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Educational Philosophies and Teaching Methods

Teaching methods are continuing to be refined and redefined in the educational community. But for the most part the teaching methods listed here are reflective of the most common methods used by homeschoolers.  Based on your learning style and the learning styles of your children, you will be able to select a method most beneficial to your family (See next section on learning styles).

Traditional “School-at-home”
An environment that is similar to what the student would find in a traditional school setting. The parent, taking the role of "teacher," utilizes curriculum close or identical to what the student would be following in a traditional public or private school. With this method, parents can purchase packaged curriculum materials that include everything from student and teacher texts to assignment guides, workbooks and tests. For examples of boxed-curriculum, see.


A Beka Book
Alpha Omega Publications
Bob Jones University Press
Calvert School
Christian Liberty Academy School System
Greenleaf Press
Griggs University & International Academy
Modern Curriculum Press
Saxon Publishers
Sonlight Curriculum

Classical Education
This approach is based around two main principles: 

1.       There are three phases or stages of learning, known as the trivium, that build upon each other
Grammar - "Grammar-school-aged" students focus on memorization and fact gathering.
Logic - "Middle-school-aged" students focus on critical thinking -- putting the pieces of information they've gathered into context.
Rhetoric - "High-school-aged" students evaluate information and are able to formulate an articulate discussion of this information

2.      These learning phases are language-focused, dependent on the written and spoken word, as opposed to image-based learning that uses still and moving images (such as photos, video or film).

For a thorough explanation of this method of study and how to implement it, see the books:
"The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home," by Jessie Wise and Susan Wise Bauer.
”Teaching the Trivium” by Harvey and Laurie Bluedorn

Charlotte Mason Method
This method is based on the teaching principles of Charlotte Mason. These principles are laid out in the six-volume work, "The Original Home Schooling Series," by Charlotte M. Mason. In addition to the standard core subjects, the study of fine arts and nature are integral. The most unique element to this approach, however, isn't so much found in the method of teaching as it is in testing the knowledge gained. Rather than using a standard question-and-answer format of testing, a process called "narration" is used to quantify learning.

Unit Studies
Unit studies can be considered the multi-tasking homeschool method. One specific topic or theme is stretched across several academic areas for anywhere from one week to an entire semester. The topic or theme might be anything from a series book (like "Little House on the Prairie") to a holiday, a sport, or an animal. You then stretch it across various subjects like history, literature, math and science. This method can be very hands-on in that the parent can have the student help decide which activities to incorporate in the study unit -- conducting experiments, creating timelines, visiting museums, doing library research, reading books, watching special TV programs or documentaries and so on.

Also referred to as "child-directed learning" and "natural learning," the term "unschooling" was originally used by author John Holt. This method is exactly what it says it is: not school. To follow this method, you take everything you know about school -- the rigid schedule, the teacher-led activities, the textbooks and so on, and forget it all. Unschooling is perhaps the most natural progression from the homeschooling foundation a parent has already developed with his child. Learning simply remains a natural part of the day, everyday. The child decides what he wants to work on each day, whether it's going to the library to read books on whales or conducting science experiments in the kitchen all day.

The Principle Approach

The Principle Approach to homeschooling looks at each subject from a Christian worldview. Based on the works of Rosalie J. Slater and Verna M. Hall, this approach seeks to teach using the methods of our founding fathers: using the Bible as our textbook and relating and applying God's Biblical principles to all areas of education. The seven principles associated with this approach include individuality, self-government, Christian character, conscience, government, local self-government and political union. You may come across different labels for these principles depending on the source. Lest you think this is merely a study of American history, these principles are applied to ALL subjects including seeing God's providence in world history. The idea is to ground our children in the Truth so they will become discerning leaders of character.

 Eclectic Method
The eclectic homeschool parent selects a variety of elements from any or all of the homeschooling styles and develops a custom-tailored method that suits both student and teacher. The advantage to this approach is that it's easy to tailor to any learning style.


Learning Styles

Each person has one dominant modality or learning style. Knowing your child’s learning style will help you make better curriculum and activity choices. You may also want to figure out what kind of learner you are, because that could have an impact on your natural teaching style.

There are four basic ways in which a person can learn something:

A visual learner is someone who must see things to really understand them. Visual learners respond well to diagrams, images, charts, picture books and so on. They may also like to respond to new knowledge by creating a visual representation of it.

An auditory learner is someone who learns from listening and speaking. An excellent homeschooling approach for auditory learners, because of its unique narration element, is the Charlotte Mason method.

A tactile learner is someone who learns through touch. A good way to engage the tactile learner is through field trips, experiments, craft projects and so on.

A kinesthetic learner needs to be closely involved in what he is learning. For example, if a kinesthetic learner is reading a story about sailing, he/she will want to see a sailboat in person, to investigate the sailboat and possibly go sailing.