A couple of weeks ago, Bennett’s weekly education fact addressed the connection between children being happy and doing well in school. Thinking about this, I’ve been poking around in articles on children’s happiness, and of course it’s a rich and fascinating topic—no end of studies on the role of material goods, physical safety, cohesive community and of course, education, in creating happy children. A 2017 article in the UK Telegraph was particularly fun, claiming that Dutch children are amongst the happiest in the world, and noting the following:
Things that set Dutch children apart from those in the UK and the US
Dutch babies get more sleep.
Dutch kids have little or no homework at primary school.
Are not just seen but also heard.
Are trusted to ride their bikes to school on their own.
Are allowed to play outside unsupervised.
Have regular family meals.
Get to spend more time with their mothers and fathers.
Enjoy simple pleasures and are happy with second-hand toys.
And last but not least, get to eat chocolate sprinkles (hagelslag) for breakfast.
Among other things, the article emphasizes the fact of stress-free education at the primary level in Holland; while children begin school at age four, they don’t begin structured reading and math instruction until they are six, and their education is generally de-pressurized—no homework, and more time to play. According to the article, “In the Netherlands, children like going to school, and this is something that is also reflected in the research Unicef collated in 2013. Dutch children are among the least likely to feel pressured by schoolwork and scored highly in terms of finding their classmates friendly and helpful.”
Doesn’t it seem obvious when we think about it? If we stress kids less and even let them run around and play more as, clearly, they are built to do, they may be happier; and if they’re happier, they will be better able to engage in, and even enjoy, their learning, something that they are also built to do.
Not too long ago, I was face-timing with my ninth-grade daughter while traveling, and of course I asked her how school was going. She responded very cheerily, “well, I think I failed my Math test today, but other than that, I’m thriving!” Ideally, we could pass math and thrive, I thought to myself, but if I have to choose one or the other for you, I’ll definitely opt for the thriving. Now I’m thinking, wouldn’t it be great if one might lead to another—a lot of thriving, a healthy perspective, a reasonable amount of effort, and perhaps that Math will take care of itself.