In a nation where school students typically receive anywhere from one to three hours of homework per night, the following ideas might come as a surprise. Some will scoff, saying there is no possible way the information has merit. Others may think it a cop-out excuse for lazy faculty members who don’t want to teach. There are some readers, however, who will at least pause to ponder the thoughts conveyed, considering whether another culture is “on to something”; something that might be just what American students need.
In a land far away, (namely, Finland) school boards, teachers, parents and other officials apparently became aware of a dire need for educational reform in their nation. The result of the many discussions, meetings, research projects, and task force experiments was essentially a unanimous decision to implement a complete overhaul of the school system. Many things were changed; however, one change seems to stand above the rest.
Finnish children now typically attend formal schooling a mere 20 hours a week; and, several of those hours are filled with “free play time.” In a video I recently watched on the topic, one school principal zealously stated that she and her colleagues fully believe allowing children more time to play, and less time concentrated on formal textbook academics, is the secret to the health of their overall emotional, physical, and intellectual well-beings.
In case you hadn’t noticed, that is approximately half the amount of hours spent at school as their American counterparts! In fact, in the United States, many school systems have canceled “play-style” activities, such as recess and Physical Education classes, and replaced that time with more academics. In stark contrast, we have an entire country of educators in Finland who seem to wholeheartedly agree that what has helped their children rebound most from a failing educational system to “top of the line” students is less academia and more play.
The principal mentioned earlier told the reporter in the film that children need time to “just enjoy being kids.” A math teacher shocked the interviewer by saying his main classroom goal is to teach his students how to have a happy life. A tour of the school’s playground showed an area that had been made into a skating rink, while another section of the campus had a row of trees that children were encouraged to climb!
Various instructors claimed the secret to happiness in life on earth is to have an abundance of time to breathe, think, imagine, play, and simply, “be.” They suggest that part of the reason students in previously top-ranked countries are now lagging behind (including the United States) is that too much work has been piled on, too much focus spent on bookwork and test scores and extra studying at home, and not enough time to enjoy free time with classmates and family.
Oh, and by the way, there’s another major change that Finns made in their schools. No student, under any circumstance, is ever to be given homework. Don’t worry. You read that, correctly. No need to adjust your eyeglasses or scroll back up the page to re-read. You got it right the first time. In Finnish schools, homework is forbidden!
Judy Dudich resides in the beautiful woods of Pennsylvania, where 24 acres of land and a home-office provide the perfect setting for her children’s home-education and her own homesteading and business ventures. Life is full of blessings (and challenges!) for Judy, as a wife, mother of 10 and Grammy to six. She is a published author, whose book, “I Surrender/A Study Guide for Women” continues to encourage and support others in Christian family lifestyles throughout the world. Judy has also previously worked in the online speaking circuit. Her passion for permaculture, re-purposing, foraging and organic gardening fills her days with learning and adventure that she loves to share.