As a homeschooling parent, one of the things I enjoy most about Homeschooling is the freedom to select from what seems like an endless array of inspirational ideas, educational styles, methodologies, experiential wisdom, whether made available on the internet or from books, curriculum, educators, and conferences.
Homeschooling parents follow a vast array of educational approaches to promote their children’s interest and aptitudes. It also is not strange to see one family use different approaches for their different children.
Below, I have listed only some of the approaches.
THE CLASSICAL METHOD (THE SOCRATIC METHOD)
This style of education has stood the test of time and its roots stretch all the way back to the Middle Ages. It is based on Trivium, a method of teaching according to the phases of a child’s cognitive development (concrete, analytical, and abstract thinking). It is a structured program based on the development of phases of grammar, logic and rhetoric.
• This is a time-tested and well-proven educational style, having been used in various ways over thousands of years;
• The focus on Great Books lends a sense of prestige;
• Reading is a high priority in this method. Classical students are typically well-read and familiar with key texts across the history of Western civilization;
• Traditional classical exaction trains students in Latin and classical Greek; modern classical education may use any of these as well as Spanish, French or another useful modern language;
• The trivium reinforces a special place for learning logic and critical thinking;
• This method can fit most any student, even students with dyslexia;
• Classical education can incorporate free-flowing and student-directed methods, while still retaining the backbone of academic rigor and systematic scope; and
• Because the classical method is so popular, there are lots of ready-to-use curricula and materials from which to choose.
• Emphasis on memorization, narration and dictation;
• Parent intensive as heavy involvement in the teaching;
• Emphasis on ancient Languages such as Latin and Greek;
• Strong emphasis on History, which could be hostile in the current political environment;
• Sometimes too rigid and restrictive, especially when a child is gifted; and
• Classical books can sometimes be expensive.
The Well-Trained Mind: A guide to Classical Education at Home – Jessie Wise and Susan Wise Bauer
Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning – Douglas Wilson
Teaching the Trivium – Havie and Laurie Bluedorn
THE TRADITIONAL SCHOOL EDUCATION (SCHOOL-AT-HOME) INCLUDING CAPS
The traditional approach – or structured curriculum – is based on division of knowledge into grades and subjects and make use of formal assessments to measure progress. This approach is attractive to parents who want to stay in line with the school system as much as possible. And this is exactly what it sounds like: duplicating a typical school day with a structured schedule.
• Uses textbooks or worksheets – scope and sequence determined by the person who wrote the textbook;
• Structured and easy to use;
• Is like school … with grades, tests, exams, and teacher-directed focus;
• Families know exactly what to teach and when to teach it. This can be a comfort when first starting out and inexperienced;
• They can also send assignments to an exam board for grading and evaluation; and
• Short-term friendly.
• Requires more work on the part of the parent/teacher;
• One of the most expensive types of homeschooling methods;
• Highest burnout rate due to the potentially strict manner; and
• Too time consuming, consisting of 8-hour school days across 5 days.
HOMESCHOOLING WITH UNIT STUDIES
This is a fun, cheap and versatile approach in which the whole family can partake. Unit studies center all subjects on a specific theme, and are ideal for families who want to consider their child’s interest when it comes to what is studied. Children keep notebooks, lapbooks, and portfolios of the studies.
• Themes (not subjects) are studied in depth and languages, social studies, art and even maths can be applied in studying the theme;
• A practical, creative approach to subject matter;
• It encourages students to see a topic as a whole;
• This is a lot more like learning from real-life experiences. as field trips and science experiments can be incorporated;
• It also develops research skills;
• It is very suitable for mixed age groups;
• Can be a cheap option;
• Enjoyable way of learning for creative learners; and
• It is very suitable learners with special needs.
• Time and preparation intensive;
• Certain subjects are over-emphasised and have the same disadvantage as a structured curriculum;
• It may be a challenge to cover all academic subjects, like maths and languages; and
• Unit studies are notorious for leaving knowledge gaps.
CHARLOTTE MASON HOMESCHOOLING
A method that is based on Charlotte Mason’s firm belief that the child is a person, and that we must educate the whole person and not just the mind. Charlotte Mason was a British author, teacher and lecturer in the late 1800s.
She put a heavy emphasis on using high-quality literature, which she called “living books”, to teach the children. According to Mason, education is “an atmosphere, a discipline, a life”.
• Keeping students engaged with their learning by keeping lessons short and manageable;
• Instilling a love for literature through the use of living books;
• Teaching a child to express him/herself clearly and articulately through narration practice;
• Reinforcing spelling and grammar concepts through dictation exercises;
• Exposing students to fine arts, particularly art and music;
• Infusing a student’s life appreciation of nature and the natural world;
• Respects the child as an individual; and
• Stresses the formation of character and good habits.
• Because the method doesn’t rely on tests and drills, parents must learn to observe progress and document it through written notes. Children also keep notebooks, which serves as evidence of learning.
