For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this not of yourselves it is the gift of God, not of works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8-9

Monday, July 30, 2012

Back to Homeschool Blog Hop - Homeschooling Methods

It's been a while since I have participated in a blog Hop. I like blog hops but blogging time is scarce nowadays. I figured "Back to School" is a good time and a good topic to be blogging about, so I decided to join in the schoolhouse blog Hop on 5 topics related to homeschooling.
So let's start with Homeschool methods.

Homeschooling is a very broad term. Some like to call it home educating. Homeschooling is becoming a common choice of education. But how does one home educate at home?

The styles and methods of homeschooling are as wide as there are different kind of parenting styles. When I first started homechooling, back in 2008, I thought there were 7 main styles of homeschooling, which were:
  • Classical: Trivium, 3 stages (Grammar, Dialectic, Rhetoric), Good Books. The Well-Trained Mind is a popular resource on classical education.
  • Chalotte Mason: Living books, narration, art and nature studies, and good habit training: Ambleside Online
  • Montessori: emphasis on sensory, and the environment around the student.
  • Eclectic: custom made method, pulling elements from the different methods.
  • Unschooling / Child - led /interest - led: minimal book work, tailored to the child's interest, learning through life.
  • Unit Study: Focus on one specific theme or topic, stretching it over the different academic subjects.
  • School at Home or Traditional: replicates school in a home setting, rigid schedule, grading. This is the packaged or boxed curriculum (A-Z) type of homeschooler.

Now, entering my 4th year of homeschooling, I have come to realize that the homeschooling world is not that clear cut. One needs to differentiate between homeschooling philosophies and homeschooling methods or styles. Yes, these 7 methods that I briefly described, are the most widely mentioned when it comes to homeschooling, but these are mainly philosophies of homeschooling. I have come to learned that, not only there are more philosophies out there, but there are also lots of different methods and styles of carrying out these philosophies. Some philosophies are attached to some methodologies, but by large, a number of combinations can be achieved. The blessing of home educating is that you are not tied to anything. The only obligation you have as a parent is ensuring that your child gets a good education and is well trained in godliness, character and virtue. You are free to pull from different resources, philosophies, methods and styles that are available to accomplish your goal as long as they do not come in conflict with your christian worldview.

Here are a few other philosophies I have come across throughout my 3 years of homescholing:
  • Waldorf - Holistic learning, emphasis on language, art, music and drama, variety of methods.
  • Robinson - self-directed learning - equipping the student to learn on his own.
  • Thomas Jefferson Education - Leadership education, emphasis on the classics, and self-inspired learning.
  • Principled Approach - using the Bible as the textbook and relating and applying God’s Biblical principles to all areas of education, society and government. At our home, though the premises look attractive, we have a few reservations regarding this philosophy as we believe it misuses the Bible and doesnot give enough focus to the redemptive purpose of Scripture and to God's glory.
When it comes to methods per se, here is a list of the most common and their commonly associated curriculum or resources:
As you can see there is lots of overlap between homeschooling philosophies and homeschooling methods. Also, a combination thereof of homeschooling styles and methods can fit in any number of homeschooling philosophies.

Personally, I have a preference for the classical method because I believe that it is the most rigorous on the mind and the intellect. I believe memorization, reading Good Books, studying the classics, and encouraging critical thinking, to name a few of the tenets of classical education, are the best components for raising good thinkers (what we desperately need in our society).

I did not go for a School at Home style of homeschooling because I believe it has the potential of  killing the love of learning in a child. (Don't get me wrong this method works perfectly for some families). The beauty of homeschooling is allowing our kids to explore their interests and dig in deeper into the things that inspire them. When using a box curriculum, time becomes limited and the focus is on finishing the material at hand, not necessarily exploring the material. My oldest spends lots of time reading history dictionaries and books, as well as creating his own fictional historical worlds, loosely based on historical events with dates and all (you could also call it alternative historical worlds); if I was doing school at home there would not be much time for that and I can see him shutting down his brain and hating anything that has to do with school and learning. My youngest spends lots of time playing chess and reading and studying numerous chess books.

Another aspect to consider when exploring homeschool methods is the time factor. Some homeschool methods demand more from the parent that others. Box curricula tend to come with all the lesson plans done for you. They are open and go, perfect for the type A parent and busy family, as you do not have to spend as much time planning and being creative. Others, while the planning is done for you, tend to demand you sitting down with the child most of the day (unit-studies, literature-based types). When one becomes ecletic, more planning time is involved and it can be time consuming on the part of the parent.

Over the years I have considered my style of homeschooling as interest-led, as well as classically eclectic. I think at this stage I would call it relaxed classical. The reason being that I aspire to give my boys a classical education while at the same time allowing for plenty of time for exploration. To that end I focus on the Humanities: Language Arts and History as well as the 3 Rs (Arithmetic, Reading and Writing -though we have not started on the writing part yet, they are still young). My boys love science, so that finds its spot in our line up as well. Tomorrow and Wednesday, when I will go though our line up for next year and how we structure our days, you will see how this works out practically.

In the end, I think each family has to define their homeschool. No family is the same, no children are the same and trying to use a fit all method is not the wisest thing. One must know what he is trying to accomplish, what he can realistically do as a teacher, and what his children can handle, and then plan accordindgly, allowing for adjustments along the way.

If you are looking for resources on Homeschooling methods and guidelines on your homeschooling journey, my top 3 recommendations would be : The Well-Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer and Educating the WholeHearted Child by Clay and Sally Clarkson, and Complete Guide to Getting Started in Homeschooling by Mary Pride.


Stefanie said...

Looking forward to reading more about your homeschool.

Patty @ Coming Up Roses said...

Sounds like you have your boys pegged down! I love that you teach to their interests and don't expect them to be the same!

Anonymous said...

Very nice post! You did a really great job of hitting all the major methods and their descriptions. However, I have to be a dissenting voice. :-)

I am in my 12th year of homeschooling, and I have five children. This is what I have found to be true {for my family}: using a worktext/textbook approach has actually given us more time to pursue interests than using Classical or CM ever did. lol My children are also finally reading more classic works with pleasure, rather than with drudgery because for them, they would rather get their core subjects done using a text, and then read deeper using whole/living books on what actually interests them, rather than being required to read a whole stinking book on something that they were not in to at. all.

So, the great thing is that now my daughters read everything Jane Austen, my 13 year old reads the Illiad, my 16 year old son has read The Lord of the Rings - I don't know how many times now, along with The Golden Goblet, Black Ships Before Troy and more, and my 11 year old is just finished the unabridged Robin Hood, and is working on The Door In the Wall. Back when I required classic works, for books from Ambleside Online - their love of reading and learning deeper was completely killed.

lol, go figure! :-)

Joelle A. said...

You are right, this can be a downside of the classical method, that is why I limit what I MAKE them read. The Classics that we read are in the context of our History studies, which my oldest absolutely loves. Otherwise, since they love audiobooks, I use that to introduce other works. If they don't like it, I rarely force them. The traditional approach can work great for some kids and family, no argument there. Appreciated your comment :)

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