Archive for the ‘Jonas Himmelstrand’ Tag

The German Government Versus the Wunderlich Family   2 comments

The Wunderlich Family of Germany was attacked by their own government yesterday, as armed police stormed into their home and took away their four children.

There was no criminal charge of any kind– other than home-schooling.

This, in a so-called free nation? Although millions of children are home schooled legally in in many places, including the U.S., the U.K., Canada, Peru, Botswana, and so on, it is a sad fact that home school is now a punishable crime in Germany, Sweden, Beijing, and elsewhere.

And– while technically not illegal in the countries of France, Greece or Norway, it is extremely tightly –and sometimes cruelly– controlled by the governments there and elsewhere.

This nightmare treatment of the Wunderlich family, the Romeike family, the Himmelstrand family and others undermines the right for children to belong with and belong to their families, not to a government.

Our own President Obama said in his recent State of the Union address that he hopes the U.S. system will soon be more like Germany’s educational system. How can he admire it?

German educational-workforce tracking is efficient, sure. But it’s totally lacking in liberty; a heartless,worker-bee creating, human-dignity-sapping educational system.

By the way, Obama also derides private, religious schools, for being what he calls “divisive.”

Did we just get that right? The President of what is supposed to be the freest country on earth doesn’t approve of private or religious schools and likes the German example of education? So, does Obama approve of Germany’s actions against these families? His Attorney General Eric Holder sure does.

Would they approve of U.S. police taking away custody of the millions of U.S. children who are home schooled here, as well?

Considering the fact that U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder kicked the Romeike family out of the USA, how far off are we from truly having to fight this fight?

Huge kudos to Congressman Marlin Stutzman of Indiana and the 26 additional members of Congress who recently signed a powerful letter to Attorney General Eric Holder saying what needed to be said: “Americans don’t subscribe to the European notion that children belong to the community or the state—they belong to their parents.” The letter also said:

Dear Attorney General Holder,

We respectfully ask that, as the chief law enforcement officer of a nation founded as a safe haven for those who seek liberty, you grant asylum to the Romeike family who fled to the United States in 2008 after suffering persecution from the German government as a result of their decision to homeschool their children.


A decision to deny the Romeikes the opportunity to educate their children freely is a decision to abandon our commitment to freedom.
Doing so would put America alongside those countries that believe children belong to the community or state. A country founded on freedom should stand for the fact that they belong to their parents.

Read the rest here.

Lessons Learned from Sweden: Mireja Institute Calls Early Childhood Education Anti-Family   3 comments

  In light of Utah’s senator Aaron Osmond’s new early education bill in Utah, and similar U.S. errors happening nationwide, I think it’s appropriate to study the Mireja Institute website, with its many articles documenting the errors and lessons learned from Swedish  researchers who study problems of anti-family governmental policies, including early separation of children from parents.

Thank you to Jonas Himmelstrand of the Mireja Institute.

http://www.mireja.org/Resources/himmelstrand_lisbon_statement.pdf

The following article addresses how early childhood education hurts families.

Are the Swedish State family policies delivering?

by Jonas Himmelstrand
Member of the Haro national board, Sweden, http://www.haro.se.

 Lisbon May 25-27, 2010
in the Focus group of the Existential field: State Family Policies

Contact information:
Jonas Himmelstrand
Box 1837
SE-751 48 UPPSALA, Sweden
E-mail: jonas.himmelstrand@mac.com
Phone: +46 18 10 14 50
3 (18)

_____________________________________________________________

Professor Kimmo Jokinen from Finland ended his presentation this morning by saying that Sweden is regarded as the perfected welfare State with the best State family policies. This is indeed the picture that Sweden enjoys worldwide.

I will challenge that picture with statistical information and with observations from my professional and personal experiences in Sweden. My conclusion will be that the Swedish model should be researched carefully by people from outside Sweden if anyone is truly to know what the model actually delivers.

Most of you are familiar with the Swedish model. Our daycare is subsidised up to 90% by the State. A place in daycare is guaranteed within three months for any requesting parent of a child between ages 1 and 5. Sometimes the demand for daycare expands so
quickly there is no time to build new buildings. Instead we now have daycare centres on buses, which are promoted to the public with the idea that it is good for children to travel around and see new environments.

Sweden has a definite trend of de-familiarisation. This is openly stated as being a good thing, because parents are not deemed able to train and foster the development of their children on their own. State intervention is deemed necessary from one year of age on.
This has been a very clear message, voiced continuously by our State institutions, and it is now a part of Swedish culture.

This message also takes the form of encouragement to go to work directly after a mother’s 16-month parental leave. When a mother takes her soon to be one year-old baby for a medical check-up she will typically be asked: ”How do you feel now about going back
to work soon, because you are going back to work aren’t you?” When the child is 18  months of age many nurses will say: ”You really need to go back to work now, because your child needs to be in daycare and you need to work.”

Now deeply rooted in the culture in Sweden is the notion that State professional care is needed for a child to develop properly and that family care is not enough. At the foundation of this argument you typically find notions of gender equality, in Sweden only
seen as women working in paid employment equally as much as men.

Let me provide some background information to help you understand how I came from a focus on management consultancy and training to concerns about State family policies and child development. I have been a self-employed management consultant
for nearly 30 years. About ten years ago I was struck by the increasing frequency and intensity that people in Sweden were getting burnt-out in their jobs. In nearly every work place where I intervened, I would hear the story of an enthusiastic co-worker
who had ”hit the wall” as it is expressed in Sweden. At the same period in time a large political debate was in process on the subject of sick-leave. Sweden had the highest sick-leave in all of Europe in the years around 2002, and still ranks among the highest.

The facts seemed incongruous. Sweden being materially rich and having admired social policies should not be having these problems. Also at the time I was leading study days for faculty in the public schools, and teachers kept coming and saying to me: ”The  psychological health of our pupils has deteriorated alarmingly in the last 20 years. We don’t know what to do any more. How do we manage this in our classrooms? What is happening in our society?”

At the same time as the high sick-leave rates were being debated there were young mothers in my training groups who had just come back to work with a one year old child now in daycare. Again and again they were saying: ”I felt so bad leaving my child to daycare, only one year old, and so small and tender.” The hidden, unexpressed question seemed to be: ”Can this really be the right thing to do?” As an management consultant I asked myself how productive these women could be when they were feeling so much guilt and stress inside. Such guilt is one more added factor of stress and increases the likelihood of succumbing to a stress related infection or disease and going on sickleave.

I saw other signals of societal change. Among other sorts of workshops, I give training on presentation technique. This training can be quite stressful, especially when we use a video camera. Over the years I noticed changes in how participants behaved. I began
my workshops of this kind in the mid-eighties. Participants were mainly 25 to 30 years old, born in the sixties, and they were becoming managers. In the early days, participants did not really have a problem with the training. They thought my courses were a
bit tough because the expectation to become inspiring presenters stretched them and it was a challenging experience to be filmed. But almost all of them were basically okay with the situation. By the end of the nineties I was receiving trainees from a later generation born in the seventies. The training process became more difficult. On nearly every course there was a participant or two with serious self-esteem issues. These were still highly educated people, often with a masters degree in business administration
or similar. Every now and then, it began to happen that a participant would leave the course early, because the experience had become too stressful for them. This had never happened in the eighties.

I began asking myself, ”Am I starting to get a generation with greater difficulties to handle this typical personal growth stress? Why could this be happening? What is it in our life that sets our threshold for handling stress? When does it happen?”
These experiences and others and the questions they provoked drove me to try and understand what was happening and to write my book about it. My investigation led back to our youngest age and earliest experiences in life. I have three children of my
own who have been at home most of the time, and during this investigation, my experience with them has been a form of personal reference. If my book had an English title it would be “Following your heart – in the social utopia of Sweden.”

A shorter version of the book in English may become available in the future. To finish my personal introduction, in addition to my consultancy and being on the Haro national board, I also run a small think-tank, The Mireja Institute, and I am the president of the Swedish Association for Home Education known – Rohus.

Let us now turn to Swedish statistics. First let’s look at the well-known Swedish statistics that has made Swedish social policies famous.

• Sweden has the lowest infant mortality in the world. In Sweden we take care of pregnancy relatively well and pregnant mothers will easily find support in our public medical system. There are only three deaths among a thousand children before the age
of five. No country has a lower number than this.
• Swedish people enjoy a long life expectancy. A Swedish man’s life is on average 79 years, and a women’s is 83 years. Still, Japanese women live even longer with an 86 year life expectancy.
• Sweden has a relatively high birth rate in the European context with 1.7 children per woman of child rearing age, although I hear that Finland is now surpassing Sweden. Many other European countries have a much lower birth rate. But 1.7 is a quantity
measure. Based on what I will share later in this presentation it makes sense to also add a quality measure. Are we actually producing a next generation which has the psychological maturity, and the ability to handle stress, that life in a future knowledge society
will require? I will let that be an open question for now.
• Sweden has a low level of child poverty: 13%. It is not as low as one may expect, but it is still lower than the European average.
• Sweden has a very high spending on education. We have among the highest expenditures per child, if not the highest, whether in daycare or in school. But we are not getting the learning results from that spending that we should be getting.
• Sweden has a strong culture of equality and gender equality. The Nordic countries have hardly ever had any class system, so there is a strong tradition of equality. Also gender equality has a very strong position in our public debate since about 30 years
back.
• Perhaps someone can contradict me, but Swedes say that we have the best parental leave in the world. We have 13 months at 80% of our salary up to a certain level, with an additional 90 days at a lower level. Perhaps this makes people believe that Sweden is
the best country for families. What most people outside of Sweden don’t understand, however, is that after these 16 months the door closes. Finland has a general home care allowance. Other countries have lower taxes or tax benefits making home care financially
possible. During the last two years in Sweden there has been an allowance which is not national and only discretionary for every municipality. The allowance is small by Swedish standards, about 300 euros per month, with no pension benefits. Only one
third of all Swedish municipalities currently offer this home care allowance. This voluntary allowance is not fully supported by Parliament. If there is a shift in Government in this year’s coming elections, the home care allowance will probably be taken away
completely. Other than this there are no tax benefits of any kind for parents not wanting to use the public daycare system.
The Swedish system is designed for the dual earner household. This is the expressed policy of our Government and is supported by both sides of the political spectrum.

