The following article gives a great overview of styles of homeschooling. For more information, a google search for “homeschooling methods” will yield many results. There is also an informative article on styles here. And some more general info here. As always the HEA and Homeschool Australia websites are also very informative when exploring what styles suit your family.
Different Approaches to Teaching Your Children
by Beverley Paine, HEA Editor; first published in the 2009 Home Education Association Resource Directory, www.hea.asn.au
At first most families imagine teaching their children at home is just like school and then, once they have been homeschooling for a while, discover that it can be anything they want or need…
Educational authorities in Australia don’t tell you exactly how or what to teach your children. They all, however, want to know that your children are achieving standardised outcomes at certain ages as stated in their curriculum frameworks. Over the decades homeschoolers have developed and honed many different approaches to teaching children at home. In practice, many of these overlap. You can pick the bits you like from one and add to another, or create an eclectic style of educating your children from a personalized mix of everything.
The bottom line is that the approach you select matches the learning styles, disposition and personality of each of your children. Some homeschoolers find that one child works best with a structured, traditional approach, while another is at home with informal learning. Both may enjoy elements of a literature or nature study rich Charlotte Mason inspired approach, and at some stage in your child’s education she may take advantage of a course offered by distance education. If possible, attend a homeschool seminar or trade fair before you start, or in your first year of homeschooling. These attract many of the educational suppliers you’ll find listed in the 2009 HEA Resource Directory.
As we say in the HEA, there is“no one right way to educate children”. If what you are doing no longer works you are able to look for alternative methods or materials. One of the key advantages of home education is its ability to be incredibly flexible and responsive to the learner’s needs. The discussion of educational methodologies and which curriculum to use is very specific to the personalities, life experiences, lifestyle and parenting philosophies of each home educating family. No two families are alike therefore no two homeschools are the same.
Homeschooling approaches are built on different ideas and convictions of how children should be taught and what and how they should be learning. Some are more rigid and diligent in their application than others. Here is a quick summary of the more popular approaches to home education.
Sometimes referred to as ‘school-at-home’, the traditional approach to education also includes learning by distance education (correspondence courses), part time school attendance, tutoring, or attending single lessons and classes. Some homeschooling communities have developed learning cooperatives or centres, where parents and/or interested community members teach the children in small groups. There are several distance education homeschool programs available in Australia for Christian homeschooling families.
The main feature of a traditional educational approach is that knowledge and skills are directly taught in an overtly structured way, following a scope and sequence, and progress is compared against standardised achievement or performance indicators. Children (students) learn the same subjects as their schooled peers, often in the same way and at roughly the same rate.
Scheduled lessons, tests and the use of text and workbooks feature prominently, though not necessarily so. Some children may use educational CDs, DVDs, or Internet based learning programs instead of text books. One of the benefits of this approach is that once your child has gained independence with reading and comprehension, he should be able to work through the course material independently with minimal supervision. Selecting learning resources to match your child’s ability and learning style are critical to the success of this method.
If your child performed well in the classroom, likes to study on her own, can complete her lessons without being nagged, likes setting and accomplishing goals, and can read well, a traditional approach to education may well suit your homeschool. It is an approach that lends itself to independent learners, or single child homeschooling families.
The major disadvantage to this style is that in schools it fails too many students: it may have failed your child in the past. A break from the traditional educational approach – a few months of deschooling – may be needed for your child to recover her love of learning. The traditional approach also delivers a ‘one-size-fits-all’ education that doesn’t allow a child to explore and learn elements that attract her attention to any great depth as there are time constraints on completing set lessons and assignments. It also has a high burn out rate in homeschools, particularly in families teaching children of different age ranges. Quality learning materials and resources can also be expensive.
Home educators have drawn on non-traditional, but still highly structured styles of education to teach their children at home. Some of the more popular styles include:
- Identity Directed
These styles of education are based around the child’s natural development, with varying emphases on different academic areas. Some are more structured than others: a Charlotte Mason approach, for example, can easily lend itself to an informal learning approach (see below), and Unit Studies can vary from parent directed to child-led inquiries. All styles require parents to read extensively to their children during the early years, and to be ‘hands-on’. Resources and support to parents vary considerably. Few translate easily into state education curriculum outcomes and may not be accepted by educational authorities without considerable convincing. All produce excellent results where the parent understands the philosophy behind the approach and applies the principles in a creative and engaging manner. You can read more about these different approaches on this website or ask about them at your next homeschooling gathering.
Many home educators reject the notion that a child has to be taught in order to learn, and believe that children are born naturally curious with the ability and motivation to learn what they need, want and must learn in order to survive and thrive. Proponents of this informal learning style call themselves unschoolers or natural learners. As with the more traditional structured approach to learning, success is built on matching the child’s individual learning styles, temperament and disposition to the most appropriate materials. Many parents manipulate the environment to create learning opportunities their children would not naturally encounter. Learning flows seamlessly from the home to the community. This approach is favoured by many travelling home educators, who enjoy the constant educational stimulation of changing social and cultural environments. Children who ‘learn naturally’ are immersed in a busy, productive life where doing the chores, helping others, building on their talents, and pursuing their interests provide a comprehensive education that covers all areas of the school curriculum.
Regardless of the style of home education, maintaining confidence in the child’s academic progress can be difficult in the early years and this can be overcome by the parent diligently recording their children’s activities, translating them into educational outcomes they, and their critics, understand.
Unlike learning at school a major feature of all of the above styles and approaches to home education is that the children gradually take over the responsibility for their own learning and develop the ability to work and study independently by their teen years. This arises because of the increased attention to children’s questions and learning needs in an environment that expects and supports success.