So you've decided to move forward with your hopes to homeschool your child/children. You've taken the time to write out your goals, your ideas of how you'd like to your family to be. (If you haven't complete this first step, click here to read more.)
Now, take out those goals to look at. Knowing the direction that your family is looking to grow will help make finding methods and styles that work for you.
Homeschooling is as much a lifestyle choice as it is an education alternative. Your beliefs about child development, learning theory and life in general will influence the homeschool philosophy you embrace. Many parents begin homeschooling with a particular style and shift to other methods as they gain experience.
What fits? You know your child/children best and if you don't, you soon will. Every child and family is different. As you've found out in exploring your family's goals. Explore all the options. Talk to other homeschooling families, read books, search the internet, and choose to do what fits your family. As time goes by your style may change...enjoy the ride. And remember—there is no one right answer.
The following is a list of many of the popular approaches to homeschooling. This is not an exhaustive list. For anyone who has been in the homeschooling community, you probably already know how quickly new ideas and styles take shape and are created. I have taken some of the text from www.homeschoollearning.com and those are marked as such.
Afro-Centric Homeschooling is used by many families of African descent who are seeking to correct much of the mis-education about the history of African people in African and around the world, and the history of Black Americans in the Americas. There is a wide variety of methods used but all focus on educating the whole child from that world view.
The classical educators firmly believe that the brain develops through three stages: grammar, logic and rhetoric.
The grammar stage starts at birth and generally continues until age twelve. In the grammar stage the child is taught through listening, reading, writing, and observation. The child is taught the fundamental rules of science, are or the subject of study. Each child is given only the basic concrete information based on facts only. Since the child is unable to reason, only concrete and truthful knowledge is given. In this way the child will not be subjected to abstraction, but has been given only the facts and the truth to set his foundation. The grammar curriculum, also called the correct usage of language, includes: orthography—the study of the elementary sounds, letters, and syllables for our English language, phonics, etymology—the study of classification (parts of speech), derivation (suffixes and prefixes), and properties of words (nouns and verbs), syntax—the proper construction of sentences, and spelling.
The second stage of the trivium is called logic or the science of reasoning. The logical stage for the child generally begins in middle school and continues through high school. The child is now independent, abstract and analytical. In the logical stage the child is critically thinking. They are able to take the facts that were given in the grammar stage, and ask, "Why?" The logical child will dissect everything that they have learned and examine it under natural and unalterable laws of reason. At this point the child is given all the tools needed to look for the truth in the information given and to arrive at valid and accurate conclusions. The child will gain a great understanding of the subject matter in this stage because the truth is now proven through this process.
The high school child is in the rhetoric stage in pre-adulthood. In this third and final stage, the child is able to combine the mechanics of study and his thinking skills into one. The child, becoming a persuasive adult has completely reached abstraction. She will take all the knowledge that she has learned and expressively, effectively and eloquently communicate the facts to others through the written and spoken word. It is also believed that because the child at this stage knows the facts so well and has tested them thoroughly, he can now begin to test the unknown. At that point the child can now move from being practical to theoretical. (www.homeschoollearning.com)
Classical education has considerably grown within the homeschooling community. The Well Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer is what many consider the 'Homeschooling Bible' and shares many resources that support this style of learning/teaching. More information can be found online.
Charlotte Mason Homeschooling:
Charlotte Mason, known as the founder of the homeschooling movement, wanted all children to develop a love for lifelong learning. As a child she was homeschooled by her parents in England. She made education her life's work after being orphaned at sixteen years of age. As an adult she wrote a six-volume set titled Home Education. She opened many schools for children throughout England and worked with homeschool families through correspondence.
The Mason method incorporates all core subjects, with a strong focal point on the humanities—classic literature, noble poetry, fine arts, crafts, and classical music. Charlotte Mason used the best books, the best music, and the best art possible
(Please note that her ideas about best are subjective and only include works from one segment of history and people.)
A variety of classical literature books are used—she called them "living books." Living books are books of high quality that often include stories of real-life characters a child can easily connect with. Mason spoke highly of the importance of poetry, the enforcing of good habits, the importance of nature diaries and the value of dictation and spellings. She believed that the development of good character and good habits was essential. As the parent models these integral traits and makes use of all teachable moments, the child will develop completely. This method supports the child's own learning style and abilities.
The structured academic lessons are short and interesting, and last for about an hour a day. When lessons are complete, the child goes out into nature to draw what he observes in what Mason called a "nature diary." By interacting with nature, the child gains a sense of respect for the environment around him. Since the Mason method involved developing a passionate awareness of literature, the young child is read to daily. After reading short excerpts from living books, the child is asked to narrate or tell the adult what she has learned; giving back the information that was just read to her. Narration is casual and natural. It beings as early as age six and by age ten the child is expected to be able to write her narrations in her nature notebooks. Narration puts the emphasis on what the child knows, not on what she might have missed. As soon as the child can rename or recite it, she observably knows it. After lessons are complete, the children is given the free time to pursue any and all interests.