Our current Government calls it the ”work policy” and signifies that everybody should be engaged in full-time paid employment after parental leave. Most parties also argue that parental leave should ideally be split in half between the mother and the father,
and some parties want to make such an equal split a requirement. Now let us take a look at the neutral statistics.

The neutral statistics

• Close to 90% of all children between 18 months and 5 year old are in daycare, often for 6 to 10 hours a day. There are even cases of 11 hours per day. Depending on your values, this can either make you happy, because it shows that Sweden has managed to
implement a system of daycare for nearly every child. But it can also make you sad. A couple of weeks ago I was at a family conference with child psychologists and family counsellors in Canada. They were in tears about these facts.
• Daycare group sizes for the under-3s are never below 10 children, except perhaps in some transitory phases. In the eighties the group size for small children was regulated to 10 children or fewer. But since the responsibility for daycare was moved to the
Ministry of Education there are no longer any national regulations on either group size or child-to-staff ratios. According to regulations, quality has to be good, but it is up to every municipality to decide what ”good quality” means. The consequence is typically that the finances of the municipality determine daycare group sizes and child-to-staff ratios. A common group size for the under-3s is 14 children, but there are groups of up to 17 small children. Such groups often have three staff, of which one may be part-time. When one of the staff is on sick-leave, which is common among day-care staff and pre-school teachers, there is often no replacement for financial reasons. There are even situations where there is only one staff for 17 small children below three years of age. Three Swedish experts recently wrote a book collecting all these statistics. Their conclusion is that Swedish daycare is no longer of the quality required for a healthy development in children. They say there are many children at risk because our daycare is no
longer of sufficient quality. It should be added that these three experts all hold a positive general view on daycare.
• The average daycare child-to-staff ratio for all ages is 5:1. This is pretty good for older children. But Swedish daycare regulations lack awareness that the under-3s demand much more adult attachment – and thereby higher staff-to-child ratios – than
older children. Awareness of this fact is more profound in other countries, for example in England and the US. In the US there are recommendations of child-to-staff ratios of 3:1 or 4:1 for smaller children in group sizes of six or eight children. Some states in
the US have implemented these recommendations. In England there are regulations of similar child-to-staff ratios for small children.
Sweden has no regulations on child-to-staff ratios, and ratios of 7:1 and even 10:1 do exist in Swedish daycare.
• The cost of the Swedish daycare system, according to a recent study by the Swedish Parliament research department, is 􀂪 15000 per child per year, of which more than 90% is paid by the State. When you consider the group sizes and child-to-staff ratios
mentioned above, you realise that bringing Swedish daycare to high quality for under- 3s would probably bring the price tag close to 􀂪 25000 per child per year. Of course, the question then is at what price is it more profitable to pay the parents to take care
of their own children rather than put the children in daycare and send both parents to work. The price of high quality daycare for the under 3s could provide a fairly generous home care allowance.
• Our present centre-right government is presenting a new school law expected to be passed by Parliament in June. The new school law further strengthens the ideas that the State fosters child development better than parents and that daycare is a form of
school. The new school law will severely restrict home education, which has become a growing and very successful educational trend in the Western world. Home education is already highly restricted in Sweden compared to most other countries in Europe.
Also pupils will be severely restricted from obtaining time off from school during winter to join their family for a long family trip, thus lessening the opportunities for families to have common family experiences. The penalties for breaking the school law will
be fines. The new law also makes prison a possibility. One member of Parliament has raised the concern that making daycare a form of school, could be a first step to making daycare compulsory in Sweden.
This brings us to the more uncomfortable statistics.

The uncomfortable statistics

• During the last 30 years Sweden has seen a severe decline in the psychological health among our youth. Mild psychological disorders such as re occurring headaches, stomach aches, worries and anxiety have tripled from about 9% to 30% since the eighties
for girls, and slightly less for boys. Several studies by Government institutions confirm these statistics. However, no plausible official explanation has been given.
During the years 1986-2002 the psychological health for 15 year old’s in Sweden declined faster than in ten other comparable countries: Finland, Denmark, Norway, Hungary, Switzerland, Austria, Belgium, Wales, Spain and Scotland.
• Sweden has very high rates of sick-leave, especially among women, and particularly among women over 50 years of age, statistics which are at the top in Europe. Psychosocial explanations dominate. Few women today actually work until 65 years of age.
Many take early retirement of some form as soon as age 55. This is, of course, the first generation of women who have had to combine motherhood with full-time work, excepting for parental leave. These data are shown in a study published in the Swedish
medical journal, Läkartidningen in 2005.
• Educational outcomes in Swedish schools are plummeting. Twenty-five years ago  Swedish children were among the best in the world in reading, writing and mathematics. Today, we just about make it to average, and in mathematics we are below average.
• Swedish schools have severe discipline problems. According to our present Minister of Education, Jan Björklund, Swedish schools have among the highest truancy, the greatest classroom disorder, the most damage to property and the most offensive language
of all comparable nations. Björklund has been criticised for exaggerating, but official reports confirm that these problems in Swedish schools are significant. Also, one who visits Swedish schools for professional reasons can bear witness to the situation.
• The parental skills of Swedish parents are deteriorating. Britta Johansson was one of several researchers in a EU-sponsored study of Swedish schools and daycare. One thousand five hundred teachers and daycare staff were interviewed. Britta Johansson
wrote an article about the results in one of Sweden’s national morning papers, Svenska Dagbladet. The interviewed educators voiced deep concern about the lack of parental skills in the parents of their pupils. The survey results showed that even healthy, intelligent
and reasonable Swedish parents have difficulties in being parents today. According to Britta Johansson they lack knowledge about children’s needs and they cannot set limits. She writes (my translation): The public offer of full day child care seems to make many parents lose the grip on their own responsibility. They trust that their children are better fostered by the pre-school and school and that the experts on their children are found there. Britta Johansson also says that pre-school and school cannot fill the gaps caused by lack of parental time with their children and trust in parents role in rearing their children.
• Sweden has a highly segregated labour market, with men mostly working in the private sector with reasonable salaries, and women mostly working in the public sector at low salaries. Many women never made their own choice to work, rather they were more
or less pushed into the labour market when the tax benefits for families with home mothers were abolished in 1971. Even forty years afterward, today’s polls regularly show that a majority of Swedes would prefer the financial possibility for parents to be
at home with their children for the first four years.

Possible causes based on current knowledge

I will now offer an attempt to explain the possible causes of these statistics using some available theoretical models.
• Today we know from child psychology and neuroscience that early separation of infants from parents can create chronically low thresholds for stress in some children. This can lower the threshold for anxiety for the rest of the child’s life. Early separation
would be expected to lead to a less resilient future generation. Medical technology today can actually measure stress levels in the saliva easily and clearly, making stress research easy to perform, also in small children.
• We also know today that early exposure to large groups of peers leads to peer-orientation, which has detrimental results on psychological maturation, learning, and the transference of culture between generations. Canadian psychologist Dr. Gordon Neufeld
has explored in detail the causal connections of the sorts of phenomena we have been discussing. His work is reported in his book Hold on to your kids – why parents need to matter more than peers.
How does peer-orientation happen? Consider a typical day in the life of a ten year old in a Stockholm suburb. The child is left by his parents at 7.00 in the morning at  the school for before-school-child-care. When school begins the child is already tired
and hungry. After a long day in school there is after-school-child-care while the child waits for the tired parents to return at perhaps 5.00 or 6.00 in the late afternoon. In the evening the child may be having another activity outside home, which most ambitious
Swedish parents believe is good for their children. Where does the child find emotional security? One needs someone for comfort and closeness. The parents are inaccessible for too long. In the best case scenario there will be a caring adult in school. But for
most children it will be a peer or a gang which offers emotional support during school hours. This is the genesis of peer orientation. It fills the lack of meaningful relationships with trusted adults interested in the development of the child. The problem with peer
orientation is that peers, especially during the teens, do not have the maturity themselves to handle the difficult feelings about differences, conflicts, failure, rejection and deceit. The limited maturity of peer-orientation results in conformism, gangs, bullying,
aggression, and sometimes violence. Also as youngsters attach themselves to peers, they are in the process emotionally detaching themselves from the adult world, including their parents.
• The culturally endorsed separation of infants in Sweden causes stress in parents, manifested in many as sick-leave. According to a meta-study by Dean Ornish, M.D, high-quality, close relationships are the strongest health factor, superior to and more
important than all other health factors combined. In Sweden we don’t have much time for close relationships in families. The high frequency of stress related disease can be seen as a consequence. According to research by Sir Michael Marmot too little control over one’s personal life situation is another risk factor to health. Through its family policies Sweden has given
the State a controlling position in the bedroom of every Swedish family – a clear risk factor to health.
• High levels of State intervention in family life reduce parents’ sense of responsibility for their children. Swedish Governmental agencies have been very successful in promoting the idea of daycare as more than a convenience and as the best child care solution
for everyone. Unfortunately, unintended drawbacks and consequences have not been anticipated. When parents loose their sense of responsibility, they do not develop in younger years the strong relationships with their children which are essential for them to provide guidance to them especially through adolescence.

Effects on democracy

The three experts on daycare referred to previously also raise a sensitive subject about our democracy. They report that discussing this whole issue is very difficult in Sweden because it brings up feelings of guilt in parents. The Swedish people have had the
daycare solution largely forced upon them both culturally and financially after parental leave. They seldom made their own considered choice because of lack of options. They saw no choice but to accept the situation and suppress their feelings, and they don’t want to be reminded of this. Similarly, the media seldom discuss this topic. One might compare the Swedish situation to a dysfunctional family where everyone may know that daddy drinks to much, but no one admits it. They cover it up because talking about it is too uncomfortable. In Sweden most people know in their hearts that our family policies are seldom in our children’s best interest, but no one talks about it. It is simply too painful.

