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How Homeschooling Works

Homeschooling Methods

Photo courtesy A to Z Home's Cool
A homeschooler getting some schoolwork done

­For many people, homeschooling calls to mind an image o­f three or four children seated around a kitchen table feverishly writing in workbooks while Mom stands nearby. W­hile this might be a reality in some homes, there is no typical homeschool day. With several philosophies or schools of thought on the topic, there's as much variety to the homeschool methods and practices used as to the­ families that are using them. Let's take a look at some of these methods.

Structured Homeschooling
Also known as the "School-at-home" or "Traditional" approach, this is exactly what it sounds like -- an environment that is similar to what the student would find in a traditional school setting. The parent, taking the role of "teacher," utilizes curriculum close or identical to what the student would be following in a traditional public or private school. With this method, parents can purchase packaged curriculum materials that include everything from student and teacher texts to assignment guides, workbooks and tests.

For examples of boxed-curriculum, see Laurel Springs School, Calvert School or Keystone National High School.

Classical Education
This approach is based around two main principles:

  • There are three phases or stages of learning, known as the trivium, that build upon each other:
    • Grammar - "Grammar-school-aged" students focus on memorization and fact gathering.
    • Logic - "Middle-school-aged" students focus on critical thinking -- putting the pieces of information they've gathered into context.
    • Rhetoric - "High-school-aged" students evaluate information and are able to formulate an articulate discussion of this information.
  • These learning phases are language-focused, dependent on the written and spoken word, as opposed to image-based learning that uses still and moving images (such as photos, video or film).

­For a thorough explanation of this method of study and how to implement it, see the book "The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education" by Jessie Wise and Susan Wise Bauer.

Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.

- John Dewey

The Montessori Method

­Based on the research and writing of Maria Montessori, this method sees the child as both teacher and student. Learning is seen as a natural, self-directed process. The principles of this method focus on what Montessori called the "absorbent mind." The child is free to learn at his/her own pace by interacting with and responding to the environment. The parent or teacher, acting as "keeper of the environment," is supposed to create an engaging setting that encourages the child to explore and react with the surroundings. For younger students, this even includes providing child-sized learning tools such as small chairs and tables. Montessori's work, "The Montessori Method," can be viewed online at the University of Pennsylvania Digital Library.