Teacher-Centered vs Child-Centered Homeschooling Philosophy?

Part III of Towards a Homeschooling Philosophy {you can read Part II here}

In the first two posts of this series, philosophy has been briefly explained. In my research on this topic, the vast number of ‘philosophies’ is really overwhelming. In this post will be a brief look at teacher-centered vs child-centered philosophy.

Educational Philosophy: The Why Behind Your Homeschool at hsbapost.com

A quick disclaimer: Within the different philosophies, there is overlap. I believe this to be inevitable. Our world is a complex one, and we are complex beings. It would be nigh on impossible to distinguish cleanly the different areas of life and learning.

Teacher-Centered vs Child-Centered Homeschool Philosophy at hsbapost.com. Which is your approach to homeschooling?


What do you think of when you read or hear the words ‘teacher-centered’? Think about that for a moment while I set up some things for philosophies within this method. To begin with, we will look at two: Realism and Essentialism.

Realism is a metaphysically based philosophy. It attempts to answer “what is there?” and “what is it like?”

Realism holds that reality is not subjective. Regardless of how we may think of an object, or a truth, it holds a truth all its own. An example is a rose. A rose is a rose, whether we have it in our hand physically or imagine it in our minds. The attributes of a rose are universal and not subjective. We can determine that a rose is not a daffodil because of the differences we can observe.

In realism there is a logical process in which learning takes place and the truth can be discovered. A teacher-centered realist philosophy will present lessons that are systematic, focusing on the scientific method for achieving the outcome set by the teacher. The teacher will guide and direct the students to follow the process to come to the truth.

Essentialism falls into the realm of epistemological philosophy. One way to understand this is to simply view the word ‘essential’. What is essential for students to know to enable them to be productive members of society? What essential body of knowledge or skills must the teachers present to the students to form the students into what society currently embraces? This is another objective philosophy; based on visible, observable fact.

Essentialism leads teachers to present lessons that focus on building basic skills that will allow for further learning in the foundational subject areas. This also means presenting to the students moral values that the teacher feels are essential to be a productive citizen.

What came to mind when you thought about ‘teacher-centered’? How did this align with the philosophies I briefly mentioned above? Both of these ‘-isms’ rely on what the teacher determines the student needs to learn.


Moving to ‘child-centered’ philosophies, I present Progressivism and Constructivism. Progressivism resides under epistemology, or how we come to know. Constructivism takes us into axiological philosophy. This looks more at what we teach based on the value we place on things such as truth, beauty, and goodness, or the practicality of these.

Progressivism is also more about the child than either the content or the teacher. The truths in this philosophy are more subjective, or relative, because it is through the experience, experimenting, and questioning of the learner that answers are reached. There can be much ‘group-think’ in this philosophy.

A progressive learning experience will include the student in planning what to learn as well as its importance. It will focus on the enjoyment of the student to plan the lesson content. But the lessons also focus on the fact that life and the world changes so quickly we cannot rely on the past to be the guide.

The last philosophy for this post is Constructivism. It is similar to Progressivism in that the truths are relative and it is very much child-centered. The belief behind constructivism is that each person constructs their reality, or truths, based on their experiences. When they are presented with new information, it must be connected with a previous experience to be fully understood. Scaffolding is important in constructivist philosophies.

A Constructivist lesson often includes project based learning. The teacher creates open-ended questions and a complex problem to students who are to come to a solution. The solutions the students come to are based on their own level of understanding of the world that they live in and know. Group-think is also fostered.

Recently Hillsdale College offered a free online course titled “A Proper Understanding of K-12 Education” in which the college President, Larry P. Arnn, defined child-centered as children working alone and coming to a truth based on what they feel to be important.

Do you view your homeschooling philosophy as more teacher-centered or child-centered?


North Laurel (29 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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How to Fix the Broken Homeschool

How to Fix a Broken Homeschool

Let’s get back to basics. I confess to being a broken record or I guess, today it would be a corrupted MP3 that played a section of a song over and over again, in an infinite loop!

