There is no doubt I’m in a state of disbelief. Where did the last 5.5 years go? How is my baby girl ready to start compulsory schooling? The transition from pre-school to grade school – the emotions, the paperwork, the impact to the family calendar, has left us reeling. Now add into the equation that we have only lived in our new home country for 11 months. Dear sweet Maude, what did I do?!
Never when I envisioned our eldest starting school did I think it would be happening in a place other than the school just down the street from our home in Massachusetts. I knew it would be an emotional and exciting step into the next chapter of our lives. But it would be in familiar surroundings and with all the usual support around us to champion our family forward. Now, here we are, learning our way around a new home, support system across the ocean and frantically trying to google translate the Intro to Förskoleklass PowerPoint deck.
Here’s what I know: My baby girl is heading off to Förskoleklass (aka kindergarten for my US peeps) in a few days. I am FREAKING THE EFF OUT. I have sleepless nights worrying about her ability to get the hang of a school routine. I have endless questions about what she needs, what her days will look like, etc. All the normal mom worries for starting school, right? Except, I’m the mom who chose to move her kids across the Atlantic ocean to a place with a new language and no other familiar faces to comfort them when all the newness becomes overbearing. All right before the eldest starts her school journey. I’m that mom. The guilt is relentless. I know I can’t be the only one feeling this. Yet, I feel so alone.
We are managing this stream of significant life transitions with lots of deep breathing, constant discussion about the upcoming change with our daughter, and plenty of mjukglass, preferably dipped in chocolate. Language learning has been our biggest concern. We knew we would be putting the kids in preschool (aka Förskola) so she would have time to learn some Swedish. I am 100% blown away with our children’s resilience and abilities with language learning. It started off rocky. She refused to learn at one point from fear of change. She actually thought she would forget how to speak English and no longer be able to talk to family and friends back home. What a punch to the gut that was! The more she is exposed to it and reassured in her abilities the more she has absorbed and the braver has become in speaking Swedish. She’s singing in Swedish, she’s playing with random Swedish kids at the playground. And when she doesn’t know a word, she speaks a very convincing Swinglish. Our language concerns are now much less than what they were. We have faith that she’ll excel in a full Swedish school setting and be fluent alongside her peers in no time.
Language fears put aside, the next anxiety inducer has been a completely different calendar. It certainly felt like a huge blow to realize we won’t be able to travel whenever we felt like it. We have a school calendar to follow like everyone else! Now I understand why the only wall calendars you can find in Sweden are the family planner style. We’ve finally reached the school age family status where those are necessary!
My number one recommendation for anyone in this school transition, but especially us new to life abroad, is to find the school calendar, even if you don’t have kids in grade school, and write in all the school holidays and other important dates in the family scheduler ASAP. This has given me a sense of calm over the starting school situation. We’re living in Solna and have found information about our daughter’s school, the calendar and much more on Solna Stads website. If you’re in Stockholm here is that site for you. Be sure to look for your local kommun’s web page for school information if you are outside of these two areas.
So far, our daughter has had 3 intro sessions that were held in the spring. She was able to get to know her future classmates and teachers and see her new school. It’s comforting to know we had contact and effort from the teachers to get to know her, and my mom anxieties were addressed early on. She started in the school’s fritids program the first week of August, which has helped her get settled into her new surroundings before the official start day.
We’re off to a good start. Our daughter is excited about the move to “big kid school”. We are feeling more comfortable and ready for the next step in our daughter’s education. I still have doubts I’ll be able to help her with school work, and I worry I won’t be able to comfort and encourage her the same way I would have been able to had we stayed in the U.S.A. But, you know, that’s all part of the growing pains in moving abroad and starting school. We’ll grow together. Heading into this fall and first year of school, we are cherishing our time with our daughter. The relaxed Swedish summer has allowed for much needed connection time for our family. I’ll be back with an update on how we’re all doing halfway through the school year. Now I need to go stock up on tissues before school starts on August 21st.