Choosing Teaching Materials, part 4
Developing an Educational Philosophy
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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.
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 teaching materials should cover in a course of study. 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, see last week's newsletter.)
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, see last week's newsletter.)
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>>
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Home School Resources
Notebooking! Yes! You CAN Be a Binder Queen! Cindy Rushton is the "queen" of education through notebooking and uses notebooking for EVERYTHING! In this resource, she teaches you how to create "notebooks" around each course of study, whether you're working with a toddler or a high-schooler, pouring out all her ideas and tips for heling your children deepen their studies and document learning all along the way. Cindy addresses many of the tough questions that many of us face in a way that will make it easy to for you to apply these ideas TODAY!. Special offer: 30% off! This is the 2005 version that normally sells for $20, but you can get it now for $14.
Books and CDs by the Elijah Company. We have closed down the Elijah company mail-order store, but Home School Marketplace carries many of the products by Chris and Ellyn Davis as well as products we published for others. Here are just a few of our best-sellers.
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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!
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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.
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Angel in the Marble/
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Order a combination of I Saw the Angel in the Marble and the Davis Seminars CDs HERE>>
From Home School to Home Business (14 CD Set)
If you missed one of our From Home School to Home Business Conferences, you missed a great time.People who attended tell us that it changed their lives—not only in the area of home schooling, but also in the area of creating their own sources of home income.This set is huge and filled with useful and encouraging information about how to be successful at home schooling and at home business! Find out more about this life-changing set of CDs HERE>>
Building the Business of Your Dreams (8 CD Set)
I've had requests for just the business portion of the From Home School to Home Business Seminar, so have developed a set of the business CDs from that set. It contains 8 CDs and includes sessions on The Entrepreneurial Mind, Multiple Streams of Home Income, Discovering Your Ideal Life and Ideal Business (2 CDs) , Developing a Business Plan (2 CDs), and The Importance of Business Relationships. Plus, there is a very important and insightful interview with Mike Bickel and Bob Frazier of The Joseph Company on how Christians who start their own businesses can be part of Redeeming the Marketplace. Find out more about this life-changing set of CDs HERE>>
To view all the Resources mentioned in this series of articles on Choosing Teaching Materials for Your Home School, go here>>
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