Posts Tagged ‘Unit Studies’

Charlotte Mason Isn’t Tricky

Dear Reader,

I had a very small new idea. Charlotte Mason isn’t tricky. I don’t think we would have hidden kids’ vegetables in their brownies. She would have wanted them to like vegetables and to know they like vegetables. She didn’t hide education under other forms — games and the like. She didn’t try and sneak it in. She gives quality materials straight out and expects kids to like them, yes, even Shakespeare and Beethoven and Monet. She was definitely opposed to what we call unit studies (the equivalent was Herbartian education in her day) and I don’t think she would have approved of anything along the lines of “learn  . . . through playing Mine Craft.” She was much more of a straight shooter than that. The reason is simple: if you put okra in your brownies, the kids learn they like brownies, not that okra can be pleasant. If you put your education in Mine Craft, they learn they like MIne Craft, not that it can be fun to do science or math.

And that’s my little big thought of the day.

Nebby

Homeschooling Resources, by Approach

Dear Reader,

If you have taken my quiz to find your homeschooling style, you are now wondering what to do with that information. Where do you begin? Well, simply put, you read, read anything and everything you can find about any approaches that seem to be a good fit for you or which just intrigue you. To help you in that endeavor, I am providing below a resource list for each approach to get you started.

Happy Reading!

Nebby

Homeschooling Resources, by Approach

Robinson Curriculum

The Robinson Curriculum was designed by one man, Dr. Art Robinson, in the 1990s. As such, there is pretty much one place to find out about it, his website:

http://www.robinsoncurriculum.com

Moore Method Homeschooling

The Moore Method was developed by Raymond and Dorothy Moore, also, I believe, in the 90s. (It is not to be confused with another Moore Method used in universities and developed by Robert Lee Moore.) The Bible (if you’ll pardon the expression) for this method is their book:

The Successful Homeschool Family Handbook by Dr. Raymond and Dorothy Moore

You can also find them online at:

http://www.moorefoundation.com (seems to be identical to http://www.moorehomeschooling.com)

Ruth Beechick’s Approach to Homeschooling

Ruth Beechick has been writing about education since at least the early 1980s and has many books including You Can Teach Your Child Successfully, The Three R’s and A Biblical Home Education.

Advocates of her approach can be found online at:

http://www.homehearts.com

“Ruth Beechick 101” by Sarah MacKenzie at http://www.amongstlovelythings.com

Unit Studies

Unit Studies is more of a way to do schooling that can be combined with other approaches, notably Ruth Beechick’s and the Moore Method. I do think it has its own presuppositions, though, so I include it among my list of approaches. If you Google “unit studies,” you will get a long list of sites with unit studies prepared for you. If you want to read more about the how and why of unit studies, try these:

http://www.unitstudy.com

“The Joy and Ease of Learning Through Child-Led Unit Studies” by Kandi Chong at http://www.besthomeschooling.org

You can read my thoughts in unit studies here and here.

Montessori

Maria Montessori was an educator in the very early 1900s. You will still find many Montessori schools today, particularly for the elementary years. She wrote a couple of books: Dr. Montessori’s Own Handbook, The Montessori Method,  and The Absorbent Mind.

Other books on her approach include Teach Me to Do It Myself by Pat Thomas and How to Raise an Amazing Child the Montessori Way by Tim Seldin.

Some of the resources I made use of when learning about the Montessori approach are:

Montessori Education” from Wikipedia

Montessori FAQ’s” from http://www.michaelolaf.net

Montessori Homeschooling” from http://www.montessori.edu

You can also read my post on Montessori education here.

Waldorf

Waldorf education was created in 1919 by Rudolf Steiner. Christopherus Homeschooling identifies itself as “Waldorf-inspired” and Oak Meadow, another curriculum which can be used independently or as a distance learning option, also has some roots in the Waldorf approach.

Books on Waldorf include:

Understanding Waldorf Education by Jack Petrash

Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne and Lisa Ross

The Waldorf Homeschool Handbook by Donna Ashton

Websites:

“Oak Meadow and Waldorf” from http://www.oakmeadow.com

An Introduction to Waldorf Homeschooling” by Donna Simmons from www.ChristopherusHomeschooling.org

http://www.waldorfworks.org

http://www.waldorfanswers.com

Enki

Enki is an offshoot of Waldorf, with some Montessori elements as well, which was developed by Beth Sutton in 1989.

