“We homeschool,” might be your answer when asked what school your children attend, but it doesn’t explain how your children are educated. There are many different approaches to homeschooling, all of them valid and all able to yield good results. The method you choose will depend on your educational philosophy, your teaching temperament, and the learning styles of your children.
School At Home
School at Home is just that – moving the traditional classroom work into a home setting. Parents who use this method often purchase a complete curriculum which includes textbooks, workbooks, readers, schedules, and record keeping.
Parents who follow this approach have the advantage of knowing just what they need to teach and when they should teach it, something that is very helpful, especially when you are just starting out. One disadvantage to this method is that the curriculum sets can be quite costly and often can only be obtained from the publisher. School at Home also doesn’t allow much time for those “teachable moments” that come up when you and your child are learning together.
Unit Studies offer an enjoyable way to immerse your students in a particular subject. To teach a unit study, choose a topic of study, such as U.S. Presidents, the colonial era, insects, or the planets, and center your lessons around this topic. Children read books about the subject; write poems, stories, and essays about the subject; work on projects about the subject; and take field trips and participate in activities focusing on the subject.
Unit studies allow parents and children to pursue topics that interest the child, motivating the child to learn and to love learning. Depending on the subject matter chosen, many hands-on activities can also be incorporated. As with any method of teaching, however, unit studies have their disadvantages as well. Although individual unit studies can be purchased, they require a lot of preparation on the part of the teacher, even more so if the teacher is starting from scratch. Another disadvantage to this method of teaching is that too much time may be spent on a certain topic and not enough on others.
Charlotte Mason Method
Charlotte Mason (1842-1923) was a British educator who believed that children should be respected and that they learn best in real-life situations. Her method involves blending narration, dictation, copywork, the fine arts, nature journaling, and language study. The curriculum is literature-based, using “living books” and very few textbooks or workbooks.
Combined with real-life applications, this method encourages students to love to learn. There is little curriculum available for this method, however, and the books used can be quite expensive if you have to buy them. Parents might also be uncertain about which books they should use.
The Classical Method
This approach to homeschooling involves teaching the Trivium, or the three stages of learning. Young children begin with the “grammar stage,” a time of information and memorization. From first through fourth grade, students learn facts – the rules of grammar and spelling, math facts, historical dates and events, foreign language vocabulary, and the names of plants and animals. From fifth through eighth, children enter the “logic stage,” in which they begin to think more analytically. Middle school students learn how to construct a paragraph, support a thesis, and identify cause and effect. The third phase, the “rhetoric stage,” builds upon what was learned during the first two. High school students in this stage learn to write and speak convincingly as they begin to pursue in depth areas that interest them.
The Classical Method prepares students well for college and for life. It is language-focused and systematic, teaching the student that all knowledge is inter-related. The disadvantages to this method, however, are the rigorous schedule and course work it requires. The school days are full, with little time available for spontaneous learning.
This approach uses instructors on DVD or video to present the information to students. Parents follow a pre-set schedule and curriculum. Very little time is involved in planning the lessons, and students can watch the videos on their own. The disadvantage, however, is that there no interaction between the teacher and students, and little room for extra learning opportunities.
Eclectic or Relaxed Homeschooling
This method used by many homeschoolers involves choosing curriculum from several different publishers. Workbooks for math and spelling might be combined with a hands-on science book, a biography for history, and classic literature for reading.
The advantage to this method is that parents choose the textbooks and supplements that fit their family’s needs while insuring that the core subjects are covered well. This approach does require a lot of planning on the teacher’s part, however, as he or she must search through all the many curriculum choices for the ones that fit best.
Unschooling is exactly that – opting out of traditional school schedules and making learning a part of everyday life. Unschoolers find topics that interest their children and pursue them within the context of daily living. Learning, then, continues a natural part of life, not separate work they have to do during the morning or afternoon hours.
Children who are unschooled have much more time to pursue those subjects that truly interest them, learning how to research and study a topic they enjoy. However, because they don’t follow a traditional schedule, it may be harder to know if they are on grade-level.
Whichever method you choose, just be sure to enjoy the time you have with your children during your homeschooling adventure.
Guest Blogger: Samantha Bell
Photo by katiescrapbooklady