If your homeschool is creaky, wobbly, or in need of a little fixin’ up….there’s a 99% chance you are defying one of my Ironclad Rules.

So first revisit my – Ironclad Rules for Homeschool Success.


Don’t Waste Time

Don’t Buy Complete Curricula

Seek Out and Heed Veteran Advice

Create a House of Reading Maniacs

Keep Learning

You see, and I do occasionally hear of and personally witness unhappy and/or unproductive homeschool families, but the idea of a generalized failure doesn’t make sense to me.

Maybe your family is struggling with math or reading….or struggling to get enough academics done because you fell into the activity trap and are too busy socializing!

Specific problems I certainly understand and can sympathize with myself.

Math struggles require some tweaks, a reassessment of priorities, a tutor, or perhaps just a little more discipline.

A piano player who won’t practice may need a different style of teaching, some more personally appealing songs to play (like the Frozen soundtrack!), or perhaps just a little more discipline.

But, again, I don’t get the overall failure diagnosis, unless….

Unless a homeschooling parent went with the ill-advised, re-create school-at-home approach OR they bought one of those all-inclusive homeschool curricula that I specifically warned against.

Starting out homeschooling can be hard with older kids. I mean it’s harder to pull kids out of school than it is to start from scratch with toddlers.

Not only is there seemingly more pressure for immediate homeschool bliss, but late-starting parents are also up against the damage that school has inflicted on their kids.

What do I mean?

Well, many kids in school have come to hate reading, may have become addicted to video games (like that blasted Minecraft!) and color TV, and may have become detached from seeing their parents as authority figures – simply from all the time spent apart.

More times than I can count I’ve heard parents say, “I could never homeschool my son/daughter….because they won’t LISTEN to me.”

Well, consider that rebellion will only GET WORSE as they teenage.

As far as I’m concerned, the fact that your child might not listen to you is EVEN MORE of a sign that you need to homeschool, to reconnect with them before it’s totally too late. But I digress…

My advice is first to RELAX. And understand that homeschooling is a dynamic process. Our kids are moving targets and we are going to have to watch closely, research continuously, and listen hard to what their pissing, moaning, and rebelling is trying to tell us.

For the last time, most fails I see are due to screens but there are sometimes cases where other failures are to blame. Recently someone called my radio show and said, “I tried homeschooling my daughter for a year….and it was a disaster….she didn’t make any friends.”

But when I pressed for details it was clear that Mom didn’t join any homeschooling groups or generally make any effort to do research of any kind into the undertaking of homeschooling. But really, what should she expect? No endeavor of any kind works without a modicum of commitment and WORK.

Turn off the TV everyone; scrap the iPads and cellphones. Force the kids to read, anything, all day long. It will animate their minds, their imagination, improve their attention spans and give you a lot more behavioral currency to work with – no matter if you choose the wrong curricula or whatever.

And don’t be afraid to contact me through HomeschoolDad.com. I LOVE to help homeschoolers….and I do it every single day.



Dan (16 Posts)

Husband to Inez. Father of John and Christine. Homeschool Coach, Accelerated Math Teacher. Former derivatives trader and future scratch golfer! Follow our learning adventures at HomeschoolDad.com.

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Homeschooling Philosophies: 3 Branches

Part II of Towards a Homeschooling Philosophy

Educational Philosophy: The Why Behind Your Homeschool at hsbapost.com

After my initial post, I decided to look again on the internet for homeschooling philosophies. For the most part, the posts that say they will talk of ‘philosophy’ actually describe methodologies which are based on philosophy. They fail to discuss actual philosophy in much detail.

Homeschooling Philosophies

In this post I will share the three branches of philosophy: Metaphysical, Epistemological, and Axiological. (Or perhaps simpler terms: Reality, Knowledge, and Values?)