It can be found at:

www.enkieducation.org

Enki Education” from http://www.treeoflifehomeschool.blogspot.com

Classical/Great Books

When we speak of “classical” education, we are really talking abut the modern classical movement (how’s that for an oxymoron?). Based upon the  classical education on the Middle Ages, it was resurrected by Dorothy Sayers in 1948 in her essay “The Lost Tools of Learning.” The main expositions of it (in its secular form) are the Core Knowledge Foundation created by E. D. Hirsch and the “Great Books” movement of Mortimer Adler.

Books and articles on classical education:

The Lost Tools of Learning by Dorothy L. Sayers (and my review here)

The False Promise of Classical Education” by Lisa VanDamme at http://www.theobjectivestandard.com

Paideia Program: An Educational Syllabus by Mortimer Adler, as well as many other books

The very-popular-among-homeschoolers series What Your …. Grader Needs to Know is actually put out by E.D. Hirsch of the Core Knowledge Foundation. Hirsch also has other books including The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy.

Websites:

http://www.coreknowledge.org

http://www.thegreatideas.org

My post on modern classical education can be found here.

Christian Classical

The go-to book for the modern Christian classical movement, which also finds its origins in Sayers’ article, is The Well-Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise.

Other books:

The Case for Christian Classical Education by Douglas Wilson

The Liberal Arts Tradition by Ravi Jain and Kevin Clark

Websites:

http://www.circeinstitute.org

http://www.triviumpursuit.com

http://www.accsedu.org

http://www.veritaspress.com

biblicalhomeschooling.org/classical

My article on Christian classical is here.

Charlotte Mason

If you want to truly understand Charlotte Mason’s approach, you need to read her 6 volume series on Home Education. It can be found online here.

Having said which, Charlotte’s writing can be a little hard to comprhened initially if you are not sued to reading her more dense late-19th century style. I recommend beginnign with one or more of the following books:

A Charlotte Mason Education by Catherine Levinson

For the Children’s Sake by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay

A Charlotte Mason Companion by Karen Andreola

After getting this introduction, try one of Charlotte’s books. Many recommend starting with the sixth volume. I disagree. I think that Charlotte has reached a different point by her 6th volume. It is written after WWI and her sense of urgency has increased. I recommend reading volumes 1, 2 and 3 in order. Volume 4 is a wonderful, wonderful book all people should read, but it is not inherently about educating children. It is more like an owner’s manual for your mind. Volume 5 is a collection of different sorts of essays, with a more practical twist than most of her books, and can also be left by the wayside initially.

Websites:

http://www.simplycharlottemason.com – free curriculum guides, discussion forums, articles and more

http://www.amblesideonline.com – also a free curriculum guide, Ambleside is a little more intense than SCM

http://www.charlottemasonhelp.com

and, of course, this blog 🙂

Thomas Jefferson Education

TJEd is the brain-child of Oliver DeMille, created in the 1990s. He has a number of books including A Thomas Jefferson Education and A Thomas Jefferson Education Home Companion.

George Wyeth University uses the principles of TJEd; their website is gw.edu.

Websites:

http://www.tjed.org

http://www.tjed-mothers.com

My post on TJEd is here.

Biblical Principle Approach

The Principle Approach, or Biblical Principle Approach (BPA), is the work of the Foundation for American Christian Education. Their curriculum is called the Noah Plan.

Websites:

http://www.face.net

The Principle Approach” from http://www.homehearts.com

Find my initial post on BPA here.

Reggio Emilia

Reggio Emilia is an approach which developed in Italy after WWII.

Books:

Working in the Reggio Way by Julianne Wurm and Celia Genishi

The Hundred Languages of Children by Carolyn Edwards and Lella Gandini

Bringing Reggio Emilia Home by Louise Boyd Cadwell and Lella Gandini

Websites:

http://www.aneverydaystory.com

http://www.reggioalliance.org

Accelerated Learning

AL is an approach was is used for adults in business and other areas but has also been applied to homeschooling.

Books:

Accelerated Learning Techniques for Students by Joe McCullough

The Accelerated Learning  Handbook by David Meier

Websites:

http://www.acceleratedlearning.com

http://www.alcenter.com

http://www.newhorizons.org

http://www.superlearning.com

Unschooling

John Holt is the original guru of unschooling. His books include How Children Learn and Teach Your Own: The John Holt Book of Homeschooling.

Other Books:

The Unschooling Handbook by Mary Griffith

Big Book of Unschooling by Sandra Dodd

Free to Learn by Peter Gray (and my reactions to it here and here)

Websites:

http://www.unschooling.org

http://www.unschooling.com

http://www.johnholtgrows.com

“What is Unschooling?” by Earl Stevens at http://www.naturalchild.org

My post on Unschooling is here.