This method was developed by a homeschooled student specifically for homeschool students. There is no curriculum to buy; books are available at the public library. It can be used on its own, or it can be used as a supplement to other educational methods. (Source: www.homeschoollearning.com)
Of course, if you want to purchase curricula or resources, you are sure to find them online from publishers marketing to homeschool families.
Eclectic Homeschooling, as the name implies, uses a variety of homeschool approaches. Many homeschooling families today usually identify themselves in this category because they have found that using a variety of methods and resources match their individual family's goals and allow them to be flexible with the different learning styles their children possess.
Eclectic parents are innovative and flexible (and who doesn't want to be identified as that?!). They trust their own judgement to pick out or piece together the best curriculum from various methods and philosophies to complement the academic and experiential learning of their child. They are more inquisitive about educational materials, books, programs and theories. Eclectic parents continually search for good products that will meet the needs of their homeschoolers.
Although most eclectic homeschoolers teach academics, textbooks are not used alone. It is believed that each child needs the freedom to explore his interests and to take advantage of everything and anything that can be a learning experience. Many eclectic homeschoolers attend private or group music and dance lessons, or go to classes with other homeschoolers. Eclectic programs often include venturing out to museums, public libraries, or nature walks. Eclectic homeschoolers believe that their method provides them with an extremely effective and functional system of learning. (www.homeschoollearning.com)
The Montessori Method and philosophy began almost a century ago, on January 6, 1907, in a San Larenzo apartment building in Rome, Italy. Maria Montessori, a scientist, physical, anthropologist and philosopher, developed this method of education for children as the result of continuous scientific observations of the children of San Larenzo.
Maria Montessori notices that the children had sensitive periods. During these sensitive periods the child works within one area of the environment at a time. Sensitive periods bring on intense concentration, so intense that the child will be almost unaware of the rest of his surroundings. The child during these periods will also continuously repeat an activity until an inner satisfaction is met. The Montessori Method calls this process of repetition normalization.
Montessori explained that accomplishments of the child's highly developed cognitive skills with a description of what she called the absorbent mind. Montessori often said, "Impressions do not merely enter his mind; they form it" (Absorbent Mind, 1995). The absorbent mind first prepares the unconscious. The mind then slowly awakens to the conscious level, establishing memory, and the power to understand and reason. The knowledge that the child is internally seeking is then absorbed.
The Montessori Method was created so that Maria Montessori's philosophy could be implemented. Montessori believe the environment was second to life itself. She said, "It can modify in that it can help or hinder, but it can never create" (The Montessori Method, 1912). The Montessori environment is called the prepared environment. There are six essential components to the prepared environment: freedom, structure and order, reality and nature, beauty and atmosphere, the didactic materials, and the development of community life.
A child having freedom in a prepared environment will be able to develop physically, mentally, and emotionally to his and her full potential. The child uses this freedom to work with the educational materials and to socialize with others. All the materials are designed to fulfill the inner desire for self-construction and the spiritual development of the child. The materials indirectly prepare the child for future learning by capturing the child's attention and initiating concentration. The materials at first are concrete and gradually become abstract. Each set of materials professes from simple to complex. The prepared environment and its atmosphere must be pleasant to encourage positive growth and spontaneity. The environment must be cheerful, relaxing and warm, inviting the child to participate so he can fulfill his inner will.
Implementation of the Montessori Method can be expensive, especially if you are planning to purchase Montessori materials. Fortunately there are many books, retailers, and Web sites that can help. A wonderful book for Montessori homeschool implementation is Teaching Montessori in the Home by Elizabeth Hainstock. Hainstock has also written books for Montessori homeschool by age or grade. These books give detailed instructions on how to build or make your own materials and how to use them. The books are available in most bookstores and public libraries. (Source: www.homeschoollearning.com)
The Moore Formula:
Dr. Raymond and Dorothy Moore, known as the grandparents of Christian homeschool education, created their own educational system through years of research, and have written countless books and videos. In the 1980s they were one of the very few voices heard on homeschooling and its benefits, methods and advantages.
The Moore's believe in the homeschool method that allows the child to develop at his own pace through informal education until the age of eight. Between the ages of eight and ten years (depending on developmental readiness) the child begins formal education. Following the Moore formula, the child trains in good habits and obedience, and cultivates a sense of togetherness within her family, as well as at church and in society at large.
