“The Joyful Illiterate Kindergarteners of Finland”

Today I wanted to share with you an article I read recently, “The Joyful Illiterate Kindergarteners of Finland” from The Atlantic.  This is not a new article, just new to me.  It was definitely one of the most thought-provoking things I’ve read on the subject of early-childhood education.  I also found it quite pertinent, as my son is in what would be his Kindergarten year of school.

If you have time and are interested, take a look at the article.  It’s a really interesting glance inside a typical Finnish Kindergarten and a brief explanation on their philosophy of early education, which puts play, the natural way children learn, above all else.

The differences between Finnish Kindergarten and today’s American Kindergartens are stark.  Since Finland ranks as the number 1 literate country in the world, I was quite intrigued.  Here are some of the biggest differences I learned from the article:

Finnish Kindergarten

American Kindergarten

The children are 6 years old. Here in NYC, children can start the year they turn 5.  Many kids are still 4 in September. “Redshirting,” or starting Kindergarten later, is not allowed here in public schools.  Private Kindergartens have an earlier cut-off than December.
School is 4 hours a day. School is 6 hours a day.
Children are engaged in pen and paper work only once a week. Children are engaged in pen and paper work multiple times a day.
The curriculum is 100% play based. In most/ many classrooms play has been all but eliminated.
Finnish teachers will teach a child to read only if they are willing and interested. Literacy instruction is mandated for all students – reading, writing and phonics.

Clearly, these Finnish children all grow up to read!  However, their educational system does not push reading instruction on it’s young students.  I think today’s American school system could learn a few things from Finnish Kindergarten! 

American Kindergartens used to look more like Finnish Kindergartens.  I wonder what happened?  The developmental abilities of 5 year olds did not change here in the US.  But our early-education programs did.  I wonder why?

This article is one reason why we are putting such an emphasis on play, especially outdoor play, in our homeschool.

Had you heard about Finnish Kindergarten before?  Let me know in the comments!