Saturday, November 5, 2016

Eclectic Homeschooling

According to the Pocket Oxford Dictionary which I just grabbed from the nearest shelf eclectic means selecting ideas or beliefs from various sources. And that's exactly the type of homeschooler I am. I'm constantly reading  about homeschooling and education in general - although not as much as in earlier years. As I read I decide whether or not ideas resonate with me and  if, when and how I can incorporate them into my homeschooling repertoire. Some ideas and approaches remain for many years, but others last for only a season - either because they've served their purpose or because it turned out they weren't a good fit for us anyways. Below - in  random order - is a far from comprehensive list of of some of the approaches that I've incorporated into our homeschool over the years.

1. School-at-Home - When I started out I knew no other homeschoolers - and we didn't have the Internet. However, I read a lot and always had an interest in educational matters. Somewhere I came across a  reading programme that seemed comprehensive and was based on real literature. Academic standards were a concern and this programme was reportedly getting good results. It sounded like what we wanted and even though it was marketed to school districts I managed to purchase copies. It's what all four of my kids used in their early reading days.

2. Montessori - I'd been heavily involved in my kids preschool education. They all attended a part-time preschool where parents were expected to train and run sessions. Through that I was familiar with the work of Maria Montessori. When I discovered a book on Montessori ideas in the early school years I quickly checked it out from the library. I made my own versions of many of the materials and utilized the ideas especially for teaching phonics and early maths concepts.

3. The Well-Trained Mind - A friend heard of of this, bought the first edition and passed it on to me. My first-born was especially academically inclined  and I'd already discovered some of the resources recommended in the book. It seemed a good idea to try more. The chronological approach to history really appealed to me, and served all of my children well. Latin was added  to our homeschool after I read The Well-Trained Mind. Some of kids were more enamoured of it than others though. Those who weren't keen only  did it for a year; the Latin lovers did three or more years. Even though it's hard to discern much of a Well-Trained Mind influence in my homeschool today it's still one of my go-tos for resource recommendations.

4. Charlotte Mason - The Well-Trained Mind led me to Classical education and from there I ventured into the ideas of Charlotte Mason. Living books, picture study, and composer studies were the biggest gains to my homeschool. I also picked up on the concept of short lessons, at least for some of my children.  I wouldn't want to interrupt those with long attention spans who remained engrossed in their work, but with one child short lessons helped to keep us both relatively sane.

5. Unschooling - I would never describe us as unschoolers but I've always been attracted to the philosophy. Possibly I'm aware my type A personality isn't always beneficial to our homeschool and frequently reading unschooling material helps to balance that somewhat. The concept of strewing has been very useful. One son unschooled science for years. Every now and again I'd panic, think I should be doing something with him, check a few scope and sequences, realize he had covered everything he "should" have and more , relax and leave him to it. In the high school years he requested a more formal, systematic approach  but it was solely his choice so still unschooling in my eyes at least. He now has a PhD in Chemistry so this approach clearly worked for him. With all my kids I noted (and tried to feed) what they were learning on their own. And if they'd already covered something then I skipped it when it popped up in our curriculum of choice.

6. Thomas Jefferson Education/Leadership Education - I feel a bit strange admitting to this one in public since I'm basically the polar opposite of the typical proponent of this philosophy and I don't like so don't utilize all of it. And yet, many of their 7 keys really resonated with me, and we were already implementing several of them, before I read the book. I'm pretty sure my take on it looks nothing like the De Milles though. However, when homeschooling hit a rough patch with one of my kids, this helped us through it. Particularly "Structure Time, not Content".

7. BraveWriter - This one was such a breath of fresh air when I first discovered it many years ago. While it is regarded as a language arts curriculum it is so  much more than that. To me BraveWriter is all about nurturing the parent-child relationship in a language rich environment. Poetry teatimes were a delightful addition to our homeschool week, one that added immeasurably to our family culture. Many years on we can still recite our favourite poems and laugh as we recall the stories associated with out reading and reciting them. The concept of freewriting was a life saver when it came to writing. BraveWriter also helped me look at narration, copywork and dictation with fresh eyes. More recently I've grasped the concept of Big Juicy Conversations, although implementing them is still a work in progress.  Positive and encouraging, BraveWriter is  my go-to resource if I need a homeschool pick-me-up. So much good stuff  (for free) via the blog, YouTube, in the BraveWriter Lifestyle section (it's in the drop-down menu of the BraveWriter Programme button)  and Facebook Live. Allow plenty of time for digging into the website - there is gold to be found!

In amongst the different philosophies there's also been a mixture of worksheets, lapbooks, online games, MOOCs, real life classes, magazine subscriptions, field trips, board games....

You name it. If I think it can contribute positively to our homeschool then I'm going to give it a try! 

1 comment:

  1. Oh my. I feel like your mini-clone.
    Our journey began when I learned about Montessori and then progressed to the idea of classical education and now we're in the midst of a Charlotte Mason-inspired period. The only 'school-at-home' aspect is my insistence on following the laid out path of a Singaporean maths curriculum. We've also recently started looking in to Bravewriter and did our first poetry tea time this year.
    The only point of difference is the Thomas Jefferson education - I've seen it, but I haven't read up about it. Instead I have looked in to and want to make more effort around Project Based Learning. I wonder if this is a common path for eclectic home educators? :D