Are you just beginning your homeschooling journey or are you a seasoned veteran wanting to re-evaluate your approach to teaching? Confused by all the curriculum packages and homeschool mom lingo? Wondering what methods might best suit your children and you? Here is a short overview of the six most popular methods for learning and teaching; you can also find more information by listening to the discussion that HEDUA CEO Rebecca Keliher and I shared on this topic.
Central to this method is recognizing the natural curiosity of children and determining their particular interests, using those to ignite interest in other subjects and ideas. Gathering a substantial home library combined with following a child’s personal growth results in a home atmosphere of learning and doing.
If you listen to homeschooling families who tell you they embrace the unschooling or delight centered method, you may be surprised to hear a wide variety of views and philosophies that make up this approach. From parents who take a hands-off attitude to those who provide a rich environment of activities and resources, this method continues to grow in popularity as it challenges the more traditional styles.
- Attention is given to child’s natural desire to learn as he experiences life.
- Most families don’t use a structured plan, curriculum, or schedule.
- Home is filled with real books and hands on resources; time is spent reading and researching their interests.
- Practical life skills are interwoven with independent study.
- Wide variety of parental perspectives and extent of involvement.
Charlotte Mason was an educator who lived during the early part of the 20th century and her philosophy and educational methods have enjoyed resurgence within the last decade among homeschooling families. Based on the desire to approach each child as an individual who has the desire to explore and discover rather than as “containers to fill,” Charlotte’s ideals and methods are a natural fit for many homeschooling families.
Charlotte believed that a child’s education is “an atmosphere, a discipline, and a life.” Simply explained, she recognized that a child’s environment and those people who share his life have a profound effect on the child. She observed that building good habits is the foundation of success and that learning must not be merely a collection of facts but must happen in the context of real life.
Hand-on nature study, narration, handicrafts, art and music, reading living books, fresh air and exercise, combined with short, thorough lessons in the basic subjects, are the cornerstone of the Charlotte Mason method.
- Atmosphere of learning, character building, and being involved in real life activities
- Living books that explore particular subjects in details rather than textbooks that provide an overview of many subjects.
- Quality literature, music and art appreciation are important.
- Narration, dictation, copy work, and notebooks in short lessons that alternate subjects that require intense concentration with those that require less.
- Much physical activity, nature study, self-exploration.
- Lessons completed in mornings to allow time for handicrafts and studies of interest to individual children.
- Use of library books encouraged; free lesson plans available online.
The Classical Education method is based on the idea that there are three stages of development as young people grow and that each stage has specific abilities that make learning particular skills favorable during that time.
Beginning with the “grammar” stage, ages birth to 12, students are trained in elementary subjects with an emphasis on memorization followed by the “dialectic” stage that emphasizes analytical thinking in the junior high years. The high school years or the “rhetoric” stage are when expression and abstract thinking are taught.
Students who learn with the classical approach will have a rigorous education, will be well-versed in logic, and will have much exposure to history and classical works of literature. Future statesmen are often prepared in the classical method.
- Based on the philosophy of the “trivium,” material is divided into three stages: grammar, logic, and rhetoric.
- Students learn Latin, Greek, logic, and read and study the Great Books of the Western World
- Memorization and drill work in early grades
- Public speaking and debate in high school years
- Intense research and study for full day
One of the most encouraging aspects of homeschooling today is the fact that there are so many wonderful individuals and organizations that are willing to come alongside you on your homeschooling journey! Here are few options but the ideas are endless, especially given the creativity of homeschooling families!
- Co-ops formed by families or within churches
- Distance learning where curricula is packaged and lessons are graded
- Umbrella schools sponsored by local churches or private schools
- Homeschool-based charter schools sponsored by local public schools
- University model (college prep) schools
The Traditional Textbook Method is the one most familiar to all of us and for many reasons is the one most frequently used by new homeschoolers. Teachers/parents are provided with materials arranged in various grade levels, and should plan to expand the condensed information back out as time allows. Based on an established set of standards provided through various publishers, students also learn by using lectures, workbooks, and sometimes recorded materials. Prewritten tests and answer keys are available for each subject and the goals for each lesson are provided and clearly stated.
Textbook curriculum companies typically offer testing for students to determine what grade level is best to purchase for the coming school year. This is important because there can be a variation in subjects covered as well as expected mastery of a certain subject matter. There is also an observable worldview that is unique with each textbook company that should be considered as you make your selections.
Textbooks can also be used as a key resource for homeschooling families as they branch out into other methods of learning. For example, as a mom prepares a unit study for her children, a textbook can be used as a check-off list for knowing which subjects should be included.
- Material presented via textbooks for each grade level, workbooks, and sometimes recorded lectures.
- Lessons and curriculum driven by established set of standards offered through institutions or publishers’ scope and sequence charts.
- Much reading, writing, and seat work, full day schedule.
- Testing is given and grades assigned with objective outcome.
- Parent/teacher preparation provided in teacher manuals.
- The goals and objectives for this method are provided in the material with some companies offering assistance via phone or e-mail.
- Costs variable, non-consumable textbooks can be resold or reused.
One of the most popular methods of homeschooling over the past two decades has been the unit study approach. Also known as an integrated method, students study one particular topic, “integrating” all the subjects into the study. Literature, language arts, science, and history are examined as the students learn as much as possible about the chosen topic and projects and applied activities enhance the research and reading. A unit study could be based on a time in history, a passage of Scripture, a work of literature or art, an individual, a discipline of science, or any number of topics that a child might be especially interested in knowing.
One of the best reasons to consider the unit study method is how well it works for homeschoolers because a variety of ages are able to participate. Little ones might learn the basic information while older children research in-depth knowledge of a particular subject, all of them enjoying the field trips, DVD’s, and projects together.
Recently, using lapbooks as part of a unit study has become a creative and economical way to engage those learners who love the hands-on approach. Materials for making lapbooks can be purchased, downloaded for free, or made with materials you have on hand.
• Concentrated study of subject of choice: topics, time in history, portion of Scripture, works of literature, etc.
• Projects and activities are chosen for each age level, all associated with the theme
• Used to teach all grade levels in your home at once
• All subjects can be integrated together (science, history, art, music, literature, Bible, character qualities, etc.) Math is usually done separately.
• Projects and field trips are often planned that coincide with the lessons
(originally published in Home Educating Family Magazine, 2013)