It’s autumn break or høstferie here in Oslo this week, which means that all schools are on a break. Kids can relax after all that learning over the last six weeks, before the ramp up to Christmas. Teachers can relax and recharge before that same ramp up. This is when many kids go off to their grandparents for a week or the whole family heads south to the sun for one last blast of Vitamin D before the winter. Or many parents just take time off work and relax with kids at home.
It’s business as usual in our house, and the kids are still getting up and out in the mornings, except instead of real school, they head off to activity school or AKS as we call it, it’s on the school premises and is a service provided in all state schools here in Norway.
How to describe AKS, it’s this amazing place that grabs the kids with a smile and a hug from 7.30am in the morning and keeps them warm, fed, happy and stimulated until parents pick them up, at the very latest 5pm. On regular school days, kids are delivered by the AKS staff to their classrooms at 8.30am and picked up again at 1.45pm when school is over. AKS is one of those places where the kids speed away from you in the morning after a quick hug and then are all grumpy if you arrive too early to pick them up – I mean, didn’t I know that they were in the middle of something interesting!?
Every week, we get an emailed plan showing what the kids will be up to the following week, it ranges from workouts at the gym to hanging out with the animals at the local farm, trips to the forest, indoor and outdoor free play days and the odd movie here and there.
AKS is heavily state funded and requires what I would call, a very reasonable supplementary fee, to be paid by the parents. It’s an amazing service, available for all kids from 1st to 4th class, so up to the age of 10 roughly. This allows parents of young kids to work normal days, so as well as helping kids and parents, there are huge economic benefits to the state as well.
The AKS team excel on a week like this when there is no school at all. They never fail to come up with a great line up of activities, fastidiously planned and executed. Nora, our little school starter is experiencing it all for the first time this week and loving it. One day at the cinema (sweets were even allowed!). One day at Oslo’s biggest park, Frogner Park, taking in a McDonalds as well. One day running around in the forest, eating sausages from a barbecue. And one day focused on maths, where there were lots of number games, board games, cards and the like.
And the pièce de résistance comes tonight for big brother, when he gets to stay overnight at AKS with his mates from school. They’ll ‘sleep’ in the AKS classrooms on the floor in their sleeping bags, looked after by many staff who will work in shifts throughout the night, with some always awake as the kids sleep.
Depending on their home situation, some of these 8-year olds are more independent than others. Some have rarely, if ever, been away from their parents overnight but it’s a good way to cultivate some independence, safe and at ease with their AKS school mates and the AKS staff they know and love. Also, for those kids who aren’t lucky enough to go on holidays or to have grandparents to stay with, it gives them a real highlight in this school break. We are among those parents who are incredibly grateful for this.
Excitement was at fever pitch here earlier today. I delivered our boy into a warm chaos at 6pm this evening, as all parents were delivering kids, mats, sleeping bags and overnight stuff and then heading off home for a quieter evening than usual. The pyjama party is surely in full swing now with popcorn, sweets, a movie, the works.
I was told this morning that ‘It will just be a regular night, Mom. We all have to be in bed by 9pm’. Bed is one thing, son, but I’d wager that sleep will still be a long way off at 9pm this evening…
Either way, at least it won’t be Mom or Dad haranguing him off to sleep for once, that in itself is hugely exciting.