I confess that it would be nearly impossible in Sweden to have a presentation like this one, except for certain specialised groups. These matters are not supposed to be talked about. It makes parents uncomfortable to awaken the thought that they may not have
made the choice they wanted, so they get defensive. Staff at daycare centres do not tell parents of the hardships their child may have suffered during the day because they do not want to disturb the parents feelings. Instead they say that the day was wonderful
even it is was not, and even if the child had to face some painful situations. There are many witnesses of this behaviour. The three experts write extensively about it. I have seen it myself. I get told completely different stories whether I go to daycare in the role
of a parent or in the role of a consultant.

This means that we have created a family policy that is difficult, or not at all possible to discuss through normal democratic processes. This is in itself is a serious democratic problem. A democratic country should never implement policies that cannot be discussed through democratic means.

The concluding hypothesis

My concluding hypothesis is that Swedish State family policies are not emotionally sustainable, and thus not sustainable in either health, psychological maturation or learning.

Quality of parenthood is very strongly a matter of intergenerational inheritance, and we are already seeing definite problems in the Swedish parental generation today. Many of them have never had a close relationship with their mother or father in the way that
their grandparents had. Swedish State family policies may not even be democratically sustainable as there are definite difficulties in even discussing these policies.

The consequences of Swedish family policies should therefore be investigated through thorough, comprehensive, and comparative procedures conducted by research institutions outside Sweden before any other nations attempt to copy the Swedish State family
policies.

—Jonas Himmelstrand, May 2010

Sources

”Att följa sitt hjärta – i jantelagens Sverige”, by Jonas Himmelstrand. ISBN 978-91- 975836-1-9. Swedish. (Swedish book title: ”Following your heart – in the social utopia of Sweden”.)
English link: http://www.thehappycompany.eu/follow_heart.html ”Ungdomar, stress och psykisk ohälsa”, SOU 2006:77.
(Swedish Government publication on ”Youth, stress and psykological ill health”.)
Swedish link: http://www.regeringen.se/sb/d/6293/a/67472
”Vem orkar ända till 65? Inte kvinnorna – mer än hälften avslutar arbetslivet i förtid”, by Kristina Orth-Gomér et al. Läkartidningen nr 34, 2005, volym 102. (Swedish medical journal, presentation of research on middle-aged womens sick leave and early retirement.)
Swedish Link: http://cat.inist.fr/?aModele=afficheN&cpsidt=17054366 ”TIMSS 2007: Försämrade skolresultat i matematik för svenska elever”, Skolverket, pressmeddelande december 2008. (Swedish Government Education Agency on plummeting
results in maths and science in Swedish schools.) Swedish link: http://www.skolverket.se/sb/d/2006/a/14303
”Att våga sätta gränser”, by Britta Johansson, SvD 070126. (Swedish researcher on Swedish middle-class parents difficulties in their parenting role.) Swedish link: http://www.svd.se/opinion/brannpunkt/artikel_195247.svd ”Why Love Matters – How affection shapes a baby’s brain”, by Sue Gerhardt. Brunner-Routledge 2004. ISBN 1-58391-817-5. English link: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/1583918175
Read more: http://www.stratletter.com/brev.lasso?id=324557917262356
”Förskola för de allra minsta – på gott och ont”, by Magnus Kihlbom, Birgitta Lidholt and Gunilla Niss. Carlssons förlag 2009. ISBN 978-91-7331-267-7. (Three leading Swedish daycare experts about the severely decreasing quality in Swedish daycare.) Swedish link: http://www.mynewsdesk.com/se/pressroom/carlssonbokforlag/ pressrelease/view/dagens-foerskola-paa-gott-och-ont-349038
”Are There Long-Term Effects of Early Child Care?” by NICHD Early Child Care
Research Network. Child Development vol. 78 Issue 2 Page 681-701, Mars/April-07.
English link: http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/117957245/abstract?CRETR Y=1&SRETRY=0
”Stress in Daycare”, by Sir Richard Bowlby. Social Baby.com.
English link: http://socialbaby.blogspot.com/2007/04/richard-bowlby-stress-in-daycare.
html
”Hold on to your kids – why parents need to matter more than peers”, by Dr. Gordon Neufeld. ISBN 0-375-50821-X.
English link: http://www.gordonneufeld.com/book.php
Read more: http://www.stratletter.com/mna.lasso?id=371631139072144 ”Love and Survival – How good relationships can bring you health and well-being”, by Dr. Dean Ornish. Vermilion 2001. ISBN 0-09-185704-X.  English link: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/009185704X
”Status Syndrome – How your social standing directly affects your health”, by Michael Marmot. Bloomsbury Publishing 2005. ISBN 0747574081. English link: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/0747574081 Read more: http://www.stratletter.com/mna.lasso?id=272422439552148
”Home Schooling and the Question of Socialization”, by professor Richard G. Medlin.
Peabody Journal of Education, 75 (1&2 ), 107-123. 2000. English link: http://www.
informaworld.com/smpp/content~content=a785831043~db=all
”Full daycare – national standards för under 8s daycare and childminding.” (England)
English link: http://publications.teachernet.gov.uk/default.aspx?PageFunction=productdetails&PageMode=publications&ProductId=DfES+0651+2003&
”National Health and Safety Performance Standards: Guidelines for Out-of-Home
Child Care Programs.” (USA) English link: http://aspe.hhs.gov/hsp/ccquality-ind02/#Staff1

Links

• Haro – Swedish organisation for freedom of choice, equality and parenthood,
http://www.haro.se
• Jonas Himmelstands speech on the future role of family; at a seminar in the Swedish
Parliament December 8, 2008. http://www.stratletter.com/dec10speech.html
• Mireja – The Mireja Institute, welfare and development through family,
http://www.mireja.org
• Rohus – The Swedish Association for Home Education, http://www.rohus.nu
• Articles in English by Jonas Himmelstrand, http://www.mireja.org/articles.html

Dare to Home School   7 comments

 Dare to Home School

Education is the continuation of God’s creation of a human life.

This idea comes from author and scholar Dr. Neil Flinders. Think about it: the instant the baby leaves the womb  –and even before leaving the womb–  he/she is beginning to learn. He gains knowledge from us as parents, from the beginning– language skills, the ability to eat, to feel love, to hear music and to absorb all our “norms”.

Why do so many parents feel pain when they send their five-year-olds to kindergarten– and cry?

They are giving away the child.  For most of the day, for the rest of their lives, that child belongs to the school system, not to the parent.  It often feels like the wrong thing to be doing. And maybe it is.

When I mention that I’m home schooling my fourth grader, I often get this response: “Oh, I wish I could do that. I don’t dare. I am not ____ enough.”   (adjectives vary– organized, smart, brave, educated, confident, etc.)

It is sad that there are parents out there who long to spend more time with their own children, who would be experiencing the academic miracles and family joys that home school parents see, but something holds them back.

So I’m writing today to the parents who are almost ready to home school their children.  I encourage you to jump in. Those who want to home school, but don’t do it, usually state either: 1) I don’t know what I would teach, or 2) My child needs peers for social development:

1. I don’t know what I would teach/ I am not educated enough to teach.

There is a misperception that “real” teachers have fairy dust or all-powerful diplomas that make them fundamentally different from you. But every parent, like every child, has got a combination of gifts and weaknesses.

The teaching diploma is Dumbo’s feather. (Remember the story? Dumbo did not really need the feather to fly; it made him think he could fly but he already had that ability without it.)

I know this because I learned next to nothing of actual value in my CSUSB teaching program. The valuable stuff came from mentors and from personal experience.

And, guess what? Even though I am a credentialed teacher and have taught third grade, high school and college for years and years and years, still, when it came time to make the choice whether to home school or not, I froze.

I felt a heavy responsibility to make sure my son received the very best education I could possibly acquire for him. Could I do it without authority figures and lists of rules and tests and bureaucratic ideals to follow? Seriously! I was nervous.

That heavy responsibility is on us whether we choose to home school or not.

The responsibility for what a child learns and becomes is not the government’s or the school system’s. It’s ours as parents, and always has been.

There are so many curricula, programs, textbook series, online ideas and sets of standards that your problem won’t be: “what will I teach?” It will be “what must I leave out” because there is so much you can do.

Just start researching what other successful home school parents do. Then make up your own mind which method sounds the very, very best– to you. You are in charge and you know your child better than anyone on the earth.

So trust your judgment as you would have trusted a favorite principal or mentor in the past.

Studies show that even home schooling parents with low levels of education wind up with children that are better educated than children who attend public schools.   See:  http://www.mireja.org/articles.lasso

I can see why. Home school works more like the brain works. A child studies a topic, thinks about it, gets questions, and goes to find answers for those questions almost immediately. You don’t have to wait for the whole class to get to the topic. Curiosity stays fresh. Students learn more quickly and more specifically to how the mind works.  And if a child especially loves art, math, physics or sewing, he/she may advance in that area much more than he or she could in most one-size-fits-all public systems.

If there’s a subject you fear teaching, GET OVER IT.  Those oft-hated subjects, of math, history or science are only hard when you have had boring teachers in your past. There’s a spoonful of sugar element most math-haters or history-haters or other subject-haters, have never seen.

When people say “I’m not a math person,” or some similar comment, to me, it’s like saying, “I don’t speak French.” That’s nothing but exposure, baby. You can enjoy any subject with love, patience and determination.

I am teaching traditional Saxon math  to my son right now, who went from 4th to 6th grade math ability in five months’ time by homeschooling.  I also teach him the same things I taught my remedial college writing classes– parts of speech, diagramming sentences, using commas properly, writing complex sentences, using more interesting and rich vocabulary, and HAVING FUN by writing about interesting things.  His writing skills did the same thing that his math skills have done– soared.

He was not a strong writer last autumn.  But last week, he volunteered to write and submit a 500 word essay to a local political essay contest on a very hard topic.  No kidding.  He did it on his own.  And it was good.

No matter what else we do on any given day– and it varies widely; some days we’re swimming and diving at the pool; some days we’re picnicking at the park; some days we are a museum or a grandparent’s house or a quilting bee or touring the local university– but we never skip the Saxon math lesson or the essay writing. 

