Philosophies and Methods

In the modern world, the realm of education and teaching methods spark controversy in many circles.  Teaching methods can cause rifts in parenting groups, bring control from government institutions, and even kill you!  Don’t believe us?  Take a look at Socrates, who was executed for “corrupting the youth” (teaching his students to question the status quo.)

Thankfully today, standards of education are more flexible than in Socrates’ time.  Some still try to control the standard of education by making testing the core of the curriculum.  Homeschoolers have more freedom when it comes to choosing what they teach, but that definitely requires some thought. Methods of education are each based on a philosophy of education – your core beliefs about how to teach your children.

What do you think education should look like?  A philosophy of education is the foundation on which curricula, testing, standards, and methods are built.  What one believes about education drives all decisions in the homeschool.  If you are having trouble focusing on what to teach, try finding a philosophy of education that suits your goals.

Here are many of the philosophies of education today that apply to homeschooling.  Finding what ideas align with your educational objectives will help narrow your search for a curriculum.

Exploration and Investigation:  The focus of this style is getting children to dig into a topic to have a more complete understanding of it.  This style includes the use of research, manipulatives, and field studies to broaden knowledge of what is being learned. Here are some approaches, or methods, that could be categorized under this style: 

  • Montessori
  • Waldorf
  • Reggio Emilia

Literature-Based:  This style centers around using great, classic literature.  A key feature is that textbooks are not used unless for reference and the main text is written in narrative or story form.  Many methods in this style use literature to support the rest of the curriculum without overpowering it with endless reading.

  • Charlotte Mason Approach
    • Ambleside Online
    • Simply Charlotte Mason
    • Alveary
    • A Gentle Feast
    • Modern Miss Mason
  • Classical Approach
    • Well Trained Mind
    • Classical Conversations
    • Memoria Press
    • Classical Academic Press
    • Veritas Press
  • Other
    • Sonlight
    • Book Shark
    • The Good and the Beautiful

Manipulative-Based:  This is the hands-on style of learning.  Another way to quantify this style is to call it “Multiple Representations.”  Using manipulatives offers the student a more kinesthetic way to learn and can broaden knowledge of a topic of the subject or enhance the ability to problem-solve.  You’ll notice that some of the same suggestions apply here as the Exploration/Investigation Style.  They can be classified here but many of the manipulative programs may not all be interchangeable.

  • Montessori

Media-Based:  This style of homeschooling can include curricula on video with a “video professor”, online classes, curriculum on computer software, or even listening to books on mp3 or cd.

  • Compass Classroom
  • Roman Road Media
  • Apologia Online
  • Monarch Academy

Traditional:  This style uses textbooks that include US educational standards, teacher’s guides that direct what should be taught, formal schedules for staying on track, record-keeping materials, tests, and all of these by grade level.  It is a structured style that can be used like school at home or adapted to be more relaxed.  Be advised that some of these programs may be public-school-at-home organizations, which are government-run programs that have the right to direct what you teach your children and can require you to follow standardized learning.

  • Abeka
  • Bob Jones
  • Christian Liberty Press
  • Rod and Staff
  • Easy Peasy
  • Notgrass
  • Apologia

Scope & Sequence or Academic Standards-Based:  This type of program will tell you (or schedule for you) what your child needs to know and when.  Not all scope & sequence programs follow the Traditional Style (see below).

  • Ed Hirsch: What Your _______ Grader Needs to Know

Faith-Based:  This style of home education teaches all the fundamentals of learning and includes religious principles either as the foundation of the program or as an additional subject.

  • Principle Approach

Self-Development-Based:  This style of learning embraces the idea that children learn best when they have a self-motivated interest in the topic.  Parents/teachers serve as resources, shepherding their children towards thinking logically for themselves, decision-making, and problem-solving.  The atmosphere of the home is creative, cultural, and full of activities.

  • Unschooling
  • Delight-Directed Approach

Unit Studies:  A unit study uses a theme or topic and studies it deeply, weaving in as many subjects as possible.  All subjects are integrated together and studied around a common theme or project.  All ages learn together at their own level. Since subjects are integrated and are not taught separately, time spent homeschooling and planning is reduced.

  • Konos
  • Gather ‘Round Homeschool
  • My Father’s World
  • Winter Promise
  • Moving Beyond the Page

Eclectic or Multi-Based:  This style uses more than one homeschooling method.  Many parents/teachers begin with one style and may keep that style for some subjects and teach others with another method.  Many homeschooling families find themselves in this category eventually.  There may come a point at which one curriculum doesn’t work for every subject in your home.  You may borrow ideas or lessons from another company, retaining one curriculum as your base and adding to it as needed, or you may throw the curriculum out the window and gather from all sorts of places. 

Travel Schooling:  One of the best ways to learn is to visit the locations we read about.  This method takes time and usually comes at considerable costs but can enrich your family with memories and real-world experiences.  It can be done on the local, national, or international levels.

Umbrella Organizations:  Umbrella Organizations include distance learning, learning centers, independent/tutoring programs, or online/virtual schools.  

  • Kumon Math and Reading
  • Sylvan Learning Center
  • Mathnasium

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