So you made the big decision to begin homeschooling your kiddo? And you’re wondering what in the world you have gotten yourself into now? Let me reassure you- you are a normal homeschooling parent! Welcome to the ranks of millions of parents who are teaching their own children.
Now what? What curriculum do you use? What is your educational approach? What about socialization? If I had a dime for every time I was asked about socialization, I could retire by now. People generally don’t know much about homeschooling, but they all seem to know about socialization. Thankfully, for most homeschooling families, socialization is the least of their worries. Today’s homeschooler may just need to socialize a bit less. 😉
But, back to curriculum and educational approaches . . .
When you are just starting out, you may wish to use a more prepared curriculum from well-known curriculum suppliers. By the time your child is graduating, you will likely be doing something very different from what you did at the beginning. Just as your student will mature over the years, so will you as an educator. If you don’t have an educational philosophy right now, it isn’t something that should stress you.
The main homeschool approaches are: textbook approach, unit studies, Charlotte Mason method, unschooling, classical approach, delayed homeschooling, and online-based homeschooling. Many home educators find that they are a mix of the different approaches and some of the approaches overlap each other. For example, there are many elements of classical education found in the Charlotte Mason method, but there are valid reasons why one would not label the Charlotte Mason method as classical education, as you may learn when you begin investigating the various educational approaches.
When I started my journey in homeschooling, I used A Beka curriculum. It is a textbook approach from a curriculum supplier used by many private Christian schools. I was beginning with a 2nd grader, a kindergarten student, a three year-old, an 18 month-old, and I was pregnant. I didn’t have the energy or brain power to reinvent the wheel at that point in my life. Lot of homeschoolers use A Beka happily for their whole homeschooling career. It is very thorough, with little prep time needed for the homeschooling parent. However, as it is intended to be used in a school setting, it also contains a lot of repetition and busywork and is more like bringing the school to one’s home, which was ultimately not very useful to me as a home educator, so I began to look for something else that was more engaging for my students.
This search led me to unit studies, which can be very engaging as they revolve around a particular topic in which your students may be interested. You use that topic to cover all your subjects; reading, writing, spelling, math, science, social studies, etc. There are many well-written prepared unit studies available to purchase, or you may want to create your own. My children enjoyed unit studies quite a bit and we used a unit study approach for a couple years until I felt that something was still lacking in our education and discovered Charlotte Mason.
Charlotte Mason was an educator who lived in England in the 1800s. She viewed children as possessing the capability to understand more than they were given credit for by adults. She advocated training in good habits, lots of time spent outdoors, making lessons short, and giving children a liberal arts education (emphasizing a well-rounded curriculum that included art study, learning multiple foreign languages, reading great classic literature and poetry, useful handiwork, studying music, learning world history, and being proficient in mathematics and science). If you are not familiar with Charlotte Mason, I encourage you to check out Simply Charlotte Mason.
Unschooling is a philosophy that has its roots in the writings of John Holt, who was a teacher and published the newsletter, Growing without Schooling, which was in publication until 2001. He became disillusioned with the typical system of education and believed that if children were given an educationally rich environment that they would learn what they needed to learn when they needed to learn it. He felt that children had a natural desire to learn and didn’t need to be forced to learn. John Holt’s Growing without Schooling is a valuable resource for anyone interested in unschooling. The website contains John’s writings and an archive of his newsletter, among other things.
The modern guru of classical education is Susan Wise Bauer. She was home educated herself and wrote the The Well Trained Mind. Classical education teaches students certain information at certain ages aligned with the classical model of the grammar stage, logic stage, and rhetoric stages of intellectual development. Everyone knows how little kids can memorize incredible amounts of material; we have all seen a kid on a television talk show who can identify every dinosaur or knows all the presidents and vice-presidents of the United States. While that is a worthy accomplishment, once you understand that it is something that most young children can do, you can harness that ability to educate your child. The next step children move into is the Logic stage. This is the time of their lives when they can harness the facts they learned earlier and facts they are currently to provide proof of their knowledge. Children in this stage of learning are able to answer why something is so. Finally, children enter the Rhetoric stage when they can argue and debate, and provide proof of how their position is accurate or true. This is just a brief synopsis- for detailed information, click on the link embedded in Susan Wise Bauer’s name.
There is also a philosophy that says waiting until a child is older is a better way to educate a child. The biggest proponents of this philosophy were Dorothy and Raymond Moore, who authored the book Better Late Than Early, School Can Wait, and The Successful Homeschool Family Handbook. The Moore Foundation (began by Raymond Moore) and Moore Academy are carrying on the work that Dorothy and Raymond began. The core beliefs of how to implement delayed education are listed on the Moore Academy website.
And finally, there is online schooling. The birth of Khan Academy in 2006 by Sal Khan was a boon to homeschool families. Obviously, Khan Academy is just one of many resources folks can locate and use online to educate their children. YouTube videos and TED Talks are very popular as are podcasts. There is no limit to what one can learn using online resources!
This article has just touched briefly on each of the main homeschooling approaches, mainly as a way to give you some food for thought. I encourage you to ask homeschool families that you know what they are using and why-they will be great resources who can point you in the direction of curriculum and information that will help you to evaluate what would work best for your child. If you try something that doesn’t work well, sell it on a local used curriculum site, and replace it with something you like better until you hammer out just what approach suits you and your student.