Now, essay writing might mean writing a poem, or creating a powerpoint on the computer with sentences under each photo, or writing a letter to Santa or to a grandparent; it might mean writing a fictional story.  It might mean writing about the first five presidents of the United States after we’ve studied them in our history lesson. It varies, but we never skip the writing, nor the math. That’s my way.  But you’ll have your own.

I make sure to add in the things that Common Core is deleting from public education:

  1. Cursive– every day, my son writes a verse from the scriptures in cursive, and on many days, I have him write his whole essay in cursive.  Because it’s beautiful.
  2. Traditional math– as I’ve said before, I do not like the common core “constructivist” math programs and most textbooks are aligning now to common core.  I purchase old, pre-common core text books from Saxon (there are other traditional programs, too).
  3. Classic literature – the only place “informational text” is read in my home school is when we are studying subjects other than English, such as history, science, math, geography, and now, journalism.  When we choose reading materials, we choose actual literature: Tom Sawyer, The Hobbit, Swedish Fairy Tales, Great Expectations, etc. The vocabulary’s so rich; the imagery and metaphors and good versus evil concepts and life-lessons are no where else in such abundance as they are to be found in classic literature.  Kids need it.

2. My child needs to be surrounded by his or her peers for social development.

The second concern parents usually raise is that their child needs socialization and that’s only available in public school.  Really?

With sports teams, scouting, church activities, neighborhood friends, cousins, siblings, parents, field trips, and other, outside-our-home, homeschooling events, I never feel that my homeschooler is socially deprived.

In fact, the opposite is true. He now receives more one-on-one teaching time and talking time with me than he did when he attended public school. Even when I’m not teaching, I’m teaching. He’s conversing with an adult much of the day, and that is educational. He’s not just told to be quiet and listen and occasionally to raise his hand. He talks with me all day long. And we go out of our way to make sure he gets peer play time, as well.

With Valentine’s Day coming up, he mentioned that one of his favorite traditions in public school was decorating a box to receive valentines in. So we made creative boxes for each member of our family and displayed them on the piano. We are putting cards and candies in them all month long. And mailing valentines to cousins, missionaries and others, just for fun. There are very few positive public school activities that cannot be recreated in home school. And many useless ones that can be skipped.

Additionally, there are other home school families either in your neighborhood or online that you can connect with.

Last week, four homeschool families in my neighborhood got together for a “snow day.” The children went sledding while the parents had a teachers’ conference. One mother who had only been home schooling for a few weeks was so excited that she brought all her history curriculum and her children’s binders and was showing us what they’re doing. The children love it so much that when they have free reading time, they are still reading their history books.

Home schooling is hard work; yes, but it absolutely works –and it is so much fun.

One of the most wonderful things about home school is that I get to teach my child faith in God, something government schools are forbidden to do. And I do.  The teaching of all subjects under the umbrella of “God is real and God is love” makes a huge difference in the approach we take to any subject.

I will close with one fine example.  It’s a video I showed my son as part of our science curriculum this week, that features a renowned scientist, Dr. Lewis, a NASA advisor, explaining his beautiful faith in God and how he combines science with faith.

Enjoy.    http://youtu.be/JR8qIrJcJh4

Mireja: Psych. Illness Linked to Government-Controlled Education and Interrupted Family Attachment   Leave a comment

http://www.mireja.org/about_mireja.html

Reblogged from Mireja Institute:

In Sweden, many families lack the power to make their own decisions about their close relationships, especially when children arrive.

Symptoms are visible in the national statistics: High levels of stress-related sick leave, ambitious but insecure parents, increasing psychological ill heath among youth, plummeting learning results and more disorder in schools.

The governmental impediments are often well-intentioned: The everyone-to-work policy, gender equality, high subsidised day care, pre- and after-school care and school. But rather than create more welfare, these are in effect often hindrances to the close relationships which are so important to human health, learning and development.

The Mireja Institute seeks to educate people on this important subject.

Mireja Institute is politically and religiously unaffiliated and is neither based on any specific ideology, apart from democracy and human rights. The purpose of The Mireja Institute is to present the knowledge available today about health, learning and personal growth through attachment and relationships, to the political level.

This knowledge is lacking today in the political debate in many countries, Sweden being no exception. When this knowledge is publicly known family policies in most political camps will look different, even though the solutions may vary.

The goal is to make available the knowledge about the potential in close relationships to build welfare, development and democracy.

Jonas Himmelstrand

Founder of The Mireja Institute

Mireja founder Jonas Himmelstrand has been a consultant in business for nearly 30 years focusing on leadership, education and personal development.

Meeting a great number of Swedes in business life during many years raised some concerns about how well the Swedish people were actually doing in the world’s best well-fare system. Jonas spent five years working on a book to explain the phenomena. The problems seemed to boil down to a social system not acknowledging the key importance of family and close relationships to health, personal growth and self-fulfilment.  He currently lives in exile outside of Sweden, due to Sweden’s anti-homeschooling laws.

With The Mireja Institute Jonas spreads knowledge on the subjects of family attachment and educational liberty.  Mireja sends out a free newsletter with research videos and links.

Mireja Newsletter:

This is a newsletter from the think tank Mireja.

The mailing list is expanded and professionalized. You can sign up for the list on the web, and anytime unsubscribe – all with IT automation – see links below. You are receiving this mailing for the first time can learn more about me and think tank Mireja on www.mireja.se/om_mireja.html .
It has been thin with “clips” in the last year. The forced relocation to Åland in Swedish education policy reasons, plus the global homeschooling conference in Berlin took all my time this year. Now with safer living conditions in exile and some good news there are many reasons to revive this mailing list.
Knowledge Channel to broadcast a full study day with Dr. Gordon Neufeld on TV!

The world’s foremost experts on children and young people’s development is the Canadian psychologist Dr. Gordon Neufeld.

His book “Dare to Take Place in Your Child’s Life” has been translated into 14 languages ​​and is based on a synthesis of classical developmental psychology, attachment theory and contemporary neuroscience. Dr. Neufeld has been to Sweden several times and given study days for school staff and lectures for parents. One key message is that parents and families are far more important for children’s development than we now recognize in the West and especially in Sweden.

Dr. Neufeld’s study day in Sweden in November, “Why doesn’t Charlie listen to his teacher?” Filmed by Knowledge Channel and will be broadcast in its entirety – just over five hours – as follows:

Monday, December 17, at. 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., parts 1 and 2. Tuesday, December 18, at. 4:00 p.m. to 6:15 p.m., Part 3 and 4. Then, all components of the replay: Friday, December 21, at. 12:00 to 17:15, Part 1-4

After the program was broadcast on television for the first time, they will be available online at www.urplay.se and www.ur.se . To find them, search for “Gordon Neufeld” or the name of the series, “Why doesn’t Charlie listen to his teacher?”  (“Varför lyssnar inte Kalle på sin lärare?”)

Do not miss this opportunity to listen to the entire field day with Dr. Gordon Neufeld absolutely free!

Think tank Mireja’s Swedish website is now fully updated with all the year’s events, including exile, and also with ten links from the historic homeschooling conference in Berlin a few weeks ago.

Welcome back to this mailing list!
Sincerely

Jonas Himmelstrand

Think tank Mireja , Box 1454, SE-114 79 Stockholm, Sweden Phone: +46 8-20 01 14 www.mireja.se * kontakt@mireja.se

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The Berlin Declaration   2 comments

I’ve been reading about last month’s historic Berlin Declaration. I want to share highlights from World News Daily and The New American.

The Berlin Declaration is a human rights and parental-rights affirming document that says:

We remind all nations that numerous international treaties and declarations recognize the essential, irreplaceable and fundamental role of parents and the family in the education and upbringing of children as a natural right that must be respected and protected by all governments…

According to the New American magazine, leaders in the homeschooling movement from two dozen countries signed a document –the “Berlin Declaration” on November 3, demanding that governments around the world “respect families and the fundamental human right to home education…”


The New American writes that the Declaration argues that the right to home educate must be respected and cites multiple human rights documents and a growing body of evidence showing the benefits of homeschooling.  The Declaration’s signatories say the senseless persecution of homeschooling families must end.


“It’s an expression of the growing confidence among homeschoolers that this is just another historical struggle for human rights and that we will win,” said Jonas Himmelstrand, Swedish Home Education Association (ROHUS) chief and Global Home Education Conference (GHEC) Chairman, who fled Sweden with his family. “The Berlin Declaration shows that these rights are already recognized in various human rights conventions; they simply need to be manifested all over the world.”


The magazine continues: “Even the controversial United Nations, widely perceived among critics as a dictators club, has recognized home education as a fundamental human right. In 2007, for example, the UN Special Rapporteur on Education officially condemned the German government’s vicious oppression of homeschoolers while stating that home education is an entirely legitimate alternative to state schooling. Multiple binding European human rights treaties are also cited in the Berlin Declaration….”

Full text here:

I’ve been enlightened by Jonas Himmelstrand’s writings, research and speeches before.  The fact that he’s a leader in this declaration is a big deal to me.

The Berlin Declaration  is a very bright spot on the map of world news.

Why I Decided to Homeschool My Child   6 comments

     Even though the elementary school my son attended up until this week is one of the friendliest, most parent-involved and teacher-dedicated school I’ve ever seen, I decided to homeschool. 

My decision to homeschool is not a political statement, although I am vehemently opposed to the Common Core Initiative which has taken over our schools. 

It’s not an attempt to shield my son from the pegging that happens with high stakes testing; I had already opted us out of all high stakes, standardized tests at the elementary school.

Although I am a certified teacher with an up to date credential and many years’ experience teaching in schools, I am not basing my decision on that; research I’ve seen by Jonas Himmelstrand, and by others, has shown that even children taught at home by parents with low education levels turn out better educated kids, on the whole, than kids who are taught in public school systems.

My decision was not an attempt to hide from the citizen surveillance program that has recently been implemented via the SLDS and P-20 systems in each state, although I am vehemently opposed to that, too.  (BTW, the fact that kids can’t attend school without being personally tracked was verified in an email to me by Lorraine, the secretary of the Utah State School Board that is posted on this site.)

