National Home Education week is coming up (November 21st-25th of November) and to help spread the word I am going to be doing a series of Home Ed based blog posts that will explain our home ed journey as well as providing links and resources. For more information on National Home Education Week please visit the Australian Homeschool Network. They will be running free online chats about home education as well as park days and get togethers during Home Ed week where you can find out more about home education.
Homeschooling comes in many shapes and sizes, but there are generally some “standardised” approaches. Even if one family adopts a certain homeschool “approach” it will still vary greatly from one family to another. When I first started homeschooling everyone was asking me which approach I was, but no one had told me what the approaches were. So no one ends up as confused as I was – here are some of the most common forms of homeschooling and their descriptions. These descriptions were copied from “Homeschool.com” Please note that there are probably a lot more approaches out there than listed below, these are just a basic “started guide”.
School At Home
School-at-home is the style most often portrayed in the media because it is so easy to understand and can be accompanied by a photo of children studying around the kitchen table. This is also the most expensive method and the style with the highest burnout rate. Most families who follow the school-at-home approach purchase a boxed curriculum that comes with textbooks, study schedules, grades, and record keeping.
Some families use the school-at-home approach but make up their own lesson plans and find their own learning materials. The advantage of this style is that families know exactly what to teach and when to teach it. That can be a comfort when you are just starting out. The disadvantage is that this method requires much more work on the part of the teacher/parent and the lessons are not as much fun for the children.
Unit studies use your child’s interest and then ties that interest into subject areas like maths, reading, spelling, science, art, and history. For example, if you have a child who is interested in ancient Egypt, you would learn the history of Egypt, read books about Egypt, write stories about Egypt, do art projects about pyramids, and learn about Egyptian artefacts or mapping skills to map out a catacomb.
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. The advantage of this homeschooling method is that it recognises the fact that people learn best when they are interested in the topic. The disadvantage is that sometimes parents can be overzealous and make a unit study out of everything, scaring the child off from talking about a new interest they might have.
“Relaxed” or “Eclectic”
“Relaxed” or “Eclectic” homeschooling is the method used most often by homeschoolers. Basically, eclectic homeschoolers use a little of this and a little of that, using workbooks for maths, reading, and spelling, and taking an unschooling approach for the other subjects.
The advantage of this method is that the parent feels that the subjects they believe are most important are covered thoroughly. This method also allows the family to choose textbooks, field trips, and classes that fit their needs and interests.
Unschooling is also known as natural, interest-led, and child-led learning. Unschoolers learn from everyday life experiences and do not use school schedules or formal lessons. Instead, unschooled children follow their interests and learn in much the same way as adults do—by pursuing an interest or curiosity. In the same way that children learn to walk and talk, unschooled children learn their maths, science, reading, and history. John Holt, schoolteacher and founder of the unschooling movement, told educators in his book, What Do I Do Monday?: “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. We say to children, ‘you come to school to learn.’ We say to each other [educators], ‘our job is to teach children to learn.’ But the children have been learning, all the time, for all of their lives before they met us. What is more, they are very likely to be much better at learning than most of us who plan to teach them something.”
The advantage to unschooling is that unschooled children have the time and research abilities to become experts in their areas of interest. The disadvantage is that because unschoolers do not follow the typical school schedule, they may not do as well on grade-level assessments and may have a harder time if they re-enter the school system.
The “classical” method began in the Middle Ages and was the approach used by some of the greatest minds in history. The goal of the classical approach is to teach people how to learn for themselves. The five tools of learning, known as the Trivium, are reason, record, research, relate, and rhetoric. Younger children begin with the preparing stage, where they learn basic reading, writing, and arithmetic. The grammar stage is next, which emphasises compositions and collections, and then the dialectic stage, where serious reading, study, and research take place.
All the tools come together in the rhetoric stage, where communication is the primary focus. Popular books on the classical approach include The Well-Trained Mind: A guide to Classical Education at Home by Jessie Wise and Susan Wise Bauer and Recovering the Lost tools of Learning by Douglas Wilson. Also available is the book Teaching the Trivium by Harvie and Laurie Bluedorn from Trivium Pursuit (1-309-537-3641).
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. According to Charlotte Mason, children should be given time to play, create, and be involved in real-life situations from which they can learn. Students of the Charlotte Mason method take nature walks, visit art museums, and learn geography, history, and literature from “living books,” books that make these subjects come alive. Students also show what they know, not by taking tests, but via narration and discussion. Popular books on this method include A Charlotte Mason Education and More Charlotte Mason Education, both by Katherine Levison.
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.
Montessori materials are also popular in some households. The Montessori method emphasises “error less learning,” where the children learn at their own pace and in that way develop their full potential. The Montessori homeschool emphasizes beauty and avoids things that are confusing or cluttered. Wooden tools are preferred over plastic tools, and learning materials are kept well-organised and ready to use.
The Montessori method also discourages television and computers, especially for younger children. Although Montessori materials are available for high school students, most homeschoolers use the Montessori method for younger children. Books and curriculum on the Montessori method are available from American Montessori Consulting (1-562-598-2321).
“Multiple intelligences” is an idea developed by Howard Gardner and Harvard University’s “project zero.” The belief is that everyone is intelligent in his or her own way and that learning is easiest and most effective when it uses a person’s strengths instead of their weakness. For example, most schools use a linguistic and logical-mathematical approach when teaching, but not everyone learns that way. Some students, the bodily kinaesthetic learners for example, learn best by touching and not by listening or reading. Most successful homeschoolers naturally emphasise their children’s strengths and automatically tailor their teaching to match their child’s learning style. Successful homeschoolers also adjust their learning environment and schedule so that it brings out their child’s’ best.
Some children prefer structure and learn best when they are told what to do, others learn best on their own. Some children do their best work around the kitchen table, and others excel when they are out of doors. The goal for the homeschooling parents is to identify how, when, and what their child learns best and to adapt their teaching style to their child.
This approach can be used with all different styles of homeschooling. Use quality educational titles to help your child learn Science, Physics, American History, World History, Religion, Preschool skills, Music, Art and more. This is not watching television. A powerful movie can inspire a new interest or help your child develop a solid understanding of a complicated area of learning.
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 maths as a child and feel you can’t possible help your child learn maths? 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.
just two more instalments to come – “Over coming objections” including legalities of homeschooling in Australia and finally what happens when homeschoolers grow up.