Quiz: Find Your Homeschooling Style

Dear Reader,

One of the pieces of advice I always give new homeschoolers is to think about what your approach is. To aid in this endeavor, I have developed the quiz below.

Why should you take this quiz?

  • Ideas have consequences. Even if you have ever thought about how learning happens or what your goals for your child are, the person who wrote your curriculum has. Those ideas will play out in what is taught and how it is taught. This quiz will help you make sure that what you are using fits your personal philosophy (even if you didn’t know you had one).
  • You are more likely to hit your goal if you know what it is and use the right tool for the job.  If you haven’t thought about what your goals are, this quiz will help you start down that road.
  • You’ll be a more confident homeschooler (and better able to fend off attacks by well-meaning friends and relatives) if you know what you are doing and why. And when your kids some day ask why they need to learn (grammar, algebra, . . . you fill in the blank) you’ll have an answer for them.
  • Your friend’s, sister-in-law’s, neighbor’s goals might not be yours. Never take curriculum advice if you don’t know the approach of the person giving it.
  • There are oodles of homeschooling materials out there. They may be published by lovely homeschooling families (or not), but they are still businesses trying to earn your money. If you are a new homeschooler, this quiz will help you narrow down your choices. If you are a veteran, it will help you make sure you are on the road that is best for you. You may even find approaches you have never heard of or be led to consider new ideas.

How is this quiz different from other ones?

  • I have included no less than 16 approaches to education. (Find them all listed in this Google doc.)
  • I look at not just what is learned and how but also at the big ideas behind each approach — what do they say about human nature?

How do I use the quiz?

  • First, print out the quiz (link opens a Google doc) and circle your answers. With the exception of the last question, you should try to pick the one answer that best fits your ideas.
  • Then print out my list of approaches to homeschooling (again, found in this Google doc). This will be your score sheet.
  • Now read through the answers. For each one make a tally mark or check next to the philosophies that matched your answers.
  • Look back at your score sheet. Are there clear winners and losers? Now is the time to narrow down your choices. Pick a few that seem to be your best matches or that you find intriguing and read up on them.

Finding resources:

One way to start is to look back through all the answers to the quiz. If, for example, Reggio Emilia showed up as a good fit for you, skim back through and see how that approach would answer each question. You can also use the quiz to compare philosophies — if this one fits you for one question, but that one does for another, ask yourself which is most important to you. Many homeschoolers, consciously or unconsciously, combine approaches — is there a way your favorites can be combined?

For a quick overview of each philosophy, check out my bullet points post here. I also have a series covering the philosophies behind many of these approaches which you can find here (I’ll warn you though, I am biased as a reformed Christian and an aficionado of Charlotte Mason’s methods, but hopefully my posts can still give you a start even if you don’t agree with my underlying assumptions).

Want to know more? Check out this resources post which lists websites and books on each philosophy. And if you are looking for even more questions to help develop a philosophy of education, check out this post (but fair warning — it may make your head spin!).

IMG_1066

Questions? Problems?

This document is a work in progress and I expect to emend it over time. Have I missed an approach? Misrepresented one? Do you just not know what to make of your results? Leave a comment or contact me. I am happy to help or to explain why I think a philosophy fits in one category or another.

And now, without further ado . . .

 

Find your philosophy of education:

Questions for new (or not so new) homeschoolers

Part I: What We Learn

Is there a core body of knowledge everyone needs?

A. Absolutely, naming the Presidents in order, reciting the periodic table, and/or knowing the classics of western literature — those are goals I have for my kids.

B. They need a basic foundation (basic math, reading and writing skills), but beyond those education should be more individualized.

C. Not at all.

D. I don’t think there is one core body of knowledge, but some books/art/music/etc. are certainly more valuable than others.

What shall we study?

A. I’m looking for a fairly traditional curriculum, possibly something that lines up with the schools.

B. I’m in favor of a balanced, broad-based education with an emphasis on the liberal arts (history, literature).

C. We need to study the foundations of our civilization — the good books, speeches, etc. of our past.

D. STEM is where it’s at today.

E. The arts are our main emphasis.

F. I don’t have an agenda.

The role of the arts in education is  . . .

A. Optional or non-essential.

B. Secondary.

C. As a core subject

D. As the cornerstone of education.

Hands-on or Hands-off?

