One of the most frequently asked questions I get from new or non-homeschoolers is “What is your typical day like?” That can be a difficult question to answer because our family doesn’t really have a “typical” day, though we do have a routine structured around the activities outside our home. Additionally, what a typical day is for one homeschool family may be very different for another because of their own educational philosophy or method of home education.
How one approaches education is as varied as the families who choose to teach their children at home. You may have heard or read about an “educational philosophy.” While those specific words can be a bit intimidating, all it really means is how you believe your children should be educated. Do you use a more traditional school method of textbooks and workbooks or do you prefer to learn through nature journaling while following your child’s interests?
There is no right or wrong way to homeschool your children, as long as they are learning. Let’s take a look at some of the most common educational philosophies and the methods that are at the core of each.
This method of education is based on the writings of Charlotte Mason, a British educator at the turn of the 20th century. Her philosophy of education was based on the premise that one should educate the whole person, not just the mind. Using what she terms as “living books” (not textbooks), this philosophy encompasses being in and learning from nature, copying passages from great literature, habit training (character development), and narration to demonstrate understanding. This method has become increasingly popular among home educators as it provides a gentle and natural approach to learning in direct contrast to the traditional classroom setting.
While her actual writings might be a bit cumbersome to tackle (she wrote six volumes!), there are a number of resources available online for those who wish to further explore her philosophy and the practices of this method (AmblesideOnline.com offers a free curriculum). You can often find nature groups in your local area which are usually comprised of families who follow her methods in educating their children. SimplyCharolotteMason.com is one of the more popular websites for more information.
Classical education is based on the education model of the Greco-Roman world and is characterized by its division of learning into three distinct stages based on a child’s age. The Grammar stage (early elementary) is focused on memorization and absorbing information that can be recalled quickly in the later stages. The Dialectic stage (late elementary/junior high) has students begin to use the information they have stored in their memory to explore the “why” behind that information through reasoning (logic), discussion, and debate. The final stage, Rhetoric (high school), continues to develop a student’s ability to express himself and his beliefs through the art of persuasive speaking and writing.
Through each stage, children are not taught what to learn, but rather how to think and process information. Perhaps the most recognized component of this approach to education is the inclusion of learning Latin, beginning even in the early years. Just like Charlotte Mason, there are many homeschoolers using this method to educate their children and an abundance of resources and communities exist. Curriculum publishers like Classical Academic Press, Memoria Press, and Classical Conversations offer materials to aid parents in this method of education. For more information about Classical education, you can also visit WellTrainedMind.com.
While a common misconception, unschooling is not the absence of learning. Instead, rather than a structured curriculum or set of standards, education follows the interests of the child as they learn organically through experience. For example, if a child is interested in art, their learning may involve the production of art in various media for a self-curated art show while learning about famous artists and the history of that time period. They would plan each aspect of their show, including the advertising, budgeting, and execution.
Since there is no set curriculum for this method, specific resources are not as plentiful. However, there are many communities on social media that offer support and information for those who choose to pursue this approach to learning.
If you don’t feel like any of the philosophies mentioned above fit with how you homeschool or want to homeschool, or you feel like you incorporate pieces of each one, you’re probably an eclectic homeschooler. Eclectic homeschoolers take bits and pieces of different methods to fit the unique needs of each of their children and family. You might be attracted to the nature studies of Charlotte Mason, the emphasis of “Great Works” literature of Classical, and the project based approach of unschoooling. Each aspect can be implemented across various subjects and with different children, depending on their needs. This is the beauty of homeschooling–being able to cater to your child’s education to fit their God-given individuality.
There are many private, Christian home educators in California (and across the nation) who use all of the methods discussed in this article. Come meet some of them at CHEA’s 36th Annual Homeschool Convention in Pasadena July 11-13. Save time at the door and register online now.
Ambleside Online is Charlotte Mason. I would put that under that category instead of under Classical. It does not fit the description of classical in this context.
Thank you for catching that Alaina. We have placed this resource under the Charolotte Mason heading.