• Classical books can sometimes be expensive; and
• Parents may feel uncertain if they choose the right books.
Maria Montessori was a medical doctor and Italian educator in the late 1800s and early 1900s, whose philosophies had a major effect on how children learn. Children are allowed much unscheduled time so they can be taught to manage their own time. They learn at their own pace and are encouraged to use real tools rather than toys.
• Children are free to follow their dreams and learn about things that interest them through hands-on experience;
• Mixed ages are taught together, which makes this method a good fit for most homeschool families;
• Hard academics are not the primary concern in preschool;
• Older children and younger children can learn from each other; and
• The Montessori philosophy encourages students to develop their “soft skills”: responsibility, fairness, independence, adaptability, and positivity.
• There’s no testing or grades issued or homework to teach discipline and to measure progress;
• Children may not know how to handle a competitive environment later in life;
• This method seems to work for younger learners and is not generally used beyond elementary school; and
• The open-ended methodology can feel unstructured, non-rigorous and unstimulating to some students who crave external challenges, competition, and rules and imposed order.
UNSCHOOLING (ALSO REFERRED TO AS CHILD-LED LEARNING OR NATURAL LEARNING)
Unschooling is education through daily experiences and does not use a curriculum or any schedule or formal lesson plans. It’s one of the best ways to promote interest-based education in your homeschool. The term, “unschooling” was coined by John Holt, a schoolteacher who became so frustrated with the school system because of its rigidity. Unschoolers are encouraged to follow their interests, learning as their curiosity is piqued through daily life experiences and interactions.
• It encourages exploration of activities initiated by the children themselves;
• It is totally adaptive to interest, proficiencies, and development of each individual child;
• It is very suitable for mixed age groups;
• It is very suitable for children with special needs;
• Unschooled children have the time and research abilities to become experts in their areas of interests; and
• Gives parents and children a lot of freedom, as learning is not limited to a certain environment or learning material.
• It is the educational approach that is least understood by outsiders;
• Parents can be uncertain if their children learn enough and if there is gaps in their education; and
• Unschoolers do not follow the typical school schedule, which may not do as well on grade level assessments and may have a difficult time if they ever want to re-enter the school system.
Rudolf Steiner was another educator who ascribed to a specific educational technique. His central focus was on instilling in children the understanding and appreciation of their place in the global and natural world. He is known for his new Waldorf schooling philosophy which consists of three ideas: spirit, soul, and body.
• Children can learn at their own pace;
• Lots of outdoor time;
• Kids learn to live a tech-free life;
• Much more emphasis on creativity and the arts;
• Kids are treated as Individuals;
• Development is encouraged at any age;
• Experimentation is encouraged;
• Using natural materials for play; and
• Doing tasks as a team.
• No testing;
• Competition is discouraged; and
• Typical learning processes are not used.
WORLDSCHOOLING / ROADSCHOOLING
Parents who decide to choose this method of homeschooling recognise that a child can receive no greater education than by experiencing and interacting with the world around them. This often involves traveling together and using the journeys to enhance their child’s education.
• Children learn what they want and when it’s convenient for them;
• No pressure from teachers and peers;
• Living according to a natural biological clock;
• The opportunity to study special subjects: rare languages, art, culture, architecture from childhood;
• Training takes place in a cozy home environment;
• Close contact with parents and extraneous influence is excluded; and
• Ability to learn the school program in less than 10 years.
• There are little or no socialising opportunities;
• Parents to monitor learning process;
• Restriction on learning material as some is too bulky to travel with; and
• Limited access to libraries.
COMPUTER-BASED / DIGITAL HOMESCHOOLING
Computer based homeschool is really just another version of the textbook method.
• Videos and multimedia can bring boring textbooks to life;
• It teaches time management;
• It is great for busy moms and big families; and
• It gives instant feedback.
• Higher structured with no flexibility in the curriculum; and
• It is not the cheap option.
ECLECTIC HOMESCHOOLING (THE MIX-AND-MATCH METHOD)
Many homeschoolers become eclectic homeschoolers over time, once they discover that blending multiple approaches works better for them, rather than ascribing to a single defined style. Eclectic homeschooling is also called “relaxed” homeschooling.
• It is well-suited to mature educators;
• This is the most flexible homeschool method there is;
• Eclectic method has the most resources available since most materials for other methods will also be pertinent to this model;
• It can be done at low cost; and
• This method is the most popular!
• It can be an overwhelming approach to inexperienced homeschoolers;
• Bad mixes because not all homeschool materials and methods mix well;
• At risk of turning “best of both worlds” into “worst of both worlds” by blending conflicting educational theories; and
• Tailoring an individual educational program can be time consuming.
There are other methods besides these. At the end of the day, parents know best how their children learn! Every family is unique, every child is unique, and therefore they need to find the home education method that works best for them and their children! There is absolutely no right or wrong way to home educate.