A friend of mine has been dealing with some intense challenges with her son’s school. Her sweet but very active 5-year-old son has been suspended three times in the past three weeks. I’m tempted to say he was suspended for rule infractions that could fit under the umbrella of “being a 5-year-old.” Most American kindergarteners are expected to sit still, stand still, be quiet, stay in line, and generally avoid typical 5-year-old behavior at all times. So sad.
While American kindergarteners are denied their one short recess for small infractions, kindergarteners in Finland are given as many as four free-play breaks between classes because “educators and parents here believe that these breaks are a powerful engine of learning that improves . . . executive function, concentration and cognitive focus, behavior, well-being, attendance, physical health, and yes, test scores, too” (Source). Professor Howard Gardner, from Harvard University Graduate School of Education, gave this advice for improving American schools: “Learn from Finland, which has the most effective schools and which does just about the opposite of what we are doing in the United States” (Source).
All of this has me thinking a lot about what really matters and what will really prepare my children for the actual future they will be living in. My research and my gut agree that what is being taught in most American schools is insufficient for and even opposed to what our children will actually need in the future. For what it’s worth, here are some questions I feel we should be thinking about.