Friday, March 21, 2008

Is less more?

Life has been extra hectic recently. I haven't been keeping up with HomeschoolBuzz.

Luckily my mother has. She pointed out the summary of a Wall Street Journal article about the Smartest Kids in the World. The article about Finnish students reports:

"High-school students here rarely get more than a half-hour of homework a night. They have no school uniforms, no honor societies, no valedictorians, no tardy bells and no classes for the gifted. There is little standardized testing, few parents agonize over college and kids don't start school until age 7.
Yet by one international measure, Finnish teenagers are among the smartest in the world. They earned some of the top scores by 15-year-old students who were tested in 57 countries. American teens finished among the world's C students even as U.S. educators piled on more homework, standards and rules. Finnish youth, like their U.S. counterparts, also waste hours online. They dye their hair, love sarcasm and listen to rap and heavy metal. But by ninth grade they're way ahead in math, science and reading -- on track to keeping Finns among the world's most productive workers

One of the problems with public schools is the teachers are given too many goals. It is hard to be good at a task if you are given too many responsibilities. Teachers in America today are told to teach academics, provide lunch, help children support the environment, teach them to tolerant, and so on. Academics suffer when it becomes one of a dozen goals.

This WSJ article hints that another problem with public schools in the United States is we are asking, or allowing, our students to be involved in too many activities. By keeping the children focused on academics, the Finnish students are able to master hard topics.

Technorati tags: public school, public education, education


Shez said...

This was a very opportune post for me. I've been religious about restricting the number of activities we do. I've also pared our first grade curriculum to the bone. I decided that the important things for first grade are: reading, handwriting, arithmetic, spelling and grammar. Everything else is extraneous.

I decided that if my children are strong readers, can spell well, understand the structure of the English language and are comfortable with numbers, that the rest of the subjects will be easy to teach.

I've recently been starting to doubt myself. So many of the families I know are doing so many more activities with their children and are doing a greater breadth of subjects (albeit in to a much shallower depth). It all came to a head yesterday when my daughter insisted that she had to add horse riding to her activities and I couldn't see how to fit it in and still have the slow, relaxed life we want as a family.

Thank you for shoring up my backbone and helping my crisis in confidence.

Henry Cate said...

You are welcome.

I think it is a balance we are always trying to find. We want our children to have appropriate levels of activity. Not too many, but not too few.

The Maturekid said...

Our daughter is also in 1st grade. Due to some truly bizarre decisions on the part of the principal of her Kindergarten school, we opted for a Virtual Academy as a pseudo-home school. However, this was a mistake.

I agree with Shez. Establishing a strong grasp of the basics is the core to a solid foundation to build on.

The Virtual Academy with ties to state public schools however thought History of Ancient Civilizations, Language Arts stories we had to censor due to graphic violence, and Science lessons (normally reserved for 10th grade or college).

The end result was I had to redo the curriculum anyways to salvage what interest my daughter still had in education.