I'm just back from my end of term Danish test - det var svært men jeg håbe det var ok - and tomorrow is the last day of my little boy's first term of big school. And what a term it has been. My sister taught reception class children in England for a number of years and we used to talk about how important those first impressions of school are and what a big step it is for the children entering into the world of daily routine outside the home that will likely continue for the rest of their lives. Here in Denmark most children begin daycare at a much younger age (many are in the nurseries when parents return to work at the tender age of about 3 months) but formal education doesn't start til the age of 6.
And there is much to be said in the debate about whether it is a good thing or a bad thing for children to start learning and to be encouraged to develop their skills at 4, 5 or 6 or whether they should be left to play until natural inquisitiveness and the curiosity to learn takes over.
When I talk to my Danish neighbours about what my son has been learning in school this term, they are astounded. Not so much by his progress (although this has been a source of immense pride for me and I am thrilled that he loves his letters and numbers and is embracing the reading challenge) but their astonishment is more at the fact that he is having formal education at all. One neighbour has twin boys aged 2 and every day she takes them to the nursery, where a bus collects them and they are driven out to the forest for a day of play and natural exploration. Every day!! Every day the focus is on instinctive curiosity, learning through play and developing socialisation skills. There's no numeracy and literacy and there won't be until the age of 6. This, their mother tells me, is earlier than it used to be. She, like many Danes, is against putting pressure upon children too early and I do wonder why the English education system starts at 4. Its not as if Denmark is a country of illiteracy. In fact, not only do they read and write, I have only met a couple of Danes who aren't fully bilingual.
And with the end of term comes the school play etc and the reception class equivalent was a coffee morning this week when the children all sang together a few familiar seasonal songs and shared with us some of the things that are special to them about this time of year. We were proud parents gathered in the classroom and watching our little ones singing together. They said their lines so well and they beaming, knowing that to stand up in front of everyone took so much courage. The wonderful teachers should be proud too - they've done an excellent job and its a happy bunch of tired children who are heading home for the holidays.
Merry Christmas Rygaards reception class and well done on your first term at big school!