Creating Your Own Course of Study
View past ejournals HERE>>
Continuing with the theme of "Choosing Teaching Materials," this week's ejournal explores the four different educational philosophies that influence Christian home schooling and then helps you determine your own educational philosophy so you can choose teaching materials that best fit what you believe is important for your children to learn.
Common educational philosophies
There are four educational philosophies influencing home schooling today. Think of these philosophies as the underlying assumptions about what comprises an education and what the knowledge should be covered in order for a person to be considered "educated." All of the common teaching approaches available to home educators contain elements of these four educational philosophies, but each teaching approach favors a different educational philosophy.
The first educational philosophy is essentialism. Essentialism assumes that there is a core body of knowledge that must be mastered in order for a person to be considered “educated.” It focuses on the “essentials” and is subject oriented. Essentialism could be summed up in this phrase: “Information is the key to a good education.”
Perennialism is more “idea” oriented, and considers education to consist of becoming acquainted with the great writing and thinking throughout history. To perennialists, “understanding is the key to a good education.”
Progressivism seeks to make education practical and applicable to the needs of students and society. It assumes that making knowledge and skills meaningful are the keys to a good education.
Existentialism stresses “authenticity”—the commitment to finding true being. To the existentialist, discovering one’s own meaning and purpose in life is the key to a good education.
What is your educational philosophy?
Whether you're aware of it or not, you have an educational philosophy--an idea of what comprises a "good" education. And it's that idea that you bring to the table when you start home schooling your children. It's also that idea that causes you to be attracted to certain types of teaching materials.
So you might want to ask yourself the following questions:
1. If I had to tell what I thought was most important for my children to spend their home school years on, would it be.... (Rank from 1 (most important) to 4 (least important)
____(a) Having my children learn a core body of knowledge that is universally recognized as a thorough education so they can be accepted to top colleges and have professional careers.
____(b) Having my children become acquainted with the great minds throughout history and the worldviews that influence history so that they become thinkers, leaders, and problem-solvers.
____(c) Having my children learn information and skills that are of practical use to them and prepare them for real-world living and family life.
____(d) Having my children discover their meaning and purpose in life and be equipped with the knowledge and skills to fulfil their God-given destinies.
was I taught that I really needed to know? (Take out a piece of paper and make three columns. Label the columns "Academics," "Practical Skills," and "Relationships." List as many things in each column that you were taught that in the course of your life you have found that you really needed to know.)
3. What do I wish I had been taught that I've found out that I really needed to know? (Do this exercise in the same way as #2, except your list is going to be of those things you weren't taught that you wish you had been.)
4. What was I taught that I didn't need to know and don't ever foresee needing to know and I've never met anyone who needed to know it? (Do this exercise in the same way as #2, except your list is going to be of those things that you found were a waste of time for you and everyone else you know to learn.)
Where do we go from here?
Our recommendation is that you do the following five things:
1. First, take a long, hard look at the presuppositions and objectives of institutional education by reading books such as John Gatto's and John Holt's. Why? Because, as Pogo said, “We have seen the enemy and he is us!” We are so used to thinking of school as children sitting in desks, listening to lectures, and working on pre-packaged curriculum for six hours a day, 180 days a year, over a period of twelve years, that we have a hard time imagining any other way.
Also, many products for home educators are merely repackaged versions of public school materials, and we need to be able to recognize them as such. Otherwise, we unwittingly find ourselves adopting the same scope and sequence, the same methods, and the same standardized curriculum that was derived from the public school’s presuppositions and that seeks to achieve its objectives. We will worry if our children aren’t reading by the time they are six or doing fractions by nine. We will guide our children toward popular careers. We will feel unqualified to teach without an education degree.
In short, until we understand the misconceptions behind public schooling, we will think that some form of traditional institutionalized education is true education.
For most of us, our public school upbringing has steeped us in ideas about education that have to be discarded if we want to effectively educate our own children at home. As John Gatto says, “School was a lie from the beginning, and it continues to be a lie.” If we know no better, we may buy into the lie and perpetuate its thinking.
