First a little background.
After our move here a bit more than 2 years ago, the 1st fall in a new school, in a new country, with a new language to learn, was a HUGE uphill for our then 4 school aged kids.
The school they went to was bi-lingual, meaning that the Finnish kids started learning English from grade 1.
Some kids knew some or a lot from home, if they had a parent from an english speaking country.
That was of some help for our kids the first few months, but often during that first fall the girls came home from school looking discouraged.
"I sat through several hours not understanding a thing!!", they would tell me.
My heart would sink. And hurt. And my eyes would well up with tears.
What were we thinking? How could we do this to our kids?
In the evenings my hubby would sit, sometimes for several hours, and help our girls with their homework.
First translate the text... word for word...
I wasn't able to really help with homework at all.
By Christmas time, they started to break through the surface.
Our 1st grader sang Christmas songs in a language she barely understood!
My eyes would often well up when I watched them all taking careful babysteps.
At times they'd cry, and ask "Why did we move here?"
I'd try to encourage them, but often I felt the same way myself.
So much frustration not knowing a language!!
It's not just about being able to understand what someone is telling or asking you.
It's about reading, writing notes, calling another mom, helping with homework...
feeling like you are PART of a conversation!!
And I couldn't do ANY of that.
So I very well understood our kids frustration.
At least I was able to "hide" at home with the little kids...ignoring what I didn't know.
I attended a Finnish language class a few evenings a week for 6 months or so.
It did help some.
Well... In June this year the kids finished their 2nd year of school here.
And over all they have all been doing better and better.
Finding their groups of friends, making themselves understood.
Bringing home papers from school showing me what they wrote in Finnish all by themselves!
So wierd to read something that your kids have written...and you only understand some of it!
Our 3rd daughter has had the hardest time.
In Canada she was everybody's friend.
Her teacher's only complaint would be
"She talks too much in class!"
I asked the teacher to move her next to the boy she knew the least, and the teacher replied
"I did, and after a few days they were best friends!"
Our smiley, sweet girl was well liked and enjoyed school.
When we moved, her teacher said
"When a girl moves, all the girls are sad, when a boy moves, all the boys are sad, but now when your daughter is leaving...everybody is sad!!"
I watched as all her friends made a huge group hug around her as they said farewell.
My eyes still well up thinking about it.
Moving here she became more insecure.
Of course I understood that and didn't expect her to connect with new friends right away!!
She was fortunate to have an American girl starting in the same class at the same time, and they quickly became friends.
The unfortunate part of that was that she relied on her english speaking friend 100%.
She kind of "got stuck".
In their 2nd year her friend had connected with other girls, (she had learned finnish from her dad growing up, so she didn't have the same problem with that) and the two of them weren't playing as much any more.
So, my little girl looked more and more unhappy...
We talked to the teacher, he was young and new and tried his best, but well.. let's just say his efforts weren't impressive!
She learned more and more Finn, not very fast, but Ok.
Her grades were just fine, actually quite good concidering all her obstacles!
She also has her diabetes to deal with, and being 10 years old and realizing that "I am different", is always a bit hard. She never used to make a big deal about it, but I noticed that she became more caucious about a lot of things.
The sweet bubbly girl was fading in front of my eyes.
When we started to talk about moving back to Canada in the spring time, she looked so relieved.
But I told her that we'll be here at least one more year, and she needs to make the best of it.
This summer they finished building a brand new school not too far from us.
It's an all Finnish school, so we decided to move two of our kids there, since our 6-year old girl is starting Kindergarten there anyway, and it's in the same place our youngest girl will go to daycare.
So our soon to be 11 year old and just turned 9, girl, started there this fall.
Our 2 oldest are going to middle school elsewhere.
Before starting the girls practiced riding their bikes to the new school, checking out their new playground.
The place is beautiful!!
I was hoping a new start at a new school would give our little girl a 2nd chance here in Finland.
The weeks leading up to school start were up and down for her.
One day she'd be excited, the next worried and nervous.
When visiting at my brother-in-laws the Sunday before school started, I asked our friends who were gathered there to pray for her.
My heart ached so badly for her, and tears kept streaming down my face.
We had talked about this many times, but I felt her fears and worries.
In the car on the way home she told me
"Mamma, I don't feel so nervous about starting school anymore!"
"Why is that?" I asked
"I feel safe"
My eyes welled up again.
God had heard all those prayers, and within a short time our daughter felt comforted and safe.
She went to her first school day with light steps.
I reminded her that she is a likeable person, and that she has nothing to worry about.
Well... it's been 8 days of school so far.
And almost every day she's telling me of new friends she's made.
She's using her Finnish, since that's the only language they speak at this school!
Yesterday she stopped by at a friends house on the way home.
She keeps telling me how nice all her friends are and how much she's liking her new school.
We have talked about the power of prayers and how God does hear them.
When I think about my daughter's face this last week... my eyes well up with tears, again.
I'm recognizing the little girl that stood in the middle of that big group hug 2 years ago...
And in my heart I fiercly pray that she's here to stay.