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Homeschool Philosophies

Updated on October 21, 2014

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Is Choosing A Homeschool Philosophy Necessary?

When I began my homeschool journey several years ago, I was paralyzed in the beginning trying to choose my "homeschool philosophy." In my mind we couldn't begin our new school year until I had labeled us a certain type of homeschooler. You've seen the lists I'm sure.....are you Charlotte Mason, textbook, unschooling, unit studies, etc...? As a new homeschooling mom it can feel like you are making some life altering choice that can never be changed. I would like to explain each method for the sake of seeing how many options there are if you aren't sure how to start. Then I want to encourage you to just start. You will find as you go, most likely a mix of philosophies in your homeschool, and most of all you'll find your own way and what works for you. In the end that is what your philosophy should be....whatever works.

Traditional

The traditional method would be what you are most familiar with if you attended public schools while growing up. You'll see or hear terms like box curriculum, textbooks and worksheets. In my personal experience I have seen many beginners, myself included, refuse to take this approach because the other approaches are new and exciting, only to find ourselves after years of uncertainty and frustration, returning to what makes us comfortable....the traditional approach. It's not for everyone, but I think it is helpful for many, especially a new homeschooler. If you find yourself spending more time trying to figure out how to make a certain philosophy work, rather than diving in and seeing results, you may want to consider this simple method. It can be more expensive and difficult if you have many different grade levels. It's a little harder to group different levels together.

Classical Approach

The classical approach uses a learning tool known as the trivium, which includes three stages of learning - grammar stage, dialectic stage, and rhetoric stage. Personally I believe you have to STRONGLY believe and desire to implement a classical program into your home. To me it seems to be by far the most work and takes a lot of discipline to stay on track. I'll try to sum it up in a nutshell, and if you want more details about this approach you can visit, www.welltrainedmind.com. I find the website interesting and it does get me excited to think about the possibilities when it comes to teaching our children.

In the first stage, the grammar stage, the child focuses on the basics - language arts, math, etc.. In the second stage, the dialectic stage, the child focuses on writing, debating, Latin, history, possibly Greek, and higher math. In the third stage, the rhetoric stage, the child should be able to use language very well, both written and spoken.

There is a lot more to the classical stage but I don't want to take too much time on each one, but rather give a quick overview of each method. At the end of this article I will give a variety of different websites to check out in more detail.

Unit Studies

If you are a "hands on" kind of mom then you may enjoy this method. The goal of the unit study is to learn most or all subjects around one theme. For example, while reading the Little House On The Prairie series out loud to your children, you then also try recipes from that era, learning to measure while cooking those recipes, find new vocabulary and spelling words from the stories, study the areas they lived for geography, and of course the time period for history, etc.. Unit studies take a lot of preparation and involvement from mom. However if you thoroughly enjoy creating crafts and things and being very involved all day rather than giving assignments, you may like to try it! There are even some unit study curriculums that could guide you through.

Charlotte Mason

Often called the whole or living book method, the Charlotte Mason approach is quite lovely I think. In Miss Mason's words... “Education is an Atmosphere, a Discipline, a Life.” She believed in respecting children, listening to them, and using the world as their curriculum. Excellent books to be read aloud and on their own are the backbone of a Charlotte Mason education. Also just as important are studying the great composers, artists and all things outdoors. Journaling, especially keeping a nature journal is an enjoyable and common part of this method. Grammar is put off until around fourth grade so a child can just enjoy reading and writing before having to understand the technical part of it all. Reading comprehension is learned through narration, meaning your child simply talks to you about what he just read. Spelling and vocabulary words are taken from new words that are run across in a book being read. The goal is to have a child so well read that things like reading comprehension, spelling, and writing easily flow out of the influence of reading excellent authors. She believed in avoiding what she termed "twaddle." Twaddle would be books with little depth, and busy work used just to keep children quiet. This method requires a home filled with great literature, art supplies, music, and a willingness to get outside and explore.

Unschooling

Those crazy Unschoolers! I'm joking! I don't think you are crazy, but I know some do and this one can be the hardest to understand. Also referred to as "natural learning." This method is interest driven with the goal being for the child to focus on what he is truly interested in rather than having a curriculum tell him what to learn. This doesn't mean the child is never taught his multiplication facts, but it does mean there won't be pressure to learn them when everyone else does, but rather when the child himself is ready. An unschooling mom has to be pretty relaxed and not concerned with what everyone else thinks or where everyone else's children are at academically. Her child might spend an entire month studying one topic or mastering an instrument...whatever they are passionate about. Personally, my now 17 year old would have done great as an unschooler because he is so self motivated and has tons of interests. However, a couple of my other children if left to choose what they learn for the day, would maybe not choose so wisely. It's pretty hard to understand if you've never researched it. I find it very interesting but difficult to explain. Picture a home with tons of great and informative books, probably little to no television, no video games, rather educational games, art supplies, instruments, writing supplies, field trips to real life places, and always a grown up around to ask questions and discuss things with, and then you can start to see how unschooling can work. Like each method it isn't for everyone, but many love it!

Eclectic

Last but not least...the eclectic approach. If I had to guess, I would guess this is the most common philosophy in homeschooling homes. It means what it says - a mix of ideas, a little of this and a little of that. I've been mostly eclectic through the years in our homeschool journey. You may like the Charlotte Mason approach when it comes to history, just reading great history books, with no need for a dry textbook, but you aren't comfortable creating your own spelling lists so you choose a spelling workbook. There could be so many ways to mix things up. An eclectic approach is a great way to work your way into an approach you want to implement completely but aren't completely comfortable with doing it all yet. It's also a great way to get a feel for different methods and find out what works best for you.

Your Way Is The Best Way

To answer the question at the beginning....."No" - you do not need to choose a philosophy to begin. Researching the different ways people are doing things can be very helpful in getting your own ideas flowing and help you get a sense of which way you might lean toward. Just be careful to not get overwhelmed. You are interested in homeschooling, so just start. Start with some things that look interesting to you and your children and go from there. You will eventually fall into a philosophy and maybe not even purposely, but it just happens. Below I have listed a variety of websites that cater to different types of philosophies, with some that that cater to all. Good luck on your beautiful journey! Feel free to check out my blogs: www.homeschoolingwithoutagoat.com and www.rockingthecradle.net

www.abekabook.com, www.cathyduffyreviews.com, www.homeschoolreviews.com, www.milestonebooks.com, www.thewelltrainedmind.com, www.sonlight.com, www.rainbowresource.com, www.timberdoodle.com, www.memoriapress.com, www.veritaspress.com, www.naturalchild.org, www.unschoolers.com, www.simplycharlottemason.com

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