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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Towards A Homeschooling Philosophy

What is a homeschooling philosophy?

I have too many grand ideas. I start reading blogs, books, articles, etc., that tell me how to best implement some system or method into my homeschool that is guaranteed to be the best- it’ll raise my kids’ attention span, keep them engaged, raise their scores, get them motivated to learn, etc. One of the problems I have found with many of these resources is they tell the how but leave out the why. The ‘why’ for many is because ‘that’s what we do’. Or the ‘that’s what we’ve always done.’ Or something similar. It could even be that they want to do the opposite of what’s been done.

But whyhomeschooling philosophyOur personal philosophy matters much when we think about what system or methods we want to include in our lives, whether for education or just in general. It’s much like when we choose our church. We choose, and continue to attend, a specific church for certain reasons. A lot of the time it is the same as how we choose how to educate: It’s what has always been done. Or it’s what we are used to.

Now this post isn’t about our religious beliefs, although a philosophy, like it or not, does have its roots in our spiritual beliefs. I am not advocating one religion over another- nor am I really pushing for one educational philosophy over another. I do have my own personal philosophy that I will share in another post; but I’m not going to push that.

What is a philosophy? It is derived from two Greek words: ‘philo’ and ‘sophos’ or ‘sophia.’  Philo means love; sophos means wise (sophia means wisdom). Philosophy is therefore the love of wisdom. This should lead one to want to know what wisdom means. To be wise means “having the power of discerning and judging properly as to what is true or right; possessing discernment, judgment, or discretion” (dictionary.com). Wisdom is applying that knowledge through action.

One key point in the area of wisdom is knowing what is true or right. In order to know this, we have to be able to understand what is ‘true.’ I will assume that my readers are aware of different views when it comes to truth but will point out two views here. Some believe that truth is subjective; it is what we make it. My truth can differ from your truth, and yet still be truth. Others believe that there are absolutes that are true regardless if one or many believe in them or not.

Without going too far into all of that right now but still pointing how our philosophy affects our methods in homeschooling, think about how you view a child’s capabilities to grow. You have beliefs about how development works that you understand to be ‘true.’ For instance, if you believe that children develop at rather predictable stages, you can be fairly sure that around one year old, a child will be learning to walk. This has been covered by many pediatricians over the years with parents. If a child is not walking by say two years of age, both parents and doctors will have concern that the child is not developing properly.

The same goes with educating children. If one believes that children’s minds are like buckets able to be filled with vast amounts of information, then the method one applies to teach the child will be with facts and memorizing. If however one believes that children are made in the image of God and with the same faculties as adults, albeit not fully developed, then the method for teaching will be quite different.

Perhaps I’ve not done enough in this post to really explain how our philosophies affect the teaching in our homeschool but I do hope to continue this as a short series on different philosophies. Please stay with me as I present these in subsequent posts.

In the meantime, here are some books I’ve found to be of interest in the area of educational philosophy*:

*You’ll notice some of these are geared toward teaching in a classroom or school setting. I believe that the philosophies behind teaching should be the same whether in a one-on-one setting or a group. I do not necessarily agree with the authors’ point of view in these books but they are good to help understand how and why we teach the way we do, as well as the outcome. I do whole-heartedly agree with Charlotte Mason’s and Karen Glass’s books.

What are some books or resources you can suggest that have influenced your homeschooling and/or educational 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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