“My daughter likes routine and structure,” says homeschool mom Lee-Anne. “Traditional didn’t work. A more eclectic style, though, did.”
Her son, on the other hand, prefers Unit Studies. “He did a Unit Study on electricity,” Lee-Anne says, “and he became fully immersed in the whole thing. Finding out who “invented” electricity, what it’s used for, how it has changed, examples of how we use it today…he researched, made notes, created a poster and POOF! Presented it. Great!”
And it is for this reason that knowing what style works best for your child is so important. As Penelope Leach said: “for a child there is no division between playing and learning; between the things he or she does ‘just for fun’ and things that are ‘educational.’ The child learns while living and any part of living that is enjoyable is also play”.
So amongst all the confusion that this year has brought to many, what are the options, when we really consider them? Lee-Anne breaks them down for us and highlights the more commonly used approaches, and even some lesser known alternatives.
Traditional schooling is a school-at-home approach using textbooks, worksheets, and tests. The parent, being the teacher, has a set schedule for each subject. Many parents start with this format because it makes sense to our idea of what school should be like.
Classical Education studies and memorises Ancient Humanities Literature, World History, Greek and Latin, and Logic and Debate. It focuses on the classical philosophies of child development, called the Trivium. Students move through the stages of Knowledge, Logic, and Rhetoric. The Classical Homeschool often has a Christian worldview.
Most homeschoolers do not follow one exact style or method. Instead, they select the ideas and suggestions that fit their family and eventually end up with a method all their own. This could be a combination of books, online studies, and practicals.
Online schooling mainly involves following an online curriculum. Is your child a book person or a computer person? You’ll quickly find out. There are so many great online curriculums out there.
First devised by Maria Montessori, this style has a strong emphasis on child-led learning, which essentially means that the child focuses on what she is interested in rather than what the teacher thinks she should be interested in. This method also uses various materials mainly made of wood.
Many parents decide to go this way when they remove their child from school. Some stay with Unschooling because it suits their child and others move on to other styles.
Unschooling is a child-directed learning approach, believing that children are natural learners and curious about the world. They focus learning on life experiences, personal interests, curiosity, and lots and lots of reading. John Holt is worth mentioning here as an advocate of the Unschooling method.
Charlotte Mason believed in teaching the whole child in a three different areas: Atmosphere, Discipline, and Life. Creating an atmosphere of learning, teaching good habits and teaching through “living” textbooks (typically narratives) creates a whole educated child.
The Waldorf method of teaching is a unique educational strategy which aims to create well-rounded children through a broad curriculum, including academics, art and music education, physical education, and emotional and social education.
The Waldorf method encourages a broad curriculum. Teachers or parents are encouraged to explore new topics and allow themselves to be guided by the exploration of the children. This type of teaching encourages learning for the sake of learning.
SO WHAT NOW
A good place to start, says Lee-Anne, is knowing how your child learns, be they (for example) a visual, auditory, verbal, or kinaesthetic learner. And to make this one easier for you, she has provided a link to a quiz that you can take for your child.
“This is information,” she concludes, “that I wish I had had when starting out. It would have made our decisions easier and we wouldn’t have had to bash our head against the wall, not knowing that the approach was – at that time – entirely the wrong one.”