arrived here in August last year, we applied to every International school in Stockholm and in turn got the reply that there was no vacancy. With no resort, we applied at the local Swedish school and got admission the very next day!
I remember the fear and anxiety I experienced the night before Kaity’s first day at the Swedish school!
How is she going manage in a non-english-speaking environment?
What is the future going to be like?
How will she cope with the change of language and system if we return to India?
Are we making the right decision for our kids?
It was past 10 pm. The kids were fast asleep in their beds. I couldn’t sleep. My mind was racing with questions. All of a sudden I heard Kaity call me!
I went beside her. With her eyes still closed, she said, “Mamma, I am seeing a beautiful dream. I am in a classroom. Jesus and angels are teaching me!”
She said this and went back to sleep!
I was literally zapped! Too zapped to think anything more!
With a little anxiety still lingering, I climbed to our bedroom in the attic and stood by the window in our roof and looked out like I would every night to simply gaze at the stars, the neighborhood and have a quiet talk with my Daddy God. That night I had nothing to talk with Him. In other words, I had so much to talk, but no words. As I looked out of the window with fear and uncertainty. All of a sudden a green beam of light shone. It was quite strange. Then it just spread like a flame. It was a symphony of colors dancing across a pitch black sky. Just for a few moments and it faded into the distance! Few captivating moments! I couldnt even grab hold of my mobile to take a pic! I stood there with jaws dropped in awe! Dumbstruck! It was a glimpse of the Arora Borealis (Northern Lights)!
That instant, I felt Daddy God whisper to me, “I am the God of wonders! I am in control! Be at peace!” And a great peace filled me!
The next day Kaity went to school. At 1:30 pm I rushed to pick her up eager to know how her first day was. She came running to me and said, “Mamma, why did you come so early? I am having a great time!”
And so has the past months been for both the kids – a lot of fun and friends! Kaity has picked up Swedish in a remarkable way! They don’t carry bags or books. They don’t have homework. Compulsory schooling starts only at age 7. So even Kaity is in play school! Every evening, they come home and tell me what they played and what they ate! Saves me the stress of doing homework and packing lunch 😉
Although, the thought of how the girls will catch up with the Indian system when we return is a little alarming, Vijay and I are filled with a great sense of peace with the decision that we have made!
Must we always teach our children with books? Let them look at the mountains and the stars up above. Let them look at the beauty of the waters and the trees and flowers on earth. They will then begin to think, and to think is the beginning of a real education.
– David Polis