Thursday 23rd of November 2017

Homeschooling Methods

This subject stirs anxiety in the hearts and minds of homeschooling parents who actually believe that homeschooling must be accomplished a certain way, and that they (or someone else) could do it wrong. Sadly, these fears only serve to impede the homeschool journey and introduce insecurity and divisiveness into the homeschool community. It is important to understand that what works for one family might not be right for another. Homeschooling allows people to get away from status quo and random accountability (and hierarchy!), so homeschooling families must be careful not to bring the environment they are rejecting into their own homeschool communities.

People come to homeschooling for different reasons so families need to find the method that will work for them. There are various methods and styles of homeschooling. But remember: you do not need to choose a style and follow it. Homeschooling should not be a struggle for you or your children. If you try an idea that sounds great but doesn't actually work, you can let it go and try something else...or put it aside and take a break. That is one of the marvelous aspects of homeschooling - you can take cues from your children about what and how they need to learn. Your children do not have to conform to someone else's standards, schedules, and milestones. Click the links to learn more about each of these methods.

Traditional Approach
Classical Approach
Charlotte Mason Method
Principle Approach
Waldorf Approach
Thomas Jefferson Approach
Unit Studies Approach
Eclectic Approach

The Traditional Approach is basically "school at home." Families create their own version of a classroom in their home, use textbooks and workbooks, follow a scope and sequence that covers each subject in 180 daily increments over a span of 12 years, based on teacher's manuals, tests, record keeping materials that correspond to each of the texts, and GRADES. As in traditional schooling, it is assumed that material in one chapter must be mastered before moving on to the next.

Actual classrooms on video and traditional curricula are now available. Many satellite schools as well as universities now offer computer courses on CD or through the Internet.

There is a multitude of options. Be careful. Homeschooling has become a big business. One way to narrow down the choices is to identify with a specific group. Are you Christian or Catholic homeschooler desiring a faith-based curriculum? Do you prefer a secular approach? You might even want to use the traditional method in one academic area, for instance, to teach math and science, and try less structured methods for other learning experiences, such as language arts and humanities-related subjects.

Good resources for curricula can be found in homeschooling magazines and on the Internet. But your best resource will be other homeschooling families. You may even be able to borrow material from other families in your homeschool community before purchasing.

Click here for a comprehensive curriculum guide.

Here are some other options we have come across.

eTap - a non-profit education corp. whose purpose is to provide K-12 curriculum for the core subjects of Mathematics, English, Science, and History on the Internet. The instructional material is designed to assist students, teachers and parents. Lessons can be used for students' instruction and by parents and teachers as an aid to help their children and students.

Progress Academy is a web-based curriculum provider for students looking for an alternative to public school or current homeschoolers looking for a traditional curriculum. They offer K-12 programs that meet a variety of needs and learning styles.

Learning materials are delivered over the Internet from a reliable and safe platform. The courses are based on online Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishers textbooks and Reading A to Z. They feature interactive audio and visual resources, including "Brainpop" learning cartoons, educational videos from United Streaming and Digital Curriculum Corporation, automated testing functions, and various other web-based interactive resources.

The Classical Approach (aka The Well Trained Mind Approach)

In the Classical Approach, children under age 18 are taught tools of learning collectively known as The Trivium. The Trivium has three parts, each part corresponding to a childhood developmental stage. The first stage of the Trivium, the Grammar Stage, covers early elementary ages and focuses on reading, writing, and spelling; At approximately middle school age, children begin to demonstrate independent or abstract thought (usually by becoming argumentative or opinionated). This signals the beginning of the Dialectic Stage in which the child's tendency to argue is molded and shaped by teaching logical discussion, debate, and how to draw correct conclusions and support them with facts The final phase of the Trivium, the Rhetoric Stage, seeks to produce a student who can use language, both written and spoken, eloquently and persuasively. Students are usually ready for this stage by age 15. There are both Christian and secular approaches to Classical Education.

Also, check out:

Classical Homeschooling
Classical Christian education and its practical application in grades K-12 for homeschooling families.

Escondido Tutorial Service
Escondido Tutorial Service is dedicated to bringing classical Christian education to homeschoolers. Our tutorials are available in your own home through the Internet.

The Charlotte Mason Approach

For Charlotte Mason, education was not a list of skills or facts to be mastered. Education was an atmosphere, a discipline, a life. Children deal directly with the best books, music, and art. They are trained to narrate (tell back) what they learned so that the emphasis is placed on what they do know versus what they do not know. Some other aspects of a Charlotte Mason education include the formation of good habits, keeping a nature diary and a home-made book of the centuries. She advocates the avoidance of "twaddle," what we might call "dumbed-down" literature, and replaces it with classic literature and noble poetry. Her method includes a unique style of dictation and spelling. Charlotte Mason believed that children should be outside with a parent for 4-6 hours per day when they are young, and that older children (12 and up) should have at least one full afternoon a week devoted to outside activities. Charlotte encouraged her students to keep nature notebooks. The children themselves always do the drawings, and the notebook may include poems, narrations of the natural objects, and pressings of leaves and flowers.

