Episode 10: Homeschool Methods Part 3
By: Jamie Gaddy
Hello and welcome back to Episode 10 of the Homeschooling and Loving Podcast. Today we’ll be finishing up our series on the different homeschooling methods. We’ve already covered a lot of ground, and if you are interested in listening to our previous conversations go back and listen to part 1 and 2 which can easily be found on our podcast page at homeschool.com.
So today I hope to talk with you about the last four homeschooling styles. Unschooling, Charlotte Mason, Waldorf, and the Eclectic Method.
Since we have a lot of ground to cover, let’s jump in.
The Unschooling Homeschool Method
I think this one tends to get a bad rep and is really very misunderstood by many homeschoolers! But the Unschooling homeschool style is also known as natural, interest-led, and child-led learning – very similar foundations as a few of the other homeschooling methods we’ve discussed. Unschoolers learn from everyday life experiences and typically do not use school schedules or formal lessons. Instead, unschooled children follow their interests and learn in much the same way as adults do-by pursuing an interest or curiosity. In the same way that children learn to walk and talk, unschooled children, learn their math, science, reading, and history. John Holt was one of the leaders of the unschooling philosophy and once said, ““Birds fly, fish swim, man thinks and learns. Therefore, we do not need to motivate children into learning by wheedling, bribing or bullying. We do not need to keep picking away at their minds to make sure they are learning. What we need to do, and all we need to do, is bring as much of the world as we can into the school and classroom (in our case, into their lives); give children as much help and guidance as they ask for; listen respectfully when they feel like talking; and then get out of the way. We can trust them to do the rest.”
Unschoolers embrace that freedom and believe strongly that learning happens naturally and effortlessly and they trust in their child’s ability to direct their own learning.
The advantage of using the unschooling homeschool method is that unschooled children have the time and can develop research abilities to become experts in their areas of interest.
The disadvantage is that because unschoolers do not follow the typical school schedule, they may not do as well on grade-level assessments and may have a difficult time if they ever do choose to re-enter the school system.
For help, unschoolers turn to other homeschoolers and to the community. They often set up classes and clubs together. They trade private lessons with other homeschoolers. They do not take tests and do not teach to state-mandated standards or schedules. It’s important to compare your personal style to find the types of homeschooling methods that work for you! Many families using this approach will vary greatly with their philosophy regarding the use of the pre-made curriculum. Some families are vigorously opposed to curriculum in any form, preferring to let their child learn primarily from their natural interactions with the world around them. Other families may use a formal curriculum for specific subjects that they feel are essential and allow their students to pursue their own interests for the rest of their studies. Some students actually crave a certain amount of structure—especially if they are coming in to homeschool from a traditional background. And of course, the flexibility of homeschooling allows parents to meet these individual needs.
The Charlotte Mason Method
Charlotte Mason was a British educator and author of the late 1800s. Though Charlotte Mason’s philosophy of education has withstood a century, it has seen a revival among the homeschool community over the last decade. Many have compared the Charlotte Mason method to Classical and all I can say is that Charlotte Mason was a classical educator so of course, her method will have similarities. One thing that does stand out is the addition of handicrafts in the Charlotte Mason method.
Charlotte Mason Homeschooling has at its core the belief that children are persons in their own right deserving of respect. According to Charlotte Mason, children should be given time to play, create, and be involved in real-life situations from which they can learn. According to Mason, education is “an atmosphere, a discipline, a life.”
Students of the Charlotte Mason method take nature walks, visit art museums, and learn geography, history, and literature from “living books.” (Books that make these subjects come alive).
More specifically, the Charlotte Mason Method will include:
Narration/Dictation – an activity that consists of the child telling back a story she has heard or read. It is done orally when the child is young, and as she grows older, she begins to write out her narrations.
Language arts in the form of journaling and copywork – transcribing a piece of literature as handwriting practice.
Nature Study – a study of living science, with a focus of observation of things seen on nature walks. Includes plenty of time spent outdoors and an appreciation for the natural world.
Living Books – books written in an alive, engaging way by an author who has a passion for the subject. This would be in contrast to textbooks, which are often created by committees to achieve government-set school standards.
The development of an appreciation for art and music.
