Starting to Finnish

Lately, I’ve been reading about schools in Finland. Long renowned for their academic excellence, the Finns are at the leading edge of an instructional insurrection. But forget the face tattoos and earlobe gauging. These rebels are scrapping their teaching model: they are moving from subject-based teaching to topic-based teaching.

This may sound anti-climactic at first blush, but it’s actually quite revolutionary. And not in that “it smells like Ben Franklin” kind of way.*

They’re giving phenomenon-based learning a whirl. So instead of having an hour of math, an hour of science, an hour of Finnish, they will have a theme - say - the European Union. And they will study the politics, finance, history, geography, languages, cuisine, of the E.U.**

And students who are on more of a vocational track might learn topics like cafeteria studies, focusing on customer service, math, the scientific properties of wonder bread, and communication skills.

But the brains of Finnish students are ALREADY unfairly supersized with free, high quality education! *snaps pencil in half* So the obvious question is: miksi? (<-- why?)

Noting students' ubiquitous fingertip access to powerful pocket computers and information libraries (i.e. devices like phones, tablets, and laptops), Helsinki Development Manager Pasi Silander stated: “What we need now is a different kind of education to prepare people for working life.”

Practical, context-driven, integrated, and multi-disciplinary, Finland’s new approach aims to boost student creativity, curiosity, and effective problem solving. And this is just the skill set that (my brain crush) Seth Godin ordered for the idea economy of the modern age:

“When was the War of 1812?” is a useless skill in an always-on Wikipedia world. It’s far more useful to be able to answer the kind of question for which using Google won’t help. Questions like, “What should I do next?” ***

And this is the long way around the bend to explain why we’re putting ourselves on the educational ice floe next year, dropping our younger kids out of school, selling the house (fingers crossed!), and driving across country. (And I *may* cut my hair short again. But let's not be hasty.)

What we’ll be doing goes by a lot of names: unschooling, farm schooling, witness protection, adventure schooling, road schooling, natural learning.

And hopefully not: kiivetä perse edellä puuhun.**** Climbing into the tree ass first. Because: splinters.

I imagine it as a sort of wandering, aluminum-clad gap year. Main topic: improving Roman’s adaptive daily living skills. Subjects to include: communication, social skills, community use, self-care, and practical life / job skills.

So to answer Seth's question, what we're doing next? Is cutting class.


* Roman quote. <3
** I wouldn’t mind studying an almond croissant right now with my coffee.
*** Seth Godin, Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?, Penguin, New York, 2010, page 47.
**** Brilliant Finnish expression.

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