Monday, February 13, 2017

"In Finland, you can do dangerous things if you think you can." - Ruthie, 5 years old

While eating breakfast and getting ready for the second day of school, out of nowhere, Ruthie says, "In Finland, you can do dangerous things if you think you can."  She went on to explain how there was a train on their playground that is really big.  She wanted to climb onto the top of it, but didn't think she could.  She kept trying and got to the top.  Then when she was on the top, she realized how high it was and didn't think she could get down, but then she "found a way."

This may be one of my favorite moments of our trip so far.  It took Ruthie one day of being in Finnish school to figure out this tenet of their culture.  "You can do dangerous things if you think you can."  There is no protecting children from every possible harm here.  Kids are allowed to experiment and find their own limits.  When they fall or struggle, they learn about these limits and how to avoid crossing them.  

The playground at their school is a sheet of ice.  I am not exaggerating.  I almost fall every time I come to pick them up.  This does not stop anyone from going out to recess.  We all have figured out how to walk safely on the ice.

Across the street from Ruthie and Lydia's school is a primary school.  On their playground they have a huge pile of ice and snow.  Every morning I when I drop my girls off at school I see the kids running all over this thing.  They chase each other, they pretend to be mountain climbers, they jump off of it.  The students at my school are not allowed to do such things.  

I am really liking how Finnish society is making my girls tougher.  They are forced to get outside their comfort zone and try things.  They have learned how to walk for quite a ways without complaining - it wasn't easy, but they do it.  Ruthie can probably walk a mile to the store, and a mile back.  Lydia's not quite up to that, but she now walks the 7 minute walk to the bus stop, and the very steep uphill climb home from the bus stop everyday.  This would not have happened back home.  I think in Minnesota we were unintentionally making them kind of whimpy kids.  It's been really fun to watch them learn and grow in this way.  Ruthie is skating and skiing like a champ, and Lydia is constantly leaving whatever trail we are walking on to climb up huge hills and then slide down on her butt.  

I assume the reason this type of risk taking isn't encouraged as much in public schools in the US is for liability reasons.  Our society is quick to sue.  But it is a shame.  Yes, there is risk involved in trying something new and something a little bit dangerous, but there is so much to gain:  confidence, pride, understanding of limits, understanding of your own body, knowledge of the world around you, and FUN!  

Ruthie, showin' us how it's done.

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