Homeschool Philosophies (And Which One I'm Picking)


Is it just me, or are public schools starting earlier and earlier every year?  When I was growing up, I remember starting school the last week of August or the first week of September.  I have to admit, I kind of resent how schools start mid-August these days.  Even though I don’t have any children in public school, it still feels like it’s cutting the summer short.

In our house we believe summer lasts until the end of August, so we started our homeschool kindergarten this week!  And let’s just commiserate for a moment on the fact that my firstborn baby is starting kindergarten…

In honor of our first week of school, I thought I’d share with you all my homeschool teaching philosophy.  When I was a homeschool student I never even thought about things like choosing a curriculum and philosophy, but as I’ve been preparing to teach my own kids I have been thinking about it more and researching different educational philosophies.  I’d thought I’d share a little summary of what I’ve learned with you, including what I think about each philosophy.  If you hang in there until the end of this rather long post, I’ll reveal the method we’ll be utilizing!

(Warning: this post is long, but I’m going with it, because I know those of you that are interested in homeschooling philosophy will eat it up.  For those who aren’t already familiar with some of the “flavors” of homeschooling - I recommend watching “The Five Flavors Of Homeschooling” which is a great explanation, or checking out some of the books on my new homeschool mom’s book list!)



Charlotte Mason

The first real philosophy I started reading about was Charlotte Mason, and as I tell you more about it you will probably be able to guess why I like it.  Charlotte Mason was a teacher in England in the 1800’s, and she had a lot of things to say about education, but her biggest point was that learning should be done not through textbooks but through “living books” - basically high-quality books that you would read if you were actually interested in a subject.  Her philosophy also focused on giving kids a lot of time outside to explore nature and a firm grounding in the arts.

What I Like About It 

In case it isn’t already obvious, I LOVE the thought of learning through reading actual books!  I think this is how we learn most things as adults - when I want to learn something new, I pick up a few books on the subject, I don’t purchase a textbook.  I like the idea of teaching my kids how to find informational books to learn.  I especially like this philosophy for learning history and art, and I think it could be done well with some science topics as well.  

I also love that this method includes a lot of time reading aloud and having children recount what they remember from the book in either verbal or written form.  I want to read aloud to my kids a lot anyway as part of our schooling, and I think reciting back everything they remember is a good way to cement the information for them and practice communication skills.

The Charlotte Mason books I have read talked about creating a “book of centuries”, which is a book the kids create themselves to place different people and historical events in the appropriate pages for each century in their book.  I love how this could give kids a big picture of history and help them remember generally when things occurred because they wrote it down themselves in their book.

I also love the time spent outside that is emphasized with Charlotte Mason, though we are a bit limited based on the weather.

What I Don't Love

While I love the idea of teaching through living books, there are also things that would be hard to learn from that type of book.  Math is a good example.  I still haven’t figured out how learning math can fit into this philosophy, and I think we will have to resort to textbooks for subjects like that.

Another negative is time.  Teaching this way would take a lot of time.

Charlotte Mason Philosophy discourages forcing kids to memorize large amounts of information, which is a negative to me because I actually like the idea of having kids memorize important facts, and especially Bible verses.



Classical

Classical education is based on the idea of the “trivium”, grammer, logic, and rhetoric.  The thought process behind this is to take advantage of the natural development of children - younger children’s talent at memorizing, middle school children who like to argue anyway (so they might as well argue logically), and synthesizing that together for high school students as they learn to communicate their opinions.  The bottom line is that a lot of information is memorized in the young years, around middle school students start learning to reason, and in high school they study long hours and learn to synthesize all these skills together to form and argue their own opinions.

What I Like About It

The concept of the trivium does make sense to me, and I particularly like focusing on memorizing important facts for younger children.  That is the stage we are in, and I remember how easy it was to memorize things when I was in elementary school, so I like the idea of taking advantage of that during the younger years.  I also like the idea of teaching middle and high school students to think logically and debate well.

What I Don't Love

Classical education is really very intimidating to tackle without a program or guide.  One of the marks of classical education, especially for older students, is rigorous study.  I see the value in that, but I also feel intimidated just thinking about keeping up with it as a teacher, and I would hope it wouldn't take up so much of their time that they couldn't also pursue their interests.

Classical Conversations

You get a little bonus section here! I know several people who are part of Classical Conversations, which is a group-based organization that forms the basis for a classical education for it’s members.  Families meet each week to learn together and provide a chance for children to present or debate.  

I have mixed feelings when I think about this program.  There are aspects of it that I really like, and if we were to go with a classical model all the way, I think Classical Conversations would be a must.  However, I can’t quite make myself join for a couple reasons.

First, I am not thrilled with the format of circling through different periods of history every three years, which is the model classical education uses.  In this program kids will learn about ancient history, the middle ages, and modern history over the course of three years, and then they’ll circle back through again.  Honestly, when I start teaching my kids history, I want to start with American history and work backward.  I like the idea of starting young kids with the history of things that are most familiar to them, and then branching out from there.  I personally think it’s most important for my kids to learn the history of their own country first, and once they have a good grasp on that I’ll be ready to introduce other historical periods and countries, so ideally that is how I’d like to handle history education.

