Monday, April 25, 2016

Learning from Finnish Schools

I’ve read several articles lately about Finnish schools. The schools in Finland are some of the top performing schools in the world, yet their approach to education is opposite to that of the U.S or Asia. School days are short, children do not even begin formal education until age 7, outdoor play is an important part of the school day, and little or no standardized testing is done. Children are allowed to be children. They are expected to have fun at school and the teachers trust that they will learn when ready. It sounds like they let kids be kids instead of pushing them to do more and more.

Finnish schooling seems similar to the philosophy of many homeschoolers. I’ve been picking up some additional ideas for our homeschool, though. For example, craft time is an essential part of the school experience. And “craft time” doesn’t mean cutting, coloring, and gluing paper! Even in elementary school, children are learning to use sewing machines, knit, crochet, cook, and to use power tools. Not only are they learning practical life skills, but they are using academic skills in real life by measuring and figuring out problems as they create useful items. Teaching Emily some of these skills (or finding people who can teach her) is one of my goals for her last few years of high school. But now I’m thinking that it would have been a great idea to have started teaching life skills much younger!

One trend in Finnish schools is “teaching by topic,” or incorporating all of the subjects into one topical theme….sounds like unit studies to me! It’s funny that schools are just “discovering” the advantages of something that homeschoolers have been doing for years!

It seems that few children are “left behind” in Finland because any child who struggles, including immigrants and those with learning disabilities, get the attention they need to keep up with the group. On the other end of the spectrum, though, there isn’t a lot of support for gifted or advanced students because of the country’s focus on equality rather than achievement.

I think a lot of Finland’s child-friendly techniques would be wonderful in American schools (that are heading in the opposite direction), but at least we homeschoolers are free to individualize our children’s learning, teaching what our children need when they need it and fostering a love to learn. I’ve linked several articles above in case you want to learn more.

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