Archive for the ‘Swedish Parliament’ Tag

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

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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