I’m homeschooling because one-on-one, customized tutoring is more effective than teaching in large groups.  I’m homeschooling because I can eliminate things I don’t feel are important and make more time for things I feel are important.  Example: I have time to teach him things that public schools do not prioritize, such as not only reading and math and social studies, but also geography, cursive, Swedish, diagramming sentences, reading scriptures, analysis of government and liberty.  I’m homeschooling because my son wants me to.  He asked me to.

Friends have been asking me what I am using.

  • Lined paper and a pencil, because I want him to have great handwriting, the ability to write in cursive, and no spellcheck until he’s older.
  • A computer, because he can create powerpoints based on what he’s learned, and practice typing, and find maps and dictionaries, etc.
  • Saxon math, because it’s “real” math, traditional math, and there’s an online placement test before you buy the text book.  I love it. 
  • “What Your Fourth Grader Needs to Know” because I used this line of books when I taught elementary school a few years ago and liked it.
  • CK Colorado because it’s a free website with lesson plans that match the “What Your Fourth Grader Needs to Know.”
  • Swedish Fairy Tales.
  • The Scriptures.
  • The same grammar books I used for remedial students when I taught English at UVU
  • Mad Libs.
  • The CIA World Factbook and maps on the internet to teach geography.
  • Virtual Field Trips (online: to an apple cider factory, woolen mill, surfboard factory, museums worldwide, Machu Piccu via National Geographic YouTube, etc.)
  • Real Field Trips (there are so many things close by– university art and science museums, farms, airports, libraries, historical sites)   

And, to ensure he’s not socially left out, I also have him in karate three times a week, boy scouts, church, and I encourage neighbor and sibling play time all afternoon, and I’ve joined the Utah County homeschooling association and will probably do things with them as well.

   Ironically, in the October 15, 2012, issue of the National Review, there’s an article called The Last Radicals“The Last Radicals: Homeschoolers Occupy the Curriculum” that came out, ironically, the same week that I decided to homeschool my own fourth grade son.   

The author, Kevin D. Williamson, writes:

<!—->          There is exactly one authentically radical social movement of any real significance in the United States, and it is not Occupy, the Tea Party, or the Ron Paul faction. It is homeschoolers, who, by the simple act of instructing their children at home, pose an intellectual, moral, and political challenge to the government-monopoly schools, which are one of our most fundamental institutions and one of our most dysfunctional. Like all radical movements, homeschoolers drive the establishment bats.

In the public imagination, homeschooling has a distinctly conservative and Evangelical odor about it, but it was not always so. The modern homeschooling movement really has its roots in 1960s countercultural tendencies; along with A Love Supreme, it may represent the only worthwhile cultural product of that era. The movement’s urtext is Summerhill: A Radical Approach to Child Rearing, by A. S. Neill, which sold millions of copies in the 1960s and 1970s. Neill was the headmaster of an English school organized (to the extent that it was organized) around neo-Freudian psychotherapeutic notions and Marxian ideas about the nature of power relationships in society. He looked forward to the day when conventional religion would wither away — “Most of our religious practices are a sham,” he declared — and in general had about as little in common with what most people regard as the typical homeschooler as it is possible to have.

“People forget that some of the first homeschoolers were hippies,” says Bob Wiesner, a counselor at the Seton Home Study School, a Catholic educational apostolate reporting to the bishop of Arlington, Va. In one of history’s little ironies, today most of homeschooling’s bitterest enemies are to be found on the left. “We don’t have much of a problem from conservatives,” Wiesner says. “It’s the teachers’ unions, educational bureaucrats, and liberal professors. College professors by and large don’t want students who can think for themselves. They want students they can indoctrinate, but that’s hard to do with homeschoolers — homeschoolers push back.”

Full Article here:  https://www.nationalreview.com/nrd/articles/328699/last-radicals

Does Educational Freedom Really Matter? An Interview With Jonas Himmelstrand   Leave a comment

Jonas Himmelstrand Interview – March 4th 2012 -… by WellBoyFilmsIreland

Socialism sounds so great on the surface, but it leads to less and less freedom.  This interview of Swedish Homeschooler Jonas Himmelstrand by WellBoyFilms in Ireland explains how the good intentions of the Swedish Government went too far, and is pushing families out of the country. Here are some highlights:

Jonas Himmelstrand Interview – March 4th 2012 -… by WellBoyFilmsIreland

Himmelstrand said:

“In Sweden, everyone has a personal number that you’re given at birth and that registers where you live, so the local authorities will just simply look at  the list of how many children are seven years of age– this year they should be in school– and if that number is not registered in any school, then they will start and will track you down….they basically know everything about everybody. Unless you are living at a secret address…    

They are very hard on truancy… from the standpoint of the authorities, homeschool is just another truancy… Basically, there’s no support in parliament for homeschooling at the moment…. Swedish media tends to want to support certain government policies and they think that the school obligation, general equality, day care are such good things that everybody should support, they just don’t write about it… many Swedish families are dissatisfied in Sweden… so, it’s a sensitive subject and somehow, Swedish media don’t have that courage to be open in expressing about it… 

Unfortunately, it’s going to have to get worse before it gets better. It think it’s going to have to become more public what a form of oppression and harrassment and humiliation Swedish government is now doing to homeschooling… and of course, eventually we will win because Homeschooling is a great educational alternative.

It’s a bit uncomfortable for Sweden to say that education was made illegal in Germany in 1938 and it was made illegal in Sweden in 2011.  That’s uncomfortable…” –Jonas Himmelstrand

Free Preschool Would Hurt Utah Families and At-Risk Children   Leave a comment

Dear Utah Leaders,
I am writing to ask you not to promote the government-run preschool bill further.  This preschool issue is keeping me up at night.  Literally.
Why?  I think about the borderline-poor moms –as I have often been– who will say, “Well, preschool is free, so I guess I better put my baby in the preschool and go make money.”  It makes my heart ache.  That is no kindly favor from the government.  That is a temptation that most parents will not choose to resist.
It will push them to leave their children to go to work.
I am praying that you will take the time to listen further to Jonas Himmelstrand http://www.mireja.org/articles.lasso  and to analyze how Sweden went from good, helpful intentions (based on someone’s version of research, as always) –to a point where parents are being disenfranchised from children via the “helpfulness” of the government.
I’ve been reading “A Patriot’s History of the United States.”  Great book.  I read that when the U.S. government decided to give money to single mothers, long ago, to be helpful, guess what happened?  People stopped getting married, of course.  So children went fatherless, literally, because of the “helpfulness” of the government; the temptation for that money was too great for people to resist.  And it mostly impacted black families, who were economically more disadvantaged. It perpetuated the cycle of trouble for black families; fatherlessness led to children growing up troubled and in jail; more single moms, more fatherless kids, more poverty.  No help at all.
I’ve also been in contact with Jonas Himmelstrand.  His writings ring true.  They make sense. They are profoundly different than the studies and reasoning that is bringing Utah legislators to consider adding free government preschool for at-risk children.
I appreciate that the government has good intentions.  But if they are not based on correct principles (limiting the involvement of government, rather than increasing it) the intentions will backfire; it is only a question of how long it takes to backfire.
Putting at-risk babies in government preschools is not a good idea.  Those families need strengthening, but not by being tempted to separate from those with whom they need the strong attachment bonds.
Encourage mothers to stay at home with their children.  Don’t tempt them to go to work and drop off their kids.  Could you use the money to create jobs for moms that they can perform from home, instead?  Could you use the money to pay grandmothers to do the daycare if the moms have to work, at least?  I’m sure there are solutions other than creating Swedish-styled free government preschool.
Christel Swasey
Heber City
–  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –
So, after doing more reading today, I wrote the legislators another letter on the subject:

Dear Legislators,

The following research sharply contradicts the research that has previously been presented in the Legislative Education Interim Committee meeting regarding the wisdom of providing early preschool for at-risk children.

While there is little debate about whether academic performance is enhanced for preschool attendees generally, it is found that behavioral problems, self-control problems, motor skill trouble, aggression, illness, worse parent-child relationships, and other disadvantages arise from early preschool attendance.

We must not assume the proposed Utah preschool bill is good in the short or long term, especially not for at-risk children.

Jonas Himmelstrand of Sweden, who provided me with the research, is an international consultant, speaker and author.  He has consulted for the 2011 EU Child Wellbeing Workshop in Brussels, the 2011 UN World Expert Group Meeting in New York, the Institute of Marriage and Family in Canada, the Hungarian Presidency Conference, the Conferenza Famiglia in Italy, the FamilyPlatform Conference in Lisbon, and the Forum Europeen de Femmes in Brussels.  He is also the chairman of the board of the world’s global home education conference. He suggested that I share this research with you.
In Himmelstrand’s presentation with the UN Expert Group Meeting, arranged by United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs in 2011, he spoke about Assessing Family Policies: Confronting family poverty and social exclusion & Ensuring work family balance.
Himmelstrand finds that Swedish children do not suffer from material poverty but from emotional poverty, attributed to too much separation from parents at too early an age.
His charts on the envisioned outcomes versus the actual outcomes of the Swedish model are astonishing.  The envisioned model planned to increase academic success, to even out social class differences, and to liberate mothers, for example.  The actual model resulted in serious discipline problems in school, national school rating –going from top to average in 30 years– plummeting quality in day care, high rates of sick leave, especially among women; deteriorating psychological health in youth, and deteriorating parental abilities, even in the middle class.
See pages 2 through 4:
He also directed me to the research done by others on this subject:

  Does Prekindergarten Improve School Preparation and Performance?

