One of the benefits and blessings of home schooling is the freedom to choose the teaching methods and philosophy as well as the curriculum. This section is designed to acquaint you as the parent/teacher with your choices. Every step has been taken to assure that each point of view has been tested, researched and explained. While we do not wish to represent one method or teaching style, the reader must be aware that some approaches are not suitable for every child; depending on career goals, academic ability, and skills, some methods may be frustrating or boring for a particular individual. It is best to take all areas of your child’s learning and ability into context as you choose curricula/teaching methods.
In South Carolina, as elsewhere, you will find homeschoolers who represent each of these educational philosophies. Many homeschoolers do not fit into any one category and choose to be “eclectic,” based on the academic and organizational abilities of a particular child and even the capability of a curriculum for a subject. You need to choose the methods and curricula that best match the capabilities and goals of your children. Realize that one approach is not “better” than another for everybody, and that the perfect curriculum just doesn’t exist!
All home schooling materials fall into two main categories: textbook curricula and non-textbook curricula. Textbooks have graded books in each subject, including electives such as foreign languages and even fine arts. They follow a scope and sequence, and most books will be finished within the 180-days-a-year standard program. Workbooks present material studied in the textbooks as activities, labs, puzzles, and projects. Although often times badly termed “school at home,” the traditional method has provided great benefits for many children.
Strengths of the Traditional Approach
- Requires little teacher preparation.
- Makes testing and assigning grades easy.
- Recommended for high school students and younger students desiring rigorous academics/professional preparation.
- Provided a reputable publisher is used, there are little, if any, academic gaps.
- Easy to explain and prove to colleges, friends, and officials.
Weaknesses of this approach
-Program is geared to every child (i.e. the average), not especially for your child.
- Information is broken down to fit in a daily scheduling, not a flow of ideas.
-Children of different grade levels in your family study different textbooks.
-May be frustrating for children that are not used to scheduling and requirements as well as those students that are “behind,” or below grade level.
Major Curriculum Providers: Bob Jones University Press, A Beka, Rod and Staff, Alpha and Omega, Christian Light Education, Saxon (math). For choosing curriculum, an excellent resource is the Christian Home Educator’s Curriculum Manual by Cathy Duffy
A unit study is taking a theme or topic (a unit of study) and delving into it deeply over a period of time, integrating language arts, science, social studies, math, and fine arts as they apply. Instead of studying eight or ten separate, unrelated subjects, all subjects are blended together and studied around a common theme or project. For example, a unit study on birds could include reading and writing about birds and famous ornithologists (language arts); studying the parts, functions, and life cycles of birds and perhaps even the aerodynamics of flight (science and math); determining the migration paths, habitats, and ecological and sociological impact of birds (social studies); sketching familiar birds (art); building bird houses or feeders (“hands on” activities); and so forth.
- All ages of children in the family learn together
- Intense study of one topic is natural way to learn.
- Knowledge is interrelated so it is learned easily and remembered longer.
- The family’s interest or God’s direction can be pursued.
- Planning is necessary so there are few educational gaps.
- Prepared unit study curricula are expensive.
- Do-it-yourself unit studies require parent planning.
- Some subjects are hard to integrate into the unit and may be neglected.
- May underestimate a student’s academic potential.
Resources: How to Create Your Own Unit Study by Valerie Bendt; Home Schooling Today magazine; KONOS and Weaver Curricula.
The Classical approach has produced some of the world’s greatest minds in history such as George Washington, Jane Austen, Sir Walter Scott, and Abraham Lincoln. The goal of the Classical approach is not so much as to teach facts, but to teach how to think. It is taught in three different sections known as the Trivium, where each stage of learning is tailored to each stage of child development.
- Is designed to teach at every level of mental development.
- Teaches thinking skills and verbal/written expression.
- Creates self-learners.
- If taught with a group or accountability (such as Classical Conversations), the parent has little grading/teaching requirements.
- May neglect certain areas such as mathematics if studied only in the home.
- Does not stress the present-day reality of test taking.
- Little prepared curriculum available for the parent.
- Is very challenging for students not used to extremely vigorous study, reading, and memorizing.
Resources: Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning by Doug Wilson; various books by Veritas Press, Memoria Press, Mars Hill Pub. and Critical Thinking Press and Software. Teaching the Trivium magazine (Trivium Pursuit, RR 2 Box 169, New Boston, IL 61272)
The Well-Trained Mind by Susan Wise Buer
Perhaps the best resource is your local Classical Conversations group, which can be found through friends, Internet searches, or local home school publications.
John Holt, 20th-century American educator, concluded that children have an innate desire to learn and a curiosity that drives them to learn what they need to know when they need to know it. Holt believed that both the desire and curiosity are destroyed by the traditional methods of learning.
Unschooling also refers to any less structured learning approach that allows children to pursue their own interests with parental support and guidance. Formal academics, if pursued at all, are pursued when “the need arises.” Children are apprenticed by adults who include them in what they are doing. In the process, the child learns everything the adult knows, and possibly a great deal more.
