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References for Educational Philosophy

Here is the final post in the Towards A Homeschooling Philosophy series. In this post, I hope to give some resources for those interested to help understand philosophies more and how they affect how we teach. It will not be exhaustive and it is bound to be lacking. Therefore, I graciously ask for our readers to comment with other recommended resources.

Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V

References for understanding or choosing your own educational philosophy

Knowing that my own reading list is small as I have only been reading about this subject for a short time, I extended the question of what titles would they recommend for educational philosophy. Here are the titles that have been recommended. By putting these here, I am not personally endorsing them (unless I state otherwise). If you have any that you would recommend, we all would be grateful if you leave them in the comments.

Let me just quickly say that anything you read at Brandy Vencel’s blog, Afterthoughts, will help you understand educational philosophy much better. This one is excellent: Examining Underlying Assumptions

When possible, I have linked them to Open Library so you can easily find these. (Of course, Amazon has just about any book you can think of.) For other links, they go to the author’s website or Goodreads.

It should be noted that these titles do not all refer only to educational philosophy but all have an underlying philosophy regardless. Some are rather pointed in talking about philosophy, where you don’t have to search it out; others incorporate what they assume you understand already about the philosophy. Also, some are reluctant to put ‘philosophy’ down in print.

Titles submitted from a diverse group of homeschoolers:

Here are some that come from a group of specifically Charlotte Mason educators* (some titles are repeated from the list above):

*I specify the kind of educators so that you will know there may be a bent toward that philosophy. But as you can see, they are quite diverse.

It feels as if this is just left hanging but I do think that this has the potential to take many more posts and so I will stop at this. Please do leave comments.

North Laurel (32 Posts)

Blossom- "North Laurel" to the online world- lives in Ohio with her husband and two teens, homeschooling the Charlotte Mason way with Ambleside Online. She is graciously allowed to be a moderator for the Ambleside Online Forum. North Laurel loves to read, be on the computer, and learn. You can read her blogging about homeschooling, book reviews and life in general at North Laurel's Musings.

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Strict Schedule or Flexible Routine

Do you follow a strict schedule or a flexible routine in your homeschool? Here are some of the pros and cons of both. hsbapost.com

We’ve recently started a new calendar year, and for many of us we’re about halfway through our school year, so it’s a time when we’re also considering what we may need to adjust. One aspect I usually take a look at is whether our routine or our schedule needs to be tweaked. If we’re behind in the lesson plans, or realizing that some subjects are being neglected or forgotten, we might be able to solve the problem by adjusting our routines.

We stick to a routine rather than a schedule. Did you know there’s a difference? A schedule has designated time-slots for specific activities, while a routine establishes a specific order for the activities but doesn’t lock in a time. For us, the routine works better for a couple of main reasons – my students are old enough to work independently and manage their own time; and my own preference is the more laid-back and flexible framework of a routine rather than a more rigid schedule.

Which is better for you?

If you lean towards unschooling or child-led learning, you probably also lean towards a flexible routine. If you homeschool following a classical style or using more traditional textbooks, you may need to follow a more detailed schedule. If your children go to a co-op or attend online classes, you’ll need to stick to the schedule for at least those activities.

Personality and preferences play a big role too. People who have that natural desire to keep everything around them organized and are details-oriented tend to prefer schedules, while those who are more laid back and are big picture thinkers manage well with a general routine. It’s seldom that mom (and dad) and all the kids have the same preference, so each homeschool family needs to find the balance and combination that works for them. I believe that we all need some level of routine, but some people really do function better when it’s detailed, and sometimes the tendencies are obvious even when they are babies! The little one that must have their afternoon nap at exactly the same time and place each day, or wakes up on their own at the same time each morning will probably be a student that works well with a schedule. The baby or toddler that adjusts handily to changes and disruptions and can generally fall asleep almost anywhere likely will be just fine with an easy-going routine.

Do we need to change our approach?

Are you or your child anxious and always looking at the clock, or feeling rushed? Perhaps it’s your cue to loosen up on the schedule and lean more to a routine. On the other hand, if you or your child are having trouble staying focused, or feel disorganized and confused by too many options and things to do, a stricter schedule may provide the framework you need to stay on track.

As kids get older, their needs change, and they can gradually take more control over their own time management and experiment with what works best for them. Even if you relied on a schedule when homeschooling preschoolers and elementary grade children, you may find that a more general routine works well to keep everyone coordinated as they gradually work more independently in middle and high school grades.

