Substantive Education

June 19, 2009

The Schooling Method

Filed under: Education,Homeschooling — kbagdanov @ 4:17 pm

I’m continuing to post information on the different methods of home education that are available.  Here is the Schooling method, sometimes referred to as the Traditional approach.  If you missed the others you can check out, The Unschooling Method...and The Charlotte Mason Method.  Hope the information is helpful.  Once we get through all of the methods then we will discuss how to choose a curriculum that fits your child.

This is probably the most common method of homeschooling and it is just what the name implies, doing school at home. In this instance there is not a radical shift to homeschooling, basically what happens in the classroom at school is recreated in the home. Standard textbooks are used and parents basically follow the same scope and sequence that the public schools follow. Standardized tests are frequently used to evaluate how students are doing. Generally, to gain the most from homeschooling a paradigm shift is needed, a complete re-thinking of what works for you, your comfort level, and what works for your child and their learning style. Most of the homeschooling methods assume you are making a paradigm shift and are embracing a completely different model of education. The schooling at home method does not require this paradigm shift. The location has changed from school to home, but the logistics of that education have remained the same. This is also probably one of the most comfortable paths for parents to take. More than likely the parents were educated in this manner so it is familiar. While all homeschooling parents feel unsure of themselves as they start, using this method takes out the guesswork and leaves parents feeling like they have a firm framework to work within. Lessons are laid out, tests evaluate progress, and parents do not have to worry about gaps in education. The advantages to this method are many. For parents who need to pull a child out of the school system for a time… an illness, travel, to catch up.. with this method they can easily put the child back into school and know they will be on track. Another advantage is that there are generally fewer objections from family and friends when they see that the child is doing, roughly, what would be done in the classroom. While the curriculum may be the same as what is used in schools, the amount of time it takes to use the curriculum is generally a lot less. There is no need to wait for others in the class to finish assignments and there is no arguing with the fact that one on one tutoring is more efficient than a one to thirty ratio. Probably the two most popular publishers of homeschooling textbooks are Abeka and Bob Jones. Both have been in the business of supplying textbooks to private schools for years and have established a reputation for being academically rigorous, unabashedly Christian, and accommodating of homeschooling parents. Both have developed video programs to supplement their textbooks so that parents can have live classroom teachers involved. In the early grades this method will require a fair amount of parental involvement (as do most methods) as children are learning to read, and do basic math. As children get older parents can assign the needed work and children will be able to work through large portions of it unassisted, needing parental guidance only for grading of tests and explaining of difficult concepts. The disadvantages of this method are also many. This is a great method if you have the typical good ‘student’. If your child is a visual learner who likes workbooks and the feeling of success they get by doing well on a test, they will do fine with this approach. However, if you have a child who is an auditory or kinetic learner they will experience a lot of boredom and frustration with this method. If your child has ADD or ADHD this method can be unnecessarily difficult for them. By choosing this method families also forego much of the freedom that is available to homeschoolers to pursue education in more creative, wholistic ways. Children who do not test well may come to feel inadequate or stupid using this method when in reality they are just being educated in a style which is a poor fit for them. Another frustration with this method is that the teacher’s manuals are written for the classroom teacher and the bulk of it is how to set up the lessons for a large number of students, how to manage the class etc. As a homeschool parent you have to wade through this information to get to what you need.


June 18, 2009

The Charlotte Mason Method

The Charlotte Mason method of homeschooling is another popular option. This method has a solid educational philosophy behind it’s implementation and taking the time to research and understand it’s underpinnings will be time well spent. See the book list at the end of this article.

Charlotte Mason was an English educator who lived in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. She was able to put her educational theories into practice in her own schools. Her approach was three-pronged…atmosphere, discipline, and life. She also believed parents were one of the crucial elements in a child’s success. As I explain her understanding of these three-prongs you will see why she thought parents were primary and the schools secondary in the educational development of children.

First, atmosphere. She observed that children absorb what is around them. For instance, if parents read good books to their children on a regular basis children will absorb correct grammar, vocabulary, and speech patterns without any effort on their part. By using this simple fact parents have a powerful tool at their disposal. If the atmosphere of the home is calm and loving…children will absorb that. If parents are critical and there is always stress in the air…children will absorb that. As parents and educators we need to be intentional about the atmosphere we raise and educate our children in.

Second, discipline. By discipline Charlotte Mason was largely referring to the need to develop good habits within the child. Our children will develop habits…good or bad. How much simpler will their lives be if they have developed good ones that require no thought and are just a part of their person. She would have children acquire the habit of paying full attention to whatever task they are at, to being observant of the natural world, and of caring for themselves and their belongings. Much of her teaching on habits is about the moral character of a child. How easy is it for our children to fall into the habit of being quarrelsome or critical. Would it be just as easy to train your child to a habit of cheerfulness and generosity. “The mother who takes pains to endow her children with good habits secures for herself smooth and easy days.” Mason

Third, life. Whenever possible Charlotte Mason wanted real life experiences to overlap with a child’s learning. Because of this, at her schools, formal instruction only lasted for the morning. The afternoons were reserved for nature walks, art projects, and other real life learning.

