Deciding on how to educate your child is one of the biggest, most important choices you’ll ever have to make as a parent. Do you opt for the “traditional” classroom experience that public schools offer? Should you go the private school route? Perhaps a charter school? Or how about homeschooling?
If you’re reading this, you’re obviously considering homeschooling. In this blog series (be sure to check out part 1, part 2, and part 3) we’ll take a look at the world of homeschooling, from the decision-making process to enrollment. If you’ve decided that homeschooling is the best option for your child–great decision! But there are quite a few different kinds of homeschools out there…probably more than you realize. In the next two blog posts, we’ll discuss which types of homeschools are out there so you can determine the right one for your child.
Charlotte Mason Homeschooling
Who is Charlotte Mason, and why is she important to homeschooling? Ms. Mason was a British teacher, lecturer, and author in the late 19th century who emphasized fine literature in her teachings to children. She believed that education was about more than simply the mind; it was about the person as a whole. So, how does this translate to homeschooling? In a few different ways:
- Heavy usage of narrative literature
- Outdoor exploration
- Appreciation for nature, art, and music
- Activities such as journaling, copywork, narration, and dictation
Let’s look at those components more specifically to see if they fit into your idea of homeschooling.
- Narration: This consists of children telling someone the story they just heard or read. It starts as an oral exercise when the child is young and grows into a written narrative as the child gets older.
- Copywork: This is essentially a form of handwriting practice (a lost art!) where a student transcribes a piece of literature.
- Nature Study: During walks, the child observes and learns about what he or she sees in nature.
- Living Books: Children learn from engaging, “living” books rather than formulaic textbooks.
Charlotte Mason homeschooling is intended to be about much more than school, but about life as a whole. That includes an appreciation for fine arts and the natural world around us, a love of literature, the ability to articulate based on narrative exercises, and the learning of grammar and spelling using dictation–all taught in brief lessons. This holistic approach has stood the test of time by focusing not only on academics, but on self-discipline and positive habits as well. Curriculum for Charlotte Mason learning can vary widely–in most cases it relies on fine literature, fine arts education, and nature study to complement core lessons. Parents using this method often mix-and-match curriculum tailored to their child’s learning level and personality.
The definition of eclectic is: “deriving ideas, style, or taste from a broad and diverse range of sources.” That’s exactly what eclectic homeschooling is–education that uses a wide variety of mixed-and-matched resources and approaches to create the most personalized, tailored learning experience possible based on each student’s personality, learning style, and interests.
And this can change from one semester to the next…eclectic homeschooling is all about change according to what works best for the child, which will differ from one child to the next. The key to eclectic homeschooling is truly understanding what drives and motivates your child, and how he or she learns best, which may take some time and different approaches to homeschooling.
There will probably be an adjustment period to get it all down to a science, but the beauty of eclectic homeschooling is that you can keep mixing and matching and trying and experimenting with all types of curriculum until you get it right.
The Waldorf approach to homeschooling is quite interesting in that it breaks childhood and early adulthood into three approximately seven-year periods (though for schooling today, these periods last approximately six years), each marked by different methods and approaches to education.
- Early education (the first six years) should focus on active, hands-on learning and creative play.
- Elementary education (the second six years) begins academic instruction as well as more use of the imagination and management of emotions.
- Secondary education (the final six years) focuses on empathy, critical thinking, and community service.
Because of its well-rounded approach to education, Waldorf (also known as Steiner, after Rudolf Steiner, a pioneer of this philosophy during the early 20th century) education has grown in popularity not just from a homeschooling perspective, but also through actual Waldorf schools.
Some of the benefits of Waldorf-inspired schooling are the fact that academics are not emphasized during early years, allowing parents ample time to play and teach through hands-on activities; the primary focus is on age-appropriate learning; children are not graded during the elementary years, they’re assessed by the progress they’ve made; and aspects of the natural world are integrated into each stage of learning. The end result should be a young adult who is wise in mind, body, and spirit.
As far as classroom learning is concerned, parents/instructors have everything they need for early childhood education since there are no textbooks necessary at that stage. As children progress into elementary and secondary education, the Waldorf/Steiner approach recommends teaching a single subject in three- to six-week blocks. This allows the student to focus on one topic, in depth, for a relatively brief period of time before moving on to the next subject or topic. The teaching method combines auditory and visual learning with active learning so students remain stimulated and engaged.
The final homeschooling method we’ll discuss is most likely the oldest, dating back to the Middle Ages. Classical homeschooling bases its approach on a three-part process to training the mind–this is called the trivium. A Latin writer named Martianus Capella developed the instructional style, which was then popularized during the Renaissance period. The idea behind classical instruction was to be able to teach all human knowledge in a uniform way.
Using the “trivium” model, classical homeschooling aims for children to think for themselves. With this approach, students move through three stages:
- Grammar stage–contrary to what its name implies, the grammar stage is not solely about teaching language grammar; this stage is about younger children building foundational knowledge across several subjects through the use of repetition and memorization. Translated for homeschooling, this is the stage where children focus on the core knowledge of math, science, social studies, and language arts.
- Logic (or Dialectic) stage–at around the typical fifth-grade age, kids move on to a more analytical way of learning and thinking. This is when they start asking questions (such as “Why?”), comparing and contrasting, and understanding how all of their learnings tie together.
- Rhetoric stage–the final trivium stage logically combines the knowledge gained from the first two stages so that teenagers and young adults are able to form educated and reasonable opinions and express them through verbal debating, persuasive writing, and other forms of communication. During this last stage, students primarily focus on essay writing and public speaking, as well as skills that will set them up for success upon graduation, such as politics, accounting, engineering, and business/economics.
Classical homeschooling, while gradually adapting to newer generations, is obviously a tried-and-true approach, having stood the test of time for centuries.
As you’ve seen over the course of this blog series, there are MANY factors to take into consideration when deciding whether homeschooling is the right choice for your family. And if you ultimately decide to homeschool, there are quite a few methods from which to choose. Yes, it can be overwhelming, even confusing. Our hope is that these blog posts have shed some light on the pros and cons, what you should look for in a homeschool, what you want your child to get out of homeschooling, and which type of homeschooling is perfect for you and your student.
Obviously, we hope you decide to embark on your homeschooling journey with Bridgeway Academy. We offer plenty of options, no matter which approach to homeschool you choose. We’d love to hear from you with any questions you may have, so please call us at (800) 463-1474. We look forward to talking with you and wish you luck on the amazing journey that is homeschooling!