Friday, February 29, 2008

"What Makes Finnish Kids So Smart?" WSJ Asks

From today's Wall Street Journal, a story about how Finnish high school students rated among the most intelligent according to a recent PISA assessment test.

US delegations to Finnish schools wondered how schools without tons of homework, gifted programs or uniforms manage to produce such results. And, more pertinent to the toddler-set I hang out with, how does it happen in country where children don't even start school until age 7!

Virtually all the preschools we toured in the San Diego area we live in touted their curriculum-based approaches -- even for babies like Tex with topics like 'socks' for a week. They all talked about how their students learn letters, numbers and other such skills in the 2 - 3 year olds classes.

Most of the Finnish mamas I've met in my time in Dallas, Boston and here are very laid back in that sense. They DON'T want to start teaching their toddlers these things. Certainly, its OK if they pick it up, but there is no pressure and they don't seek out schooling based on that criteria.

My feeling is that Peanut and Tex have plenty of years of formal schooling ahead of them, no need to spoil it now. Then again, I spent time to teach Peanut her colors, shapes and many letters because she seems to enjoy it. We don't do flashcards or anything like that. Mostly they come up as we are doing arts and crafts, doodling or reading. Peanut puts the words to use daily as she now has many ways to describe and ask about the world. In picking out a preschool for her, I look for one that offers more time for play than sitting in circles or filling in worksheets.

Tex, I suspect, may not have the patiences Peanut expressed for sitting and quietly exploring these concepts. So, with him, we'll take another approach.

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