One of the cornerstones of Charlotte Masons approach is the use of ‘living books’. Believing that most children’s literature is ‘twaddle’ Charlotte Mason implored parents and educators to give more thought to children’s books. If you have been in a bookstore recently you will see what she meant. Many children’s books talk down to the child as if they are not intelligent beings capable of thought. Textbooks are summaries and predigested thoughts for the child to memorize…they do not engage their minds in any meaningful way. Instead she encourages parents to choose books that inspire children to think, to aspire to be better, and to fill their minds with new ideas. In other words, to search for books that ‘live’. Believing that when we spread before children a rich feast of ideas they will blossom she sought out ways to introduce them to the best and the brightest. She believed that children who were continually fed ‘twaddle’ would come to despise books and education seeing that it has nothing of interest to say to them.

Instead of quizzes and tests this approach makes use of narration. Narration is simply, telling back. For an early elementary school student it would look like this. Carly listens to her mother read to her the story of Adam and Eve from Genesis. When she is done Carly tells her back all she remembers. This will include her impressions questions etc. That’s it. From this interchange her mother knows that she has ‘comprehended’ and that she has taken from the story what is appropriate for her. In this sense Carly leads the lesson. Her mom doesn’t have a summary point that Carly needs to take away from the lesson. She lets the story speak directly to Carly without interference. A few years later Carly’s narration might be in the form of a drawing with a written summary, and a few years after that a well-thought out essay.

Spelling, grammar, and vocabulary are not taught with lists to be memorized and exercises to be copied. Instead dictation is used. Depending on the age of the student a selection a literature is chosen to be studied. After a period of study the child has the selection dictated to them…then they compare to the original. Were there words they had trouble spelling, they will work on those to do better next time. Did they use the quotation marks correctly…a quick review of the punctuation might be needed. As the child advances he will be given dictation without first viewing the selection and then make comparisons.

Nature Study is an integral part of Charlotte Masons approach and she encouraged students to keep Nature journals where they could record what they were observing. These journals were meant to be beautiful as well as informative. One page might have a careful drawing of the grasshopper the child observed…and the next a poem written or copied that reflected the season.

History is studied through the use of living books. Biographies, Autobiographies, historical fiction, and well done non-fiction books are read independently and aloud.

Math studies rely heavily on the use of manipulatives. The goal is to have the child understand the concept before doing any paper and pencil work with equations. This assured the teacher that the child truly understood and wasn’t just parroting back memorized facts.

Art, Music, Shakespeare, and Hymns were also studied in the same relaxed fashion. An introduction was made and the child was free to explore and take in what spoke to them. In this fashion they were introduced to the great men and women of centuries past and were able to better understand their place within their own time.

Before we leave Charlotte Mason let me leave you with a few of her quotes on the importance of instilling courtesy into our children.

Courtesy seems a small thing until we encounter rudeness.”

Children learn courtesy by living in a courteous environment and by simple coaching.”

Do not allow a child to be discourteous just because a person is familiar.”

Let the young child feel that the omission of courtesy and kindness causes pain to loving hearts, that the doing of them is as cheering as the sunshine.”

Books on the Charlotte Mason Method

For the Children’s Sake by Susan Schaeffer McCauley

The Charlotte Mason Companion: Personal Reflections on the Gentle Art of Learning by Karen Andreola

A Charlotte Mason Education by Catherine Levison

When Children Love to Learn: A Practical Application of Charlotte Mason’s Philosophy for Today by Elaine Cooper, Eve Anderson, Susan Schaeffer Macaulay, and Jack Beckman

June 16, 2009


Filed under: Education,Homeschooling — kbagdanov @ 4:21 am

I’m working on a new website…in anticipation I’m putting together some information for new homeschoolers,  starting out with explaining the many different methods available.  This is one of the more controversial methods out there and takes a unique and gifted set of parents to pull it off.  So if you’ve ever wondered about the Unschooling movement here is a peek.

A quick disclaimer…in explaining any movement in a brief summary generalizations are going to be inevitable.  There is a wide range of people within this group and I’m not trying to represent all of them…just capture the heart.  If you have input I’d love to hear it.

Unschooling is a movement that seeks to reconsider and revise what we currently call education. Those who have embraced the movement are a rather diverse group who approach unschooling from a variety of perspectives and in each household the results are different.

Basically, learning is guided by the child not the parent. (A similar movement called Delight Directed…as in the studies are guided by what delights the child, would share many of these same characteristics.) It is not that the parent is uninterested in their child getting an education, but that they believe lessons learned at the child’s initiation are far more productive. These parents have a deep respect for children believing them to be intelligent individuals capable of making connections and learning without a set curriculum, tests, or state standards.

Using this method takes a great deal of confidence and resolve. If you thought homeschoolers in general have their methods questioned imagine explaining that you are going to allow your child to decide what they learn.

