Types of Home Schooling
Whether you already home school your children, or are looking into future home schooling options, there are various routes you can take based on the specific laws and guidelines set forth by your state. The Home School Legal Defense website is a great resource, as it has not only the laws and guidelines for each state, but often also has copies of forms necessary for home schooling.
This style is the most formal of all types of home school education, some families even going so far as to turn a room in their home into a type of classroom setting, with desks, bookshelves, and a chalkboard. Families who follow this style are most likely to follow a standard curriculum approved by both state and local school administrators. Their field trips include things like a trip to the library, a visit to a farm, or a guided tour of a museum. Often, they follow the standard school calendar; and one family even went so far as to mimic the county school lunch menu!
Personally, this style would not work for my family. My husband is a career firefighter who does not follow a normal weekday, nine-to-five schedule. He works eight 24-hour shifts per month, which could fall on weekdays, weekends, or even holidays. Our boys have stopped by the firehouse on Halloween night so their dad could see their costumes, and one year on Father's Day we took his cards and gift to the firehouse so he could spend time with his sons. One year we celebrated Christmas by opening presents that "Santa" had "mistakenly" left there! Due to our crazy schedule, classroom education is definitely not an option for us, but it does work for many other families, especially ones that follow a more traditional routine.
This style of home schooling is our favorite. We pull resources from traditional curriculum for some subjects, like math and grammar, while letting the boys go wild with their own agenda for others, like science or history. One of the greatest benefits of the eclectic curriculum is the perk of tailoring it to meet the needs of each child in your family! Just because something works for one student is no guarantee that it will work for every one of them. Unlike a traditional school classroom setting, children who learn differently aren't held back or passed over by a style of learning meant to be an umbrella over many types of students. Learning styles are just as important as curriculum choices.
My older son is a self-directed learner. I can give him a schedule at the beginning of the week, and he will hand me a packet of completed work within a couple of days. When I tried this with my younger son, he had trouble handling that much freedom and within a couple of weeks I knew we had to alter our methods or he would end up falling behind. He instead gets a schedule of daily requirements to complete before dinnertime, and that works really well for him. My younger nephew also home schools with us. Neither of those approaches worked with him, so for about two hours every morning I give him one assignment at a time until his list of work for that day is complete. Three different boys, three totally different learning styles.
My Favorite Unschooler
When I first heard about unschooling, my immediate thought was, "When you un-tie your shoes, they aren't tied any more. So if you are un-schooling your children, how are you teaching them?" Thanks to some very patient friends who unschool their children, I learned that it's not un-teaching, or un-learning, it's just taking away the classroom setting altogether. This is the most natural kind of learning, and for the most part is child-directed. If your child is interested in dinosaurs, you might exhaust every resource you can find on the topic until your child decides to learn about castles, or race cars...or puppies!
This type of learning does not work for us. We tried it for a semester and my youngest began falling behind in math. Successful unschooling happens when parents are both creative and dedicated, and children are wiling to explore subjects in a way that is open-ended. For instance, if your child wants to learn about bees, introducing math could be as easy as asking things like, "How many months do bees spend pollinating their hives? How many months are they dormant? What percentage is that out of the year? Wow, that's also a fraction! Can you tell me what the fraction for that would be?" Through normal conversation and everyday life skills, children are still learning -- they're just doing it different than other children who sit in a classroom or use a book-based curriculum.
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