The Moore formula is based on a balanced approach that includes study, work and service. The child's interest is the focal point for learning. Depending on the child's developmental level, she studies each day for a few minutes to a few hours. Work, called entrepreneurship by the Moores, is considered key to the curriculum. Whether in the family home or in a home-based business, work should be incorporated within any unit of study. Service, either in the home, the church, or out in the community, is also a key component of the curriculum. By providing service to others, the child is learning patience and the moral value of helping others. The Moore Formula is a Christian-based program, so Bible study and memorization is essential and should be done daily. It is believed that through this curriculum and the guidance and examples set by parents, children will become practical, productive, disciplined, and responsible, mature leaders and have excellent character.
The Moore curriculum was specifically formulated for the homeschooled student. It is considered to be a low-cost and low-stress curriculum that provides the homeschool community with a highly successful work-study and behavior program. (Source: www.homeschoollearning.com)
Something to note: This method can be easily adapted to meet the needs of any religious family, christian or otherwise, as all paths seek to instill values and morals. Use your practice and theology in place of the Christian ones in this method.
School-at-Home or Structured Approach or Traditional Approach:
This is the approach that mimics traditional school in every way. Homeschooling families using this approach typically have a designated classroom in the home with all the bells and whistles of a public- or private-school classroom (desks, board, textbooks, etc.). Subjects are taught independently of themselves from textbooks and parents use a structured curriculum. Children work at a desk or table for a set number of hours to complete their work.
Lesson plans are followed for the grade-level work and students are encouraged to remain on schedule so that everything is covered, alleviating the idea that there are no learning gaps. Tests are given regularly to judge whether or not skills have been mastered.
This is the method most families new to homeschooling select. It's a familiar approach, since this is what is used in school and many say they fear 'messing their kids up' by using another approach. There are pros for starting in this way, especially if you're pulling your children out of school.
Unit Studies Approach:
The unit studies approach is designed to give both in-depth and broad understandings of subjects revolving around some entire theme that interests the child. This integrated approach includes science, math, geography, art, music, history, language, literature, drama, and creative movement. It is often referred to as a multi-disciplinary or a thematic approach. It is an experiential, hands-on approach to learning. It is believe that when children go into such depth, and spend a generous amount of time on each theme; their retention of the subject is higher than in traditional methods.
Since the central focus is on on theme, all core subjects are integrated together based on that particular theme. The primary advantage, of course, is that the subjects are blended together and not learned separately. There are many other advantages with the unit study approach:
- Children of all ages and different levels can learn together.
- Unit studies are relatively low in cost, especially if you create your own unit.
- Because the studies are learner-generated, the child gets an in-depth understanding of each topic, and in turn develops mastery and retention of the material.
- Since there are no time restraints, the child is given ample time to think, experiment and discover each topic through his own natural way of learning.
- Since unit studies are multi-aged, the younger child learns immeasurably from and through the older child.
- The creative hands-on projects and activities are great fun.
- Anything can spark an interest, television, radio, books, and common conversations. This makes unit studies planning fairly easy.
Many families use unit studies, sometimes without realizing it. With younger children it is very easy to create your own using resources from the library and online sources. There are lots of materials for purchase at fairly low prices to homeschoolers on a variety of topics/subjects.
The term unschooling originated in the 1960s in the teachings of a Boston public educator named John Holt. He did not agree with the way children were being forced to learn through teacher dictation. Holt believed that children learn best through free or child-led education, where the child is free to learn at his own pace, in his own unique way, guided by his interests. Holt often lectured on his view of free education, hoping to change the public education methods. After becoming disillusioned with the public schools' resistance to change, Holt began to encourage disheartened parents to try unschooling or schooling in the home. His basic message was to "unschool" their children, a parent only needs to allow the child to direct his own learning through his interests and provide the child with educational experiences and materials. If the child asks questions, simply answer him; if you don't know the answer, show the child the direction needed to discover the answer.
The philosophy behind the unschooling approach is that the child learns and retains much more when allowed to follow interests, share in real life experiences and exploration. The adults within this approach recognize how imperative it is for children to have access to the things that interest them. Because of this, the unschooled parent is always seeking materials, classes, and other teachers that can take the child to deeper depths and broader horizons. The parent understands that learning can occur anytime and anywhere, so she is constantly facilitating, and mentoring this collaborated process. In this independent, natural and experiential philosophy, it is important for the child to feel comfortable so that he can perceive the interconnectedness of everything.
The unschooled method is hands-on approach. The adult takes learning cues from the child and introduces all education subjects through the child's interests. There is no set curriculum, materials or schedules. The days flow to the child's changing needs and experiences. Topics or interests come from rich experiences television, radio, computers and conversations. Learning experiences can last for a short period of time or a long period of time. Learning experiences are based on the child's timetable, interest and readiness.
The unschooling method is the most unstructured of all of the homeschooling methods and philosophies. This less formal approach to education has been often said to be a good transition for children coming from institutional experiences. Many parents have reported that they used the unschooling method until finding an approach that worked best for them. Others have started the unschooling method and never left it. (Source: www.homeschoollearning.com)
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