2. Second, examine the viewpoints and teaching approaches that currently influence home education. You can read about these in past issues of this e-journal and you can read books that more thoroughly explain the viewpoints and approaches. If there is a particular emphasis or teaching approach that appeals to you, take the time to learn about it. The fact that it appeals to you may be the Lord’s gentle nudge in that direction.
3. Third, try and get in touch with your family’s convictions and values and the real needs of your children (see ejournal on Learning Styles). Once you have an idea of what you really want for your children, you will be better prepared to chart your home schooling course.
4. Fourth, buy several home school resource books that give an overview of home schooling. These books will overwhelm you if you don’t already have an idea of where you want to go with home schooling, so don’t dig into them until you have some sense of your family’s convictions and the real needs of your children. Start with books such as Homeschooling the Early Years, ...the Middle Years, and ...the Teen Years. They provide general information about teaching each age group.
From there begin looking at curriculum guides like Mary Pride’s or Cathy Duffey’s. Educate yourself about “what’s out there.”
5. Create your own Scope and Sequence.
Creating your own Scope and Sequence
If you've never heard the term "Scope and Sequence," it is simply a list of what things should be learned in which order in a typical course of study from first through twelfth grade.
You can create your own Scope and Sequence by building a course of study for your children around all the things you realize that a person really needs to know, taking into account the educational philosophy that you tend to favor.
How do you do this?
First, take out a fresh piece of paper and make three columns. Divide each column into four rows. You should now have a grid on the page that has 12 compartments, one for each grade 1 through 12. Label the compartments 1 through 12. (Or, if you object to assigning grade levels to your children, label the compartments age 6 through age 17.)
Look over the lists you wrote for questions #2 and #3. Roughly place those "need to know" academics, practical skills, and relational skills on your 1st through 12th grade (or age 6 through age 17) grid, according to how mature you think your child needs to be before learning those academics or skills.
Now look back at your answers to question #1.
If (a) was your top choice, your educational philosophy leans toward essentialism. You probably need to consider traditional teaching materials such as Bob Jones or ABeka which have a pre-defined Scope and Sequence. Then you can supplement with materials that reflect your second, third, and fourth priorities and things that were on your lists for questions #2 and #3. (For an explanation of the Traditional Approach, GO HERE.)
If (b) was your first choice, you lean toward perennialism. The great books/Charlotte Mason-type approach is best suited as your primary home schooling course of study. This approach can be easily adapted so that it includes your lists in #2 and #3. (For an explanation of the Living Books/Charlotte Mason Approach, GO HERE.)
If (c) was your first choice, then you tend to be a progressivist. A more experiential, practical, hands-on approach to learning is the best fit for your family. This approach can be easily adapted so that it includes your lists in #2 and #3.
If (d) was your first choice, you lean toward existentialism as an educational philosophy. An "identity-directed" approach will work best for your children, with tailored courses of study that reflect each child's interests and giftings. You can also cover what was on your lists in #2 and #3. (See our article on "Identity-Directed Home Schooling.")
Now you are ready to buy your teaching materials for next fall. You understand the philosophies and educational approaches that different home schooling materials are coming from, you know your children's learning styles, you know your own educational philosophy, and you know what academics, practical skills, and relational skills are important for you to cover with your child in the coming school year. You also have a feel for the different products that are available.
Prepare to several hundred dollars and maybe a few months getting clear about what you want to do. If it makes you feel any better about the amount of time and money you have to spend getting ready to teach your children, think of it this way: The average public school teacher has spent four to six years and twenty to fifty thousand dollars learning how to teach your children. Why shouldn’t you spend some time and money preparing yourself?
However, and this is a BIG however, don’t think that you have to have everything figured out before you begin. You can adapt as you go. So loosen up and accept the fact that some of what you try will be a total waste of time, energy and money. This is all a part of learning what works for you and for your children. Consider it payment of your tuition in Home Educating U.
So, just relax and have fun with home schooling!
Until next time....
