There are various philosophies and methodologies that homeschoolers utilize when educating their children. Some people choose one and follow it all the way through, while others mix and match depending on what they want to accomplish. Still, some homeschoolers begin with one then change their methodologies as the years wear on and they begin to understand more about their family and philosophies. Below are the most common homeschooling methods used today.
Classical homeschoolers follow the classical Greek model of the trivium. They divide learning into three stages based on an average child’s cognitive development. Grammar stage children (K-5th) think concretely and are taught facts and rote memorization. Logic stage children (6th-8th) begin to think abstractly, using principles and ideas about which they enjoy arguing. They are taught to analyze with logic at this stage. The high school years are focused on the rhetoric stage where true thinking, dialogue, composition and oration are the focus. Classical homeschoolers often study Latin and Greek to improve their logical thinking skills and to aid them when studying books written by classical authors, such as Caesar, Plato, Aristotle, Augustine and many more. Children are encouraged to consume classic books throughout the high school years and think critically about them. Science is not a focus in the elementary years though one author, Susan Wise Bauer, suggests a science sequence. History has become a strong emphasis for classical homeschoolers, and they generally focus all their reading and learning around a historical time period. It’s an orderly method of studying history and students come to understand the historical time periods based on the sequence by which they study history. This is very much a liberal arts/humanities education.
Search terms: trivium, trivium pursuit, Well Trained Mind
Charlotte Mason was a learned educator in the late 1800′s who through learning and experience developed a method of educating students, which she implemented in her school in Ambleside, England. Her students became mature and scholarly, possessing a true love for knowledge and learning that was evident to others who sought Ms. Mason for the secrets to her methods. She wrote a series of books detailing her philosophies so that others could implement them in their homes. These were the original homeschooling books, the first of their kind ever written. Her methods focus on literature as a means for acquiring learning, whether it is science, history or myths. She believed in short lessons for the younger grades, nature study, copywork, dictation, the pursuit of excellence, good habits, notebooking, unstructured time out doors and free time to pursue one’s interests. Charlotte Mason was against the use of textbooks, a practice just beginning to take root in the education movement at that time. She called textbooks twaddle. She was also against workbooks, or lessons, as she called them and felt they did not improve the child’s education or light their love of learning.
Search terms: twaddle, living books, notebooking, copywork, nature study, nature notebook
Using traditional textbooks or “boxed curriculum” like those from secular publishers or Christian homeschool publishers is commonly known as the textbook approach. Textbooks are typically characterized by dry facts written in uninteresting prose, with the use of workbooks and tests. However, today some of the common homeschool textbook publishers have hired writers that make their textbooks interesting and engaging. The use of tests and worksheets is the most common factor with the textbook approach. Most homeschoolers begin with textbooks and later feel more confident to pursue other methods.
Search terms: Alpha Omega, Abeka, Rod and Staff, Bob Jones
People who choose to teach with unit studies select an area of interest or a theme and build all their academic subjects around that topic. Every child in the family learns together, each working on his own academic level while covering the same subject. The traditional scope and sequence is not the purpose, rather “learning to learn” is the goal. An example of a unit study would be the topic of baseball. History would center around the history of baseball and what was happening in the world at that time. Language arts would cover all the vocabulary and spelling associated with the topic and would include writing and grammar assignments related to baseball. Math would center around batting averages and distances from the bases and such. Science might deal with the physics of baseball or perhaps the botany of keeping a field covered with grass. Most people using the unit study approach choose topics that interest their child and make up the course of study as they go along. Some who use unit studies simply read a great book of literature and center all their learning around what they discover in that book.
Search terms: Konos, Ignite the Fire, Learning Adventures, Amanda Bennett
Unschooling is often referred to as “delight directed learning.” The child decides what to learn, when and how. The parent only provides the means. This type of schooling is based on the assumption that children are naturally curious and will undertake studies, become proficient and even excel in those areas if they are simply encouraged and left alone. On one extreme of unschooling, the child doesn’t have to learn anything he doesn’t want to learn, including math. On the other extreme is the unschooler who requires only one or two subjects, math and english, and everything else is up to the child.
Search terms: unschooling, delight directed learning, relaxed homeschooling
An eclectic homeschooler does not embrace any one philosophy or methodology. Instead, he looks at the different approaches and takes the best from each, forming his own scope and sequence and choosing curriculum that fits his needs.
Search terms: eclectic homeschooling, relaxed homeschooling
I have dabbled in many of these methods over the years, using what was right for each child and for me in that particular year. Don’t allow yourself to become pigeonholed. There is no such thing as the “perfect” homeschooling method. And that’s the beauty of this wonderful educational opportunity we’ve been given. Each homeschooling family has the freedom to choose what is best for their unique family, customizing an education that will mature and develop their children into the men and women God has called them to become.