Before purchasing curriculum, a teaching method should be selected. There is no single curriculum approach that works for everyone. Make your choice based on the following considerations:
- The ages of your children.
- Your familiarity with the subject being taught.
- The number of children that you will be teaching.
- The time you have available to prepare and teach material.
- Your child’s abilities or special needs, and motivation level.
Take an honest assessment of your organizational skills. Get help from your spouse or close friends if you need to. Are you organized or disorganized, spontaneous or structured? The answers to these questions should have a significant impact on the type of teaching method that you select. For example, a disorganized teacher needs a curriculum that will do the organizing for her. If the teacher were naturally highly structured, she would be very successful with a more eclectic teaching method. Home educators can choose or combine elements of the following approaches
Textbook curricula have graded textbooks in each subject and follow a scope and sequence that covers each subject in daily increments for a 12-year, 180-days-a-year academic program. Teacher’s manuals, tests, and record-keeping materials are usually available. Workbooks allow more independent study and require minimal teacher preparation time and supervision. Most of the textbook and workbook programs used in private Christian schools are available to homeschoolers. Each publisher shares a distinct doctrinal perspective. This approach is the one that most of us are familiar with from our own days in public school. If your child is used to institutional school, then this is a good way to start. This method provides structure and reliability. Using the same publisher throughout the years will provide a good comprehensive education. Some examples of this type of approach are Bob Jones University Press, A Beka Books, Christian Liberty Press, Rod and Staff, Alpha and Omega, Christian Light Education.
In the Classical Approach, children are taught tools of learning, collectively known as the Trivium. The first stage, the Grammar Stage, covers ages 6-10 and focuses on reading, writing, spelling, and Latin and on developing observation, listening and memorization skills.
At ages 10-12, children’s independent or abstract thought signals the Dialectic Stage. Instead of suppressing the child’s tendency to argue, the teacher molds and shapes it by teaching logical discussion and debate, and how to draw correct conclusions and support them with facts.
The final Rhetoric Stage, at about age 15, seeks to produce a student who can use language, both written and spoken, eloquently and persuasively to express what he or she thinks. Hallmarks of the Classical Approach are the study of Latin from a young age and “conversation” with the great minds of the past through reading literature, essays, philosophy, theology, etc. Some examples of this type of approach are: Teaching the Trivium magazine by Harvey and Laurie Bluedorn, The Well Trained Mind by Susan Wise-Bauer.
Living Books, Whole Books, and Charlotte Mason Approach
These approaches are different, but contain many of the same features. They include involving children in real-life situations, allowing them to read really good books, as opposed to portions of really good books, ample creative play time, and respecting children as persons. One begins by teaching basic reading, writing and math skills, then exposing children to the best sources of knowledge for all other subjects, taking nature walks, observing wildlife, visiting museums and reading real books for subjects such as geography, history and literature. Narration and dictation of passages from books and discussion with parents are hallmarks of these methods. Some examples of this type of approach are: Charlotte Mason Study Guide, and Charlotte Mason Companion. Also The Whole-Hearted Child by Clay and Sally Clarkson.
Unit Study Approach
A unit study involves taking a theme or topic and delving into it deeply over a period of time, integrating language arts, science, social studies, math and fine arts as they apply. All subjects are blended together and studied around a common theme or project. Some advantages in using this method are that all ages can learn together, each at his or her own level. Planning time is reduced because subjects are not taught separately. Curiosity and independent thinking are generated. There are no time restraints. Intense study of one topic at a time is a more natural way to learn and because knowledge is interrelated, it is learned more easily and remembered longer. Some examples of a unit study curriculum are: Five in a Row, Tapestry of Grace, and KONOS.
The Unschooling Approach is often defined by John Holt, a 20th century American educator who concluded that children have an innate desire to learn and a curiosity that drives them to learn what they need to know when they need to know it. What children need is access to more and more of the real world; plenty of time and space to think over their experiences and to use fantasy and play to make meaning out of them; and advice, road maps and guidebooks to make it easier for them to get where they want to go. Basically, unschooling refers to any non-structured learning approach that allows children to pursue their own interests with parental support and guidance and lets children learn by being included in the life of adults. Some suggested reading: Growing Without Schooling Magazine, Homeschooling for Excellence by David and Micki Colfax, The Relaxed Home School by Mary Hood and The Unschooling Handbook by Mary Griffith.