Welcome to the first in our series of guest posts sharing all about the world of homeschooling. Something that many more parents are starting to do, for reasons that work for them and their families. Today we have the lovely Sonia from My Mamma’s School sharing why they homeschooled here when living in the UK, then moved to the Swedish system and put their children into school.
All our three children are now in Swedish education system since we moved abroad back in October 2016 (2.5 years at the time of writing this). We had many reasons to want to live abroad and move to beautiful Sweden, and some of those reasons were to do with the children’s education. In fact, we were so disillusioned with the UK education system, that for the 8 months prior to moving we were home educating. This was a long term plan as we didn’t realise our move would come until 8 weeks before it happened (we had been trying for around 10 years!!). Our daughter was then 8, and our twin boys were then 4. So, what made us pull our little lady out of junior school? Why are we happy to support the Swedish education system? And how are we finding it 2.5 years on?
Why We Started Home Education:
It all started back when our then 7 year old beautiful, full of life, school loving daughter moved to junior school, we had prepared ourselves for the increase in learning tempo. However, what we were not prepared for was watching our creative, nature loving daughter almost shrivel up with school and begin to dread each school day. She loved to write stories, paint, create, and make, but access to these passions was reduced. Well, virtually non-existent. She always worked hard and therefore did well at maths and English, and anything else that was put her way, but there was no place for her own talents, abilities, and interests to be nurtured. Then there are our 2 beautiful then 4 year old twin boys (due to go to school that September), that are always going to be round pegs in square holes with the educational system, preferring to do most of their learning by any physical means available and preferably outdoors covered in mud! I am a qualified paediatric nurse, not a teacher, but as a parent I could see something needed to be done. One size does not fit all, children are individuals and their learning needs to take this into account. So Dadda and I sat and chatted about the unimaginable. Myself, Mamma, trying to home school (well, more “out and about” school) and bring back our daughter’s zest for learning, and excitement about discovering, as well as giving her time and resources for the subjects she enjoyed most (the same would apply to our twins as they grew).
Why Do We Support The Swedish Education System?
- The starting age is much older: Instead of being packed off to school and starting formal education (reading etc) at 4, they do not do this until the year they turn 7 in the Swedish education system. We are in a unique position of being able to compare the 2 systems as well. Our daughter started school in the UK at four, our twin boys here in Sweden at 7. They did not start to learn to read until 8 weeks before their 7th birthday. They had all those glorious extra years playing, and learning through play. Now though, 7 months on, not only is their reading at the same standard as our daughters was at that age (and she was always good at reading), they can read in 2 languages as well…English and Swedish. So they definitely did not miss out! Their brain just seemed more ready to handle the learning thrown at it better.
- The length of the school day: The day starts at 0800 and ends for the younger years between 1200 and 1300, depending on the day of the week (yes, it changes!). Our daughter is now the equivalent of year 6 in the UK, and still has much shorter days and on a Friday she is finished by 1230 :-). Again lots of time to play and be children, and not sit in a classroom all day waiting to burst with energy that needs expending.
- The outdoors is important:. Even though the school days are so short, they still have plenty of outdoor break time. The short days include a 30 minute morning break, and 50 minute lunchtime break. They recognise children can only learn if it is balanced with down time and fresh air. We had a totally different experience in the UK, where even on one sunny afternoon they could not play out because the leaves were wet! They had wet play indoors for an entire week….the children were climbing the walls. Here, the children are out in all weathers (they are taught to dressed appropriately…another life skill), and even on the days when the weather is very bad they are given the option, by a red flag being hung out. They can decide in or out on those days.
- Homework: The schools here believe that the children’s time is their play time. For now our twin boys (equivalent of year 2 in the UK) just have 4 pages of reading to practise a week. Although we do a bit every night from another book too as we are English and need to work a little harder at the Swedish! They have no maths, spellings, or writing at home. Our daughter has reading, one short sheet of maths, and 10 spellings (more like what she would get in year 2 in the UK). Plus she is now old enough to do her homework independently and realise it’s benefits. There is most definitely NEVER holiday homework either!!
School life in the Swedish education system is generally more laid back too. There are no uniforms, staff are called by their first names, and the children’s views and opinions are respected and considered important to be listened too. The system may indeed not suit everyone, but luckily for us as school is compulsory, it does suit us and our children very well. 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, including 10 weeks for the summer. Meaning you can take full advantage of the sun and light before the long, cold, dark winter returns! The children are happy, and the adults here are well educated. I can see a lot of non Swedish 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 fritids (somewhere in the region of £80 per month, per child) even that beats the private costly alternatives in England…especially when that continues through the holidays as well. And what goes on there you ask………a lot of outdoor play!!