Photo: Taught by Finland
Taught by Finland promotes a play-centered approach to early education and writes loving posts about “the joyful, illiterate kindergartners of Finland.”
On Facebook, I’ve been following Taught by Finland, which highlights the Finnish approach to education (e.g., lots of playtime for young children) and posts links to related research and stories.
In higher grades, Finns usually outrank American students by a lot on standardized tests. That may have multiple causes, but it seems reasonable to ask what Finland is doing right and what would happen if American schools were to lighten up.
A school in Burlington, Vermont, is beginning to get answers to that question.
Nicole Higgins DeSmet writes at the Burlington Free Press, “Five months after a no-homework policy went into effect, Orchard Elementary parents report that after-school reading is flourishing.
” ‘We have a first grader, and at her age it’s as much a chore for the parents as the kids,’ parent Rani Philip said about homework. ‘Instead we’ve been spending time reading. We don’t have to rush.’
“Philip said her husband was skeptical, but now he’s convinced. Other parents who were surprised by the policy said their children are reading more. …
“[Kindergartner Sean Conway] hid behind his dad’s legs but managed to share that his solo literary conquest was the book ‘Spirit Animals.’
“Teachers at Orchard voted unanimously before the start of the school year to end homework for their kindergarten through fifth-grade students. Instead students are encouraged to read, play games and be kids.
“Orchard Principal Mark Trifilio sent a homework policy survey to parents in November. Of those parents, 254 sent back answers. About 80 percent indicated they agree with the policy.
“Parents reported in the survey concern that their fifth-graders might miss skills that will help them succeed in middle school. …
“Lolly Bliss, a fifth-grade teacher with 25 years experience, said her students will be prepared to accomplish more because they are freed from busywork — which is how she defined some homework.
“She has more time to accomplish academic goals in class because she doesn’t have to spend time on kids’ and parents’ anxieties about missing or incomplete homework.
” ‘We get a lot done in a calm class,’ Bliss said.”
If you read the rest of the story, you’ll see that some parents fear children are missing needed skills. They may not take into account how difficult it is to learn if you are stressed. I hope someone will tell those parents about Finland.