A. Handicrafts, physical education, kinetic activities are all great — after our real work is done.

B. Hands-on activities, manipulatives, and physical activities are secondary.

C. Yes, please. Hands-on and/or physical activities are vital for learning.

D. Children learn through free play.

E. Real work is a complement to schoolwork.

Part II: How We Learn

How do you measure learning?

A. Grades and/or standardized tests help me know what my child is learning or needs to learn.

B. I prefer a non-standardized measure at the end of every unit or every year (think broad essay questions at the end of a term, not multiple choice tests).

C. Big projects at the end of a unit or a year help consolidate learning.

D. Learning can’t be measured and doesn’t need to be.

How do you motivate them?

A. Bottom line — schoolwork has to be done, liking it is a bonus but is not necessary.

B. Motivation needs to be internal. The desire to learn should be cultivated.

C. The desire to learn comes naturally to children.

D. Kids learn better when they enjoy their schooling. I try to make schoolwork enjoyable or even fun.

E. I don’t motivate; I inspire.

Learning should be . . .

A. Teacher-directed: Parent/teacher knows best

B. Curriculum-directed : The material to learn is provided but the student works more independently

C. Child-led: Let them follow their interests

D. A blend: the teacher provides a framework within which the student has freedom to choose.

The role of the teacher . . .

A. Is to impart knowledge.

B. Is to select the best materials.

C. Is to be a mentor.

D. Is to be a guide or facilitator.

E. Is to be an example.

F. Is to help find resources.

G. Is to create the right environment for learning.

H. Is to present the materials in the best way.

I. Is minimal. You can’t force learning.

What parts of the personality/person are involved in education?

A. Primarily the mind

B. Hands with mind: the creative side must be appealed to as well as the mind

C. Whole body- mind, physical body, feelings and senses

Early childhood education?

A. Absolutely. Let’s get going here.

B. No. Delay formal learning.

What’s on your homeschool bookshelf?

A. I like textbooks and worksheets. They help me know what my kid is learning and that he is learning.

B. Living/great books all the way.

C. Books? I think there are some propping up the laptop.

D. Hands-on materials, manipulatives, etc.

Now close your eyes and peek into the door of your ideal classroom. Who’s in there?

A. A teacher standing up in front of a class of students

B. One teacher and one student

C. A group with multiple students interacting

D. A teacher sitting amid a small group of students (think a rabbi and his disciples)

E. A true community with multiple adults and children

F. The student alone

G. Classroom? What classroom?

Part III: Who We Are

Ages and Stages

A. Children go through different developmental stages as they grow into adulthood and their education should change with them.

B. There are different stages — but it is more than growth. Children are fundamentally different from adults and evolve into what they will be.

C. Children are “born persons”; they are whole people and how we educate does not need to change as they age.

Encountering the Real World:

A. Part of the reason we homeschool is to protect our kids. No, they are not locked in their rooms, but it’s our job to protect their innocence as long as we can.

B. The best environment takes real things and puts them in kid-sizes and contexts.

C. Children need to experience the real world and interact with real things, with some consideration for what’s age-appropriate.

Choosing the Good and Rejecting the Evil

(The Bible uses this phrase to describe the age at which a child has discernment. We can think of when and if a child knows right from wrong on a moral level but also of when he is able to tell good from bad in other ways — Does he know what is edible or does he put everything in his mouth? Can he choose what is right or best for him or should the choice be trusted to those who care for him?)

A. It’s a parent’s job to train up their children in the way they should go. It’s ultimately our responsibility to make sure they get what they need.

B. The child has a natural taste for the good but is not inherently good.

C. The parent/teacher’s role is to help mold or shape the personality.

D. I don’t impose my will on my kids. They will gravitate towards what they need.

E. My children are evolving into who they should be.

F. Given the right environment, children will develop rightly.

The Nature of Children and What They Will Become:

A. Children are little adults in the making, something like apprentices. I have a picture in mind of what they should be and/or what they should know, and we move towards that goal.

B. “Children are born persons.” They grow in wisdom and knowledge but they are inherently whole people.

C. There is something fundamentally different about children. Childhood is a magical, special time of life.

Part IV: Why We Learn

Let’s talk goals. Finish this sentence: “I want my kids to . . . ” (Pick as many as you like; bonus points if you rank them):

A. Meet academic goals/be equipped for employment or higher education/have success.

B. Contribute to society.

C. Be leaders/make their mark on the world.

D. Be virtuous.

E. Have a love of learning.

F. Care.

G. Have lots of different interests or relationships.

H. Be responsible.

I. Find themselves.

J. Find their interests/passion.

K. Have meaningful lives.

L. Find (and fulfill) their calling.

M. Develop their potential.

N. Learn to think/learn how to learn.

O. Have wholeness.

P. To know God

 Evaluating Your Answers

Okay, now, are you all set? Have you done your best to answer all the questions? Good. Now the next step is to print out your score sheet and read through the comments below. (See the “how to take this quiz” section above.)

