Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Tuesday Topic: Back to school

This is from Danielle: I know right now is "back to school" time in the U.S. and in some other countries. I know some are in January or other times as well. I just thought it might be an interesting time to ask how schools are different in different countries, what kinds of things do kids learn, school traditions, etc. as well as asking how homeschooling families incorporate local culture and educational values into their homeschool curriculum.

(If you have a “Tuesday Topic” question, please email it to me at fylliska@gmail.com. Provide your blog address if you would like to be linked to, or specify if you would like to remain anonymous. Thanks!)


  1. In Russia and Ukraine the first of September is the official first day of school. It's a holiday, and they make a big deal of it. In our homeschool, we do that, too. Our children have to have the standard black and white school clothes for music school and other events, so even though they don't have anywhere to go on Sept. 1, we dress them up and take pictures and celebrate.

    As far as how schools are different.... The best way that I can explain it is by examples. In an American school, if a child gives a wrong answer, they might be told, "Good try!" More focus is on the child's self-esteem than on the absolute of a right or wrong answer. In a Russian school, a wrong answer might get a response like, "You're stupid!" (Not always, and I don't believe good Russian teachers would say that, but I have worked in a school and heard that many times.) Educationally, I think Russian and Ukrainian schools are far ahead of American schools, but they can be hard on the kids. They're much safer and more of a family environment, though, as far as I can tell. (And all of that is just personal observation and opinion; I'm not criticizing the schools in any of the countries I've mentioned!)

  2. School here in Turkey doesn't start until September 17, which makes it hard for a mom like me who wants to start homeschooling early. School here in Turkey is similar to what Phyllis describes above. Also most learning is done by rote memory.

    One school custom that I find heart warming here is the pledge to Ataturk, Father of the modern Turkish Republic. It starts like this:

    "I am a Turk. I am honest. I am hard working. My rule is to respect those older than myself and to care for those younger than myself...."

    I love this, and think respect for elders is something I want to teach my children.

  3. We're just about to step into the whole Russian school experience (our daughter starts 1st grade on Sept. 1st), so I am sure I'll be learning a lot about these things soon! One interesting thing in the schools here is that the kids stay with the same teacher and class for the first 4 years. This could either be a great thing or bad thing, depending on the teacher and group of children. I like the idea of it in general. The kids here become very skilled performance and recitation. What a gift to not have a chance to let stage-fright take hold! From an early age (as in pre-school), kids begin memorizing and reciting poems and acting in little plays in front of audiences. I am always so amazed at what Russian kids can memorize! There is also a seemingly higher emphasis on uniformity here. I see this in things like school uniforms, the very strict form for hand-raising, and the fact that the best art project is the one that looks most like the teacher's (definitely no coloring horses pink or trees orange... everything must be the done the "right" way). I am sure school will be quite the cultural experience for us! I'm excited to give it a try!

  4. Ah, yes, that's something I love about Russian schools: how the teachers and classes stay together! I forgot that it's different. Each class becomes like a little family. At the school where I worked, fourth grade graduation was the biggest cry fest I've ever seen, because they had to part with their beloved teachers.

  5. Our family's regular nature studies and walks get us into contact with local nature--birds, plants, animals, weather (monsoon when you forget the umbrella!)--and people we'd not ever usually meet (like elderly goat-herders).

    Joy in Nepal