An overview of the 3 branches of philosophy as they apply to your own homeschooling philosophy and how you teach your children. hsbapost.com

A quick disclaimer: It is not necessarily important to know the terms that go along with the different philosophies, such as ‘metaphysical’, ‘epistemology’, ‘essentialism’, etc., to be able to better understand the why behind how you homeschool*. What is important are the ideals within these philosophies. It is important to think deeply on how we view the world, our children, and ourselves to be able to most effectively teach in our homeschool.

homeschooling philosophyMetaphysical is how we relate to the world we see, know, and things we think about. It goes farther than what is right in front of us physically to the ideas we have about things beyond nature. It is an attempt to put a unified view on all aspects of the reality we have access to, including the ideas people have. The words are derived from Greek (μετά) metá, meaning “beyond”, “upon” or “after”, and (φυσικά) physiká, or “physics” (wikipedia.org). Physics means knowledge of nature.

What does that really mean? At its core I will say this refers to “is there a God, or isn’t there?” Based on how we answer this question, the rest of our understanding about reality will fall into place. One important aspect stemming from this question is how we believe mankind came into existence. The answer to that will effect our philosophy of how learning takes place. Another question to answer is, “Is truth absolute?”

Each of these are really questions that reach beyond what we can definitively see and know based on the here and now. It requires us to look at the spiritual. When I say ‘spiritual’ here, I am not referring to religions or one’s views/beliefs about God. It is referring to thoughts, ideas, concepts, etc., that are not visible or tangible. Ideas are not tangible; they cannot be touched. The result of ideas, the action we put to those ideas, are tangible; ideas themselves are not.

homeschooling philosophyEpistemology is the study of knowledge. It is the study of methods, validity, and scope of knowledge. The word ‘epistemology’ is derived from the Greek (ἐπιστήμη) epistēmē, meaning “knowledge, understanding”, and (λόγος) logos, meaning “word” (wikipedia.org). The ending could also be from the Latin -ologia meaning “the study of”, or “science”. These philosophies focus on what we teach because of what is understood about how we come to know.

In my previous post, I mentioned that if we believe the mind is a bucket to be filled, we will present facts to be memorized. But if we believe that the mind is an active spiritual part of a person, the material presented will be like a buffet that the learner can pick and choose from. There is also the understanding that all people follow a basic development cycle. But there are beliefs that learning can only take place sequentially; one development must have been achieved before a learner can move to the next stage.

These beliefs will play a huge role in how you teach.

homeschooling philosophyHow then should we live? Axiology looks at the emphasis we place on morals, values, truth, beauty, goodness, and what role these have in education. Axiology is derived from the Greek (ἀξίᾱ) axiā, meaning “value, worth”, and (-λόγος) -logos, meaning either “word”. The ending could also be derived from the Latin -ologia meaning “the study of” or “science”.

Many character building curriculums have an axiological philosophy base. Some philosophies center around the belief that education must result in action on the learners’ part. For example, Paulo Freire, a 20th century educational philosopher, believed that action must be focused on eradicating oppression of cultures. Others focus on changing society as a whole through education.

What kind of action are you looking for in your students? This is going to be based on the emphasis you place on your morals, values, truth, beauty, and goodness.

I can list 14 philosophies just from what I’ve been studying. There are undoubtedly many more. However,

The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. Ecclesiastes 1:9

By quoting that verse, I mean to say that while these philosophies have some distinctive that make them unique, there are none that rely on no other philosophy to build on. All philosophies utilize the three branches of philosophy briefly defined in this post. Next time I’ll give some details about specific philosophies.

*For an ‘article’ that discusses homeschool philosophy without the terms ‘metaphysics’, ‘epistemology’, and ‘axiology’, click here. But they still fall under the categories. She also gives book recommendations at the end. By linking to that, I am not endorsing any of these views. I’m just hoping to give more resources to help you identify and understand your philosophy.


North Laurel (29 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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