My own preference is for a routine, but I’ve also learned that I need to set a timer or watch the clock in order to stay on task in some areas and to remember to do the tasks in other areas! The kids are each a little different in how they work best too. Honestly, if I hadn’t made myself follow a schedule when we started homeschooling, I don’t think we would have finished much. A couple years into the adventure, I was perfectly comfortable just studying subjects in whatever order and my oldest son was cool with that too. But my second son was constantly distracted or anxious trying to figure out what was next on the agenda, so I eventually realized we needed a set routine. Good thing, because the third one literally could not focus on a page of a math if he didn’t know what subject was next or how soon it would be lunchtime! With him, I often had to set a timer and assure him that if he worked on the math worksheet until the timer went, then he could have a snack and go on to the next subject. Now that he is in high school, he has established his own balance of schedule and routine. He starts with the same subject every morning and works on it every day, but some of his other subjects he works on some days and not on others. That’s what works for him, and he’s learned to manage his own time fairly efficiently.

As for me, I’m still working on managing my time well. In fact, my timer just went off, which means I need to publish this article and then go on to the next task on my list. Which is probably grading essays or algebra, so I can make the deadline for submitting report cards!

What’s the right balance between strict schedule and flexible routine in your homeschool?


Kym (11 Posts)

Kym is in the middle of her 17th year of homeschooling her four kids, two of whom have graduated. She and her husband of 27 years are Canadians transplanted to Maryland. Kym loves coffee, history, and homeschooling, and you can join her for coffee break at her blog, Homeschool Coffee Break.

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Prevalent Educational Philosophies

Read other educational philosophies posts in this series.

It is a new year, we have hopefully recovered well from our extended holidays, and are ready to tackle school again. My apologies that I’ve delayed this post for so long.

These posts have not been extremely in-depth about educational philosophies or about homeschooling. My purpose was to get you to think about ‘the why’ of your approach to homeschool, not to sway you to think one way or another. Why do we use textbooks? Why do we focus on math or science? Why do we include this book or that book? Why do we expect our children to do this or that?

The ultimate reason rests with who we think man is and what is his purpose. I believe these are definitely definable and dictate what we include in our homeschool. This post will focus on a few prevalent educational philosophies today that are applied to both public and homeschool classrooms.

A series focusing on the "whys" of your homeschool. Prevalent Educational Philosophies looks at 4 of the major philosophies/methodologies of homeschooling. hsbapost.com

Three prevalent educational philosophies:


John Dewey is greatly associated with pragmatist education although I don’t think he thought of himself in those terms. Pragmatism is all about relevancy and applicability. The information, or curriculum, has to be relevant to the students. It also needs to be useful in the lives they live. Another name given to this philosophy is Experientialism because it focuses on the reality of the experience of the learner. Dewey’s many published works focus at length on experience as the ultimate means of education.

Its emphasis is again on the experience of the student, here and now. Teachers utilizing pragmatic means will generally desire the ultimate outcome to be students as agents of change. It is believed that these students will be better equipped to handle situations and people with which they may have before been unfamiliar.

An argument against pragmatist or experientialist education is that it disregards passing down a base of knowledge. The curriculum is ‘interdisciplinary’ without distinction between subject areas. Unit studies are generally ‘interdisciplinary’ (that doesn’t necessarily mean they are pragmatic in scope, however). But also learning by doing every day tasks is ‘interdisciplinary’. Examples include learning math by cooking; geography by field trips and vacations; history by visiting museums; and much through independent reading.

Within this philosophy is also the push to present the student with what they like or prefer. Or at least to present the least liked subjects and lessons in ways they will want to like them. For this an example I present are the multitude of apps and games geared to education. The pragmatic educator will argue that since the technology is available, it should (or can logically) be used in the teaching because it is relevant.

Ultimately, a pragmatic philosophy suggests that there is no absolute and unchanging truth but rather what works is what is true. The originator of the pragmatism, Charles Sanders Peirce, believed that thought must produce action to be of worth. But what we believe to be true is paramount to the action that results.

Educators and other individuals associated with Pragmatism:

  • John Dewey
  • Wiliam James
  • Hilary Putnam


Another philosophy that prefers to look to each individual for what is true, and therefore what is worthwhile to be taught and learned, is Existentialism. Delight-directed learning styles and possibly unschooling stem from this type of philosophy. How is this?

