Homeschooling? Unschooling? Charlotte Mason? Waldorf? Part-time? Full-time? The variations within homeschooling can be overwhelming. But don’t worry — it’s not as scary as it first seems.
Consider these common curriculums and educational philosophies used by homeschoolers. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but does cover many major programs and should help you feel more comfortable deciding what kind of homeschooler you are.
In unit studies, one subject is intensely focused on at a time. This can teach the ability to both compartmentalize and synthesize information. Examples are doing an in-depth study of the presidents of the United States, or spending the month before a vacation to the ocean studying the sea and weather patterns. Unit studies can also use a child’s interests to study a broader subject; for example, studying fashion trends through the ages in order to see how major events in history affected day-to-day living.
The Charlotte Mason method is based on the work of British educator Charlotte Mason. She believed that “education is an atmosphere, a discipline, and a life.” She believed that atmosphere makes up one-third of a child’s education, that cultivating good habits makes up another third, and that children should be taught living, practical ideas rather than dry facts.
Waldorf education aims to educate the whole child, “head, heart, and hands.” Waldorf tries to encourage a genuine love of learning in each child and incorporates arts and activities to create students who are able to create meaning in their lives without external help.
The Montessori method focuses on student-directed learning that aims to support a child’s natural way of learning. Montessori involves one-on-one attention and teacher observation and emphasizes all five senses rather than just the visual and auditory senses used in reading, listening, and watching.
Multiple intelligences education is based on Dr. Howard Gardner’s eight areas of intelligence and learning styles: linguistic, logical-mathematical, spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal, intrapersonal, and naturalist. Each individual has strengths in one or more of these intelligences, and the multiple intelligences method involves discovering those strong areas and teaching through them (for example, a student strong in bodily-kinesthetic, or touch-related, knowledge will be most likely to learn by doing, whereas a linguistically-strong child will learn best through reading, writing, and playing with words).
Classical education utilizes three age groups or learning periods, called the “grammar period” (which focuses on the building blocks of education, memorization, and and rules of basic math, phonetics, etc.), the “logic stage” (when cause-and-effect relationships are explored and the child is challenged to ask “Why,” engage in critical thinking, and synthesize ideas), and the “rhetoric stage” (when the student learns to use language to clearly and powerful explain his/her ideas, and begins to focus on areas of knowledge that draw his/her interest; this stage can sometimes involve internships, apprenticeships, college courses, and other forms of higher/specialized education).
Thomas Jefferson Education
Thomas Jefferson Education, also known as “Leadership Education,” also follows three periods: the “foundational phases” (which focus on core values and love of learning), “educational phases” (which teach study skills and discipline; at this stage students engage in a mentor-guided program such as an internship or setting and reaching a personal goal), and “applicational phases” that exist after formal schooling and last the rest of the student’s life (during which the student focuses on contribution to community, and acts as a mentor or community leader). Thomas Jefferson education focuses heavily on love of learning, commitment to values, and seven keys to great teaching.
Accredited Curriculum/Long-Distance/Internet Schooling
This type of homeschool, sometimes referred to as “public school at home” is highly structured and uses state-approved curricula that mirror the curricula being used in public schools. The parent acts as teacher and there is usually a satellite teacher or mentor that the student reports to. Examples include K12.com, LUOnlineAcademy.com, and various university-affiliated high school programs such as Penn Foster High School and BYU Independent Study.
This type of schooling follows the belief that children are not ready for formal schooling until the ages of 7-9. This approach encourages play and natural curiosity in the early years and moves toward more formal learning as the child reaches age 7 (with flexibility depending on the child). This philosophy, though sometimes challenged, is becoming commonly accepted even in some mainstream schools, particularly in the U.K., and is fairly common among unschoolers.
The Principle Approach to education, which is based on the writing of Rosalie J. Slater and Verna M. Hall, looks at all subjects and information through a Christian worldview. The Bible is used as a major textbook and the student creates notebooks that incorporate both school material and his/her thoughts and meditations. The Principle Approach uses “the 4 Rs,” Research (finding God’s word and identifying religious principles), Reasoning (discovering cause and effect relationships), Relate (applying information to the student), and Record (writing down or otherwise recording the student’s applications and impressions).
Similar to the Principle Approach but more flexible and not specific to any belief system, faith-based homeschooling incorporates both secular and religious knowledge, and religious beliefs and the family’s values are worked freely into learning and discussions. Though this intermingling is a natural side effect of being homeschooled in a religious household, faith-based education more obviously connects academic knowledge to religion. Spiritual beliefs and experiences are considered as or more important to the child’s education as secular knowledge, and the parent actively seeks to incorporate religious beliefs into the student’s curriculum/educational experience.
Though not often used full-time as a replacement for public or private school, many homeschoolers find it useful to supplement their curricula with courses and/or tutoring at learning centers such as Kumon, Sylvan, and Huntington. These centers can be especially useful as a student approaches college, as many of them offer ACT and SAT prep courses.
As always, homeschooling is a deeply individual individual matter that should be altered to fit your family. As long as your homeschooling method works for you, keep it, love it, change it as needed, and enjoy the adventure.