How To Home-School

This post is the third in a series of four posts on “Getting Started in Homeschooling.”  Disclaimer: I do not know how to teach your dog to get more biscuits.

Given that the subject of “How to Homeschool” could encompass pages and hours of writing, what I am going to do here is give a brief overview of the more commonly used teaching methods and resources.  I plan in future blog posts to spend more time on each of these methods specifically.

While the following is by no means exhaustive, here is a list and brief overview of the curriculum choices that most homeschoolers use and/or are familiar with:

1) Traditional: The traditional (or conventional) methodology involves the use of the types of textbooks and workbooks we are all familiar with.  It may also include correspondence or online courses.  There are any number of textbook publishers that you could purchase your curriculum from but some of the most commonly used are: ABeka; Bob Jones; Alpha Omega; Saxon; and Sonlight.  These programs follow a specific scope and sequence and can be very beneficial for those whose time restraints prevent them from spending a lot of time in preparation.  They can also be useful for parents (like myself) who like to use textbooks for core courses (such as math) while utilizing other methods for other coursework.

2) Classical: The classical method is based around a revival of Greek and Roman learning where the emphasis is on something called the Trivium: grammar, logic and rhetoric.  The concept is that the student progresses from learning facts in the grammar stage, to learning the “why” of things in the logic stage, to applying what has been learned in the grammar and logic stages to express themselves in a forceful and elegant manner (hence the “rhetoric” stage).  The classical method is language-focused and integrates subjects for enhanced learning.

3) Unit Studies: The focus of unit studies is two-fold.  In the first place it is an integrated form of learning which studies a concept across several disciplines.  Secondly, it is designed to be used with students of varied ages so it is especially well-suited to large families and co-operatives.  Some unit studies (such as KONOS) are focused around a character trait that you want the student to acquire.  The study will integrate a variety of subjects: science, history, fine arts, language, and math all revolving in some way around that particular character trait.  The study can also include various levels of those disciplines so that, for instance, while a high school student might be writing a research paper a grade school student could be painting a picture to illustrate the same concept.  This is a method of learning which I have used myself with my own children and in co-op situations with great success (and I might add it can also be a very fun!)

4) Living Books (also known as the Charlotte Mason method): Charlotte Mason (January 1, 1842 – January 16, 1923) was a British educator who believed that children learned better through exposure to real books, nature, and life.  She eschewed textbooks in favor of great literature; her students spent a large portion of their time outdoors studying and recording nature; and creativity was also emphasized.  One of the advantages of this method is that it can be applied in conjunction with other methods that you might want to use.

5) Unschooling: Unschooling is commonly known as “child-directed learning” i.e. what the child studies is guided by the child’s interests.  It has proven to be a very effective homeschooling option for some.  I look forward in a future post to sharing information and resources that you can use to explore this option.

6) Eclectic: This method encompasses some of all the methods above, and more.  Though I have not taken a survey, two decades of interaction with homeschoolers would make me inclined to say that this is the method employed by the majority of homeschoolers.  I will give you an example from my own life.  I use textbooks for math from kindergarten through high school.  I also use them in the elementary grades for reading (not, however, to teach phonics).  For science and history I use unit study methods.  I use workbooks from a variety of sources to teach anything from map skills to vocabulary.  My kids have used 4-H, art lessons, co-ops, music, dance, sports and many other activities as part of their education.  As I said, “eclectic.”

There may be other methods used by homeschoolers but I would venture to say these are the methods used by the vast majority of homeschoolers.  As I said, my approach is very eclectic so I have used some facet of every method described here.  Most of all, I want to say that there is no one “right” approach to homeschooling.  One of the most wonderful aspects of homeschooling is that, as parents, we are the ones who know and love our children the best and are therefore motivated to find the methods by which they will learn best.  What methods have you used?  What have been your successes AND what things have you tried and decided were not best for your family?  Please share your experiences with me and my readers in the comments section.

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