A few notes: Not every approach will come up for every question; sometimes an approach just doesn’t address a topic or I don’t have a good enough idea of what they would say for it. I have tried to go with the best, most representative answer for each one, but sometimes an approach will fall into more than one category.

Part I: What We Learn

Is there a core body of knowledge everyone needs?

A. Absolutely, naming the Presidents in order, reciting the periodic table, and/or knowing the classics of western literature — those are goals I have for my kids. Classical, school-at-home, Robinson curriculum, online/distance learning

B. They need a basic foundation (basic math, reading and writing skills) but beyond those education should be more individualized. Ruth Beechick’s approach, Moore

C. Not at all. Unschooling, Reggio Emilia, possibly AL

D. I don’t think there is one core body of knowledge, but some books/art/music/etc. are certainly more valuable than others. Charlotte Mason (CM), the Biblical Principle Approach (BPA), Thomas Jefferson Education (TJEd)

What shall we study?

A. I’m looking for a fairly traditional curriculum, possibly something that lines up with the schools. School-at-home, Robinson, online/distance, possibly Moore

B. I’m in favor of a balanced, broad-based education with an emphasis on the liberal arts (history, literature). CM, Classical, TJEd, Robinson, Waldorf (for high school level)

C. We need to study the foundations of our civilization — the good books, speeches, etc. of our past. TJEd, BPA, possibly Classical

D. STEM is where it’s at today. Possibly online/distance

E. The arts are our main emphasis. Enki

F. I don’t have an agenda. Unschool, possibly Reggio Emilia and AL

The role of the arts in education is  . . .

A. Optional or non-essential. School-at-home, online/distance, Robinson

B. Secondary. Possibly Classical

C. As a core subject. CM, Waldorf, Accelerated Learning (AL), possibly Montessori, Reggio Emilia

D. As the cornerstone of education. Enki

Hands-on or Hands-off?

A. Handicrafts, physical education, kinetic activities are all great — after our real work is done. School-at-home, online/distance, possibly CM or Classical (see below), Robinson

B. Hands-on activities, manipulatives, and physical activities are secondary. Possibly CM or Classical. CM advocates handicrafts and physical exercise, but does not use hands-on projects as a part of learning. Classical does not require a hands-on approach, but my experience is that many use hands-on activities (filling in maps, creating lapbooks, etc.) as tools to learning.

C. Yes, please. Hands-on and/or physical activities are vital for learning. Montessori, Waldorf, Enki, Reggio Emilia, AL, possibly Unit Studies and Beechick

D. Children learn through free play. Unschool; CM also sees the value of free play (called “masterly inactivity”) in addition to more formal schooling.

E. Real work is a complement to schoolwork. Moore

Part II: How We Learn

How do you measure learning?

A. Grades and/or standardized tests help me know what my child is learning or needs to learn. School-at-home, Classical, Robinson Curriculum, often online/distance, possibly Moore

B. I prefer a non-standardized measure at the end of every unit or every year (think broad essay questions at the end of a term, not multiple choice tests). CM

C. Big projects at the end of a unit or a year help consolidate learning. Waldorf, Beechick, Reggio Emilia, Enki, BPA, possibly TJEd

D. Learning can’t be measured and doesn’t need to be. Unschooling

How do you motivate them?

A. Bottom line — schoolwork has to be done, liking it is a bonus but is not necessary. School-at-home, online/distance, Classical

B. Motivation needs to be internal. The desire to learn should be cultivated. TJEd, Moore Method, Robinson

C. The desire to learn occurs naturally in children. CM, Unschool

D.  Kids learn better when they enjoy their schooling. I try to make schoolwork enjoyable or even fun. Unit Studies, Beechick

E. I don’t motivate; I inspire. Montessori, to a lesser extent TJEd

Learning should be . . .

A. Teacher-directed: Parent/teacher knows best School-at-home, Classical, possibly Unit studies

B. Curriculum-directed : The material to learn is provided but the student works more independently Online/distance, Robinson  

C. Child-led: Let them follow their interests Unschooling, Reggio Emilia; many allow some degree of following one’s interests including Beechick, Waldorf (in high  school), BPA, AL, Moore; Unit Studies can be done in a child-led way

D. A blend: the teacher provides a framework within which the student has freedom to choose. CM, TJEd, Montessori, Waldorf, Moore (though these approaches may view the framework in very different ways)

The role of the teacher . . .

