Blog Archives


It has been nearly two years now that I have immersed myself once again into the culture of teenagers. Though in a Christian school environment, there is enough of the world about them that I have a pretty good idea of what is happening. One thing I would say is that teens are on overload. Their lives are far more complicated than when I was their age or even 15 years ago when I stepped away from the school culture. I can say that from the school perspective it is not likely going to get any easier.

I found this article fascinating and the results not so surprising. I share it because though it is not likely it would provoke much change in our school system, but you should think about your home life and the decisions for activities and schedule that you have control over? Think about it ..


Yesterday, I posed a question on whether a loaded childhood—chalk full of activities, high stress, and low margins—actually delays healthy adulthood. In other words, if a kid never gets to be kid-mobilea kid when they’re young, they’ll want to be one in their twenties or thirties. I’ve seen it far too many times.

Today, I want to share some research on one secret that educators in Finland have discovered that enables their students to experience healthy childhoods… which, in turn, leads to engaged adolescents and healthy adults. I was inspired by this information after talking to several teachers, including Kelly, who’s on a Fulbright research scholarship in Finland this year.

Every educator I’ve met who’s taught in Finland has echoed the same conclusion. Finland doesn’t have the most innovative classrooms. They do not deliver the most brilliant lesson plans. They, in fact, follow the same formulas for pedagogy that many other industrialized nations follow. However—they’ve found a way to lead the pack in many K-12 test scores and produce self-directed students who succeed more often than our American kids. You can look at the scores yourself.

Their secret? They simplify life.

Let me outline just a few examples of how adults in Finland have chosen the “less is more” approach with students (and how it’s paid off big time):

Less formal education.
Although they’ve led the way in test scores, they actually start kids in school at age seven. In America, parents often think age five is too late and launch them into pre-school. Finland believes kids need to be kids early on, so when they begin school, they are really ready (especially boys). Everything after ninth grade is optional.

Less possessions.
While every culture has the rich and the poor, as a whole, Finland’s less materialistic than the U.S. They live in smaller houses, buy fewer clothes, and don’t overwhelm shoppers with 300 choices of cereal or bread when ten will do. Men don’t buy big trucks and women wear less make up. Simple is better.

Less classroom hours.
Unlike our schools, Finnish schools actually start the day between 9:00-9:45 am. In fact, the government is discussing legislation that would prevent schools from starting any earlier, knowing that adolescents need more sleep to perform better. The school day ends between 2:00-2:45 pm. They typically have three to four 75- minute classes a day with several breaks in between. Kids stay engaged.

Fewer teachers per student.
Unlike our schools, Finnish elementary students stay with the same teacher for six years in a row. Obviously, those teachers really figure out the learning needs of each child and have a vested interest in their success since they don’t pass a troubled kid off to a new instructor next year. They ARE the instructor next year.

Less homework.
This one is huge. Finnish schools have the least amount of homework in the industrialized world. Teachers actually believe kids can and should get the work done in class. According to one teacher, it’s as if faculty have an unspoken agreement: “I won’t give you homework if you will work hard on this assignment in class.”

Less subjects.
Believe it or not, Finland actually covers fewer subjects in school and in less hours. Why? Because the parents, teachers and students trust the system and engage it. Instead of being suspicious of each other, they say to kids: This is your chance to get it. You better grab hold of it. Kids are not overwhelmed — they are engaged. One teacher said he often had to push students out of class at the end of the day because they wanted to stay and finish their projects.

Wow. Maybe “less is more” after all.

Question: How could you help simplify the life of your students? (Or child???)

The Marks of an Educated Christian Student

My weekly spot in the Lincoln Christian School newsletter mentions the marks of an educated person. These should be a goal of our teaching that we are leading students to these marks. Space did not allow me to list these marks so I will use this medium. These come from Arthur F. Holmes and his work titled, “The Idea of a Christian College” which is not necessarily a book about college but about Christian education.

The first mark are spiritual virtues. These include an unreserved commitment to God and his purposes for us in the world, a confidence in the gospel of Jesus Christ, and a self-giving devotion (faith, hope and love). These virtues bring to life purpose, expectation and humility.

The second mark are moral virtues. These are qualities of character like love, fairness, the courage of one’s convictions, integrity, and a commitment to justice and love in every area of life.

The third mark are intellectual virtues. These include a breadth of understanding, openness to new ideas, intellectual honesty about other views and about the problems in one’s own, analytic and critical skills, not just verbal skills and powers of communication but grace and eloquence therein as well,  and the ability to say the right thing in the right way at the right time. To acquire intellectual virtues, one needs a sense of history, an imagination that frees them to work at both old and new problems in fresh ways, to ask fresh questions, a wisdom that gets down to basic principles and spots assumptions, sees what is right and good and true, and makes sound decisions accordingly.

The fourth mark is responsible actions in all areas of life. These include a conscientiousness, helpfulness, a servant’s heart, the ability to correct one’s course and start afresh, to maintain relationships, active involvement in the church and community, and to be an effective agent of needful and helpful change.

The fifth mark is a self-knowledge. These are an honest appraisal of their own strengths and weaknesses, no false modesty and no overconfidence, a willingness to address weaknesses, and a willingness to address strengths. Knowing oneself means knowing what you have to learn, knowing how to learn it, and the ability to learn from others.

(From The Idea of a Christian College by Arthur F. Holmes, Eerdmans Publishing, 1987)