Katherine A. Magnuson, Christopher J. Ruhm, Jane Waldfogel

NBER Working Paper No. 10452 Issued in April 2004 NBER Program(s):   CHED

Prekindergarten programs are expanding rapidly, but to date, evidence on their effects is quite limited. Using rich data from Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, we estimate the effects of prekindergarten on children’s school readiness. We find that prekindergarten increases reading and mathematics skills at school entry, but also increases behavioral problems and reduces self-control. Furthermore, the effects of prekindergarten on skills largely dissipate by the spring of first grade, although the behavioral effects do not. Finally, effects differ depending on children’s family background and subsequent schooling, with the largest and most lasting academic gains for disadvantaged children and those attending schools with low levels of academic instruction.
http://www.nber.org/papers/w10452  Full text

  Universal Childcare, Maternal Labor Supply, and Family Well-Being

Michael Baker, Jonathan Gruber, Kevin Milligan

NBER Working Paper No. 11832 Issued in December 2005 NBER Program(s):   CHPE

The growing labor force participation of women with small children in both the U.S. and Canada has led to calls for increased public financing for childcare. The optimality of public financing depends on a host of factors, such as the “crowd-out” of existing childcare arrangements, the impact on female labor supply, and the effects on child well-being. The introduction of universal, highly-subsidized childcare in Quebec in the late 1990s provides an opportunity to address these issues. We carefully analyze the impacts of Quebec’s “$5 per day childcare” program on childcare utilization, labor supply, and child (and parent) outcomes in two parent families. We find strong evidence of a shift into new childcare use, although approximately one third of the newly reported use appears to come from women who previously worked and had informal arrangements. The labor supply impact is highly significant, and our measured elasticity of 0.236 is slightly smaller than previous credible estimates. Finally, we uncover striking evidence that children are worse off in a variety of behavioral and health dimensions, ranging from aggression to motor-social skills to illness. Our analysis also suggests that the new childcare program led to more hostile, less consistent parenting, worse parental health, and lower-quality parental relationships.
http://www.nber.org/papers/w11832 – Full text

Finally, Himmelstrand directs us to study the findings of the Canadian Institute of Marriage and Family.

This research includes a psychological explanation of why early formal learning is harmful to children, and offers some public policy advice: http://www.imfcanada.org/issues/nurturing-children-why-early-learning-does-not-help

The Institute says:

There are some elements of public policy being discussed that would help undo the damage of current trends. Family income splitting allows parents to share their income and pay a lower tax burden. More money in parents’ pockets always means more choices. While the federal Conservatives made this a policy plank in the last election, they watered it down by saying they’d only institute family taxation when the books were balanced, possibly in 2015. Ending the preferential treatment of non-parental care by funding families themselves would make a dramatic difference.

For Dr. Neufeld, the capacity for healthy relationships is meant to unfold in the first six years of life. “It’s a very basic agenda,” he says. “By the fifth year of life if everything is continuous and safe then emotional intimacy begins. A child gives his heart to whomever he is attached to and that is an incredibly important part….The first issue is always to establish strong, deep emotional connections with those who are raising you. And that should be our emphasis in society. If we did this, we would send our children to school late, not early.”

 I hope this is helpful to you.
Christel Swasey
Heber City

Is Early Preschool Anti-Child and Anti-Family?   3 comments

Jonas Himmelstrand, Swedish education-freedom author, who was a guest on the Morgan Philpot radio show today, has recommended this article, wherein Dr. Gordon Neufelt explains why, rather than following the Swedish socialist model of preschool for the very young, children are better served when they start attending school later.

http://www.imfcanada.org/issues/nurturing-children-why-early-learning-does-not-help

Nurturing children: Why “early learning” doesn’t help

Children should start attending school later, not earlier, Canadian development psychologist Dr. Gordon Neufeld reveals. “Early learning” programs for young children have no benefits for kids, he adds. So why are governments running down the opposite track?

August 30, 2012  |  by Andrea Mrozek, Manager of Research and Communications, Institute of Marriage and Family Canada

“I want to make sure that my son learns how to get along with others,” one parent will say. Another will add, “My daughter is shy. I want her to be with other children, to help her come out of her shell.” A third might enthusiastically report that her child loves all her friends at daycare: “She can’t wait to go and spend time with them!”

These are just some of the things parents say when it comes to the benefits they see in the social settings that pre-schools, daycares and all-day kindergarten provide. Parents are rightly concerned about whether their children get along well with others.

However, is it true that early interaction with peers improves socialization for young children? Canadian developmental psychologist Dr. Gordon Neufeld says this is not the case, particularly in sending young children into “social” environments before they are ready. [1]

Defining socialization

The word socialization can mean different things to different people.

With regards to small children, Dr. Neufeld clarifies one thing that socialization is not: “Probably the greatest myth that has evolved is this idea that socializing with one’s equals leads to socialization.”

Developmental psychologist Urie Bronfenbrenner also clarifies what socialization is not: “It should be clear that being socialized is not necessarily the same as being civilized. Nazi youth were also products of a socialization process.” [2]

Socialization in childrearing means rendering children fit for society so that children can grow and mature into becoming contributing adults, who can respectfully interact with others in community, be it at work or home, with colleagues, family and friends.

Successful socialization is of particular interest where reports of bullying hit the media with some regularity. [3]

For Dr. Neufeld and his colleagues at The Neufeld Institute, socialization is more complex than simply being able to get along well with peers. [4] Socialization involves being able to get along with others while at the same time being true to oneself.

Getting there from here

Dr. Neufeld describes a teacher who is unable to express her views for fear of causing conflict. Picture a staff meeting, where this teacher chooses to stay silent rather than disagree. This may create the appearance that she is “really nice,” and able to get along well with others—something she may well tell her students to do as well. The reality is she may be unable to hold on to her own identity in face of conflict.

Constantly agreeing and being nice may, in fact, be immaturity in disguise. “You have to be separate enough so you can be with your equals without losing your distinctiveness,” says Dr. Neufeld.

He adds that someone who always “gets along” may not be able to handle diplomacy without a loss of integrity. If this form of mature self-expression can be hard for adults, how much more difficult is it for children?

“Premature socialization,” says Dr. Neufeld, “was always considered by developmentalists to be the greatest sin in raising children ….[w]hen you put children together prematurely before they can hold on to themselves, then they become like [the others] and it crushes the individuality rather than hones it.” [5]

A is for “attachment”

One of the issues with large numbers of little people in group care settings is the issue of peer orientation. This means having small children attach to their peers, rather than to adults.

The concept of attachment, developed primarily by psychologist John Bowlby, denotes the instinct that causes adults to care for children and children to receive that care. Successful early attachment is necessary for adult emotional development. In Bowlby’s words, attachment is the tendency “of human beings to make strong affectional bonds to particular others.” [6]

As humans, we are highly sociable creatures. But we identify some relationships as being higher priority, and are very particular about who takes that position. [7] It is through these connections that we develop a sense of self. [8]

And importantly, our high priority attachment figures (aka the people we see the most of and really love) are intended to be enduring. These are not people who should disappear from our lives, neither are strong attachments something small children should “grow out of.” [9]

This is one reason why daycare employees can never imitate the potent power of the parent: A job is a job, and employees change cities or jobs with some regularity.

Helen Ward is the president of a non-partisan, grassroots group called Kids First Parents Association. She highlights how attachment and socialization work together. “In order for children to grow up into the mature adults we desire them to be, they have to spend time with adults they are attached to, not their own likewise immature peers.” She goes on: “This means that if we take the attachment figure away—through death, illness, distractions, daycare, or any disruption in attachment relationships—and replace it with peer attachment  – puff – the kid will be a ‘lord of the flies’ type because the seemingly ‘socialized’ behaviour is simply copying, it is not ‘inside’ yet. It is developing, but can just as well ‘undevelop.’” [10]

If parents aren’t aware of this, they may interpret negative developments as positive. The three-year-old who can’t wait to be with his friends in daycare may in fact be on his way to becoming peer rather than parent attached, because being attached makes us want to be with those we are attached to.

The problem is that the more children are peer attached, the less attached they are to adults—and this can result in children becoming very hostile to being parented or taught.

Cultural flatlining

When small children spend too much time with their peers, they will imitate the features of those they see around them. Dr. Neufeld speaks of a “flatlining” of culture as a result. “We have a children’s culture of today. In Europe, there is a crisis, which is that youth are not integrating into mainstream society and people believe it is happening in North America as well.”

The question might also be whether they are integrating into a newly mainstream culture that is not altogether mature. “Children have become fit for a society that does not reproduce itself and does not contribute to the larger society as a whole,” says Dr. Neufeld. [11]

Supporting diversity

Diversity—creating it, respecting it and allowing it to flourish—is one of today’s most popular buzzwords, something to which we pay lip service. However, the early placement of children with as-of-yet undeveloped personalities in group daycare for long hours, when they aren’t able to “hold on to” their own special, unique personalities creates sameness, not individuality.

This is, in many instances, one of the reasons parents might choose to delay entry to school. In fact, for much of Canada’s history, children did not attend so-called “early learning programs;” school started at age six.

Ironically, some who advocate for homeschooling do so in order for proper socialization to occur. In Home Schooling and the Question of Socialization, author Richard G. Medlin highlights how healthy socialization does happen for homeschoolers, writing “home-schooled children are taking part in the daily routines of their communities. They are certainly not isolated; in fact, they associate with—and feel close to—all sorts of people.” [12]

Another researcher, Larry Edward Shyers, compared homeschooled children with those in traditional schooling for his PhD thesis at University of Florida. He found that with regards to self-esteem, there was no difference. [13]

The problem with children socializing at school, Ward says, is that children can be fickle in their friendships. “Kid’s ‘friends’ are not really ‘friends’ in any meaningful sense of the word. They are not mature people who can handle another’s pain or difference of opinion. Peers want you to be the same as them,” says Ward.

The result is less individual expression and less personal growth, she concludes.

Crushing the spirit of childhood

Back in 1988, child psychologist David Elkind wrote The Hurried Child, saying, “we are going through one of those periods in history, such as the early decades of the Industrial Revolution, when children are the unwilling victims of societal upheaval and change….Today’s child has become the unwilling, unintended victim of overwhelming stress.” [14]

Elkind worried that children are increasingly being treated like mini adults. In childhood as a replica of adulthood, daycares and pre-schools put children under academic pressure. Child sports teams have pro uniforms and poor peewee players are sidelined. Children’s clothes have an adult look about them. If this was Elkind’s problem some twenty years ago, the situation today is not much changed.