A. Is to impart knowledge. School-at-home, Classical, possibly Online/distance depending  the program

B. Is to select the best materials. CM, Robinson

C. Is to be a mentor. TJEd, BPA, possibly Unit Studies

D. Is to be a guide or facilitator. Montessori, Reggio Emilia, Waldorf (in the later years)

E. Is to be an example. Enki, Waldorf (in the early years), Moore

F. Is to help find resources. Reggio Emilia, Unschooling, possibly Unit Studies

G. Is to create the right environment for learning. Montessori, Beechick, AL, Robinson

H. Is to present the materials in the best way. Unit Studies

I. Is minimal. You can’t force learning.  Unschooling, Robinson, CM, possibly AL

What parts of the personality/person are involved in education?

A. Primarily the mind School-at-home, online/distance, Classical, CM (though handicrafts and PE are secondary), Moore (but with a practical work component as well), BPA, TJEd, Robinson

B. Hands with mind: the creative side must be appealed to as well as the mind Montessori, Unit Studies, Beechick, possibly Reggio Emilia

C. Whole body- mind, physical body, feelings and senses Waldorf, Enki, AL, possibly Reggio Emilia

Early childhood education?

A. Absolutely. Let’s get going here. School-at-home, Classical, and Robinson have provisions for early learning (before age 7 or 8).  Reggio Emilia, Montessori, Waldorf, and Enki all have learning at early ages but do not use what I would call “formal learning.”

B. No. Delay formal learning. CM delays formal learning till age 6 or 7. TJEd and Moore Method delay till age 8 (or later). Ruth Beechick omits pre-K and K. And, of course, unschooling never has (forced) formal learning.

What’s on your homeschool bookshelf?

A. I like textbooks and worksheets. They help me know what my kid is learning and that he is learning. School-at-home; Moore method and Classical may both use worksheets and textbooks, but in a limited way

B. Living/great books all the way. Classical (but may use textbooks and worksheets), CM, Beechick (but don’t be too “bookish”), BPA, TJEd, Robinson, Waldorf (in later years)

C. Books? I think there are some propping up the laptop. Online/distance

D. Hands-on materials, manipulatives, etc. Montessori, Waldorf (in early years), Enki, AL, Reggio Emilia, often Unit Studies

Now close your eyes and peek into the door of your ideal classroom. Who’s in there?

A. A teacher standing up in front of a class of students. Okay, this is hard to  achieve at home, but if it is your ideal, you may have a school-at-home mindset. Classical could work here too and they often have coops that provide a classroom setting. CM was also designed for a school setting as was Enki.

B. One teacher and one student. TJEd, Moore, and Beechick emphasize the one-on-one. In a homeschool setting, CM, classical and Enki can work this way. Many approaches will end up one-on-one or with a small group of students, depending on how many children you have.

C. A group with multiple students interacting AL

D. A teacher sitting amid a small group of students (think a rabbi and his disciples) BPA; I think Waldorf, Montessori, and Enki would also fit here.

E. A true community with multiple adults and children. Homeschoolers often pride themselves on being out among all different ages and kinds of people, but Reggio Emilia specifically emphasizes learning within the community.

F. The student alone. Online/distance and Robinson adapt well to this, whether your student wants to or has to work alone (due to other familial constraints). Moore has a slightly larger role for the parent but also a fair amount of working on one’s own.

G. Classroom? What classroom? Unschool

Part III: Who We Are

Ages and Stages

A. Children go through different developmental stages as they grow into adulthood and their education should change with them. Classical, TJEd, Montessori

B. There are different stages — but it is more than growth. Children are fundamentally different from adults and evolve into what they will be. Waldorf, Enki; I’m not sure if Reggio Emilia sees children as evolving into adults, but they also view them as unique, different creatures who “speak a hundred languages.”

