We have all read about the effect that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the lives of children. According to UNESCO, 91% of enrolled learners are out of school. Parents are overwhelmed trying to handle working, parenting, and teaching at home, while children will likely feel the effects of these prolonged periods out of school and indoors for a long time to come. Because the situation is unprecedented for so many of us, we have a tendency to focus on ourselves and how we personally perceive it.
“Children have largely been viewed as recipients of our care and concern. We are worried about how they are coping with the situation and how we can best look after them. Though some children have thrived outside of the school setting, many children have struggled with the transition,” says Lasse Lipponen, professor of early childhood education at the University of Helsinki and one of HEI Schools co-founders. “On the other hand, some children have been encouraging examples of resilience and compassion, acting independently to alleviate the situation for others and lending a helping hand to those in need. Surprising to some, to others maybe not, children are exercising their agency and showing compassion in new and exciting ways.”
This forces us to consider something that has largely been missing from the conversation: How are children perceiving the situation for themselves? There has been so much chatter in the media from the adults’ perspective, with little attention given to children beyond what they are doing or what we adults are doing for them. Now is the time to listen to children, to hear what they say beyond the words they produce.
How do we let children express themselves? Well, children, especially very young children, communicate differently than adults. To provide opportunities for children’s education and self-expression, HEI Schools, a Finnish company that brings the Finnish early childhood education model to the world, has created HEI Schools Home. Best known for building Nordic-style learning centers around the world with Finnish-trained local teachers and a Finnish-style curriculum, the company has turned its talents toward creating an online resource for parents of 1 to 6-year-old children to provide them with playful learning activities and routines for their time at home together.
“We recognize how challenging it’s been for parents of young children to teach at home without any real experience of teaching themselves. It’s hard to know if your child is learning ‘enough’ without the help of professional teachers,” says Milla Kokko, CEO of HEI Schools. “But we want parents to remember: you are not alone. Many parents are going through this, and the important thing is to enjoy your children’s company and to find ways to be curious, creative, and inspired together wherever you can. It’s also important to pay attention to how your child is behaving, and these playful learning activities allow children to express themselves in a way that feels natural to them.”
Offering activity plans, daily routines, and advice about how to manage to learn at home, HEI Schools Home is a beta model that will be used to determine how to best support parents both now and when early childhood education centers are back in session. Crafted by expert Finnish educators, it employs the tenants of Finnish early childhood education that has made the country’s schooling so popular around the world.
“It is time for us adults to take children’s perspectives seriously, to capture children’s voices, and to understand what is really important to them. Caring about children is caring about yourself. It is expanding the circle of empathy and compassion to include yourself, your loved ones, and beyond,” says Professor Lasse Lipponen, Co-founder and Head of Pedagogical Content at HEI Schools and professor of education at the University of Helsinki. “The global situation is very challenging for all of us, so it is now more important than ever to be empathetic toward others and especially toward ourselves and our children.”
In order to support parents through this time, HEI Schools is suspending subscription fees during the pandemic, and all are welcome and encouraged to utilize this resource. To access, one should visit heischools.com and create a free account by entering an email address and password.
Helsinki International Schools (HEI) was co-founded by the University of Helsinki together with experts in education and design. Bridging Nordic values of trust and accessibility to provide first-class early childhood education globally. This scalable and streamlined licensing model offers the curriculum, teacher training, learning environment design, curated learning materials, and operational support for local operators around the world. Modeling the Finnish approach of education with the Nordic heritage of high-quality design for all.