Written by Jamie Martin, editor of Simple Homeschool and founder of Steady Mom
A note from Jamie: This month on Simple Homeschool, one of our themes is educational philosophy. So it seems like a good time to revisit this post, originally published on February 15, 2010. You can also check out the second part of the post for further reading.
When I first started to research homeschooling, I didn’t even realize there was more than one way to “do” education. Growing up in the traditional system, like most of us, I assumed that homeschooling meant duplicating the system at home.
Imagine my surprise (& joy) as I discovered the plethora of educational methods and philosophies out there. That’s when I realized how amazing a home education could be–so many possibilities and options existed that could be tailored for each child!
The downside of having so many choices is wading your way through all the information. If you’ve recently felt overwhelmed by all that’s out there, today’s post is just what you need.
Here’s an overview of four educational philosophies to get you started.
1. The Traditional Method
This is what it sounds like–taking the classroom model and translating it into your home. Typically this method revolves around textbooks, worksheets, and tests to determine if your child is mastering the material.
Some children love plowing through a workbook and thrive on it. For those who don’t, you can always use these sparingly or on a child’s own terms. We have a shelf of workbooks that our elementary-aged children can work in if and when the mood strikes them.
Some families may use the traditional method in one subject, like math, while using different methods for other subjects. Larger families may find it helpful to use some textbooks if it provides an easier way to follow up with several children.
Further Reading (traditional curriculum publishers):
2. The Unit Study Method
The unit study method seeks to combine several subjects under one unifying theme. If your son loves trains, you would use that subject to look for books about trains (literature), write about trains (English/handwriting), study the history of trains (history), develop word problems about the speed of trains (math), and so on.
Photo by woodley wonderworks
A homeschooling mom or dad can compile a unit study on any subject that interests a child, but some publishers take the hard work out of unit studies by putting packages together on a variety of topics.
Unit studies often incorporate multi-sensory approaches to a subject, making it ideal for kinesthetic learners. The downside is that these lessons may require extra preparation time on behalf of the parent.
3. The Charlotte Mason Method
Charlotte Mason pioneered amazing educational changes in Great Britain. Living in the late 1800’s, she revolutionized the educational system at that time–aiming to prove that children of any class had the capabilities to learn and enjoy it.
Her methods have seen a resurgence within homeschoolers of our generation–a wonderful thing as her teachings offer much to families and children. Key aspects of her philosophy include nature study, shorter lessons, narration, real “living” books as opposed to textbooks, and the development of good habits.
4. The Unschooling Method
The word “unschooling” may sound frightening, especially if you are new to the idea of homeschooling. Terms with essentially the same definition, but that may be less intimidating include delight-directed education, relaxed homeschooling, or interest-led learning.
Photo by Jesse Millan
Unschooling advocates believe that children are born with a natural curiosity and love of learning, and that this desire to learn will continue to grow and develop if it isn’t stifled.
This method of education isn’t about neglect and isn’t just for hippies–many households pursue an intentional type of unschooling lifestyle and find that it brings joy to both them and their families. Even if you believe you must cover the “basics” in certain subjects, you can still implement part of this philosophy by allowing your children as much freedom as possible in other educational areas.
As a mom who went from thinking unschooling was the most outrageous, scary concept I’d ever heard of–to a mom who now loves relaxed homeschooling and seeks to implement it as much as possible, I encourage you to check out the following links.
Next week I’ll introduce a few more philosophies for your consideration. The range of educational methods available means that each child can really flourish as they learn.
As homeschooling parents, we get to watch the beauty unfold each and every day.
What an amazing privilege.
Which of these four methods have you implemented in your homeschool? If you’re just getting started, do any of these philosophies resonate with you?