June 1, 2010


Today's guest poster is my brother-in-law, Brett Bell. I asked Brett to participate because he just moved his family to Switzerland and I wanted to see how he felt about the disparity between our school system and the Swiss school system. Brett has four children ages 7, 5, 3, and 1. Brett is currently working on a post-doc at the University of Bern in something to do with biomedical engineering. I think in robotics, but don't quote me. This particular post is in question/answer format. Take it away, Brett!

1) How have your views of education changed because of your wife's views of education?

I have learned a love of reading from my wife. Before marriage, I read for leisure, but only seldom. Her love of reading rubbed off on me and I immediately began reading many classic works by Dumas and Dickens and so forth. I really felt like I had been missing out on some great knowledge and I needed to catch up.

2) Do you feel your children are getting a quality education in public school?

Being in Switzerland has definitely opened my eyes on this subject. I can only speak on the merits/demerits of primary school as that has been our experience. There are several aspects of secondary school which do not appeal to me (from what I’ve heard).

Anyhow, in Switzerland, 1st grade does not begin until 7 years of age, and then they still only go half a day. I guess they think that kids should spend more time at home with their mothers. This has positive and negative effects. If the weather is nice, Kayli might take the kids out in the afternoon to the frog pond or a walk in the woods or such. But, if the weather is poor and they are stuck indoors, they get restless and you can tell that they aren’t the angels that they normally are.

The second point is that they focus much more on hand work here than in the States. Printing, cursive, artwork, crafts, etc. are very much the focus. They also talk a lot about the environment and our role in it. Jethro has even had woodworking. They go on field trips to the farm, to the woods on a biweekly basis. The point is, they do a lot of hands on things.

Finally, the main point- they are every bit as smart as Americans and do well in academics in spite of not working like slaves as primary schoolers. Again, I don’t know if they have to work extra hard later to catch up, but I doubt it. This has made me realize that learning outside of the classroom is just as important for kids as what is taught inside the classroom.

3) Do you think homeschoolers are quacks?

I think homeschoolers, baseball dads, and musicians are all quacks. No, seriously, anything can get out of hand if it is not done in moderation and with the right attitude/goals. Homeschooling can be fine and I’m sure that kids learn a lot of what you think is important. The trouble with that however, is that what one homeschooler thinks is important may be and probably is skewed. At least in public school you get exposed to many different things and not just the pet projects of a parent.

4) What do you want for your children or, in other words, what do you think being an educated person entails?

I think educated means being open to new information. No one is ever fully educated, therefore it is a process. I must admit, it is very frustrating for me to encounter and work with people who do not want to learn. Maybe that is because learning has never been difficult for me. In spite of that, I feel that whether someone learns quickly or slowly, we can all learn. It’s the willingness and effort that counts.

So, in short, I want my children to try new things and try to do things that are difficult.

1 comment:

  1. "the angels they normally are" hmmmm.