Christians who favor less structured schooling, but with definite goals, prefer to be called “relaxed home educators.”
- Takes little planning.
- Captures the child’s “teaching moments.”
- Children have access to the real world, plenty of time and space to figure things out on their own.
- Children are less likely to become academically frustrated.
- Creates self-learners with a love of learning.
- Doesn’t create a path for children to achieve professional careers.
- Very unstructured.
- May neglect studies that the child doesn’t want to study.
- Hard to assess the level of learning.
- Is extremely child-centered.
- Lacks the security of clearly laid-out curricula.
- Difficult to explain and prove to colleges, friends, and officials.
Resources: Homeschooling for Excellence by David and Micki Colfax; The Relaxed Home School by Mary Hood; Teach Your Own by John Holt.
Please note: While this approach works well for younger students we feel that this method is inappropriate for the higher grade levels as it fails to prepare young adults for college and adult life.
The principle approach is an effort to restore the American Christians three vital concepts: the knowledge of our Christian history; and understanding of our role in the spread of Christianity: and the ability to live according to the Biblical principles upon which our country was founded. This approach emphasizes seven Biblical principles which are as follows: 1) Individuality, 2) Self-government, 3) Christian character, 4) “Conscience is the most sacred of property, 5) The Christian form of government, 6) How the seed of local self-government is planted, and 7) The Christian principle of American political union. Each school subject is studied in the light of how these principles apply. The principle approach the 4R’s to all subjects: researching, reasoning, relating, and recording. This approach is a close cousin to the Classical Approach.
- Students learn to think “governmentally.”
- Students become self-learners.
- Students learn to apply Biblical principles to all of life.
- Focuses mainly on a narrow portion of history,
- Requires a great deal of teacher preparation.
- A prepared curriculum is available only in selected subjects.
- Tends to prepare students for entrepreneurships, not a professional career.
Resources: A Guide to American Christian Education for the Home and School: The Principle Approach by James B. Rose; books by Douglas Phillips and Vision Forum.
Charlotte Mason, an early 20th century British educator, advocated children reading really good, wholesome books instead of what she calls “twaddle.” Her approach was to teach basic reading, writing, and math skills, then expose them to the best sources of knowledge for a subject. This meant giving children experiences like nature walks, observing and collecting wildlife, visiting art and history museums and real books with “living ideas”- unlike textbooks, which are written for the sole purpose of informing a previously inexperienced student. She stressed narration and dictation of passages from books as well as discussion of good books.
- Exposes children to the best sources of learning.
- Focuses on learning encounters with real objects and interesting books.
- Encourages curiosity, creative thinking, and a love of learning.
- Eliminates “busy work.”
- Tends to be very child-centered.
- Very little prepared curricula.
- May neglect higher levels studies because of its emphasis on art, literature, and nature study.
- Requires an avid reader and a large library if the student is to be successful.
- Makes it difficult to prepare students for standardized testing/college entrance exams.
Resources: For the Children’s Sake by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay; Books Children Love by Edith Wilson; Teaching Children by Diane Lopez; The Whole-Hearted Child by Clay and Sally Clarkson; The Charlotte Mason Study Guide; The Sonlight Curricula.
Homeschooling for Excellence by David and Micki Colfax
Anyone can Homeschool by Terry Dorian and Zan Peters Tyler
The Homeschooling Father by Michael Farris
Dumbing Us Down: The Invisible Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling by John Taylor Gatto
The Christian Home School by Gregg Harris
Teach Your Own by John Holt
The Right Choice: Homeschooling by Chris Klicka
Home Grown Kids by Dr. Raymond and Dorothy Moore
Christian Home Educator’s Curriculum Manual (for Elementary grades and Junior/ High School) by Cathy Duffy
Home School, High School, and Beyond by Beverly Adams-Gordon
The Three R’s (booklets on reading/writing/arithmetic for grades K-3) by Dr. Ruth Beechick
You CAN Teach Your Child Successfully (for grades 4-8) by Dr. Ruth Beechick
How to Create Your Own Unit Study by Valerie Bendt
How to Tutor by Samuel Blumenfield
The Whole-Hearted Child by Clay and Sally Clarkson
How to Homeschool: A Practical Approach by Gayle Graham
Teaching Children by Diane Lopez
For the Children’s Sake by Susan S. Macaulay
Homeschooling the High Schooler (Volumes 1, 2, & 3) by Diana McAlister and Candice Oneschak
Schoolproof by Mary Pride
The Big Book of Home Learning by Mary Pride
What Your Child Needs to Know When by Robin Scarlata
A Survivors Guide to Homeschooling by Luanne Shackelford and Susan White
The Way They Learn by Cynthia Tobias
The Home School Manual by Ted Wade
NATHHAN (for parents of special needs children) - (206). 857. 4257, na[email protected]
Practical Homeschooling - (800).346.6322, [email protected]
The Teaching Home - (800).395.7760