More evidence that the smallest of children are being subjected to adult standards is the Early Development Instrument (EDI). [15] Under the auspices of improving child outcomes, the EDI asks teachers to answer a host of entirely subjective questions about a child’s proficiency physically, academically and emotionally and then chronicles how and where children are “behind.”

Activists use this flawed research to lobby for more early learning programs for younger ages. In Ontario, for example, a special advisor to Premier McGuinty desires to create schools as hubs, where children can be dropped off all day, possibly all year, to attain greater “school readiness.” [16]

When Francois Legault, of the Coalition for Quebec’s Future recently proposed that secondary school should follow work schedules, running from 9 am to 5 pm, some found it provocative. [17] The reality is that many grade schoolers in before and after-school care already experience adult working days, and the same could be said of a toddler in daycare. Children’s lives are scheduled down to a T, with little free time to just be kids.

Why the anti-child direction?

The reasons for this are varied. However, a big one is the current trend in public policy which creates pressure for all parents to have full time jobs. As a result, labour force attachment trumps parent-child attachment. Canada’s below-replacement birthrate means we are constantly searching for more employees. Having both parents work full-time is entirely reliant on putting their children in some form of standardized care, hence the reation of subsidized daycares. [18]

This has little to do with child development. The problem is that once centre-based care is preferentially funded and the cost heavily tax-subsidized, it creates an incentive for parents to use it. At that point, parents no longer truly have a real choice. They can’t assess the unique needs of their own children because their lives have been set up around two parents at full time jobs.

When asked what are the gains from early learning for small children, Dr. Neufeld simply replies: “I don’t think there is anything to be gained except parental emancipation. And certainly not parental fulfillment. That’s a totally different issue.” [19]

What to do?

Dr. Neufeld emphasizes that who parents are to their children matters more than what they do. [20]

This research is not intended to panic parents whose young children are in all-day care. However, it is wise to understand why your children are there. Some parents put their children in care for the express purpose of socializing them; this is not a researched reason to do so.

For parents whose children must be in care, it would be wise to confirm that the “early learning” is limited exclusively to playing in an environment of adult attachment. [21] Sometimes it is parents themselves who put pressure on teachers to provide “educational content” to younger and younger ages. When the “report cards” come back and show poor grades, this creates further anxiety in parents who now believe their children are behind.

Parents should eschew the creation of any kind of one-size-fits-all system. This is the sort of system that governments try to create—to “help” each and every family. By definition, these environments are less personal and more distant from parents. Even the local primary school may not, in fact, be the closest thing to the home environment for small children, if for example, a neighbour next door wants to take in additional children on top of her own, and that neighbour is known to the parents and the child.

For far too long, this form of high quality care for kids has been labelled “unregulated,” by those who strive to create school-based daycares with unionized employees. Facing a lack of criticism in the press, “unregulated” has come to be known as “dangerous.” But Helen Ward points out that all parents are “unregulated,” and this alone is not cause for concern. Parents need to inspect all care from top to bottom—whether government-regulated or not.

There are some elements of public policy being discussed that would help undo the damage of current trends. Family income splitting allows parents to share their income and pay a lower tax burden. More money in parents’ pockets always means more choices. While the federal Conservatives made this a policy plank in the last election, they watered it down by saying they’d only institute family taxation when the books were balanced, possibly in 2015. Ending the preferential treatment of non-parental care by funding families themselves would make a dramatic difference.

For Dr. Neufeld, the capacity for healthy relationships is meant to unfold in the first six years of life. “It’s a very basic agenda,” he says. “By the fifth year of life if everything is continuous and safe then emotional intimacy begins. A child gives his heart to whomever he is attached to and that is an incredibly important part….The first issue is always to establish strong, deep emotional connections with those who are raising you. And that should be our emphasis in society. If we did this, we would send our children to school late, not early.” [22]

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Endnotes:
  1. This article is based on an interview with Dr. Gordon Neufeld on May 18, 2012. Dr. Neufeld is a developmental psychologist and the co-author of the 2004 national bestseller Hold on to your kids: Why parents need to matter more than peers.
  2. Bronfenbrenner, U. (1970). Two worlds of childhood: U.S. and U.S.S.R. New York: Russell Sage Foundation, p. 2.
  3. For greater understanding of how to stem the bullying tide, see Simon, L. (2012, July 18). Empathy: An antidote to bullying. Ottawa: Institute of Marriage and Family Canada. Retrieved from http://www.imfcanada.org/issues/empathy-antidote-bullying
  4. The Neufeld Institute can be found online here http://www.gordonneufeld.com/
  5. Personal communication with Dr. Gordon Neufeld, May 18, 2012.
  6. Green, M. and Scholes, M. (eds.) (2004). Attachment and human survival. London: Karnac, p. 7.
  7. Ibid, p. 8.
  8. Ibid, p. 37.
  9. Ibid, p. 8.
  10. Personal communication with Helen Ward, August 21, 2012.
  11. Personal communication with Dr. Gordon Neufeld, May 18, 2012.
  12. Medlin, R. G. (2000). The home education movement in context, practice, and theory. Peabody Journal of Education, Vol. 75, No. 1/2, pp. 107-123.
  13. Bunday, K.M. (2006). Socialization: A great reason not to go to school. Retrieved from http://learninfreedom.org/socialization.html
  14. Elkind, D. (1988). The Hurried Child. Reading, Massachusetts: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, Inc, pp. xiv, 3.
  15. The EDI questionnaire can be viewed online at http://earlylearning.ubc.ca/media/uploads/publications/edi_bc-yukon_2012.pdf
  16. Pascal, C. (2009, June). With our best future in mind. Implementing early learning in Ontario. Report to the Premier, Government of Ontario.  Retrieved from http://www.ontario.ca/en/initiatives/early_learning/ONT06_018865
  17. Quebec’s Francois Legault wants schools open from 9 to 5. (2012, August 9). The Canadian Press. Retrieved from http://www.timescolonist.com/technology/Quebecs+Francois+Legault+wants+kids+stay+school+until/7063972/story.html
  18. For more on concept of schools as community hubs, see Pascal, C. (2009, June). With our best future in mind. Implementing early learning in Ontario.Report to the Premier, Government of Ontario. Retrieved from http://www.ontario.ca/en/initiatives/early_learning/ONT06_018865
  19. Personal communication with Dr. Gordon Neufeld, May 18, 2012.
  20. Denis Friske, D. (2012, January 16). Moments of connection with our children. The Neufeld Institute blog. Retrieved from http://www.neufeldinstitute.com/blog/2012/01/moments-of-connection-with-our-children/
  21. Laucius, J. (2012, February 4). All work and no play is not good for the developing brain, says psychologist Dr. Gordon Neufeld. Ottawa Citizen, p. J3. (Helen Ward also points out that “child led” or “free play” can in fact mean even less interaction for children with adults, as staff will simply provide toys and ensure that no child is physically hurt.)
  22. Personal communication with Dr. Gordon Neufeld, May 18, 2012.

Permission is granted to reprint or broadcast this information with appropriate attribution to the Institute of Marriage and Family Canada.

Himmelstrand’s Speech to Swedish Parliament: Let Families Be Secure   6 comments

This speech is reposted from http://www.stratletter.com/dec10speech.html

Secure Children – Secure Parents – The Role of Family in the 21st century

    Presentation given by Jonas Himmelstrand at a seminar in the Swedish Parliament on December 10, 2008. Translated to English by the author.

Special note to English speaking readers:

This presentation was given in Swedish to a Swedish speaking audience. In order to fully understand it the following two background facts may be necessary:

1) Swedish family policies exclusively supports the dual earner household with children in daycare. Today 83% of all 1–5 year olds in Sweden are in day care. This policy is possible through tax laws making it hard to support a family on one salary, and by high subsidies for daycare with no national support to home parents after parental leave. The official reasoning is that adults are happiest at work and children happiest in daycare, to put it bluntly. Few of the seven Swedish political parties in parliament oppose this view, with the exception of the Christian Democrats.

2) The admired Swedish parental leave policy is very generous up until 16 months. But after that, caring for your child is more difficult in Sweden than in most other countries in the western world. The long Swedish parental leave is a necessity in high-tax Sweden. Without it, few Swedes could at afford to take full care of their babies.


   Swedish family policies during the last 30 years have resulted in insecure children and youth, stressed adults and a lower quality parenthood. As a child’s feeling of a safety is a strong social legacy, Sweden is in a negative spiral.

Our children need more time with their parents – most parents also need more time with their children. This calls for a new view on family in Sweden. This calls for political action.

My name is Jonas Himmelstrand. What I just mentioned was a few of the conclusions from my book Following your heart – in the social utopia of Sweden (in Swedish only) which is the reason why I am giving this talk today.

What I am about to say comes from the knowledge and experience of consulting Swedish businesses, public offices, schools and pre-schools during 25 years in the areas of management, education and psycho-social environment. It also comes from my family – my wife Tamara and our three children.

I am not politically or religiously engaged. The closest I have come to partisan politics was in my youth when I was engaged in the left-wing of SSU – The Swedish Socialdemocratic Youth Organisation.

I will use the word family, by which I mean all kinds of families: mother-father-child-families, single parent families and rainbow families. My reasoning is the same for them all.

My first awakening to this issue was about eight years ago when I taught coaching to teachers and school leaders at a high school in Sweden. The personnel were nearly in shock of the increasing psychological ill health among their students.

Then I heard mothers I met on business courses spontaneously express: ”I felt so bad leaving my one year old (or two year old) in day care.” I asked myself how much additional stress that feeling could add to an already highly stressed work life.

Then I discovered how more and more young people where having difficulties managing my course in presentation skills with video feedback. They seemed to lack self-esteem.

At about the same time, at work places I visited, I heard a theme more and more often: ”Eva was such a wonderful and positive person. But soon, unfortunately, she suffered from emotional exhaustion and burnout.”

These observations became the starting point of my book.

Sweden is perhaps the worlds most safe country in terms of material wealth. We have among the most equal wages, very low levels of child poverty, the lowest level of infant mortality and an admired equality between men and women. Sweden ranks highly in these matters by international comparison.

Sure, not everyone has the problems I will describe. But given our material resources we ought to be more healthy and happy than we are.

