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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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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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6 Educational Goals for the New Year

Do you make New Year’s resolutions for your homeschool? Some people bristle at the word “resolutions,” but we all know it’s important to set some kind of goals to keep us on track. Not only do we get a sense of accomplishment as we work toward them, we teach our kids responsibility and accountability. This does not have to be drudge work! Check out the six ideas below for educational goals you can set this year.

6 educational goals you should consider in your homeschool this year! hsbapost.com

6 Educational Goals for the New Year

Wouldn’t it be great for your kids to learn to play a musical instrument, speak a new language, or pick up some computer skills? Educents has the tools to help your kiddos achieve GREATNESS in 2016!

Resolution #1: Learn a new language

Children learning a new language

Children learning a new language will spark interest in geography and culture!

Maybe you don’t speak a second language, but your kids still can using this online language program. With this award-winning package, there’s no need to memorize lists of words or listen to boring adult conversations. Kids learn by watching kids like them in real-life, humorous situations!

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Resolution #2: Create healthy habits

Yoga promotes healthy habits in a fun and active way. Pop in this Yoga DVD and reap benefits like balance, focus, flexibility, self-control, improved posture, and so many more healthy habits.

Practice yoga with your child inside or outside!

Practice yoga with your child inside or outside!

Yoga DVD is Fun for Kids and Parents

The Family Fitness program includes hundreds of physical education lessons for ages 5 to 18. The 1-year program includes warm ups, cool downs, outdoor exercises, and nutritional lessons. The lessons will guide you and your family through a 20-40 minute physical education session. You can do as much or little as you like depending on how much time you have.

Ready-to-go Fitness Lessons for your Entire Family


Resolution #3: Keep the house clean

Enough said.

Educents Blog

“I cannot imagine a more well spent $20! I am not even kidding–my house looks stellar and my kids have that feeling of accomplishment, knowing they’ve worked hard and done an amazing job. I’ve tried chore charts and reward systems but this is by far the easiest and the most all-encompassing.” – Celena, The Traveling Sisterhood

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Resolution #4: Be more creative

Kids gotta have time to be creative. With all the social stresses and studying, leave room for FUN. Whether it be learn a new skill, journaling, or start playing an instrument – encourage creativity!

Help your kiddo learn the basic skills of photography this year!

Help your kiddo learn the basic skills of photography this year!

Downloadable Photography Lessons for Kids

This has probably been included in ONE of your New Year’s Resolution lists: Learn to play piano. Well, time to live vicariously through your children! Maybe your child will learn, and then turn around and teach you piano! This kit has everything you need to get started tickling those ivories.

The Piano Starter Pack can teach your child how to play!

Does your little one want to learn how to play a musical instrument this year?

Does your little one want to learn how to play a musical instrument this year?

Playing the violin is not only a way for children to be creative, but it also develops motor skills, sharpens memory, teaches perseverance and increases focus.

Violin Starter Kit has everything you need to get started.

Resolution #5: Get hands-on

Lessons are more fun when you get your hands a little dirty. Take reading lessons outside, do a weekly science experiment, or try these STEM kits that arrive to you once a month (totally ready to go!!).

STEM Project Boxes 3 Month Subscription

Add science fun to your weekend projects! These science experiments are delivered to your door and ready to go. Kids will learn about magnets, fungus, space, volcanos, and more!

take science lessons outside

Take lessons outside with science experiments!

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Resolution #6: Learn new tech skills

Your kids might already spend a lot of time in front of a screen, but is that screen time educational? Use those hours to learn new tech skills! If your kiddo is already a Minecrafter, consider using this program to build skills and add layers to the game!

Educents Blog (1)

Kids Ages 8+ Can Learn to Code Using Minecraft


What are your resolutions this year? Have your children set resolutions for themselves? Share in the comments!



Sara (122 Posts)

I'm a reader, writer, dreamer, wife, and homeschooling mom of 3 girls. We take a relaxed, eclectic, Charlotte Mason-leaning, Montessori-ish, literature-rich, delight-directed, almost unschooling-at-times approach to learning. Lots of unit studies, field trips, and lapbooks, too. I like to blog about our learning adventures (plus faith and encouragement) at Embracing Destiny.

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