Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Interview with Anna Hoffstrom (Part Two)

In part one of this interview, 18-year-old unschooler Anna Hoffstrom shared her thoughts on impromptu lessons, the institution of school and standardized test.

Q: Do you feel that Googling facts is a suitable replacement for knowing

@adversarian: The way I see it, if I need to know something new, looking it up on
Google is fine. If I need the information again, I can look it up
again, and the more I need to repeat that process the more the
information validates itself as something that's worthwhile to
remember. Trying to memorize every bit of information I come across is
just impossible, and a fast fact-check on Google is fine by me.

Q: You are an unschooler. I know that when I was younger, I was not mature enough to handle self-education. Do you think unschooling is a universally applicable model or does it work only for highly motivated learners?

@adversarian: A lot of people don't understand how involved a parent is in an
unschooled child's learning. Unschooling parents have to actively
build a positive, active learning environment and having a positive
attitude about learning is a must. Every bit the child learns will
build up to knew questions, new interests, new projects - all of which
is initiated by the child. The parents role is to support the child's
interests, guide the child when wanted, and answer questions.

So it's not about motivation, discipline, or maturity. It's not about
keeping yourself to a rigorous curricula when you're a five-year-old
and can't handle that kind of responsibility. Unschooling will work
with any child. It's how all children learn before they go to school;
unschoolers just keep following that same informal model.

The more important question is if the PARENTS are highly motivated.

Q: You've had the unique experience of being a student in both America and Finland-- how would you describe the different approaches?

@adversarian: The differences in American and Finnish education can be surprising.

My first impression on going to school in Finland was how informal and
laid back the school was. Students took their shoes off along with
their coats, called teachers by their first names, and the different
grades were all sociable with each other. Kids were giggling and
playing in the corridors.

In contrast, what was expected academically was much more advanced
than in the American schools I had gone to.
In Finland the school system is set up differently: kids start school
at the age of seven (something that studies have shown makes the first
years of education more effective and disrupts family life much less),
are in the same class with the same kids from grades 1-6 in
elementary, and then go to middle school for grades 7-9 with the same
class for those three years.

What really makes the Finnish school system different is that the
process in which seniors in high school go through in America (career
planning, college planning, etc) is what the ninth graders in Finland
go through. After ninth grade, students have to pick either a
vocational high school (engineers, chauffeurs, cooks, hairdressers,
artists, etc) or an academic high school (doctors, architects,
journalists, teachers, etc). The secondary schools treat the
applicants much like colleges do: they require an application,
possibly an interview, and judge their students based on their
academic performance in middle school.

Another couple details: in Finland education is compulsory until the
completion ninth grade (or until a child reaches the age of 17),
secondary school has tuition fees (which you can get loans for), and
children going to school use the same public transportation system
everyone else does. Bus fares, food, and regular medical check ups are
paid for by the government until the child has completed compulsory
schooling. Out-of-country field trips are common in grade 9.

In general, Finnish schools give their students much more
responsibility than American schools, and it's what makes their
students so academically capable.

Q: Are you working on or planning any interesting projects for yourself?

@adversarian: Right now the project I'm most excited about is a writing and
photography business I'm starting in a couple months. My blog is
another big project of mine, and I have big plans for it this year.
But most of my projects are spontaneous, and I wouldn't have it any
other way. It keeps me on my toes and I keep learning things I never
would have expected to come across!

Check out the previous interviews in the series:

Pearce Delphin (Part One)

Pearce Delphin (Part Two)

Todd Oh

Lane Sutton

Anna Hoffstrom (Part One)

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