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Monday, July 30, 2012

Choosing What Homeschool Method is Right for YOU

Welcome to Day One- Homeschool Methods!


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When I found out I was going to be a mother, I read a few pregnancy books to be sure. But parenting books? Not so much. I figured you have a baby, you meet the needs of the baby, you raise the baby...it never dawned on me that there were a plethora of thoughts (and books) out there on the subject of parenting. Then I had a 4lb. 5 oz. baby who wanted nothing to do with his crib and would only sleep on my chest. He was not content in bouncy seats or the baby swing, but was happy to be held 24/7. Suddenly, without ever having read a book about it, I was "attachment parenting".

In many ways, that same child (who is on the autism spectrum) guided my journey into homeschooling and the methods we have used.  But just like when I became a parent, when I began homeschooling, I didn't give any thought to method or approach.  I didn't read any books on the subject.  I just figured you can't really mess up kindergarten.  And so we began...

A lot has changed in the decade + that I've been doing this.  Not the least of which was my going from a young mom just "winging it" to the leader of a large homeschool group whose members, especially the new ones, looked to ME to answers for many of their homeschooling questions.  Here's a little of what I have learned about Homeschooling Methods.

There are many different "methods" or approaches out there.  I'm sure many of my Crew Mates will blog in depth about them, but I'll just mention a few that come to mind and give you some links to check them out.  First is one almost everyone should be familiar with.  I call it "recreating school at home".   That means you, as the parent, take what you know from your public school days, and recreate that structure in your own home.  Typically it involves following a scope and sequence (WHAT you teach and WHEN you teach it) that mimics your local public school, or follows some national recommendation.  Your kids sit at desks, have regular school hours, start the day with the Pledge, etc. ( I'd give you a link to follow, but I can't think of one, so I'm trying to give you a visual picture.)  Another approach is Unit Studies, which typically tie in closely with Lapbooking or NotebookingCharlotte Mason has a large following, as does Classical Education or the Principle Approach.  You can do Montessori at home, or Waldorf, or believe in delayed academics.  Finally, you could find yourself drawn to child-directed (or delight directed) education or even unschooling.  All of it, each and every one of those methods, is "homeschooling".  So the real question is, "How do you decide?"

Based on my own personal experience, and on years of speaking with and advising other moms, I'd say there are three main things to consider to know what method is right for you.

The first question is why are you homeschooling?  You have to know the answer to that before you can go on.  If you are (planning on) homeschooling because it is a God-given initiative in your life or because you eschew all government interference in your life, you will have a vastly different approach than someone who is homeschooling because they hate the school they are zoned for or because their child was bullied and they are trying to find them a better option until they can return to public school.  If you are determined that your child will be a rocket scientist at age 12, and you are sure your tutelage is the only way that will happen, you will have a different approach than someone who is meeting the needs of a differently-abled child.  You must know WHY to know HOW.  Your why is really the most important part, because it might cause you to override the next two concepts, no matter how valid they are.

The next thing to consider is YOU.  Do you like to teach?  Do you want to be an integral part of your child's learning process?  Do you feel under-educated yourself, and afraid you might negatively impact your child's learning?  Are you a working mom?  A single parent?  Are you obsessive compulsive?  A rigid schedule follower?  Do you find it impossible to plan even the next hour, let alone a whole school year?  Do you have high academic goals for your child?  Do you want to nurture their artistic side?  All of these things, and many, many more are important because they will help decide what type of method will work best in your homeschool.  If you HATE cutting and pasting (and I have a friend who does), lapbooking is NOT for you.  If you can't make a schedule to save your life, you might need a curriculum/method that's already scheduled out for you.  If you like all your ducks in a row, and want to be sure your children are keeping up with the public school "Joneses", you will probably want more of a "recreate school at home" type method than a delayed academics approach. 

Lastly, you need to consider your child.  And if you have more than one, you need to consider them individually.  That is, after all, the beauty of homeschooling...to meet your child's needs right where they are at the moment.  If your child hates putting pen to paper, an approach that involves a lot of writing won't be successful.  If your child thrives on worksheets (and I have one who does), then an approach that offers lots of academic practice may be the best fit for them, even if your heart lies in another method.  If you are unsure what method your child leans toward...ask them!  But you can also find books about learning styles or even find some free tests online.  Here's one very simple one.  Some learning styles are better suited to some methods than others, so it's good information to have. 

Remember too that the "here and now" is not the "forever and always".  It's okay to use more than one approach.  It's okay if one method works best when your kids are little, but another is a better fit as they grow up.  Things will change in your homeschool, things will change in your LIFE, every year.  And every year, you can tweak things a bit.  Refine the process.  Change what you do and how you do it.  Through the years, I've gone from someone with a more traditional mindset (I was a teacher, after all) to an unschooler (not by choice at first, but by necessity based on my first born) to a firm believer in delayed academics to someone who uses living books like Charlotte Mason, chronological history like the classical approach, and some "recreating school at home" for the sake of my sanity and my AS son's ability to cope.  And I've learned that the different methods are not typically mutually exclusive.  I employ different ones for different kids and even for different subjects with the same kids.  At the end of the day, it's all about what works for you, your kids, and your homeschool.

Okay, so by this point, maybe you know why you are doing it, you know about yourself, and you think you understand your child(ren)...but you are still wondering what it all looks like in real life.  How do you translate a method or approach into a curriculum, and with so many options, how do you know what curriculum to chose?  Well, that my dear readers, is what we will talk about tomorrow! For now, check out what some of my other Crew Mates had to say by clicking on a link below:
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1 comment:

Homeschooling6 said...

Very well written. We sometimes get so caught up in the method or approach that we forget that the joy of homeschooling is meeting the child where they are at. I'm so thankful I finally listened to my heart and not forums ;) we are much happier.
Blessings,
Linda<><