My son is going to turn 4 in July. He has been at a montessori nursery in England since he was about 2 years old and when we left in January, he was happy in the routine of spending the mornings and a couple of full days at school. For the last 6 weeks since we've moved to Copenhagen, he's been at home with me whilst we tackle the question of whether he should go to a Danish børnehave (kindergarden) or the international pre-school. Tomorrow he starts school...
Before we moved here there was no doubt in my mind that the international pre-school was the answer. I figured that with all the change that was going on, he needed to be in an English speaking environment and putting him through the Danish system would only set him up for frustration and isolation. The international school followed the British key stage 1 and so if we returned to the UK, his education would not suffer.
However, since we've moved here I have given the matter further thought. By English standards, the Danish education system could be considered 'slow'. Danish children start school at the age of 6 and until then there is no formal teaching in literacy (reading or writing) or numeracy. The focus is on developing curiosity through play, allowing children to have a childhood and to learn the skills of socialisation (a feature at the heart of Danish culture).
The Danes also prize time spent playing outdoors and in every børnehave there is a playground and a good part of the day is spent in the fresh air. I have even heard of some where children are taken to the countryside all day to play in the forests and explore nature. These are all things that seem very attractive and valuable for children but for us there is still the language problem.
It was difficult to work out whether the attraction of the Danish system was a romantic dream or whether we wanted the børnehave to be part of our Danish adventure. I have spoken to so many other ex pat mothers about the decisions they've made and I've visited the børnehave to see for myself the learning through play. After much deliberation and heartache, we've made a decision and tomorrow a new chapter begins.
I actually don't believe that there is a right or wrong answer to the dilemma but isn't this true of most decisions we make as parents? Aren't there always benefits and sacrifices? We'll see. In the meantime, I know that I am going to miss him like crazy and in these pictures I am posting, I am sharing some of the wonderful highlights of the last 6 weeks.
Don't get me wrong, having a pre-schooler at home full time is hard work and there have been lots of tears and tantrums (and I'm not just referring to the kids!!). One of the other paradoxes of motherhood is the absolute love and absolute terror that children can instil. I love being a mother and I love my children. I don't know if I've made the right decision about school but I'm 100% certain that after getting up early tomorrow morning, cajoling him into his clothes, the bathroom and then downstairs into the bike, cycling for 25 minutes to get him there on time with his running commentary on the road, finding his peg and hanging up his new school bag, kissing and waving him goodbye, I'm going to miss my munchkin...