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Educational Philosophies in the Homeschool


The approach most homeschoolers take is the one with which we are most familiar, a teacher presenting information using texts and workbooks. Publishers of such curriculum are many, and each has a different philosophy of education. Most cover subjects thoroughly, and usually include study questions, enrichment activities, and projects. These books contain colorful illustrations, photographs, diagrams, charts, and maps. Supplemental teaching materials are available such as workbooks, tests, answer keys, charts, and maps.


Many home-school parents read the text aloud with students, presenting background material (often available in teacher's editions), discussing questions, and giving explanations as needed.

This kind of teacher-student interaction builds the student's confidence and trust in the teacher; and maximizes understanding. It is also rewarding for the teacher, giving him direct involvement with the subject content and with the student, but can be difficult to implement with several children. To combat this, consider using the same text for two or more children at once. Except for mathematical or grammatical concepts, most subject matter does not need to be presented in any order.


The classical method was born in ancient Greece and Rome, and by the 16th century, was used throughout the Western world. This system educated most of America's founding fathers as well as the world's philosophers, scientists, and leaders between the 10th and 19th centuries. The classical method develops independent learning skills on the foundation of language, logic, and tangible fact. Beyond subject matter, it develops those skills that are essential in higher education and throughout life - independent scholarship, critical thinking, logical analysis, and a love for learning.


In Dorothy Sayers' essay, The Lost Tools of Learning, she promotes teaching in ways which complement children's natural behavior. For example, young children in grammar school are very adept at memorizing. They enjoy repeating songs, rhymes, and chants to the extent that they often make up their own. In classical education, the "Grammar" phase corresponds with this tendency by focusing on the teaching of facts. During the junior high years, children often become prone to question and argue. Classical education leverages this tendency by teaching students how to argue well based on the facts they have learned. We call this the "Logic" phase. During the high school years, students' interests shift from internal concerns to the external. Teenagers become concerned with how others perceive them. This stage fits well into the "Rhetoric" phase of classical education, where students are taught to convey their thoughts so that they are well received and understood by others. The education culminates with the debate and defense of a senior thesis.

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The Well Trained Mind

Trivium Pursuit

Charlotte Mason

Charlotte Mason was an English educator who lived in the latter part of the 19th century. She believed textbooks compiled by a committee tend to be crammed with facts and information, at the expense of human emotion. This dryness is deadening to the imagination of the child. Miss Mason advocated what she called "living books." Whole books are living in a sense that a single author who shares his favorite subject with us writes them and we pick up his enthusiasm. Charlotte Mason noted that very few real books were ever put into the hands of children in school. With living books a child gains knowledge through his own work, digging out facts and information. He then expresses what he has learned by clothing it in literary (conversational) language - in short, narrating it back to you. Miss Mason believed that narration is the best way to acquire knowledge from books. Because narration takes the place of questionnaires and multiple-choice tests, it enables the child to bring all the faculties of his mind into play. The child learns to call on the vocabulary and descriptive power of good writers as he tells his own version of the passage or chapter.

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A Charlotte Mason Education

Unit Studies

Unit study curriculum varies in the amount of teacher preparation required. Some publishers provide detailed lesson plans; others simply give an outline with a variety of learning ideas to choose from. Usually many library books are used, some also use textbooks for reference and information. Parents can also plan their own short- or long-term units.

Disadvantages include the challenge of maintaining structure, the possibility of giving insufficient time to skill development, and the need to produce traditional forms of records that education and admissions officers desire.

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Five in a Row Curriculum

Doorposts Publishing

Education Plus Publishers


The unschooling approach is child-centered, rather than teacher-directed. Advocates believe that children can be trusted to direct their own learning, and they do not require any study that the child does not choose. However, parents do provide a rich environment of books, experiences, and resources for learning and respond to their children's questions and interests.

For information, visit:

Growing Without Schooling

Home Education Magazine