Being new to homeschooling, I have been doing a LOT of research over the past few years in an attempt to learn as much as possible. But the whole “teaching style” question has been a major struggle for me. For those that don’t know what they are, let me give you a broad strokes run down of some of the more common homeschool teaching styles.
Traditional is pretty much what you would think of if you grew up in a public school environment. There are textbooks, workbooks, and tests. The student learns the information, does the workbook lesson, and takes a test. This style appears to be particularly good for those wanting a very structured environment. It’s also less teacher intensive than other methods. But keep in mind it could leave you doing a lot of grading.
This one is based on 3 stages of development, called the trivium. Younger children start in the grammar stage doing primarily memory work. This is usually through the ages of around 6-9. Next is the logic stage. In this stage your teaching them heavily how to apply logic. This goes through about age 13. The next phase would be rhetoric. This is where you would begin having them communicate persuasively. This style really emphasizes teaching students how to think.
3. Charlotte Mason
Based on the work of Charlotte Mason, a British educator in the late 1800s; this method focuses greatly on learning through literature, and the use of living books. Living books are usually a narrative of the subject you’re studying that will pull the student in and reach their emotions. The approach also involves an emphasis on living what you’re learning.
4. Unit Studies
This is a little self-explanatory. Basically you have a specific subject matter that you’re studying and make all of your school work for the unit relate as much as possible to that one topic. This is pretty teacher intensive and does require a lot of planning.
The extreme version of this is that you have no curriculum at all. You let you’re children lead the way, and choose what they’re interested in, the dive wholly into that. This style focuses a lot on learning from life experiences.
Which really just means you do a little of everything. This method actually isn’t regularly mentioned, but from what I understand is used a lot.
Throughout my research, and after various talks I have watched, I had started to get the feeling that I absolutely HAD to choose one of the first five methods; and if didn’t, then I was doing something wrong. Now, to be fair, a major pro of choosing a particular method is that it’s very helpful when choosing curriculum. A lot of curriculum will tell you what method it follows. Many people say that when you start learning about each of the styles, one will start to speak to you, and you feel called to go in that direction.
After all of my research, and a lot of soul searching, I just don’t feel like we actually fit anywhere in those first five. But here I was feeling like I had to choose, it was something I was supposed to do. Well, I say “nuts to that!” I’m doing it my own way. The point of homeschooling was for us to be able to do what’s best for our children and our family. So that is exactly what I am going to do. Because it’s important to find what truly works for everyone. As a teacher you have to choose what you can do well, and are interested in, so you don’t get burnt out. You have to really know yourself and know your own strengths and weaknesses, because if you’re unhappy, that’s going to translate to your kids. And I also know my son. I know him so well. I know how to choose what will work best for him. So here we are, happily in the eclectic category and paving our own way as usual; because I like and dislike so many things about each style, I want to be able pick and choose.
Sure, this may make it more difficult for me to put together curriculum as the kids get older, but the wonderful thing is that I have learned a lot about each method and maybe that will help with my curriculum hunting. Another good thing is that I, myself, never want to stop learning, and this gives me an opportunity to learn and explore. So, here’s what I say to all of you parents who are struggling with this too: Go with your gut, and never stop learning.