The advantages of the Charlotte Mason Method are many and support a holistic view of education. The Charlotte Mason educational model seeks to help students create positive habits that affect not just their schooling, but their lives.
The disadvantages of this method are that there are many interpretations out there. For the most part, I would encourage you to study about the foundational philosophy of Charlotte Mason Learning and then build your own homeschool method. Popular books on this method include “A Charlotte Mason Education” and “More Charlotte Mason Education,” both by Katherine Levison.
Waldorf Homeschooling Style
Waldorf education is based on the work of Rudolf Steiner and stresses the importance of educating the whole child- body, mind, and spirit. Steiner developed this model in Germany in reaction to the educational system at the time. Steiner purposely steered clear of focusing on intellect only. He built his school taking into account the acceptance of all children with equal education between boys and girls, and to extend this education for 12 years. His educational method has gained popularity in the United States over the last decade and many schools dedicated to Waldorf have sprung up across the country. And, we’ve seen this popularity transfer into the homeschool community.
In the early grades, there is an emphasis on arts and crafts, music and movement, and nature. Older children are taught to develop self-awareness and how to reason things out for themselves. Children in a Waldorf homeschool do not use standard textbooks; instead, the children create their own books.
Waldorf education is often characterized by:
The Waldorf approach to early childhood education de-emphasizes academics
A focus on age-appropriate learning
Art, music, gardening, and foreign language are key focuses in the elementary years
No textbooks are used in the first several grades
No formal grades are assigned during the elementary years; instead, children are assessed by the progress made
Integration of the natural world into all aspects of education
The Waldorf homeschooling method also discourages the use of televisions and computers because they believe that computers are bad for the child’s health and creativity. Books about the Waldorf method are available from the Rudolf Steiner Bookstore (916-961-8727).
The advantages to using the Waldorf Method include a stronger more naturalistic approach to child learning.
The one disadvantage to the Waldorf Philosophy is that Steiner was also a formulator of anthroposophy. In case you’re all wondering what anthroposophy is – it stems from the idea that humans are able to communicate with spiritual worlds with their intelligence.
This, of course, brings up some interesting complexities. Though not everyone adds this aspect into their Waldorf education, there are some schools and proponents that do hold to some of these philosophies which include: a propensity to not vaccinate and the fact that some proponents have leaned toward racism. Of course, this does not have to affect your homeschool in any way if you feel that the Waldorf foundation methods would work for your home. You can pick and choose which parts you will actually use.
Eclectic Homeschool Method
“Eclectic” homeschooling is the method used most often by homeschoolers. Basically, eclectic homeschoolers use a little of this and a little of that, using workbooks for math, reading, and spelling, and taking an unschooling approach for the other subjects.
For the family who practices “relaxed” or eclectic homeschooling, mornings are often used for more formal, “have to” work, and afternoons are used for hobbies and other special projects. There are no specific times set up for each subject, but instead, the child is expected to meet certain educational goals.
Basically -The eclectic homeschooler uses what works for them. And for each eclectic homeschool, this will be a unique combination.
The advantage of the Eclectic method is that the parent feels that the “important” subjects are being covered thoroughly. This method also allows the family to choose textbooks, field trips, and classes that fit their needs and interests. Use formal learning for one subject and informal unschooling for another. The eclectic approach develops a tailor-made curriculum that fits your family’s needs perfectly.
A possible disadvantage of this method is that for many homeschoolers that are just starting it may seem daunting since the responsibility for developing the foundational plan lies with the parent. Also, some parents worry that their child isn’t getting everything they need and may have gaps… which pretty much can happen no matter where you learn in school or at home. But the good news is that over the course of 12 years – you end up closing most of those gaps!
Well, that wraps up our series on the main homeschooling methods… of course… there are probably many others out there that I haven’t touched on and if you use one of these send me a message and let me know about it and how you’ve implemented it in your homeschool. I’d love to hear from you!
Tune in next week for a special edition podcast about a learning resource that’s a modern twist on schoolhouse rock!
As we journey this homeschooling path together – I hope the rest of your week is amazing!
As always, with grace and joy,
About the Series
Where'd my instruction manual go??? I know we've all wondered that about parenting and homeschooling! Join us as we chat about the big stuff and everything in-between! Helping homeschoolers with practical teaching tips to find all they need to Homeschool and Love it!!