Click here to learn more:

Various homeschooling methods

In-depth article about Charlotte Mason Method

Homeschool Without Homework Books about Charlotte Mason:
The Original Home Schooling Series by Charlotte Mason
A Charlotte Mason Education by Catherine Levison
The Charlotte Mason Study Guide by Penny Gardner
A Charlotte Mason Companion by Karen Andreola

The Principle Approach

The Principle Approach is an effort to restore to American Christians three vital concepts: the knowledge of our Christian history; an understanding of our role in the spread of Christianity; and the ability to live according to the Biblical principles upon which our country was founded. The Principle Approach is a way of living life, not just a way of educating children.

Developers of the Principle Approach rediscovered seven Biblical principles upon which our country was founded and by which many of the founding fathers were educated. The seven principles are:

  1. Individuality (God has created distinct differences in people, nations, etc.)
  2. Self Government (Government starts in the heart of man.);
  3. Christian Character
  4. Conscience is the Most Sacred of Property
  5. The Christian Form of Government
  6. How the Seed of Local Self Government is Planted

The Christian Principle of American Political Union

Four emphases are unique to this educational approach.

First, there is a recognition of God's Hand (Providence) in history.

Second, there is the understanding that God has ordained three governmental institutions (the home, the church, and civil government) through which He unfolds His purposes and manifests Christ on this earth.

Third, each Christian is responsible for extending God's government.

Fourth, the student assumes responsibility for learning and for applying knowledge to his own life.

The Principle Approach may be applied to the study of any subject with the use of notebooks to record "the 4 Rs" (Researching God's Word; Reasoning from the researched Biblical truths/principles; Relating the truths and principles discovered to the subject and the student's character; and Recording the individual application of the Biblical principles to the subject and the student).

This information was taken from an article called Common Teaching Approaches by Ellyn Davis

The Principle Approach focuses on using the "4 R's" (research, reason, relate and record) to approach each subject. It is the historic method of our nation which uses Biblical reasoning and places the Truths (or principles) of God's Word at the core of education.

What constitutes a Biblical worldview of the discipline of science? In home education we must come to terms with how to teach God's view of science and not what man has decreed. My goal in teaching science in our homeschool is not so much experiments and mechanics but the why of God's world. I try to concentrate on what proves God to be the Author and Creator and what disproves the skeptics. I believe that children, no matter what their age, should be able to articulate why God is the Author of Life.

Article by Carole Adams

If you want your children to become not only highly educated Christians with strong moral character but vigorous young men and women with a clear Biblical worldview -- you will want to take a good look at Principle Approach homeschooling.

A Guide to American Christian Education for the Home and School: The Principle Approach, by James Rose

The Waldorf Approach

"Accept the children with reverence, educate them with love, send them forth in freedom." So said Rudolf Steiner, the Founder of Waldorf Education. And indeed, his vision was for schooling the whole child, and not just the mind. Rudolf Steiner's views on child development led him to create a system that was designed to teach at the most appropriate level for a child's developmental stage. Rudolf Steiner believed in educating the mind and the soul. There is a stronger focus on the arts, such as music, drama, sewing, and painting; these skills are as essential to a complete life experience as academic subjects. The stated goal of Waldorf Education: "to produce individuals who are able, in and of themselves, to impart meaning to their lives."

The aim of Waldorf schooling is to educate the whole child, "head, heart and hands." The curriculum is as broad as time will allow, and balances academics subjects with artistic and practical activities. The Waldorf Philosophy as applied to Homeschooling is relatively new. If desiring this approach it is recommended that you connect with others and discover how they are applying it as homeschoolers.

Click here for more information.

The Thomas Jefferson Approach

The basic tenets of Jefferson Education are classics and mentors, depth and breadth of knowledge, quality work and real world application of that knowledge. Formal education is started later rather than earlier encouraging the early elementary child to play and expecting important learning to come from that play. One strong component of this philosophy is strong usage of the classics, because the classics introduce the young mind to the greatest achievements of humankind, prepare children to become successful human beings, parents and leaders in their own time. Another component is that the curriculum is personalized through the use of mentoring. The application of this philosophy contains a lot of reading, writing and discussion.