To view all the Resources mentioned in this series of articles on Choosing Teaching Materials for Your Home School, go here>>
Be sure to sign up for our ejournal! Sign up below.
View past ejournals HERE>>
Resources for rethinking education
Books by John Gatto. These books will change the way you think about education. Gatto was a public school teacher for decades and New York's Teacher of the Year, so he has first-hand experience with the effects of public schooling. Not only do his books discuss the major issues about what schooling does to our children, he offers insights into what a true education entails and reflects on our society as a whole and the distorted thinking that leads us to subject our children to an influence that robs them of their creativity and enthusiasm for learning. Gatto's books are "MUST READS."
Dumbing Us Down
A Different Kind of Teacher
Books by John Holt. Holt's books are wonderfully thought-provoking and give you a real appreciation for the natural learning ability of your children. Read all of these! How Children Learn, Learning All the Time, and Teach Your Own .
Also highly recommended: Guerrilla Learning: How to Give Your Kids a Real Education With or Without School
Endangered Minds by Jane Healy. Subtitled “Why Children Don't Think and What We Can Do About It,” this is truly a
significant book. The book's premise is that today's children, bombarded by a fast-paced
media culture and with very little interaction with thinking adults, develop different “habits of mind” than children of the past and are therefore unable to tackle the skills involved in learning. Healy clearly explains why our modern lifestyles sabotage
the ability to learn and tells us what to do about it. In the companion book, Your Child's Growing Mind Healy discusses how thinking and learning abilities develop for skills like reading, writing, spelling, proper use of grammar, etc. and what parents can do to create the “mind pathways” that enhance these thinking and learning abilities. These books are "must haves."
I Saw the Angel in the Marble
With over 4,000 copies sold in just a few months, I Saw the Angel in the Marble is becoming a home schooling best seller!
This book represents the best of 15 years of Elijah Company articles. Find our more HERE>>
Turning Hearts: Davis Seminar Set (8 CDs)
The Best of Chris and Ellyn Davis, this set contains seminars given by Chris and Ellyn Davis of The Elijah Company at home schooling conventions. The set contains all of the favorites that home schoolers ask for over and over. People have told us this set of CDs changed their lives. Find out more about them HERE>>
Angel in the Marble/Davis Seminars Set
Order a combination of I Saw the Angel in the Marble and the Davis Seminars CDs HERE>>
Building the Home
School of Your Dreams
Building the Home School of Your Dreams is a 6 CD set taken from the From Home School To Home Business Seminar and features sessions by Chris Davis and Mary Hood. Find out more HERE>>
Mary Pride's Complete Guide to Getting Started in Homeschooling. The title can be deceiving, because the book isn't just for those getting started, it's also very helpful to veteran home schoolers who want to re-evaluate what they are doing and the resources that are available to them.
Veteran home educators will dive into a vast amounts of up-to-date information with sections on Field Trips, Conferences, Retreats & Homeschool Days for the Whole Family, and Worldview & Leadership Training for Teens. There's also information on how to find everything from contests, to how to write a winning college application essay.
If there were one "top expert" in homeschooling, I would say Mary Pride is it. With her numerous books, Practical Homeschooling Magazine, and website, Mary knows her stuff.
Home Learning Year by Year: How to Design a Homeschool Curriculum from Preschool Through High School by Rebecca Rupp. This book does not come from a Christian orientation, but is one of the few books I know that gives you a checklist of what the traditional pre-K through 12th-grade curriculum expects a child to learn year by year and then tells you how to accomplish the same level of learning at home. Home Learning Year by Year also gives guidelines for the importance of each topic, pointing out which knowledge is essential and which is best for more expansive study based on your child's personal interests.
Life Skills for Kids by Christine Field is a
guide to equipping your children with the life
skills they will need as adults: people/home
life skills, time/space organization skills,
money management skills, healthy lifestyle
skills, spiritual habits, decision making skills,
creative skills, and celebration skills.
Christine is a home schooling mother herself,
and the book is written in such a way that it
may be used as a reference point and checklist of desired skills
and knowledge to be mastered.
