Why My Child Is Better off Than Your Child

by Evil HR Lady on January 5, 2017

My 8-year-old son entered kindergarten at the ripe old age of 4 and 3 months. That’s a bit early, for US standards. We’d consider that pre-school age in the US, but it’s when Kindergarten starts in Switzerland. Now, granted, he’s the youngest in his class (cut off date was one day before his birthday and we successfully petitioned to have him enter early), but there are lots of other four-year-olds who cross the threshold of the Swiss kindergarten.

You know what he did there? Pounded nails. Went into the forest. Painted. Learned two new languages. Mostly, however, he played. The teachers are loath to intervene in a kindergarten squabble. Unless there is blood, the kids work most things out themselves. A teacher will step in to stop ongoing bullying, but when a child is being picked on, they encourage that child to fight back.

There was no discussion of the alphabet. The kindergarten classroom had no alphabet around the wall, like most kindergarten classrooms. While the teachers read to the students daily, there’s zero expectation that the kids will learn to read themselves.

To keep reading, click here: Why My Child Is Better off Than Your Child

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Parker Davis January 5, 2017 at 2:16 pm

And yet the Swiss have almost zero presence in inventions, technology advances, management practices, medical improvement, etc. The Swiss point to a few things but investigation will find most of the innovators are those who have grown up elsewhere and moved to Switzerland. E.g. the the improved potato peeler which the Swiss are so proud of was really invented by a Polish national.

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Evil HR Lady January 5, 2017 at 6:11 pm

Parker, Switzerland is peaceful, economically strong, and has a low unemployment rate. It’s not all bad. They are a small nation and do, of course, import labor because of their size.

I do have strong disagreements with the education system in the later years, but Iove the elementary school program.

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grannybunny January 5, 2017 at 7:00 pm

The Swiss have greater life expectancies and upward mobility than Americans, very little crime and their bank accounts are the envy of the entire World!

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Crusty Old HR Manager January 5, 2017 at 5:59 pm

I love your articles on the education system in Switzerland. It is fascinating to read how that system differs from the U.S. system and how it teaches life skills that may not get the attention they deserve in the U.S.

@Parker Davis: Perhaps it’s not so much about innovation as it is about building little humans who grow up to be successful big humans because they can resolve conflict, stand up for themselves, and think on their own. These are the people I will hire someday and I will choose them every single time over someone who is innovative but a complete jerk with no social skills or emotional intelligence.

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Chris Hogg January 5, 2017 at 7:58 pm

Welcome to the wonderful world of home schooling.

It’s almost amazing how much and how fast children can learn when they are READY for the subjects at hand (different children at different times) and ENJOY the learning process.

My two children went to two different kindergartens (not home schooled) in two different elementary schools – one played with ducks and small animals, painted, fooled around with musical instruments, went on field trips, and so on; one sat at a desk and “learned” how to read and write, color inside the lines, and “get ready” for first grade.

Care to guess which one went on to get a PhD and which one ultimately dropped out of college?

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Chris Hogg January 5, 2017 at 8:01 pm

PS – they both ended up in the same school system after 2nd grade and finished high school there.

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Kobayashi January 5, 2017 at 9:20 pm

I do love hearing about how things are different, but I do bristle a bit at the slightly superior tone. I’m not sure anyone truly knows what is best for every kid, but I do agree that children benefit from unstructured play/free time. Overall, I think both American and Swiss children end up just fine most of the time.

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J.B. January 6, 2017 at 2:34 am

Your headlines for this articles are really going for the click bait aren’t they? And also wasn’t Erika whatserface the master at Yale who inspired some protests over writing that 18 year olds should be given free range for blackface and redface to promote their learning?

I think these comparisons have the potential to be interesting but the tone (and comments to the previous post) are a bit much. In any case:

1. I’ve most often heard good things said about Finnish elementary education which starts at age 7.
2. What unpaid labor is expected of moms? On these half days do kids go home or get shuttled around by mom? Or are they mostly unsupervised (which would get me arrested)?
3. Relevant to both 1 and 2 how much of this depends on decent incomes and social safety nets? Decent popular science books (Nurtureshock , Your Child’s Brain) discuss really damaging effects of poverty and that well off kids are generally fine.
4. Guided play programs (there are some Montessori like this in my area) require quite a lot of experience to facilitate well.

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Evil HR Lady January 6, 2017 at 2:19 pm

The question of Swiss moms is a good one. It, actually, boggles my mind that Swiss women haven’t risen up in revolt.

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J.B. January 6, 2017 at 5:27 pm

Christakis’ history is important here because it suggests she might have some blinders about race and class. For all the angst directed at middle class white moms, the only parents in my circle that schedule kids that extensively (one couple proudly describes themselves as “helicopters”) are very high achieving immigrants.

Redshirting is fairly common and may make sense for some kids. If their parents can afford it. Or smaller classes with teaching assistants available.

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