Thursday, January 15, 2009

Possible Approaches To Home Schooling


With so many resources available, it is not always easy to decide what to choose. Below is
a brief overview of some possible approaches to teaching at home. Hopefully, if you can
decide on a style of teaching that appeals to you, then subsequently your choice of
curriculum will be made a little easier.

1.The Textbook Approach.

All home education materials fall into two main categories:
textbook curricula or non-textbook curricula. Textbook curricula have graded textbooks
and/or workbooks for each subject, and usually include teacher’s manuals and tests.
Textbook curricula assume that you will be running your homeschool along the same
lines as an institutional school, ie completing work from the texts in daily increments in
preparation for tests or exams. Some worktexts are designed in such a way that the
students can work independently with minimum teacher preparation time and

2.The Living Books and Life Experience Approach.

This is based upon the writings of Charlotte Mason, a turn-of-the-century British educator. She disagreed with the
tendency of modern educators to treat children as vessels to be filled with knowledge,
and doing so by breaking knowledge down into isolated bits and by creating artificial
experiences. Charlotte Mason believed in respecting children as persons, involving
them in real-life situations and allowing them to read good books instead of “twaddle”.
She called such good books “living books”, as they make a subject come alive, unlike
dull and dry textbooks which assume that a child cannot reason for him/herself. For
more information on this approach read The Original Home Schooling Series by
Charlotte Mason.

3.Delayed Academics Approach.

Dr. Raymond Moore has done extensive research into
early childhood learning. He concludes that a) too many children suffer needless
physical, emotional and mental stress from being place into academic situations before
their visual, hearing, nervous system, reasoning abilities and muscular co-ordination
are developed enough to complete conventional schooling tasks; b) children are often
taught academic skills before they have the life experience or background knowledge
to know what they are learning or grasp the concepts involved; and c) children under
the age of 12 that spend more time with their peers than their parents become peer
dependent, that is they derive their sense of self-worth from their peers. Dr. Moore and
his wife Dorothy are leading advocates of home education, as it is within this
framework that the above problems can be addressed. They advocate delaying
academics until the child is physically, emotionally and mentally ready. When a child is
ready, they advocate multi-sensory Maths and language programmes, and good books
for all other subjects. For more information read The Successful Home School Family
Handbook by Raymond and Dorothy Moore.

4.The Unit Study Approach.

This is taking a theme or a topic (a unit of study) and delving into it over a period of time, integrating all subjects as they apply. The advantages of this approach are: a) all ages learn together, each taking in and doing what he can at
his own level; b) reduced planning time because “subjects” are not taught separately;
c) curiosity and independent thinking are generated; d) there are no time restraints; e)
intensely studying one at time instead of studying several unrelated subjects is the
more natural way to learn, and f) because knowledge is interrelated, it is more easily
learned and remembered longer. How to Create Your Own Unit Study by Valerie
Bendt is a good book on this topic.

5.The Classical Approach.

This is an historical approach to education whose modern
proponent is an Oxford graduate, Dorothy Sayers. In her essay, entitled The Lost
Tools of Learning, she suggests that the great defect of modern education is that we
teach our children subjects, but fail to teach them how to think. The remedy, she
believes, is to reinstate the form of education that has produced many of the world’s
greatest scholars – teaching language and thinking skills that can be used to master
any subject. The tools of learning to achieve this are collectively called The Trivium;
the three parts each corresponding to a development stage in the child. The Grammar
Stage, approx. ages 6-10, covers the stage when children most readily receive and
memorise information. The goal as this stage is to master the elements of language
and develop a framework of knowledge. Latin is included as part of the mastery of
language. The second stage, from ages 10-12, is called the Dialectic Stage. At this
age children demonstrate more abstract and independent thought. Their natural
tendency to argue is channelled constructively by making use of debate, logical
discussion, and how to draw correct conclusions that are supported by facts. The final
stage, from age 15, is the Rhetoric Stage. At this point the young person is taught to
use language eloquently and persuasively, whether written or spoken, to express what
he thinks. For more information read Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning by
Douglas Wilson.

6.The Unschooling Approach.

This is based on the idea that children have a natural
curiosity and an innate desire to learn that drives them to learn what they need to know
when they need to know it. In his book, Teach Your Own, John Holt writes: ”What
children need is not new and better curricula but access to more and more of the real
world; plenty of time and space to think over their experience, and to use fantasy and
play to make meaning out of them; and advice, road maps, guide-books, to make it
easier for them to get where they want to go (not where we think they ought to go), and
to find out what they want to find out. “ Unschooling may also refer to any nonstructured
approach, which allows the child to pursue his own interest with parental
support and guidance. The child is surrounded by a rich environment of books and
resources, and adults who model a learning lifestyle and are prepared to interact with
him. For more information see The Relaxed Home School by Mary Hood.


It is obviously possible to have your own eclectic approach, borrowing ideas from any or
all of the above. Whatever you choose to do, take all the time necessary to come to the
decision that is right for your family and circumstances. Remember that home education
can be so different from conventional schooling, that it takes extra time to assimilate all the
new concepts and ideas. We have only ever known and had experience of conventional
school, so all our thoughts on education are within that framework. For home education
we need to establish a new framework for our thoughts - the home. Allow yourself time for
this mental preparation.

As a homeschooling mother myself, I have found that a mixture of many of the above approaches is better than working only on one. But personally I find a combination of the unit study and unschooling approach as best. This way I choose my unit seeing the interest of the pupils and their bend of mind, but also arrange some activities to cover all parts of a balanced education!

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