Tonight, as I was writing an email to someone who is considerieng homeschooling their child, I started thinking about how homeschooling approaches, methods and curriculum choices don’t have to be so overwhelming.
So what is a homeschool approach? (Could be called style as well) It can be how you structure your day. Do you get up at 7a.m. each day? or sleep in late? It’s how much input your children have in making choices about what they are studying and how the day is structured. Do you sit at a desk, have a special homeschool room, or throw the dog off the sofa? Do you read a lot of books, go on a lot of field trips or fill in a lot of worksheets? Is schooling done in your P.J.’s on the bed in your room? Do you change your approach daily, weekly, yearly or never? It’s how you teach your children. Do you use a computer, manipulatives or hands-on activities? It’s the way something is taught and learning enviorment. Is the structure of the enviorment relaxed or tightly scheduled?
There are several methods to homeschooling as well. Do you use Christian on secular materials? (Or those of your religion) Do you believe in the Moore method – “Better Late than Early?” or the Charlotte Mason method of “Living Books”,notebooking and nature studies? There is the classical timeline rotation method sometimes including the classical stages of learnnig, sometimes not. Some families use the textbook or workbook method while others prefer unit studies, literature based methods or hands-on methods. The Montessori method focuses on student choice, manipulatives and project based learning. Unschooling families believe in a completely student focused curriculum. Eclectic homeschoolers pick and choose form all the methods taking what they like best of each and combining them into their personal method. So, what are the differences in these methods? It’s the order materials are presented, the types of materials used to make the presentation and the finished products of learning – worksheets, lapbooks, notebooks, models, research parpers etc. It is what different educators feel it’s important to do and learn at different levels of education and how they feel it’s best to accomplish this. Some people group methods and approaches together when discussing homeschooling. I feel they are 2 different things. It’s just as possible to have a relaxed approach to homeschooling and use workbook methods as it is to have a structured approach and use the same materials.
Curriculum is how the approaches and methods of education are packaged for the consumer – in this case the homeschooler. Some curriculum uses more than one approach or method but there is usually a definate approach to how the materials are expected to be taught. Curriculum is often known by it’s publisher’s name and is sometimes sold as a specific method. Sometimes it’s designed for a classroom and sold to homeschoolers. Some curriculum is designed for and by homeschool families. A family who wants a very structured homeschool day with a read & write workbook method might not be happy with a curriculum that focuses on unit studies and hands-on activities. So, curriculum happiness ofter depends on knowing your families expectations of homeschooling approahes and desired teaching methods.
Based on this I feel it’s important for a family to look at their approach to education to help them find the methods that are a good fit for their students. The students leanring styles must be assessed as well. With that information they can begin to look for a good curriculum match. This often can not be accomplished before a family begins homeschooling – it is sometimes a process that is ongoing as students learn and grow.