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TO THE POINT: Lessons from a school system
June 25, 2019


Can we as homeschoolers learn something from a school system? Maybe if it is one which proves that it works. What do I mean by what works? Well, we can learn from a country that consistently outperforms other countries in an international test which aim to measure how well students (high school age) apply their knowledge and skills in solving problems in science, reading, mathematics, financial literacy, and collaborative problem solving. So with credit to Marisa Haasbroek who has initiated this post by her comparison of both Singapore and Finland’s education systems, I want to focus on the elements in Finland’s system from which we as homeschoolers (or the increasingly popular cottage schoolers) can learn a few things.

I wish that we as homeschool moms could have been recognized for the valuable contribution we make to society the same as educators/teachers are in Finland. Being a teacher is a privilege and a job with status there! We as homeschool moms should also start seeing our ‘unpaid’ job as deserving of this status even without any formal recognition.

In Finland a teacher is highly educated and because of that they are given only a minimum requirement on what to do in subject syllabi and trusted with improvising and tailor-making the rest according to children’s individuality. We should trust ourselves more to believe that we know our children well enough so we will know what they need (or not need). We have the privilege of giving our children so much more than the minimum.

In Finland a child starts with school only at age 7 years, not younger. Children are placed in groups with the same teacher for many years, so they get to know them very well, again aiding in knowing the children well enough to know their individual strengths and weaknesses. As homeschoolers, let us be careful not to want to start formal ‘school’ too early – rather concentrate on having a rich life filled with lots of experiences and things to do, and involve your kids in those. They will have a much bigger foundation with which to build vocabulary and relate their subject matter to when you do that, instead of starting ‘formal school’ too early. Again, trust yourself that you know your children best to know what they need in educating a whole hearted child.

One of the biggest advantages of a ‘less is more’ syllabus is that it allows enough time for consolidation of subject matter. This is probably one of the biggest complaints against the South African CAPS syllabus – it is too much, too soon without allowing time for concepts to settle in, to be grasped (ie. what is called consolidation). Don’t make the mistake of thinking that the more academic work you fit into a child’s day the better. He/she needs time to really grasp things especially in a subject like Math – this will benefit them later when doing higher Maths.

During the children’s whole primary school phase in Finland there are no formal tests and exams. Even in sports, competition is not encouraged at such a young age. Evaluation of academic and other progress is done in different ways. As homeschool moms we also don’t have to rely on tests and exams to know how our children are progressing – we often already know well enough how things are going. Trust your instinct and know where you child should be doing more (or where less) to work according to his/her potential.

The other advantage is that a child will be allowed to mature enough to handle the stress associated with a test/exam better when he is older. If too much value is placed on test scores too early, then children tend to compare themselves against each other based on test scores, affecting their emotional development as well (often not in a positive way). If children are not tested they will learn that progress is not measured in terms of test scores, but on real progress even without a test. In real life progress of a job to be done is not measured with a test, so you need to be self-motivated to progress without the continual feedback typical tests would have given you in school.

Lastly – children are encouraged to have lots of (productive) free time, especially outside play! We must value the sunshine we have in our country and encourage our children to get outside often. As they get older, then especially, we need to help our children use their free time productively even more. Helping and encouraging our children to discover and develop their personal talents, interests and gifts in their free time, could very well be the key to their future careers. Let us therefore be wise and encourage ourselves and our children to use our time wisely.


If anyone need help in planning their curriculum for the year do get the Homeschooling Guides to help you. Titles include :
· Considering Home education
· How to start Home education
· Child Development Phases
· Home Education in South Africa
· Organisation, administration and socialization
· The 7-step process to improve your homeschool
· A personal eclectic curriculum

For those young ones eager to read and write, get Omvattend Afrikaans for a complete Afrikaans Foundation phase programme. Nothing else is as comprehensive, guaranteed to teach reading and writing Afrikaans effectively.

And thinking of getting creative? Get the South African Art series for Children where you can explore artists and their work?

Until next time, Willemien

Share your courage with others.
(Robert Louis Stevenson)

Want more info?

Homeschooling Guides for Parents →

Need curriculum?

South African Art Series for Children / Suid-Afrikaanse Kuns Reeks vir Kinders →

Omvattend Afrikaans Graad 1, 2 en 3 →

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