Which symptoms can we see and verify?

Increased psychological ill health among youth. Since 1989 Sweden has the worst development in this area of eleven comparable countries: Finland, Denmark, Norway, Hungary, Switzerland, Austria, Belgium, Spain, Wales and Scotland according to a Swedish Government investigation (SOU 2006:77). Mostly girls.

Increased stress related ill health among adults. Stress and anxiety is the new Swedish national disease. The rates of sick leave in Sweden is among the highest in the world and a considerable domestic financial problem. Sick leave is especially high among Swedish women according to a study, also among highly educated women. Stress related disease is the most common form of sick leave in Sweden today.

Increased behavioural problems among youth. The Minster of Education in Sweden, Jan Björklund, asserts that ”…Swedish schools have the highest level of truancy, destruction and most bad language in all the OECD countries.” Björklund has been criticised for making too strong a statement. However, anyone visiting our schools and following the media can witness that the situation is bad enough. We see disruptions in the classroom, conformism, gangs, bullying, violence and criminality. Mostly boys.

Plummeting educational results in schools. The educational results in our schools have plummeted in the last 20 years. Sweden has lost its previous top position and is today only average among the highly developed nations.

High level of divorces. The number of divorces have increased from 10% to close to 50% in the last 40 years. An inability to handle close relationships would seem to be one clear cause.

Lower quality parenthood. A study from 2007 by Britta Johansson referred to in Svenska Dagbladet (a conservative national newspaper) show that even healthy, intelligent and reasonable Swedish parents have difficulties being parents today. They lack knowledge about children’s needs and cannot set limits. She writes (my translation):

The public offer of full day child care seems to make many parents loose the grip of their own responsibility. They believe/want that their children are fostered by the pre-school/school and believe that the experts on their children are found there.

She also says that pre-school/school cannot fill the gaps caused by lack of time and trust in parenthood from the parents.

Which are the possible mechanisms behind these problems?

Lack of knowledge of the needs of small children. The lack of knowledge in Sweden on the needs of small children is monumental. Scientists today agree that the groundwork for psychological health is laid in the first three years of life. The brain of the small child is physiologically formed by the psychological care of the closest carer. Lack of love and closeness during the first years in life leads to a chronically lowered anxiety threshold – as adults we become more easily stressed, afraid and anxious. Small children need love and sensitive caring from their parents or other close related adults. Small children do not need education or pedagogics. Love is their entire education. It is called attachment.

The research on day care in later years confirms the possible connection. A large exposure to care separated from parents or close relatives is associated with a small but significant increase in behavioural problems up until 12 years of age, even in those who went to the very best daycare. This is not the fault of daycare. The cause is more likely the separation from the child’s closest attachment figures, the parents. Daycare cannot replace parents even if some children are more resilient to daycare than others.

A miniature Sweden was created when Quebec in Canada introduced collective day care according to the Swedish model. The effects were researched and the three researchers wrote the following:

Finally, we uncover striking evidence that children are worse off in a variety of behavioral and health dimensions, ranging from aggression to motor-social skills to illness. Our analysis also suggests that the new childcare program led to more hostile, less consistent parenting, worse parental health, and lower-quality parental relationships.

This is uncomfortably similar to the situation in Sweden.

Lack of time with parents also for older children 4–18 years of age. Also older children need time with their parents, an adult close to them who loves them.

When we are young we need someone to love us also when we do not seem to deserve it. Someone who stands steady in a storm. Someone who continuously gives the message: I am here for you, I love you, we can work this out together, we will manage this situation. Young people need their parents.

A day can be long in the life of a ten year old. Child care in school at 7.00 a.m. Already tired and hungry when school starts. A long day in school. Then child care in school again waiting for the tired parents to pick them up at perhaps 5.00 or 6.00 p.m. In the evening maybe another activity outside home. Where does the child find their emotional security? The parents are gone too long. One needs someone for comfort and closeness. In best case this will be an adult in school. But for most children this will be a peer or a gang offering emotional support during school hours – peer orientation. The problem with peer orientation is that peers, not the least during the teens, do not have the maturity to handle more difficult feelings around differences, conflicts, failure, rejection and deceit. Therefore peer orientation results in conformism, gangs, bullying and sometimes violence.

As nature wants to protect the relationship with those who the children attach to – nature had in mind that this should be the parents and other adults trusted by the parents – peer orientation leads to adults being emotionally rejected.

This results in parents feeling they have lost their teenager, and teachers who find that their pupils have less interest in learning. The teenager has attached to their peers because loving adults were not available for too long periods of time. A blind is leading a blind into the world of tomorrow. It is frighteningly similar to William Golding’s novel, The Lord of the Flies.

Both parents and teachers witness to this phenomena. The adult world has lost the emotional connection to a young generation who is not yet mature enough to take responsibility for their life. Parents, and through them teachers and other mature adults, must regain their position as the emotionally most important people in their children’s lives.

In Sweden we have the belief that the State, through daycare, pre-schools, schools and after-school care, can raise our children. But in spite of the enormous resources Sweden spends on these institutions, they  obviously cannot replace the parents. Parental attachment is the basis which these institutions need to at all be able to function in constructive ways.

Good close relationships is the most important health factor. According to a meta-study by Dr. Dean Ornish, high-quality close relationships is the superior health factor. In Sweden we don’t have much time for close relationships. This leads to stress related ill health.

Too little control over one’s personal life situation is another risk factor to health according to research by Sir Michael Marmot. Through its family policy Sweden has given the State a place in the bedroom of every Swedish family – a clear risk factor to health.

Parents do not understand the importance of the parental role. Unfortunately the Swedish Government has been too successful in its hidden message: ”The State fosters children better than parents.” This is probably the most destructive political message ever given in Sweden – at least in modern times.

A positive example – the international home schooling trend.

Maybe the most fascinating example of a completely new view of family is the strong international home schooling trend. This means parents teaching their children rather than sending them to school. As can be seen in this diagram Sweden finishes last only surpassed by Germany with its embarrassing school legislation from 1938 still in effect.

Millions of children and adolescents are being taught at home in the western world today. This is the first really new pedagogical experiment done in 200 years. The research on home schooling is mind-blowing.

Untrained parents are more successful teaching their children than schools. Children seem to have better social development through home schooling than in school. Especially interesting is that parents with low education are better at educating their children than schools are. Why?

One probable reason is that adult attachment is a more important factor in learning than what educational science has realised. As children we want to fulfil the expectations of those we attach too. Parents have higher expectations than peers. Also home schooling has the advantage of being fully individualised and highly time effective.

A not particularly bold guess is that the dominance of pre-school and school will not survive knowledge society. Rather we will in the future see a considerable amount of education decentralised from the State and managed by parents in various ways.

  It is an unfortunate sign on how families are viewed in Sweden that the Swedish Government lack understanding of home schooling. Through prejudice and lack of knowledge pioneering Swedish home schooling families are, in spite of home schooling being supported by law, being chased with threats of the social authorities and fines in some, but not all, Swedish municipalities. Among western democracies only Germany treats their homeschoolers worse than some local governments in Sweden.

Political goals – short term and long term

I have been asked to present some possible political actions. Some of these  suggestions are a little more long term than most, but I feel this is necessary for a clear direction.

Parents need to be able to make their own choices about early child care 0-3 years. Every choice needs to be possible for the majority of families – home parent, with parent at work, grandparent, neighbour, daycare at work place, child minder or day care centre. In countries like Sweden where day care is highly subsidised, the same financial support needs to be given to the care of the parents choice. Insecure parents must be given support in their parental role rather than routinely recommended to send their children to daycare.

Quality proof attachment to every small child in child care outside the family. Sweden needs to at least follow the American recommendations of maximum six one year olds to a minimum of two trained staff, and a maximum of eight two year olds to a minimum of two trained staff. Today Sweden has neither recommendations or rules. Group size for small children can be up to 17 and child-to-adult ratios average at 5:1 for all ages. When daycare is given this kind of quality, parental care will not only be best for most children but also cheapest.

Acknowledge the work done in families with children‚ financially, on the C.V. and in pension funds. It must once again be possible for a family to live on one wage. Also the parent being at home needs to be recognised for the highly valuable work done when entering work life again.

Make home schooling an easy option by law. A healthy engaged parent with the time, energy and a  reasonable strategy will in most cases make a better educational job than the institutions of society. The Swedish home schooling law needs to be interpreted liberally as in the majority of Anglo-Saxon countries today.

Encourage people to make their own decisions, based on their own convictions, about their close relationships. We need to put an end to the one-sided life style propaganda by the Swedish State. Human growth and creativity will flourish when people gain full control of one of the most important parts of their lives.

Finally: Start a national educational programme on the new knowledge of children’s development – and the value of families. The industrial age is over and the knowledge society is here, we all need to know the new knowledge – some of which is quite old.

• • •

For those interested: Two experts whose research and knowledge I have mentioned here – Professor Jay Belsky and Dr. Gordon Neufeld – will come to Stockholm, Sweden to be part of a seminar on June 3, 2009. The seminar is arranged by the Swedish parental organisation Haro, www.haro.se. Dr. Gordon Neufeld will also give a seminar for school teachers on June 4, www.stratletter.com.

Of course, each of the facts I have presented can be questioned. But when you view them all together, as I have done in my book, it is much more difficult to escape the conclusion that the Swedish view of families has gone astray. Sweden needs a completely new view of families in the 21st century. Secure children and parents in the future requires more time for the close relationships than we have in Sweden today.

Families are the only remaining institutions for close relationships in Sweden today. They need to be protected from extinction and given support and care if this nation is to survive socially and emotionally.

© 2008 Jonas Himmelstrand

Sources can be found at: www.stratletter.com/sources_dec10speech.html


Afterword: Since this speech was given new information about home schooling has arrived from the US Government Department of Education. The number of home schooled children has continued to increase to 1,5 million in 2007. The numbers mentioned above therefore have to be revised: In the US there are 45 000 home schooled children/9 million inhabitants according to official sources, rather than the 33 000 given above. An official spokesperson said the figures are likely to keep rising.


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