Here is an excerpt written by Rachel DeMille, wife of the author of Thomas Jefferson Education:

  1. Classics, not Textbooks - learn directly from the greatest thinkers, historians, artists, philosophers, prophets and their original works.
  2. Mentors, not Professors - professor/expert tells the students and invites them to conform, and grades based on the conformity. A mentor finds out the student's goals, interests, talents, weaknesses, strengths and purpose, then helps him develop and carry out a plan to prepare for his unique mission.
  3. Inspire, not Require - you can inspire the student to voluntarily and enthusiastically choose to do the hard work necessary to get a great education, or you can attempt to require it of them. Ask "What do I need to do so that these students will see my example and want to do the hard work to get a superb education?"
  4. Structure Time, not Content - help your student establish and follow a consistent schedule, but don't micromanage the content. Let the student pursue their chosen interests during their study time.
  5. Quality, not Conformity - once the student is inspired and working hard to get a great education, the mentor should give lots of feedback and help, but not in the form of grading or otherwise rewarding conformity. Two grade choices are either "A" for acceptable, or "DA" for Do it Again. Thinking and performing is the goal, not the grade.
  6. Simplicity, not Complexity - the more complex the curriculum, the more reliant the student becomes on experts. This is great for socialization techniques, but not as an educational method. Students need to develop an ability to think, independently and creatively, with the skill of applying their knowledge in order to deal with people and situations in the real world.
  7. You not them - these principles are not about improving your child's education without going on the journey yourself. Focus on YOUR education and take them along for the ride. Read the classics yourself and find mentors. You do not have to be an expert, as the classics do that for you, but you need to be setting the example.
Thomas Jefferson is more than just a collection of ideas. It is a recounting of a process by which scholars such as Thomas Jefferson, Isaac Newton, Marie Curie and Winston Churchill achieved excellence in scholarship and personal development. - Rachel DeMille

Click here to learn more about this educational

Even if you never decide to educate this way, reading the book is still great. A Thomas Jefferson Education by Oliver Van DeMille.

The Unit Study Approach

Unit studies are also sometimes called thematic units or integrated studies. Unit studies usually use a hands-on approach for learning. The child learns by actually experiencing or discovering through different methods and activities, rather than just reading a chapter from a textbook. The unit or theme refers to the idea of studying a topic as a whole instead of separating learning into different academic subjects. A unit study takes a topic and "lives" with it for a period of time, integrating science, social studies, language arts, math, and fine arts. For example, a unit study about ships would include:

  • Reading stories such as Moby Dick, The Storm etc. (Literature)
  • Writing stories about traveling or working on a ship, or comparing and contrasting different types of boats (Creative writing, grammar, etc.)
  • Learning about the the ocean, navigation etc. (Science)
  • Learning new words pertaining to shipping and ship travel (Vocabulary)
  • Mapping out travel routes a vessel might take or that cruise ships do take (Geography)
  • Examining how ships have influenced immigration (History)

Unit studies can be designed around any topic of interest to the student. Insects or a specific insect, animals or a specific animal, cartoons, electricity, dinosaurs etc. virtually any interest that a child expresses. Field trips are encouraged using this approach and the amount of time spent in each area can be varied. Some units may take one week while others last for months.


The Eclectic Approach

This approach is a mix and match approach. It is one in which many things are tried and what works for the child is kept, continued and developed. The eclectic approach encourages trying many different approaches and figuring out what works for your family. It is a flexible approach and is different for each family.

Click here for more information:


One of the first to write about the idea of unschooling was John Holt. In his book Teach Your Own, Holt wrote: "What children need is not new and better curricula but access to more and more of the real world; plenty of time and space to think over their experiences, and to use play to make meaning out of them; and advice, road maps, guidebooks, to make it easier for them to get where they want to go (not where we think they ought to go), and to find out what they want to find out."

I found the best description from the "Unschooling List": Unschooling is not how we do something, but why.

Unschooling is the belief that all people, no matter how old or young, have a built in desire to learn (unless that desire has been crushed by outside forces). It is a belief that if you allow a person of any age to pursue their own interests throughout life they will end up gaining the knowledge they will need in order to pursue the life they want.

Unschooling has nothing to do with tools that one may use to learn something, it is pure technique. Assuming the person (child or adult-whoever is the learner) wants to learn this way, it allows for structure or no structure, textbooks or no textbooks, workbooks or no workbooks. It includes the taking of classes. It allows for correspondence courses and private lessons. It allows for field trips, mentorships, jobs, and volunteerism. It also allows for months of just playing with LEGOs or street hockey or endless computer games or taking apart the old car, if that is what the child needs then. It allows the person, no matter what age, to pursue their own goals and their own interests without guilt. It allows for educational freedom.

Some resources for unschooling information:


Sandra Dodd
Fun and painless information on homeschooling (UNschooling), my life, ideas, friends, history, and you'll find easy access to other life-changing ideas too!
Come explore, where parents and children have learned to trust themselves and each other!

Joyce Fetteroll's Unschooling Website
Family Unschoolers Network
The Family Unschoolers Network provides support for unschooling, homeschooling, and self-directed learning. If you are an unschooler, homeschooler, self-directed learner, or just learning in general, then this is the site for you! You will find newsletter articles, reviews, resources, web sites, books and lots of other information to help your homeschooling or unschooling efforts.

Christian Unschooling
We remain dedicated to helping others learn that being a Christian and an Unschooler, are not oxymorons.
Authors: John Holt, Mary Griffith
Magazine: Growing Without Schooling

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