My choice to homeschool had been made. I was excited. Now what?
Did you know there are different methods to homeschooling: unschooling, Charlotte Mason, classical, Montessori, unit studies, etc.? Each method has its strengths and weaknesses and each is suited to different personalities. Here is my brief understanding of each and what I believe to be the pros and cons:
Unschooling – Advocates child-led learning in an unstructured environment. Allows the child to follow an interest for as little or long as he wants. Parents provide information, books, and enrichment based on whatever the child has decided to pursue.
- Pros– Learning enthusiasm is high as the child is motivated to explore his own desires.
- Cons – The days could be a little chaotic and unorganized as parents try to follow the child’s lead. I imagine lots of trips to the library to pick up books for the interest of the week and lots of spur of the moment teaching. There is also no guarantee that the child will ever choose to pursue a topic that the parent believes is important, like math.
Charlotte Mason – A gentle teaching method that uses ‘living books.’ These are not textbooks, but real stories and literature filled with great characters and ideas. Children are asked to narrate back the stories to exhibit their understanding. The days are spent curled up on the couch reading or playing outdoors.
- Pros- Children are introduced to great literature very early and will develop a love of reading. Oral skills are developed as children practice narration. Learning happens quietly and gently without pressure or stress.
- Cons – This method advocates a whole-language versus a phonics approach to reading. (Update – See comments below. There may be more phonics than I originally realized) Some skills, such as math, may be difficult to teach completely by only using living books.
Classical – This method teaches in three stages known as the trivium. The stages follow a person’s ability to think and reason based on a particular stage of brain development. In the younger years, memorization of facts is encouraged. Later, the ability to understand those facts is refined. Finally in the last stage, the facts and information can be drawn upon, compared, and contrasted to express unique ideas and engage in public conversation and debate. Narration and writing is used to exhibit understanding. Teaching is done in cycles and follows a historical timeline. Ancient languages such as Latin or Greek are typically studied.
- Pros– Children will not just be taught subjects, but a process for how to learn. Learning is organized by historical timeline in order to integrate the subjects. The subjects that are taught will be well understood instead of compartmentalized. Classic literature is used.
- Cons – Early reading and vigorous study is emphasized. Children could be pressured and stressed if the parent is not careful to slow down and evaluate the child’s ability and development stage. This method of learning is very different from traditional schools, so transitioning back into a school, if necessary or desired, could be difficult.
Montessori – Emphasizes real-life learning and hands-on activities using good quality, child-sized tools and materials. It is also a child-led approach where the teacher provides the materials, called works, and the child is free to choose and explore. Skills are taught and refined in isolation and then the child is equipped to perform the skills or utilize the knowledge when needed in a real-life situation.
- Pros– Children may be engaged and interested in the learning because they have choices. Perseverance and patience can be learned as the skills are refined, and the child is challenged to develop new skills.
- Cons – This method uses a lot of materials and could be costly. From what I have seen, this is mostly a method for teaching toddlers and preschoolers. I’m not sure exactly what Montessori would look like taught to school-age children.
Unit Studies – Subjects are taught and organized into unit studies. For example, an ocean unit might involve studying the creatures of the sea, visiting an aquarium, analyzing the composition of salt water versus fresh water, locating and labeling seas and oceans on a map, and any number of craft projects.
- Pros– Real life application of subjects can be readily understood. Children’s interests can be explored as a unit to increase enthusiasm in learning. Many children of varying ages can be taught together.
- Cons – Lots of planning is required to assemble the units and assure that progress is being made in the important subject areas.
Again, these are my opinions and evaluations and there are other methods that I didn’t research at all. If you would like to learn more, I suggest visiting Heart of the Matter’s 10 Days of Homeschooling Blog Hop. This was a fantastic resource the Heart of the Matter did back in February. Be warned, you can get lost for hours in these posts.
So guess which method I chose? I liked a little bit of everything but also saw pitfalls in every method. I have to narrow it down so we will primarily be going with a classical base, but there will be some Montessori and unschooling in the mix as well. Apparently, this is called the eclectic method. So, my big decision was to not make one. Why settle when you can have them all?