Saturday, 1 October 2011

Home Education Styles

I've been thinking recently about the different styles of home education and which one, or combination, is right for our family. Some home education methods include:

  • Traditional/school like/curriculum in a box
  • Autonomous/natural learning/unschooling
  • Unit studies
  • Charlotte Mason
  • Steiner
  • Montessori
  • Classical
  • Computer based
  • Eclectic

You can read up more on any of these styles on the Internet, or download a summary here

I have just read some of this book:

I have also been reading up about the Charlotte Mason Method. These two methods have a lot in common. They both rely heavily on quality literature, not text books but real, living books. R in particular loves reading and learns masses from reading books either with an adult or to himself. I want to include even more reading into our home education. Both methods advocate the use of narration - having the child repeat back what they have learnt from reading. This can take the form of an oral narration, written work or other physical recording. See some narration suggestions here. Although we discuss what we have read I have not tried narration before. I hope to try out the method in the near future. My only reservation is that it may make reading tedious and if this happens I will not continue with it.

One aspect of the Charlotte Mason method that I do not like, is the assumption that children will learn to write and spell just by reading literature. We currently use more traditional methods for reading and writing such as the Jolly Grammar program, and I plan to continue with this.

When it comes to maths we use traditional, computer and hands on methods. I also find that lots of maths is picked up in an autonomous way through everyday activities and conversations. R is interested in large numbers and infinity.

Science in classical education is mainly learnt from books. Whilst this has its place I think science should be more practical. Charlotte Mason education teaches about natural science through nature walks and the keeping of a nature journal. This is something we have done in the past and I would like to implement it again soon. However Charlotte Mason education does not adequately cover the other sciences such as physics and chemistry. Classical education promotes the teaching of the concrete everyday biological sciences in the younger years, followed by chemistry and lastly the most abstract science; physics. This seems like a sensible idea to me. Currently we teach science using a topic approach. This is similar to the unit study method but differs in one important way; the connections within the topic are natural and relevant, we do not try to connect every subject to the topic in what can turn out to be arbitrary ways. Science is also easy for the children to pick up in an autonomous way through conversations, observations and play.

The classical and Charlotte Mason methods also seem weak on the arts. The classical method even suggests that arts be left till the later years, if there is time for them. I think this is wrong. We tend to incorporate arts into other topics, especially into culture. However we have been doing some specific traditional art activities from the Drawing With Children book. The Charlotte Mason method does however incorporate the study of artists and composers. We have completed an artist study in the past and I would like to try this again soon. The children also listen to a variety of music and attend music lessons.

We have not covered a great deal of history yet, probably because I have very little knowledge in this area. I recently purchased this book, also by Susan Wise Bauer:

I plan to use this resource, its companion activity book and others in the series to cover history (and some geography) using the classical/Charlotte Mason method. The book is great reading, aimed at children but not dumbed down in any way. The activities book suggests lots of ways to add hands on lessons. Check back soon to see how we go!

We tend to cover geography culture and computing, as topics interwoven with other subjects (unit studies method), but I would like to bring more reading and narration into this area too.

The one thing that none of the home education methods seems to mention is sports and fitness. Currently we cover this with swimming lessons, outside play and informal team games with friends.

So currently we are using an eclectic method, with lots of book based learning and mini topics. How does it work for you?

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