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What Is Open Kindergarten?

Similar to the library story times common in the U.S., but longer and lasting all morning or all afternoon, there is such demand for these programs that families are limited to one session per week.

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Peppermint

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February 4, 2014 - 10:30 am
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Too bad the Obama/Cuomo/de Blasio universal preschool proposals won’t actually do anything to help children and families.  Let’s hope these political boondoggles fall through. Instead, if Americans really do want more preschool, we could take a page from the Scandinavian playbook.

Open kindergarten, common in Finland and other Scandinavian countries, is for the birth-through-age-five crowd and their parents. The program is low-cost, local, flexible, and does appear to help prepare kids for school.

Last fall I visited the Bluebird House in Rauma, Finland, the site of a popular open kindergarten started 28 years ago. It is one of two sponsored by the municipality. The Lutheran church also has open kindergartens, and many families attend both the municipal and church programs.

The Bluebird House is an old wooden house surrounded by a large fenced garden, which is used as a playground. Inside, the living room is just large enough for circle time, and later crafts and playtime, for twenty small children and their parents.  The parents provide snacks which they prepare in the kitchen, and which are eaten around a large table in the dining room.  There is also an office, bathrooms, and cloakroom.

The program is similar to the library story times common in the U.S., but longer, lasting all morning or all afternoon.  There is such demand for open kindergarten that families are limited to one session per week.  They may choose from sessions offering different age groupings–some are just for infants, some just for the older groups, while others are open to all children from birth through age five.  The parents pay a small fee, about $100 per semester.

The Bluebird House is staffed by two trained kindergarten teachers and two aides, who make sure that all of the parents and children are given individual attention each session. The teachers explained that they informally serve as resources for parents with questions about parenting or child development. They are able to connect parents to other resources in Rauma, if needed.

The teachers model positive ways of interacting with children, help to transmit Finnish culture through the stories, songs, games, and crafts that they offer, and generally create a setting that highlights the joys of parenting and gives parents a break from the burdens. Families also connect with each other here, and many form lasting friendships.

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All Comments   (10)
All Comments   (10)
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The federal government needs to stay out of all preK-12 education!
25 weeks ago
25 weeks ago Link To Comment
I hate it when people want to move something that apparently works (I won't argue if it does or not) in geographically small relatively homogenistic society to the US like it just needs someone to recognize it. EVen if our politics could somehow allow it (it wouldn't) our demographics would necessitate something entirely different anyway.
25 weeks ago
25 weeks ago Link To Comment
I don't understand how "demographics" come into it. Either small children are home with a parent or they aren't, either the parents are interested or they aren't. Language differences might be an issue, but there are ways of accomodating that. Really it seems to be just a more formal version of a playgroup.
I find the parent education aspect of the open kindergarten especially interesting. We hear so many complaints in the U.S. about poor parenting.
25 weeks ago
25 weeks ago Link To Comment
When my daughter was young, there were several parent-participation preschools in our area. There was a paid teacher and several mothers volunteering at any one time. Babysitters could not volunteer, so working mothers needed a conventional day care set-up.

If universal school-based preschool becomes a reality, it will drive most private preschools out of business. However, I suspect that we'll see school-based preschool only for disadvantaged kids because of the costs.
25 weeks ago
25 weeks ago Link To Comment
I have been watching Lilyhammer on Netflix recently. It takes place in Norway. It is interesting to see the north European culture with socialist traditions and a good dose of political correctness. I have no idea how accurate the portrayal is. The people are sincere and nice and a lot of the social ideas are amazingly goofy. Almost harmless, unless you run into times that require real men. And tough women. But the show figures out how to bring those qualities to Norway.
25 weeks ago
25 weeks ago Link To Comment
"The program is low-cost, local, flexible, and does appear to help prepare kids for school." All of the foregoing criteria is contrary to the type of programs the government typically pushes. And it is not run by the teachers union. It also sounds patriotic or nationalistic. ("… help to transmit Finnish culture through the stories, songs, games, and crafts that they offer.") This will never fly in the U.S.
25 weeks ago
25 weeks ago Link To Comment
Agree. I can't imagine how this would work in the US innercities, yo. Drug deals in the "cloakroom"? Apparently, they still have cloakrooms in Eurp.

There would have to be some kind of government knucklehead telling parents which books to read like My Two Daddies, and put that Rush Revere away now! They would tell the mommies which kind of food to eat; "Arugula for everyone!" Yay!
25 weeks ago
25 weeks ago Link To Comment
Projects like this (private, please, not government) would be great for teaching mothering skils to single moms.
25 weeks ago
25 weeks ago Link To Comment
"The teachers model positive ways of interacting with children, help to transmit Finnish culture through the stories, songs, games, and crafts that they offer..."

I think I found the reason why it won't work here. The political fight over the curriculum would doom any attempt here beyond babysitting.
25 weeks ago
25 weeks ago Link To Comment
On the other hand, the model might work for any subculture that wants to try it. For example, Hillary Clinton has started a rather odd campaign to encourage hispanic parents to sing to their children. She could sponsor open kindergartens conducted in Spanish and including lots of singing.
25 weeks ago
25 weeks ago Link To Comment
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