C. Children are “born persons”; they are whole people and how we educate does not need to change as they age. Unschooling, CM

Encountering the Real World:

A. Part of the reason we homeschool is to protect our kids. No, they are not locked in their rooms, but it’s our job to protect their innocence as long as we can. Enki; Moore advocates being in the real world on some levels but is also very strongly family-centric

B. The best environment takes real things and puts them in kid-sizes and contexts. Montessori, possibly Waldorf for the early years

C. Children need to experience the real world and interact with real things, with some consideration for what’s age-appropriate. CM, AL, Moore (but see note on A above); Unschooling, as usual, can vary a lot from family to family but my feeling is that in principle it fits best here

Choosing the Good and Rejecting the Evil 

A. It’s a parent’s job to train up their children in the way they should go. It’s ultimately our responsibility to make sure they get what they need. School-at-home, Classical; possibly Unit Studies, Moore, BPA and Robinson

B. The child has a natural taste for the good but is not inherently good. CM

C. The parent/teacher’s role is to help mold or shape the personality. TJEd (though the role of the teacher is more to inspire or model than mold), Beechick; possibly Unit Studies, Moore and BPA

D. I don’t impose my will on my kids. They will gravitate towards what they need. Unschooling; my sense is that Reggio Emilia also fits best here — it has a very high view of the child as a “knowledge bearer”

E. My children evolving into who they should be. Enki, Waldorf, possibly Reggio Emilia

F. Given the right environment, children will develop rightly. Montessori, possibly AL

The Nature of Children and What They Will Become:

A. Children are little adults in the making, something like apprentices. I have a picture in mind of what they should be and/or what they should know, and we move towards that goal. School-at-home, Classical, Montessori, Moore, TJEd, probably Robinson and BPA

B. “Children are born persons.” They grow in wisdom and knowledge but they are inherently whole people. Unschool, CM, AL, possibly BPA and Robinson

C. There is something fundamentally different about children. Childhood is a magical, special time of life. Enki, Waldorf, Reggio Emilia

Part IV: Why We Learn

Let’s talk goals. Finish this sentence: “I want my kids to . . . ” (Pick as many as you like; bonus points if you rank them):

A. Meet academic goals/be equipped for employment or higher education/have success. School-at-home, online/distance, Moore, Robinson, AL, BPA, Classical

B. Contribute to society. Montessori, Enki, Classical, TJEd

C. Be leaders/make their mark on the world. TJEd, Montessori, BPA

D. Be virtuous. Christian Classical, TJEd, BPA

E. Have a love of learning. TJEd; to some extent CM and Moore

F. Care. CM, Enki

G. Have lots of different interests or relationships. CM, Enki; possibly also Waldorf

H. Be responsible. Moore

I. Find themselves. Unschool

J. Find their interests/passion. Beechick, Waldorf, Unschool

K. Have meaningful lives. Waldorf

L. Find (and fulfill) their calling. Waldorf, BPA

M. Develop their potential. AL, Reggio Emilia, Montessori

N. Learn to think/learn how to learn. Beechick, Robinson

O. Have wholeness. Enki

P. To know God. CM (I am sure other Christian homeschoolers might say the same but I am encouraged to include this as a specific goal CM had by this recent article)

 

 

 

 

 

Unit Studies: Additional Thoughts

Dear Reader,

I had a few more thoughts on the topic of unit studies that didn’t fit in my previous post.

The first is that the main argument I have heard for unit studies is that the kids and moms love them. There are a few unit study based curricula with very ardent followings. And while we all would like to see our kids enthusiastic about their schoolwork, I am not sure that this alone is a reason to follow this method. Enthusiasm and even interest do not equal learning.

Charlotte Mason dealt with similar issue in debating the educational approach that dominated in her era, the Herbartian method. From an article by Lynn Bruce at Ambleside Online we find:

“Because lifelong interest is the Herbartian goal, taking precedence over what he learns, and thus he must learn in a way that creates interest.”

But she goes on to argue that interest is not the same as the life-long relationships that Charlotte Mason sought to produce in the child. In fact, Lynn Bruce says that an approach like Herbart’s is “stunting” for the children. The teacher is stretched (or the curriculum writer perhaps) but the child is not. In her words,

“But a clever teacher does not necessarily produce a clever student.”

“How do I get my child enthusiastic about school?” is actually something I hear moms ask pretty frequently. The caution here is that enthusiasm alone is not learning.

The second issue I wanted to touch on is what is called in The Parents’ Review the correlation of lessons (read the article from 1899 here on Ambleside Online). Unit studies take correlation to an extreme, making every subject fit the theme for weeks at a time. The opposite extreme would be to jump around from subject to subject with no unifying principles at work, perhaps even taking history in non-sequential chunks. This other extreme can leave the child unable to see how things relate at all. The question is where in the middle we want to be. So I think it is not wrong to study a scientist or an artist from the time period you are studying in history. But it is also good to throw in one or two things at least that have nothing to do with the subject at hand (so to speak). Not only does it give the brain new tracks to run on, it allows connections that might otherwise never be found. To my mind, planning all subjects along a common theme is like telling a child they can only play with one kind of toy at a time. So much more imagination comes forward when the barbies are allowed to be combined with the wooden blocks or the little people and duplo sets are thrown together. So it can be with school subjects.

