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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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Talking with Your Kids about Worldview and Pop Culture


As parents, we’re all well aware that popular culture can be a minefield for tweens and teens. Thankfully, homeschooling can often afford us a better chance of guiding our kids through the tough issues as we teach them to think critically for themselves outside the sphere of peer pressure. Keeping the lines of communication open as we build relationships with our kids is critical.

Even with that advantage, it can be difficult to know and understand all of the issues they face with the constantly changing dynamics of pop culture. Did you ever wish you had a translator who could make you aware of all the latest challenges while also giving you the tools you need to talk to your kids about it? What about a way to distill Christian worldview for your tweens and teens so they know why they believe what they believe and how it impacts their life choices?

That’s where Axis steps in and gives you the tools to do exactly that!

Free resources to help you talk to your tweens and teens about pop culture and Christian worldview from Axis.org

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post written on behalf of Axis.org. I was not obligated to give a positive review and all opinions are my own. I was compensated for my time.

What is Axis?

Simply put, Axis is a cultural translation team. It was founded in 2006 by two friends, Jeremiah Callihan and David Eaton, who were concerned about the exodus of young people from the Christian faith. They set about seeing what they could do to examine the problem and offer solutions. It has grown to become an expanding mission field to reach kids and young adults from ages 11-22 with the Biblical worldview that they can directly apply to their own lives and choices amidst the lures of pop culture. Axis talks to kids on their own level, not dumbing down or watering down the message, but making it approachable and practical to kids where they are. Axis also offers tools to parents, churches, youth groups, homeschoolers, and Christian schools to share the message and help youth leaders and parents directly address the pop culture issues that these tweens and teens face.

Axis explains their mission this way:

Our strategy is simple, yet incredibly unique: We are culture translators. Being aware of the pulse of culture allows us to bridge the gap between generations by translating pop culture into the ideas it espouses for younger generations, while explaining and interpreting youth culture in ways that older generations understand. By speaking the languages of both generations, we bring common ground and open the way for understanding.

Here is a sampling of the tools they provide:

Axis Virtual ~ a monthly online subscription with multimedia videos, presentations, curricula, and interviews with experts that you can watch with your kids and discuss together.

The Culture Translator ~ receive this free newsletter by email and get an overview of the current events in pop culture, including social media, movies, music, and TV. You’ll be well prepared to talk to your kids about it from a Biblical worldview.

Live Presentations ~ Axis has traveling teams that offer presentations to Christian schools and youth groups in person.

They cover all of the controversial issues in the news today — from gender to the sanctity of life to the power of social media and more. Though the topics are heavy, Axis addresses them with hope and the enthusiasm to share the truth that sets us free.

I can appreciate the idea that knowledge is power, and as Christians we have the truth with which to fight the lies of pop culture. Axis helps empower both young adults and their families to do that.

Free Worldview and Pop Culture Resources from Axis

Axis is offering a free download of their ebook How to Talk with Your Kids about Pop Culture. It’s a great starting place to help you realize exactly how pervasive pop culture is for young adults and how dismal the statistics are if we don’t step in and do something to help them cultivate a Biblical worldview. There is no obligation to download the ebook and I highly recommend it for all Christian parents.

You can also sign up for their free e-newsletter The Culture Translator.

Connect with Axis

Stay up-to-date with the happenings at Axis on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


How to Talk with Your Kids about Pop Culture free ebook download from Axis.org



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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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 (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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