As individuals we are all unique; not one person is like another. We have generalities that can be tied with being a human being but each person possesses different talents and abilities. Within those talents and abilities, each person also excels differently. Existentialism focuses on bringing these to the forefront through free choice of the student. They choose what they will learn because the choices will make them who they will become. Ultimately, each person is responsible for their own actions and choices.

To choose for students what they will learn ahead of time is infringing on the students’ free will. Educators who follow this philosophy often will collaborate with students to determine a course of study or curriculum. As the belief of free will is very important, the use of experience is also emphasized. Based on what is experienced a student will choose what they learn, therefore being responsible for their actions.

Educators also utilize dialogue and discussion in their daily lessons to ensure that there are more experiences available to the student for making the choices they need. Existentialist educators focus on the whole child, not simply academic. In subject areas such as history, the actions of individuals, whether positive or negative, are emphasized as models for the students rather than dates and specific events.

Educators and other individuals associated with Existentialism:

  • Soren Kierkegaard
  • Albert Camus
  • Jean-Paul Sartre


Some say that another name for this is Constructivism. I talked about both Progressivism and Constructivism in a previous post. Another possible term might be Eclecticism*. There are many homeschoolers that label their style as eclectic.

There have been some who suggest that Dewey was a progressive educator, although he would not agree and actually writes about this in his book Experience and Education. Progressivism has many definitions and it was difficult to pin down one but this fits well I think:

‘child-centered instruction’, ‘discovery learning’ and ‘learning how to learn’ (Labaree, 2005, p. 277)

However, looking at that definition it would lead a person to any number of philosophies!

This was popular in the early- to mid-1900s. When I say ‘popular’ I mean it was a trend that didn’t really catch on. It has since come back in fashion with educationalists attempting to find something that works in the schools. However, it was more popular in private schools than the public schools.

I see this as a philosophy- or almost more of a method stemming from different philosophies; it’s a fine line- that has grown in today’s learning circles. Educators today who follow this are not content with using a set or prescribed curriculum or a traditional base of knowledge. But at the same time they do not necessarily adhere to the other philosophies.

Labaree’s blunt definition suggests that it is in line with both Pragmatism and Existentialism, and yet it is different. Gutek (1995) narrows this down to a movement set to :

  • Encourage child freedom.
  • Contribute to the whole child and not simply his or her intellect.
  • Use activities to give child direct experience of the world.
  • Foster cooperation between schools and families.

In conclusion…

This has become a much longer post than I’d intended. I had one more philosophy to put in here that I feel is prevalent in today’s education spheres, Reconstructionalism, but I will leave it. Briefly, it is most adamantly focused on pushing students to change society. For this you can look to Paulo Freire’s works. For Christians, this is something that must not be overlooked (the education of today’s students in many schools under this philosophy). But I leave this to your own research and examination.

I do have a note in regard to Eclecticism as I marked in the section on Progressivism:

*The reason I say it may fit here is that these educators understand that all of the philosophies, and therefore methods, overlap in areas. It is incredibly difficult to utilize only one in education. Therefore they will pick and choose from the different philosophies and methods to form a conglomeration they feel is best suited to their student.

You don’t want to mix philosophies frivolously or without much thought…

“There is a danger of sloppy and inconsistent thinking, especially if you borrow a bit from one philosophy and stir in some of another” (Cohen, 1999).

…much as you shouldn’t want to use a method, or curriculum, without understanding the philosophy behind it.

“I feel strongly that to attempt to work this method without a firm adherence to the few principles laid down would be not only idle but disastrous” (Mason, quoted in Glass, 2014).

In the next- and it will be the final- post, I will present some references for educational philosophy. It will by no means be exhaustive. There are so many writers on the subject!


  • Cohen, L. M. (1999). Philosophical Perspectives in Education. Accessible online
  • Glass, K. (2014). Consider This: Charlotte Mason and the Classical Tradition. Author.
  • Gutek, G. L. (1995). A History of the Western Educational Experience. Waveland Press, Inc.
  • Labaree, D. F. (2005). Progressivism, Schools and Schools of Education: An American Romance. Accessible online

I would love to hear your thoughts on any of the posts in this series.


North Laurel (32 Posts)

Blossom- "North Laurel" to the online world- lives in Ohio with her husband and two teens, homeschooling the Charlotte Mason way with Ambleside Online. She is graciously allowed to be a moderator for the Ambleside Online Forum. North Laurel loves to read, be on the computer, and learn. You can read her blogging about homeschooling, book reviews and life in general at North Laurel's Musings.

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