Nebby

Approaches to Homeschool: Unit Studies

Dear Reader,

I said I wasn’t going to cover things in this series that are more approach than philosophy and included unit studies in that category. But then I ran across two wonderful posts from The Common Room on unit studies (see here and here).

Over time as my kids have gotten older and I have tried to use more and more of Miss Mason’s approach in our school, we have done fewer and fewer projects related to our studies. The Common Room articles, which you really should read, tell why better than I could. They idea behind unit studies seems to be to make the material more interesting to children by tying the subject  matter to hands-on projects and by tying one topic to another. An example might be studying ducks while reading The Story of Ping. But Charlotte Mason would say that this is like pre-chewing your children’s food for them. The parent or teacher makes the connections and not the student. And this is detrimental to learning. We remember more when we make the connections ourselves and don’t have them pre-made for us. I would add that most unit studies I have seen involve reading the same thing multiple times which does not fit with the habit of perfect attention the first time that the Mason approach strives for.

But what I really want to discuss in this series, a topic which I think does not get enough attention, are the assumptions behind the educational philosophies. So while I am not sure the unit studies are really a whole philosophy, I do think there are some implicit assumptions.

The questions I had said I was going to address are:

— What do they assume about how learning works?

— How do they view children?

— How do they view human nature?

— What do they believe is the goal of education?

I am not sure that I can answer all of these completely for unit studies (and that is why I call it more of an approach or a method than a philosophy). But I do think unit studies say something about children and the process of learning.

To answer the first question, then, I would say the unit studies see learning as more passive than I would. They place the burden on the teacher to teach rather than on the student to learn and make their own connections. My view would be that you cannot force anyone to learn; you can only present material but it is up to the student to take it in or not. Unit studies lead one to believe that if you just package things right the material will be taken in.

This leads us into the second question. I would say that unit studies underestimate children. They place more of a burden on the teacher to make the material interesting or to make connections between different areas. And in the process, they take something away from the children. They do not allow the children to make their own connections and they assume that kids must be entertained to learn. But if the teacher is able to make these connections and the student is not, doesn’t that say that we view our children as less? We are assuming that their faculties are not fully developed. And beyond that, we are robbing them of something. The child’s own personality does not come into play. Imagine a unit study in a class in 20 students. The teacher has decided what topics will be covered, what tangents will be explored and what projects will be done. In this class each child is expected to receive the same education. If the unit study works, they will all get the same information and impressions out of it because it is the teacher’s view they are receiving. But in an approach (like Charlotte Mason’s) which relies upon the student to make their own connections, each child comes to their own conclusions. Each personality reacts on its own to the material and comes to different conclusions. Each child becomes over time more of an individual and not less.

So what do unit studies say about human nature? I don’t think there are any huge statements here about the goodness of badness of our souls. But there is a movement towards sameness and a valuing of the teacher’s opinions over those of the students. And as such I think there is a diminishing of the child’s humanity. Unit studies tend to even out the differences between us rather than to appreciate each one’s uniqueness.

The goals of unit studies can vary. Some curricula seem to be more about values, others about academic learning. Unit studies are adaptable in this way so that they can be used with a number of different goals in mind. But at the end of the day (or the month or however long one spends on a particular unit) the idea seems to be that the children will learn the information that the teacher has selected.  The over-arching subject of the unit may be a noble idea like courage. But in the end it is an idea pre-selected and fed to the child. Bells and whistles are added in the form of projects completed. All this is to make the idea more palatable, to try to get the child to ingest it. But in the end we cannot force anyone else to swallow our ideas. And the child’s personality is somewhat diminished by being fed in this way.

These issues were also present in Charlotte Mason’s day. She argued against the Herbartian view of education (named for its proponent Johann Herbart). I am much indebted to this article from Ambleside Online about the Herbartian approach. I am not completely clear on all the philosophy behind Herbart’s approach, but it seems to have led to something much like our present-day unit studies with the burden on the teacher and the material synthesized for the student.

So I started out saying unit studies had not much philosophy behind them. And I think often those who use them do not have much of a philosophy behind their choice of this method. But there is a lot underlying them that we should consider.

Nebby

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