So what could unschooling look like and why would you choose it. Let’s imagine our student Rafe has become interested in Charlie Brown from seeing the cartoon in the Sunday Paper. The next time he is at the library he checks out a book of Charlie Brown comics…as he reads he begins to wonder about Snoopy’s fights with the Red Baron and discovers that the the Red Baron was a flying Ace in World War I. The next trip to the library Rafe gathers up books on World War I and Flying Aces. He has his mother buy him a map of Europe to put in his room so he can see where the battles took place. After a few weeks he branches out to other comic books, Superman and Batman, each of these spark interest in other topics. Is Kryptonite also real? What is the difference between a rock and a mineral? He begins to write and illustrate his own comics. . His mother takes him on a field trip to an artist who has worked in comics and can explain the page set ups, the process etc. Rafe spends many uninterrupted hours pouring over his books, creating and illustrating his own works, and seeking answers to his many questions.

Requiring prolonged periods to explore and investigate, and parents who can help students hunt down resources and answers, unschooling has many qualities that are appealing. Skills, such as reading and writing, are acquired because the child has need of them. This kind of learning is not possible in a setting where ringing bells, distracting conversations, and helpful teachers are constantly interrupting the child’s line of thought and inquiry.

Was Rafe’s unschooling time productive? Educational? Enough? Unschoolers think that it is not only productive and educational but superior to the methods used in schools today. They measure success by a different yardstick, no SAT tests here. Instead they are hoping to help their children realize their own unique potential, gifts, and place in the world. The focus is on the individuality and giftedness of each child.

The downside of this method is that parents must be comfortable with the fact that their child’s education will have gaps.  Now I don’t believe any of us get through high school without some gaps in our education, but following this method exclusively is bound to leave some areas unexplored and parents will have to be able to live with that confident that their child will learn what they need.

If this method sounds interesting to you…here are some books to get you started.

The Unschooling Unmanual by 8 authors including John Holt, Nanda Van Gestel, and Daniel Quinn

The Unschooling Handbook; How to use the World as your Classroom by Mary Griffith

The Unprocessed Child:  Living without school  by Valerie Fizenreiter

Dumbing us Donw:  The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling  by John Taylor Gotto

June 9, 2009

Teaching Physical Science? A new resource.

Thought I would pass on this book review for those of you with high school kids.  We have been doing the Apologia science books and they are FABULOUS!  They are rigorous without being difficult – clear explanations of difficult topics, an engaging writing style and clear illustrations put those Science books above most I’ve seen.

However, several of our students are 1) not ready to go on to Chemistry next year…or 2) Have finished the science that is offered by Apologia and don’t want to take an AP class.  If you have students in Grace Prep who just finished General Science I would still recommend going on to the Physical Science book as it is a good foundation for concepts that will follow in High School courses.  However this series does cover some of the same material from a different perspective and would make a great book to read along side the other, maybe as a family read aloud.

For those students who are not sure what to do next year for science, this looks like a fun, engaging, science course.  Maybe a few students would want to gather every few weeks as a ‘reading group’  for discussion..

If you have read the US history series then you are familiar with Joy Hakim.  She has begun, what will eventually be a 6 book series on the history of science.  The books fall somewhere between a Science textbook, History narrative, and just plain fun.  It is written for grades 9 and up, so I would follow your own discretion with younger kids.  I’ve included a review below by the National Science Teachers Association….who probably know what they are talking about.

The book is around $18 on Amazon, and there is a companion book with students review, exercises etc.

This is the third book in the series and the one that has received the best reviews.  There is also The Story of Science: Aristotle, and The Story of Science: Newton.

Let me know what you think
.  I think I will be ordering this one so I will put up a review when I get it on the website.

In The Story of Science: Einstien Adds a New Dimension, Joy Hakim weaves together the science, history, and personalities behind the major advances in physics over the past 100 years. The result is a fascinating tale that’s much more accessible (and fun) than the typical science text. And, it’s written with middle and high school students in mind. This is Hakim’s third book in her Story of Science series. The first two, Aristotle Leads the Way and Newton at the Center, are equally well researched and written.-American Educator, Winter 2007-2008 — American Educator

Textbook? Novel? Joy Hakim’s books are always a little of both, and this one is even more fascinating than the previous two editions of The Story of Science. This volume begins with Einstein toiling in the patent office, about to produce the amazing insights of his “miracle year.” Then, interwoven throughout the story, are the contributions of the other physicists and chemists upon whose shoulders Einstein stood. Like all of Hakim’s books, this one is filled with anecdotes, historical context, and deeper insights into the real methods of science than any other textbook has ever offered to students at this level. And most importantly, it is a joy to read! In a strict sense, this book should be seen as a foundational text for an integrated program of physical science—ideally at grade 9 or 10. There will be no mathematical barrier at this level, but there are many opportunities to link math, language arts, social studies, and the arts to the book. It would be the ideal choice as a book for a teamed middle school. But don’t relegate it to the textbook selection process. Wrap it up for your vacation reading. I guarantee you’ll learn more about physical science, about Einstein and his peers, and about the grand endeavor we call science, than you ever imagined—in the most pleasant way possible. -Juliana Texley, NSTA Web Field Editor — National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) Recommends

National Parks Waive Fees

This summer many of our National Parks are going to be waiving admission fees for three weekends.  So if you were looking for a nearly free getaway this could be it.  Check out the weekends and which Parks near you are participating at  this link.

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