Schools started yesterday here. Like most others, I wish summer break had been longer:) I did, however, noticed a big difference this year. We have been living in California for the first 6 years of our son’s education. Start of schools meant a lot of additional work for parents as well. (a) It meant waking up early in the morning to make not only breakfast, but also lunch. Lunch in most schools is not that great and of course you have to pay for it. And since I am a little bit crazy (or maybe lot), I used to make and pack lunch in the morning. (b) Then the first one week goes into getting school supplies and (c) a bunch of paperwork to fill out every year. We did get paperwork here yesterday – literally one paper just to confirm we are still the guardians and that the address hasn’t changed. that’s it!
Did I say I used to cook and send lunch for him everyday last 6 years? I know even in India it is the same story – parents have to send lunch with the kids. Contrary to that, schools here provide free lunch. They are always cooked in the school fresh. And they strive to provide balanced diet. That means milk, bread and salad in addition to a main dish. And I hear salad is always fresh and appetizing. If you are not used to eating Finnish food at all, you might feel it a bit bland but it is still tasty.
The third one was school supplies. In California, teachers try to provide the supplies for anyone who cannot/didn’t bring their own. I also know of teachers who spend their own money to buy those supplies because school don’t have enough funds. Quite a few parents like me buy supplies (copier paper, paper towels etc etc) and give them to the class every year to reduce the amount of burden on the teachers. I remember one of the parents in quite a “good school district” told me she gets an email every year with a list of supplies she should buy for the class or donate the same amount of money for the class. I am sure it’s not absolutely required but she always felt obligated and her child felt embarrassed if she didn’t.
These are small things but they do make a difference in both kids and parent’s lives. The major thing that really made me go “Wow” today was the number of field trips kids make here. I remember from California days, there used to be 2-3 field trips in a year. And they will NOT happen unless required number of parents volunteer to be chaperones. A few times it came close and I know of classes that had to cancel the field trip due to lack of chaperones (both parents work and can’t take time off etc etc). In India I remember field trips being a very rare thing and totally up to the teacher to make it happen.
Yesterday Manu (my son) went to school and reported in the afternoon that they went to a forest to see if they could find/identify local plants. They are starting Environmental science this year and had a fun time exploring forest. Forest in the middle of the city you ask? I will come to that topic another time. Today they were supposed to go to a swimming beach close to school (that’s the picture above) but they changed their minds (kids and teacher that is) and went to a park to play instead (since it’s only second day of school and all).
We also got an email today from the teacher informing that this month (what’s left of it), they will be going on 3 field trips. One to a forest, one to a local art museum and the third to a forestry school (for the environmental science unit I am assuming). The beautiful thing about all these trips is – NO PARENTS are needed. Just the teacher and kids. I remember in January, the teacher took all the kids to skiing about half an hour away from school in public bus every week as part of school PE. I felt amazed and fascinated at the difference in both school systems. Thought I ought to share this before I forget.
ps: the title says Chapter 1 because I am quite sure this is not the end of topics on school life but for today, this is what’s on my mind.