As homeschooling has increased in popularity, various styles of homeschooling have emerged. Seven approaches, among many, stand out as the common choices for homeschool families.
School-at-home is basically what the title suggests – setting up a typical school schedule but doing it at home. The day is structured into blocks of time for subject areas, just as a school day would be. The parent becomes the teacher. Subject areas are taught independently of one another. Curriculum can be varied but is oftentimes bought in complete sets through companies like ABeka, Alpha Omega, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. These sets often come with teacher’s guides, student books, and pre-made lesson plans to walk a parent and child through the curriculum. Curriculum samples can be browsed online or entire sets viewed at curriculum fairs and conventions.
Charlotte Mason, a 19th century English educator, introduced The Charlotte Mason method of homeschooling which focuses on the whole child. . This method breaks education down into 3 components: atmosphere, discipline and life. Atmosphere is the environment your child is raised in and the idea that a child will pick up things as they listen and experience the world around them. The second part of education is discipline. Discipline is creating good habits for your child. These habits include teaching daily living skills, but also the importance of teaching good character habits like being helpful. Finally, life moves beyond information to experiential learning and using real world examples. . Students learn through play, nature walks, short lessons, and learning from living books.
Unschooling, founded by John Holt, is student focused. It is called unschooling because it does not resemble school. The child directs the learning. Curriculum is not used. This approach focuses on the idea that students learn as they live. A child will learn math and science in the same way they learned to walk or talk – naturally. The focus is whatever interests the child and piques their curiosity.
Classical learning focuses on the Trivium: grammar, logic and rhetoric. The younger grades focus on concrete thinking and learning facts (grammar) that will be the foundation to be built upon in later years. The middle grades focus on the logic phase. This phase is where students take the facts they have learned and now reason and think critically about those facts. The final stage, for the high school years, is rhetoric. Rhetoric moves to a more abstract way of thinking. Students now apply what they have learned to life, learn to communicate and speak eloquently, write original works and even do apprenticeship programs. A curriculum that uses this approach is Classical Conversations.
Distance learning uses technology to bring the classroom to home. Lectures, lessons, and testing are completed via the internet. Students can choose to take individual classes or sign up full time. Curriculum is aligned with state standards and overseen or taught by certified teachers. In high school, students can take college classes as well for credit via online distance learning programs. Examples of some distance learning programs are: Liberty, FLVS, and Taylor University.
Homeschoolers that take a unit studies approach to learning focus all the curriculum around a topic. This thematic approach to learning takes topics and creates math, language, social studies, science, art, music, etc. lessons all around that specific theme. This method is more common for elementary and middle school age students. For example, if the unit is dinosaurs, curriculum may be organized in this way:
-spelling: words would be dinosaur names and terminology
-language: reading books on dinosaurs
-math: measurement of dinosaurs and converting those measurements
-social studies: focus on archaeology
-science: what causes extinction
-art: making a paper mache dinosaur
The main focus of unit studies is to immerse the child in a topic, creating an interest and rounded understanding of an area. Unit studies can be found at homeschoolmom.com, homeschoolshare.com, and a2zhomeschooling.com.
Eclectic homeschooling is a mixture of what works for each child and may include some or all of the other homeschool approaches. Parents create a curriculum that will look different from one child to the next and even may look different for the same child from one year to the next. Curriculum is matched to how the child learns best. School work may be combined with field trips or hobbies. A list of homeschool curriculum options can be found at homeschool.com.
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