Thursday, January 19, 2012

Today in the wood shop...

This article, Finland’s education system is tops: Here’s why presents a nice overview of Finnish schools, which should help us to understand the things they do differently from us, and may help us to examine those areas in which we could most easily change and do better. "Policy makers, educators, and the media can take a lesson from Finland." One simple thing is that while we start pushing reading in Kindergarten (age 5), they begin formal education in reading at age 7 which means that by the time their students are tested at age 15 in the international PISA study, they far surpass American students in 25% less time. That alone should be telling us something. That when children have a bit more unpressed time to be ready to read, it may come more easily for them. My mother, as a Kindergarten teacher was trained to observe whether or not a child could skip. Skipping indicated effective cross-lateral integration between the brain hemispheres. Pushing a child to read before readiness was not only considered to be wasted effort, but could also destroy the child's interest in reading. In Finland:
Formal reading instruction begins at age seven, when children enter the comprehensive school.
Parents, community, and the culture itself support reading.
Schools have aroused student interest in reading, and students are interested in and engaged in reading.
Students read highly diverse materials.
Finland has a comprehensive network of libraries, which have separate departments for children and youth.
One of the things you can see is the effective partnership between home, school and community that is often lacking in American education. Uno Cygnaeus and Otto Salomon, co-founders of the educational Sloyd movement made a particular point of creating a sense of partnership and shared responsibility between home and school. And sadly we got off on the wrong foot in American education. Cygnaeus was the founder of the Finnish Folk Schools in the 1860s. He built the Folk Schools on the Kindergarten model, and used educational Sloyd to extend the kindergarten teaching method into the upper grades. The things the students made were designed to be useful in the home, assuring that parents found ways to feel connected with and support what their children were learning in school.

Readers might also be interested in this article, 11 Surprising Things that Determine Your Success in School. If you are a regular reader in the blog, you will find that many of the surprising things are not all that surprising, but the article makes a neat package for sharing with those who have college bound children. Even a thing as simple as understanding the importance of a good night's sleep could could make a difference in a student's success.

I will spend the day today in my own wood shop, inlaying the lids for all the many boxes I have in production. Each year at this time, I anticipate sales for the coming year, and fill holes left in my inventory by the holiday season.

Part of the wonder of woodworking is the opportunity to take something with no readily apparent value and make something beautiful from it. The same principle applies to all of economics. Those who understand values that others may not perceive have the upper hand. The photo above is of spalted wood found at the roadside in Eureka Springs that will be sliced thin and used as inlay in the making of wooden boxes.

Make, fix and create...


  1. this is a discussion that interests me. I see at least two parts to being ready to read.

    First of all is a readiness to learn the actual skills involved in reading text. My youngest could have done that by the time she was three.

    Second is the ability to comprehend and make meaning of it. For my two year old, it wouldn't have been a meaningful activity in terms of comprehension.

    For a lot of kids, both of these seem to come together around the age of seven. When they do, a tremendous amount of progress can be made in a very short time.

    I recall reading the Little House on the Prairie series when I was around that age.

    I see reading as an essential skill, but reading early not nearly as important as enjoying reading.

  2. Anonymous6:01 AM

    My sons both love reading, and have since they were very young. But too many of my students at the community college treated reading like a chore and paid for that attitude in their college grades.