It has now been almost 2 months since Makaila started school and quite a few people are keen to follow her schooling. Friends, family and people in my greater network are curious not only about a Waldorf education, but about schooling in Sweden in general.
Before I go any further I can say she is loving every minute of it so far, both the school part and at the after-school-care. And her teacher tells me she is not the shy, reserved child that many of us knew a couple of years ago, but one who is active both in the class room and out of it. She is truly blossoming.
Even though I had planned to keep people updated and informed through the blog I haven't really felt able to compile my thoughts and observations into a single post and my girl is not the kind to come home and volunteer lots of information about her education - its more the blood out of stone style of communication!!
People at school seem to think there is a big difference between Waldorf education and mainstream Swedish school, not something I can respond to never having gone to school here. There are however plenty of similarities it seems, and I notice how different vastly different this school is to my experience - a lot of which has to do with the Swedish culture as much as the methodology. But I already touched on that in my last school post.
Her school day is a pretty short one, starting at 8.15 and ending at 12.40 (yes that's just after noon!) and in those few hours they seem to have quite a bit of break time - not quite like the long 9-3 days I knew as a kid. Lunch is as early at 10.15am and is eaten in the main cafeteria. They are served a hot meal each day and have a choice of two dishes plus salad. The big difference from daycare, apart from the choice, is the lack of dessert. Gone are the days of Klara's apple pie and all the other treats whipped up for the little ones. While on the subject of food I can also mention that they get a second lunch at about 1pm, once they get to after-school-care. While the "snack" there is not a hot meal it is substantial enough to sustain them until later in the afternoon.
Each Tuesday the homework books get handed out and in our weekly email the parents are also informed as to what the task is. Over the last few weeks they have been working on the letters of the alphabet, a couple each week and the homework is often to draw something starting with the letter they have been working on.
Going from what my girl has described the letters are taught in a way that gives as much feeling as possible to the letter. During our recent parent-teacher meeting we saw a beautiful bear's profile drawn on the board in the shape of a B. Wish I'd taken a photo of that to show you. Another letter that easily mimics an animal is an S. While snake is orm in Swedish, a snok is a common type of snake, so the Sammy snake concept still works. And so on, and so on. The idea is to involve all the senses, and both halves of the brain. Although Ty's teaching colleagues tell him that this is a pretty standard way to teach the alphabet in Swedish these days.
And those of you from the non-Swedish world might wonder if an almost 7 year old already knows her alphabet and the answer is YES, in English. Makaila is learning her alphabet all over again, this time in Swedish. And somehow its all different too. She also seems so much more eager to learn. I imagine the combination of learning in a group, longing to be able to read, and the methodology make it so much more tangible than the workbooks I have put before her over the years.
This week's homework is to practise writing the letters that have worked on so far - A, B, D, F, M, O, S, U and Ö as well as to try and use them to form words. She sat at the kitchen table tonight vigilantly working away while I cooked dinner.
The alphabet tree that Mormor gave her when she was little is now more useful than ever. It helped her visualise the letters while practising saying the alphabet in Swedish, and reminded her how to write them. Mind you she was careful not to press any letters, hear the spounds in English and completely confuse her brain.
Supporting a child with their homework is not always an easy task, something any parent knows, especially those with children much older than mine. Supporting a child in a language other than your own makes it all the more challenging and already I feel challenged, despite my fluency in Swedish. I looked at those letters and the only words that came to me were English ones. Dad, mad, sad, mum and bum just don't cut it as Swedish words! This is a concern Ty expressed long before Makaila started school and I didn't expect to feel the pinch as early as this. Saying that we did manage together to come up with quite a few words, it just took us some time.
Will be interesting to see what more challenges lie ahead of us!