Starting school in Sweden is weird, at least for an Aussie mum who only knows one way of doing things. Firstly kids start school the year they turn 7, which in some cases means they are almost eight years old. Compare that to starting at 5 in Oz. Then there is no list stating exactly what the school uniform should consist of, which pieces are compulsory and which are non-compulsory, as well as where to buy it, there is no school uniform. There is no list outlining exactly what pens, pencils, writing books and even text books to buy, no fees to be paid before school starts (not even non-compulsory fees as in Oz). These kids don’t even need a lunchbox, a thermos or a drink bottle. All their food is provided by the school and the after-school centre, free of charge.
Instead of the list we have to make sure she has two pairs of slippers, or inside shoes, for both school and after-school care - the no-shoes in the classroom policy is also weird when you are not used to it.
Swedish education law says schools are to provide children with what they need, and they are not legally entitled to charge fees of any description if they are teaching according to the Swedish curriculum. It is all in the name of Sweden’s socialistic roots, in the name of equality. No child should be disadvantaged because of their family’s financial status. Every child should be guaranteed one hot meal a day. It is all about taking care of children, no matter what their lot in life is.
So while most parents have little to organise for their children starting school (I’m assuming), the Waldorf parents amongst us are busy, busy, busy. With Makaila starting Grade 1 we were given two important tasks back in the spring – a name-tag and a crayon case, along with detailed instructions as to how these tasks should be completed.
Naturally, like all enthusiastic, well-prepared parents we did not use the summer wisely, nor did we con one of Ty’s talented aunts into doing it for us – we left it hanging over our heads until the pressure built sufficiently!
Once I finally got started on the name-tag, I decided it wasn’t all that bad - although it is tough to embroider when you haven’t really done it before. I bought one of those cross stitch kits when I was about 11 years old, the ones where the pattern is printed on the fabric and all the colours are chosen for you. It was of a clown and I’m not sure what possessed me to buy it but I clearly remember my dad giving me a hard time, telling me I would never finish it. Guess whether or not I did……
Anyway despite struggling with the stitches I actually enjoyed sitting doing this handcraft in the evenings. Then one night when we were discussing how on earth I was going to embroider her most beloved animal, a killer whale, it was taken from me. Ty took over. After all, equality is the name of the game in this country.
We found a great picture on the net which we were able to copy and he did it over two nights. A friend even called in and was so inspired when he saw Ty sitting embroidering at the kitchen table last night that he went home and got started on his daughter’s name tag (gotta love these Swedish men!). We (both) added the finishing touches (water) and hey presto – it was done! Here’s the final result. Not bad huh!
The next task was the crayon case and I knew that would be fairly easy – which does not explain my procrastination! It took me the better part of the afternoon-evening but I got it finished and I’m pretty pleased with the results. Just so long as no one looks too closely at the stitching because it is extremely amateurish.
The kids were so amazed to see me pull out a borrowed sewing machine that they watched my every move and questioned all I did. Kieran tried to get an understanding of exactly how the machine worked and was so fascinated he snapped a few shots of me in action.
Counting to make sure I've left enough space.
The finished product aims to reduce classroom noise.
Tied up ready to be put away.
What started off as a “Oh no! How are we going to manage these little projects” has ended with a “Well that was fun. What’s next” kinda feeling.Makaila was totally and utterly thrilled with both pieces – and I think kind of amazed by her parents. Now that brings joy to these Waldorf parents!