I went to visit a Forrest school. Child care and education in Finland is like nothing I’ve seen before, but aligns with my educational philosophy in every way. Moi, which means “Hi” in Finnish, made me feel pretty awesome everywhere I went in Finland, especially when I visited schools. I learned two Finnish words the entire trip, which was awesome. The other word I learned was “Kiitos” which means “thank you”.
Visiting the early childhood program was a breath of fresh air, the program director was very calm, professional and down to earth. They were very open with us and very welcoming. They treated the children with respect, but gave them the freedom they needed to learn and grow. Everything at the school was natural, made of wood and made you feel connected to nature even when you were indoors. The school which was located in Helsinki, was not in the center of Helsinki or downtown. It was located near a dairy farm, and the kids go by large fields daily as they go for walks in the woods, down beautiful trails, which are used by the public. I know, I know, that’s not how we would do things here, the children in the U.S. must be monitored and protected at all times, right! I believe the freedom they provide the children with will benefit them in the long run. The children climbed trees and played alone without teacher supervision. The amazing thing was the day they have visitors, a child falls out of a tree. My theory is, they are able to play safely in their own element without adult interruptions or distractions. When the children feel they are trusted to play alone, they are better off.
We visited another school which was located in Espoo, this is a suburb outside of Helsinki. The school was an elementary school, with children from preschool/kindergarten age group to 12 years old or so. The theme of trusting the children became apparent again when we were told by the principal that the children would be giving us our tour. The school was certainly built for the children, and centered around their interests and needs, not in a superficial, where doing this for the children way, but in a way that is really geared toward the children’s own ideas. The gym had a rock climbing wall, which I thought would have come in handy for me when I was in school. The children were well spoken, but a little shy. They all spoke English as we were told this is a major part of their curriculum. I liked the fact that the children got 15 minute breaks after each class, which also gave the teacher the opportunity to have a break. Although they used this first break to speak with us, we had lots of questions and they had lots of coffee to offer us. The tour of each classroom was awesome, but the cafeteria lunch was even better, the children eat well and eat healthy. The food resembled nothing like American cafeteria food, they provided nutritious options that included berries, veggies and most importantly water. I made a conscious decision after that to give my children “home-lunch” for the coming school year, monitoring what they eat a lot closer. We also made a visit to the Board of Education and learned a lot more about the Finnish education system and their long term goals that factor in maternity leave, higher education and technical school. As many know Finland has one of the most successful and unorthodox education systems in the world, I hope they continue to put children and education first.
I’ve added some links below to the Finnish Board of Education website.