Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Homeschooling Methods

It seems like this time of year a lot of moms are talking about homeschooling. A couple of friends whose children are a tad younger than mine have been especially interested in what I'm doing so I thought I'd share a few thoughts about methods, goals and expectations. I probably don't have time to write about all of that today!
I think it's really important, if you are seriously considering homeschooling at some point, to take the time to look into educational methodology. It's sort of a hobby of mine and I could read about it endlessly! However I think that for most homeschooling parents it's an important step in educating themselves and making an informed decision. There are several books by Mary Pride that are very helpful, one would be Mary Prides' Guide to Getting Started in Homeschooling.
The educational methods I am aware of are these:
The Co-Op or Virtual Homeschooling
This is a ideal for the family who doesn't have the time, confidence or resources to do 100% of the teaching at home. This would be more expensive then just homeschooling but less expensive then a private school. I've seen this work very successfully and I've also seen this turn into a nightmare. There are several different ways to take advantage of the Homeschool Co-op. One way option is for the student to go to classes one or two days a week and but they do their assignments at home under the supervision of a parent, Veritas is a Christian Classical Homeschool Co-Op which some of my peers attended. Another way is to have all of the material sent to you, you supervise the completion of assignments and send the work back for grading. This is especially good for the college-bound high schooler because they will usually receive a transcript and diploma. Christian Liberty Acadamy is a non-accredited option, there are other accredited options available. A variation of this is the Virtual-School. Instruction and assignments are completed primarily online. Some virtual schools are high-school-only, others start and end at different levels. Agora is one of the most popular Cyber Charter Schools I've heard of and but it's only available is Pennsylvania A few virtual schools I've found by doing an Internet search are The Internet Homeschool which is K-12 and the Georgia Virtual Acadamy which is currently K-8 and is part of a lagrer network called K12 also check out The Southern Baptist Acadamy K-12 Online Homeschool and Morning Star Acadamy. Bob Jones University Press also has a lot options for homeschoolers.
The Classroom at Home
This would be ideal for the family who is transitioning into or out of a class room environment. The best way to go about implementing this method is to buy an entire curriculum set. ABeka, Christian Liberty Press, Bob Jones, and LifePac are some popular options for Christian Homeschoolers. You can get these online, at a homeschool supply store or educational supply store. I'd recommend ordering samples/previews before you buy the whole thing. You can also do this by collecting an assortment of textbooks and workbooks.
The Classical Method
This is a good method for the family who plans on homeschooling their children K-12, it is also good for the family who thrives on structure and routine. It's often stereotyped as being primarily rote memorization and parroting off latin conjugation chants. Memorization is a big part of the first stage of classical education under the assumption that young children like memorization and the accumulation of raw facts. I've found this to be true of my Beth. Her favorite class is memorization and she just loves rattling off her Animal Classification list. It's not a lot of fun for me until I see how proud she is of herself and listen to her recite it for her Daddy the moment he walks in the door!!
Classical education consists of three four-year stages. The Grammar or Poll-Parrott Stage (which is focused on the accumulation of information), The Logic Stage (which is focused on the assessment of information) and The Rhetoric Stage (which is focused on the communication of information). The Well Trained Mind is what I use as the backbone of my curriculum, there are many many other books available that give a "how to" of classical homeschooling. There are also an increasing number of resources available to pull off classical homeschooling without much more effort than any other method. One such resource is Canon Press. The focus is literary/historical.
The Charlotte Mason Method
This is another hugely popular method, it is generally less structured and is characterized by "Living Books". Basically most of education is done by observation and narration. For example you would sit down and read a book together, or with an older student they would go off and read a book from a list of great books, then you would talk about it. Or you would take your child on a nature walk observing what you see - learning to recognize specials of trees, plants insects etc. It's a really awesome way to homeschool, especially if your family is more free-spirited and eclectic. A great resource for learning more about this method is Ambleside Online . A good resource for implementing a Mason method of homeschooling is Sonlight Curriculum This is another method that is best for the family that plans to be homeschooling their children K-12. The focus is literary/scientific/historical.
Un-Schooling/Unit Study
This is a method I am least familiar with and is definitely for the Homeschool-Only family. It is based on the assumption that institutionalized education is destructive to children and homeschooling should be the polar opposite. It's about cultivating the love of learning and is one of the most child/interest-led of the methods. For more information on Un-Schooling here is a helpful website. This is usually the least expensive method of homeschooling but would suit the most free-spirited family. The focus is scientific/historical.
The Mason, Classical and UnSchooling methods are ideal if your intention is to homeschool K-12. If there is a possibility of your children going to school, especially to a public school, it would be a good idea to keep an eye on your State's educational standards and also to have your child tested every year with a standardized test. There are lots of standardized testing options for homeschoolers, one of the most popular is the Iowa. They can also both be tweaked to fit your family's personality. The Classical method is sterotypically very intense and for the over-achiever-homeschooler. But it doesn't have to be. You can take it easy and make it relaxed and still have a classical homeschool. Also you can tweak the the Charlotte Mason method to be more structured, if that is what your family needs and add more standardized material to your Unschooling curriculum. That is the beauty of homeschooling!
Please feel free to comment with more resources and information! Hope this was helpful.

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