Second, I am not thrilled with some of the things that Classical Conversations treats as important to memorize in the younger years.  A lot of it is wonderful information, but some of it is not particularly important in my opinion, especially for young children.  I would much rather my kids memorize Bible verses than lists of mythical Greek gods.  It is more important to me that my child grows into an adult that loves and serves the Lord than an adult that knows how to win an argument.  In the younger years especially, I would much rather focus on instilling values and biblical truth than secular facts, and I just am not sure there is a lot of the former in CC.  For me, the perspective is a bit lacking with this program, at least from what I’ve heard of it so far.  I reserve the right to change my mind.


Unschooling

Unschooling is basically the philosophy that children don’t need a formal learning program.  Learning occurs every day, in everyday situations, and if you make the tools and opportunities available, children will teach themselves the things they need to know.

What I Don't Love 

I’m switching the order here and am going to tell you what I don’t love first.  I don’t love this as a complete learning philosophy.  I heard a speaker once quote Proverbs 29:15 in the context of unschooling.  This is what it says:

"The rod and rebuke give wisdom,
But a child left to himself brings shame to his mother."

It is clearly not biblical to leave a child completely to himself.  Proverbs also speaks in many places about the value of hard work - and I don’t think that is something that a child learns without direction.  

Now to be fair, I think that most “unschoolers” are not actually leaving their children with no direction or education, so I wouldn’t say what they are doing is unbiblical unless they are truly neglecting any education of their children.  I think that is rare among unschoolers who are serious about preparing their children to be successful.

Overall, this philosophy is somewhat extreme to me, and there is too much variability.  It would be so stressful for me not to have some sort of guide to follow as I educate my children.  Some people make it work, but I don't think t's for me.

What I Like About It

That said, I think there is definitely something to be said for giving children enough time and space to learn what they actually want to learn.  I’ve already seen how much Wyatt can teach himself and how much information he can retain when a subject interests him.  The kid knows more about race cars than me.  I read the book Free To Learn this summer, which talks about an educational philosophy that I would liken to unschooling, and it opened my eyes to some ideas I had never considered before.  I like the idea of letting my kids have some time to pursue their interests and explore outside.

Traditional

Traditional schooling is basically what you would find at a school, only at home.  It uses mostly textbooks to teach, and tests to reinforce learning and measure performance. 

What I Like About It

There is a certain comfort in frequent tests, and tests are a good way to evaluate where a student may need to review.  Textbooks also have all the information in one place.

What I Don't Love 

While there are exceptions, many textbooks are rather dry and don’t exactly inspire love for the subject matter.





The Reveal: Eclectic Homeschooling

After all this research, I’ve come to the conclusion that we will be an eclectic homeschool family - meaning we will be using bits and pieces of several different educational philosophies and ultimately doing the things that work best for our family!

Below is a summary of how we will most likely incorporate parts of each philosophy.  I reserve the right to change my mind on any of this - obviously.  A perk of homeschooling is getting to experiment until you figure out what works best for your family and each child.

How We’ll Use Charlotte Mason

While we may still use textbooks as a guide, I definitely want to read a lot of living books with the kids, especially for learning history.  As they get older I love the idea of having them practice writing through recounting what information they retained from our reading.  I love the “book of centuries”, and we will definitely be incorporating that into our school, as well as spending as much time outside as we can get away with.

How We Will Use Classical

We will absolutely be using a lot of memory work in our kindergarten and elementary school homeschool!

How We Will Use Unschooling

I want to make sure to leave space in our day for the kids to learn about the things that interest them.  I also agree with the idea that every situation in any given day can be a learning opportunity if you take advantage of it, and I hope to do that as I teach my kids!

How We Will Use Traditional

I like the idea of textbooks and tests most for math, particularly in the higher grades.  Math is a subject that is very hard to teach for a lot of people, and while I don’t know how we’ll fare yet, I think when we get to more complicated math we’ll make use of textbooks and tests.  We may also do periodic tests with other subjects so I can evaluate where we may need to work a little harder.


These are the philosophy elements that I like right now, but that very likely might change as my kids grow and I figure out more about their learning styles.  We will adapt as we need to.  When it comes down to it, that is really the beauty of homeschooling - the flexibility.  We get to do what works for us - for me as a teacher, for the kids as students.  And no one falls through the cracks because I am their only teacher, and I am going to make sure they know what they need to know, no matter what methods we end up using.

What philosophy do you use in your homeschooling?  Or do you take bits and pieces like I do?



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4 comments

  1. This was so fascinating to read and think through for my future! Thank you for sharing all of your thoughts!! I look forward to hearing how your plan works for you and your family!
    :) Rebecca

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  2. Great recap, Callie! I laughed when I read your "reveal" because I could have written it myself in regards to our approach!! Love that we have a similar view :D We started this week too, hoping to get a recap in with a few thoughts from our first "attempts"!

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  3. Your kids are blessed to have a momma who is so excited to teach them :) Rebekah is only 2 so we are not doing any official schooling this year but I just love taking moments each day to teach her or watch her teach herself! I would say our homeschooling philosophy is going to be quite similar to yours ~ eclectic :)

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  4. This is such a great post! I am also an eclectic homeschooler...I can't bring myself to pick just one way! I also like the idea of doing unit studies and am going to try to incorporate those where I can based on seasons, holidays, what my kids are interested in, etc. :)

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