Homeschooling the Early Years
Homeschooling the Middle Years
Homeschooling the Teen Years
Each of these books is a guide to successfully
homeschooling the age group it covers. Starting with
what makes the age group tick, chapters cover the
important aspects of learning, practical ways to approach
each subject area, and the many paths to success.
What Your Kindergartner Needs to Know
What Your First Grader Needs to Know
What Your Second Grader Needs to Know
What Your Third Grader Needs to Know
What Your Fourth Grader Needs to Know
What Your Fifth Grader Needs to Know
What Your Sixth Grader Needs to Know
This series of books covers what a child at each grade level should be learning in every subject. The books are great to have around to help you design your own curriculum and make sure you aren't leaving any "gaps." History, language arts, science, and several other subjects are covered in enough detail that the book could become your primary textbook for those subjects, but math is summarized, so further teaching materials may be needed there. As you develop your own "Home School Reference Center" of books you can refer to over and over, these need to have their own place there.
Resources to discover how your child learns best
Developed by the authors of Discover Your Child's Learning Style, this is the most powerful and user friendly learning styles inventory in the world and it is NOW ONLINE! A Self-Portrait™ Profile assesses several aspects of learning style, quickly and simply, in language that is easily understood by everyone. These aspects are: Disposition, Modality, Environment, Interests, and Talents. If you want help in understanding what makes your child "tick" and how your can help him or her learn easier and better (or find out more about yourself), take this easy, quick learning styles assessment test. For more about this learning styles assessment test, CLICK HERE>>
Discover Your Child's Learning Style is a book you need. Period. It has more potential to improve your child's education - and your family relationships - than almost any other book I have ever read. The authors of this book have developed a "Learning Styles Model" of education that helps you discern your child's:
• Preferred learning environment
• Thinking Style
The book includes handy self-tests. Use these to find out just how each child in your family loves to learn... and what teaching approaches help or hinder his learning style. What a huge difference this will make in your homeschool... and in your family relationships!
Discover Your Children's Gifts will help you uncover your children's natural giftings and personality traits. It helps explain why their personality "quirks" are really evidences of their own God-given gifts. The theological foundation is very sound, making good sense of the main passages on spiritual gifts in a way very few others do. Gifts are broken into 1) Manifestation (sign gifts - 1 Cor 12-14; Acts 2) 2) Ministry (equipping gifts - Eph 4) & 3) Motivational (every-Christian-gifts - Rom 12).
Dreamers, Discoverers and Dynamos. Every now and then a book comes along that fills in so many gaps in my understanding that I want to tell everyone about it. Dr. Pallodino suggests that one in five children is an "Edison Trait child," meaning he or she has one or more of the following: dazzling intelligence, an active imagination, a free-spirited approach to life, and the ability to frustrate the you-know-what out of others. The heart of the issue is that these children think divergently, while schools generally reward convergent thinking. This book discusses the different types of approaches to life your children may have (dreamer, discover, or dynamo) and how you can most help each type succeed.
100 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum by Cathy Duffy. Selecting the right curriculum can be a time consuming task for any family that chooses home education. Now, Cathy Duffy makes choosing the right resources for your child easy!
I've always recommended Cathy's curriculum guides as the best out there for choosing teaching materials that "mesh" with who your family is. Now Cathy guides you through the process, offering her "Top Picks" from each subject area.
A major feature of 100 Top Picks is the charts showing the 100 Top Picks in relation to educational approaches, learning styles, and practical features such as prep time needed; design for independent, one-on-one, or group learning; and ease of use for the teacher. Complete reviews of each of the Top Picks provide parents the information they need to make the best choices for each of their children.
The first half of 100 Top Picks covers information that will help you decide your child's learning styles, help you decide what your "Philosophy of Education" is, and help you figure what to teach when. The second half has reviews for all 100 of the top picks. You will gain a lot of insight into what curriculum is available by reading these reviews. She even tosses some extra "Picks" here and there that would've made the list if her books title was "200 Top Picks".