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Introducing the Little Bears – history part 1

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“Little Bears” was originally going to be “Little Bears Family Dayhome” (1) – a childminding service, way back in 1998 when we were first home from living in Sweden. We had decided to move back to the UK because we were a little homesick, and thought that we should get Dragon-tamer’s name down for a primary school back home.

As it happened, we didn’t even get as far as researching primary schools. Instead, we tried out a couple of pre-schools, as Dragon-tamer was aged 3 at the time. The first pre-school we tried was a shock-to-the-system in comparison with our Dagis (1) in Sweden. The Swedish philosophy of preschool education is a gentle home-from-home which encourages learning through play, and recognises the essential reality of attachment in child development. When Dragon-tamer started at Dagis, we went through a two week long process of inskolning (2), slow and gentle acclimatisation to the new setting while the parent gradually removes his or her presence, only when the child is ready to be left.

Back in the UK, this acclimatisation process was unheard of, and when we requested it anyway as we felt it necessary (especially given all the changes Dragon-tamer was having to get used to in one go – new country, new home and now new preschool), we were told that sitting in on more than one session was impossible. Instead, we made a compromise – I was allowed to sit outside the room where I could watch and listen to the proceedings in order that I could feel reassured. But no such reassurance was permitted to the child. I hope that understanding of child development has improved in the last 15 years.

What I heard and saw in that pre-school (unattended children crying for example) convinced me that it was not professional enough or appropriate for our child, and so we tried a second pre-school. The second setting presented almost the other extreme: this was instead a very rigid academic preschool which insisted on numeracy and literacy sessions for 3-year-olds. When I voiced my concerns and asked if we could arrange our attendance to avoid the academic sessions, we were told again that this was impossible. This time there was no room for compromise. The pre-school leader told me confidentially that she agreed with my concerns, but the setting was run by a parent-governor board which believed in the better-sooner-rather-than-later principle. Again, I hope that understanding of child development has improved in the last 15 years.

Well that’s enough for now! I haven’t blogged in a while, but I will try to post more regularly, and history part 2 will tell what we did after preschool, and how we discovered home education quite by accident.

Some notes on Swedish words:

(1) Dagis – short for daghem, dayhome, also known as forskola, preschool, and barntradgarden, kindergarten. A childminder’s would be a Familjedaghem, or Family Dayhome.

(2) Inskolning – acclimatisation process

(if somebody could let me know how to get Swedish characters, please let me know!!) 🙂

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