As a parent who home educates, one of the things I appreciate the most about home educating is the freedom. For instance being able to select from, what turns out to be, an endless array of inspirational approaches, educational methods, ideas, and wisdom. All of this made readily available on the internet, from books, curriculum, educators, and conferences.
For those of you trying to determine what home educating approach is the best match for you we will explore some of the main home educating methods along with a description. I hope this gives you a start at gathering all of the information necessary to make an informed decision.
Online public schooling/Virtual school
This is the option I am least familiar with. Probably because the entire premise behind my choice to home educate was being able to choose the diversity of my child’s education. This option doesn’t seem to leave much room for that. Nor is it at all like educating your child yourself at home at all. The curriculum is largely the same if not verbatim of what is being taught at the public school building. The only difference here is that your child can do it from the computer at home.
The teachers support their students with their online courses through phone, online web meetings and in some occasions face-to-face sessions. Your role as a parent is to keep your child on track with the lesson plans provided by the teacher. I see this option being utilized by parents who aren’t very hands-on or don’t have a lot of time on their hands to craft out the lessons and experiences themselves. You are still outsourcing your child’s education, you are just doing it from the comfort of your home.
The Classical Method
The “classical” method began in the Middle Ages and was the approach used by some of the greatest minds in history. Adopting the Greek idea of paideia, the Romans created a system of study known as the “seven liberal arts.” These were divided into two phases: the trivium (which literally means “an intersection of three roads”) and the quadrivium (“an intersection of four roads”).
Young pupils pursued the first level of learning: the trivium. This included the simultaneous acquisition of three skills: grammar, logic, and rhetoric. Once these three skills were substantially mastered, students studied arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music theory, which together comprised the more difficult and mathematically-oriented quadrivium.
Upon mastery of the three skills, your role as parent shifts from that of the teacher to guide. The teen who has substantially mastered the three skills of the trivium has all the necessary tools to study any discipline in depth.
Authentic classical education has always been primarily interested in meaning, so your first task is to give your children the tools for learning, and your second task is to supervise the discussion and interpretation of ideas during the post-trivium years.
The goal of the classical approach is to teach people how to learn for themselves via Socratic dialogue [is a series of leading questions posed by the teacher or tutor that assist the student in self-discovery and understanding]. This is a method of teaching children according to the phases of a child’s cognitive development; concrete, analytical, and abstract thinking. With subjects like grammar, literature, handwriting, Bible, history, math, science, Latin, logic, art, and composers the pleasures of childhood seem easily crowded out as children completed task after task required under this vigorous and disciplined style.
The Waldorf Method
The Waldorf method is also used in some homeschools. Waldorf education is based on the work of Rudolf Steiner and stresses the importance of educating the whole child—body, mind, and spirit. In the early grades, there is an emphasis on arts and crafts, music and movement, and nature.
Older children are taught to develop self-awareness and how to reason things out for themselves. Children in a Waldorf homeschool do not use standard textbooks; instead, the children create their own books. The Waldorf method also discourages the use of television and computers because they believe computers are bad for the child’s health and creativity.
The Charlotte Mason Method
The Charlotte Mason method has at its core the belief that children deserve to be respected and that they learn best from real-life situations. a Charlotte Mason education is three-pronged: in her words, “Education is an Atmosphere, a Discipline, a Life.”
An Atmosphere, A Discipline, A Life
By “Atmosphere,” Charlotte meant the surroundings in which the child grows up. A child absorbs a lot from his home environment. By “Discipline,” Charlotte meant the discipline of good habits—and specifically habits of character. Cultivating good habits in your child’s life make up another third of his education.The other third of education, “Life,” applies to academics. Charlotte believed that we should give children living thoughts and ideas, not just dry facts. So all of her methods for teaching the various school subjects are built around that concept.
Students of the Charlotte Mason method take nature walks, visit art museums, and learn geography, history, and literature from “living books,” Living books are usually written in narrative or story form by one author who has a passion for his topic. A living book makes the subject “come alive.”
And the students were required to tell back or narrate, in their own words what was read in the living book, in order to secure it in their minds. No fill-in-the-blank or multiple-choice for them.
Eclectic Home educating is basically a hodge-podge of several different styles of learning. The Eclectic Home educating parent forms his/her own home education approach from a variety of sources in the way of ideas, curriculum, and methodology.
Beverly S. Krueger, director of the Eclectic Homeschool Association, describes what Eclectic Homeschooling is all about:
“Eclectic homeschoolers start with a foundation of their own views about what makes a person well educated…to that foundation, they will add stones that are similar but of different shape and size, selecting each stone to fit in a particular spot, removing a stone that wiggles too much and shifting a stone to create a tighter fit. The result is a functional stone wall of great beauty and strength.”
What I can appreciate about this approach is that it is a living approach. It is open to anything and everything. You aren't cemented into a specific set of standards and can forage your own personalized style for learning and living while making them both a joy!
Unschooling/ Self-Directed Learning
Unschooling is sometimes referred to as “Self-directed Learning” or “Natural Learning”. It does not use curriculum or any scheduled or formal lesson plans. Founded by John Holt, the Unschooling movement is based on the belief that children will best learn Math, Language Arts, History, Science, Art, etc., in the same manner, they learn to walk and talk…that is, naturally.
Holt writes, “We can see that there is no difference between living and learning, that living is learning, that it is impossible and misleading, and harmful to think of them as being separate.”
Unschoolers are encouraged to follow their interests, learning as their curiosity is piqued through daily life experiences and interactions. To me, the most important aspect to unschooling is that it never ends, and yet still involves “living” and experiencing life - to it’s fullest consistently. This approach makes every single moment a moment that something can be learned from.
Approaches that span multiple methods
Harness the power of the Internet by accessing virtual tutors, virtual schools, online curriculum, and quality websites. You need never feel that you can’t find the help, expert advice or resources necessary to homeschool your child. Did you hate math as a child and feel you can’t possibly help your child learn math? Or what about (YIKES) Algebra? How about Physics? No problem. There is a wealth of cutting-edge online curriculum programs, private distance learning schools, homeschool support academies and more.
Unit studies use your child’s interest and then ties that interest into subject areas like math, reading, spelling, science, art, and history. Packaged unit studies are available on popular topics like the Little House and American Girl books and also for virtues like patience, trust, and obedience.
Homeschooling for religious reasons was responded by approximately 33% of the families across the nation for the main reason they homeschool. It really is a good reason for those families who want to raise their child in a certain religion because that simply can’t be done easily in the public school system. Since I view modern day religions more like brainwashing and less like spirituality, this choice was an obvious “no go” for me. The main difference here is the ongoing emphasis on the religious teachings of whichever religion you choose.
This approach, developed by Maria Montessori in Rome in the early 1900s, is child-centered, with educators serving as guides. In the Montessori method play is a child’s work. While there is a focus on academics, the distinguishing feature is that children learn at their own pace. There are special Montessori toys called manipulatives that are self-corrective; this means that a child knows if they assembled a puzzle correctly, for example, based on the toy fitting together, not because someone showed the child how to do it.
Other links for information that may be useful to you as it relates to home educating our youth.