Why are schools in Finland so amazing? And how can we be more like them in our homeschools?
I remember watching that viral video a couple years back about schools in Finland and how they were #1 in the world. It was so surprising because they had some unconventional methods- shorter school years, shorter school days, kids don’t start school until age 7, etc. They have since fallen out of the “#1” spot- but they’re still way higher than the USA according to the PISA rankings.
The thing is- they’ve definitely got the right idea. And luckily, a lot of the things they do that are so beneficial are easily replicated in a homeschool. I’ve highlighted the things I find to be most effective and exciting about their education system; and how I think we can bring them into our homeschools.
We can start school later
Schools in Finland start anywhere between 9 and 9:45. I know my kids are early risers, so we do generally start school earlier than that, but one of the things I love most about the homeschool schedule is that it’s as adaptable as we are. Setting a goal for your start time is helpful, in my opinion, but making sure there is ample time in the morning for a good breakfast, the morning routine, and maybe even some chores before you have to settle in for school… A++ for everybody involved, right? One of the hardest parts of an “institutional school” day is the morning chaos. The stress of being ready for the bus or the carpool on time… no thanks.
We can keep class times short, and make sure there’s lots of recess
Typically, kids in Finland (and this is K-12) have 45 minutes of instruction time and then a 15 minute break. I think that’s ideal for kids of any age- except maybe the very youngest, then maybe you only need a half hour at the most. A good burst of concentrated energy and then time to cool down before you do it again. Isn’t that close to the ideal work day? 45 minutes and then a coffee/tea break. Sounds perfect to me! I think any subject can be covered with sufficient depth in 45 minutes. You might not finish every lesson in that time, but I still think it would be wise to have a break before digging in again. And for little learners, 45 minutes is really the maximum they can sit still before they need to move their bodies.
And don’t forget recess! Of course, with homeschool, if the weather is accommodating, you can just take the whole lesson outside, but there’s no question that outside time, whether for school or “just to play” is crucial. It’s good for physical and emotional health, and I think it makes any daily schedule more sustainable if the outdoors is involved.
Schools in Finland have little to no homework!
This is probably already true for homeschool- or most homeschools- but students in Finland typically have about a half an hour of homework (maximum). I’ll offer this counterpoint- I was a nanny for a little boy who was in KINDERGARTEN in California. He came home with about an HOUR of homework. It was insane. What was he doing at school, I wondered? It sure seemed like all the learning was taking place at home.
We can offer special help where they might be struggling
In their first nine years of school, about 30 percent of students in Finland receive some kind of special help. That’s one of the cornerstones of homeschooling, isn’t it? What do our kids need help with, and how can we get them what they need? We have amazing advantages, too. We can find tutors, special curriculum, slow down on a subject and cover material over and over again until they are comfortable with it! How great not to have to worry about “is my child keeping up with the other kids?” In fact, that stress and pressure to perform, in my opinion, is pretty toxic. Instead of having kids who have to worry about their status within their peer group, why can’t we encourage healthy, positive growth at their pace? We can in homeschool!
We’ll be with them for many years
In Finland, students can have the same teacher for several years in a row. That kind of continuity allows them to build a real relationship with that person. Hello homeschool! We already know our kids the best, now we can spend all these precious years figuring out how to build them up and make them their best!
We can decide how to evaluate their growth and assess their comprehension levels
Schools in Finland really don’t use standardized testing at all, and teachers often don’t choose to use testing as a classroom method, opting for other forms of evaluation. Depending on the curriculum we choose, we can do this as well! We can decide, from our daily participation with our students, how they’re doing in a subject, and how far they’ve progressed. Our beautiful students don’t have to stress out about whether they’re going to “pass” a subject. They don’t have to spend sleepless nights worrying about big final exams. We can be so much gentler, so much more supportive and constructive!
Obviously, there is an exception to this- if your state, like mine, requires an evaluation or assessment during a school year for your student’s progress, you will have to contend with that. But there’s lots of ways to handle that situation, and I know in our case, we can take a standardized test or undergo a more interview-like evaluation.
… And there you have it!
So, of course, there are some things that schools in Finland have that we aren’t able to match, but these are some great starting points for making our homeschools some of the best places they can be. Easily imitated, and very actionable. What do you think? How do you want to change your homeschool? Leave a comment and let me know! Want some other ideas for a unique homeschool?