Sam and Joey started school on Monday. The boys attend Ressu Elementary here in Helsinki. Ressu is one of a handful of schools in Helsinki where instruction is primarily in English. The school is an International Baccalaureate (IB) school and from what we've seen so far, the program encourages critical thinking, independence and creativity. It seems to me that kids here are a little bit ahead of kids in Chicago.
On some days, the boys start at 8:00 a.m., on others at 9:00 a.m. (We're growing to love those 9 a.m. start days! It is still a bit difficult to get out of bed in the morning when you feel like you're waking up in the middle of the night!)
(9 a.m. start day, later walk to school.)
The first thing I noticed when we arrived at school on Monday morning was the lack of other parents. I didn't see any parents dropping children off at the school and certainly not TWO parents! Turns out, this is quite common here in Finland. At a very young age, children walk (or ride the bus) to and from school on their own. Even in this urban environment, I think it's less dangerous than we Americans might think. First, Finland is one of the safest countries in the world. Second, pedestrians are respected. There aren't nearly as many stop signs (or traffic lights for that matter) here as in Chicago and yet I feel much safer as a pedestrian here than I would feel at home.
(Entrance to Ressu School)
I don't have many photos of the school because they are putting in new windows and the building is quite hidden by scaffolding and plastic.
Both boys have an academic class for 45 minutes, then 15 minutes of recess. Sam has the regular subjects as well as Finnish as a Second Language, Ethics, Textiles/Crafts (in addition to art) and Inquiry (don't know what this is yet). Sam starts at 8 or 9 and is done by noon. I wasn't really planning on this piece and it has thrown a bit of a wrench into my plans to explore Helsinki with Lily.
Joey has similar subjects, but his day usually ends at 2 p.m. Joey likes the religion class, so he has chosen religion instead of ethics. Who knows, maybe we will return to Chicago and become Lutheran! Joey also takes French as it is an IB requirement. Of course the rest of the class has been studying French since 3rd grade, so I'm not sure how much French the boy will learn!
Rob asked the principal if the school had a band and she said "Yes!" We were so excited and hoped that Joey would be able to continue playing the trombone here in Helsinki. When Joey returned from school the other day, he said he played the electric guitar while other kids played bongo drums as they studied African music. My thought was, "well, they do have a band, we just didn't ask what kind of band it was!"
The time school ends changes based on each child's schedule--schedules that this mom still needs to figure out! I've been early, I've been late, but NEVER on time yet! Lily has been a real trooper through it all. She just trudges to and from school, sometimes multiple time a day. She rarely complains about the walk (about 10 blocks) and has NEVER complained about being cold!
Catching snowflakes while waiting (an hour) for Sam to exit!