Did you even know that there are many different homeschooling methods, styles, and philosophies?
The biggies are, of course: Charlotte Mason, Montessori, unschooling, classical, Classical Conversations, Christian-based (or Jewish or Islamic-based)….but there is also worldschooling, Waldorf, school-at-home, online or virtual schooling, the Thomas Jefferson Education, notebooking, unit studies, and several more.
Surprisingly, not every homeschooling parent is aware of them. This is especially true in places like the Northeastern US and the UK where I currently live. Here, like the Northeast, home education is still relatively new and parents mostly pull their kids out of school and “resort” to homeschooling as opposed to home edding for thoroughly positive reasons.
In other words, parents in these cases, generally, aren’t being super pro-active, researching all educational options from the get-go….and choosing to home educate.
Why does this matter?
Well if they had taken the research approach there’s a good chance they’d have stumbled across the most prominent homeschooling styles right off the bat. Although admittedly, I did a lot of research myself before discovering some of the above methods.
Just to give you one example, recently I was talking to a “home ed mum” here in London and she excitedly told me she believed in teaching the classics to her kids. Terrific. I commended her and asked if she had ever read The Well-Trained Mind, er the “bible” of classical home education.
She had not and might have even looked at me like my suggestion was unwelcome. Perhaps she thought that teaching the classics was her own original idea!
Oh and she also told me about how they have an entire wall set up where they pencil in, in chronological order, important historical figures and events.
I informed her it’s called a “time line” and that there is much written on how to do it and many available resources. I probed further, “Have you heard of the Charlotte Mason Method?….Have you heard of Classical Conversations?”
Again, the answer was “no”.
Ever helpful, that afternoon I emailed her a bunch of links to look at.
So this, i.e. benign ignorance, is one extreme misapplication or misunderstanding of the various homeschooling methods.
At the other end of the fail spectrum is the parent who chooses ONE philosophy or style and tries to hammer all learning through that window.
For example, one cannot effectively unschool math, chess, or the basics of playing a musical instrument. Okay, you can to an extent, in some ways….but it won’t be as efficient as a more conventional, rigorous, and yes tedious(!), approach.
Just the same, I don’t think a formal education with a whole lot of structure will bring out the complete “artist” in children. I don’t think a Classical education can teach kids computer programming well – in fact Susan Wise Bauer seems to be a bit of a Luddite and that’s totally okay since it doesn’t diminish any of her terrific ideas and resources. Nor do I think 16 year olds are best served by the “learn through play” Montessori approach. (I don’t think young children are either….but that’s a separate argument for another time.)
Most veteran homeschoolers – at least the ones I’ve met – if pressed and if knowledgeable of the methods, describe their style as “eclectic” if anything. I would too EXCEPT I hate that characterization. It’s yet another label; it pins me in a box; and I don’t do well in boxes or padded rooms for that matter! In fact, “eclectic” is listed in many places as an explicit homeschooling method when I’d argue that it is a non-method. Whatever. This may seem like a mere semantic argument but I submit there’s a kernel of importance in it – perhaps like the difference between a non-denominational church and an all-denominational church. I myself prefer the later description.
What methods and styles should you employ?
Well that will depend on you and your kids’ long term goals.
And of course those will change over time, from subject to subject, and from child to child.
So do your research, keep an open mind,….and now go Google the method I mentioned above, that you didn’t know existed, smartypants!