Defining Your Homeschool Philosophy

Families choose to homeschool for a variety of different reasons. Some parents want to give their children a greater academic challenge. Others wish to provide a more religious backbone to their children’s education. Still other families know that education can be something different than what their kids get in public school.

But what is that something different?

Non-Traditional Education 6 Homeschool Philosophies That Do Not Look Like School-at-Home

Having a Homeschool Philosophy forms the base of how you approach teaching your kids at home. A Homeschool Philosophy is the basic set of ideas that a family holds as their truth and belief about the purpose of education. Those ideas that you hold dear to your heart answer the question of “Why are we doing this?”

The following are some of the most widely held Homeschool Philosophies you’ll come across. Read through them. Think about them. Talk about the core ideas with people you trust.

Don’t feel like you have to pick a Homeschool Philosophy before you officially start homeschooling. In fact, my advice is to hold off. Instead, dabble in the different ideas. Little by little you’ll discover if a certain philosophy speaks to the vision you hold for how you want your homeschool to be that something different.

Types of Homeschool Philosophies (and matching curricula)

Goal: Teachers impart knowledge to students. Students then demonstrate how much they can recall or recognize on a test.

Method: Content experts determine what facts and skills should be taught in which grades. Kids memorize facts and acquire knowledge through standard teaching methods and rote practice. While this philosophy can wind up being school-at-home, you can personalize it by selecting specific curriculum that matches your child’s learning style.

Pros: The scope and sequence documents that guide this type of learning can be a useful tool to help track that you’re covering all your academic bases by the end of a K-12 learning journey.

Cons: Following a pre-determined list of learning goals can be stifling. Who says a kindergartener has to learn about the life cycle of a butterfly and a 2nd grader should learn about a frog’s life cycle?

Examples: Connections Academy; Saxon Math

Goal: Students develop critical thinking, creative thinking, and problem solving skills that prepare them to learn virtually any topic they encounter in life

Method: Students focus on process and skill building, rather than learning any specific topics. They compare and sequence information; look for cause and effect; and make analogies. Flexible thinking is encouraged by hypothesizing relationships between ideas and brainstorming new ideas.

Pros: Values the process of learning how to ask and answer good questions, rather than just spitting out a fast answer (since we have computers and calculators for that, anyhow).

Cons: You can easily miss out on learning lots of topics or developing certain skills if you don’t have a tracking system in place to help monitor what you’ve covered in the past.

Examples: William and Mary Units; Destination Imagination

Goal: Through chance encounter or personal interest, children select topics they want to learn more about.

Method: Parents and teachers act as facilitators for learning. By keeping a watchful eye on child interests, they stand ready to jump in with the right tools for exploration and inquiry. Those tools may be something as simple as a magnifying glass and a journal during a nature walk.

Pros: Children learn faster and deeper when they are genuinely interested in a topic.

Cons: Waiting for a child to express an interest in a certain topic (like reading) may actually mask an undiagnosed learning disability. Also, some parents who embrace this philosophy are reluctant to use textbooks, even when the topic becomes so advanced that a textbook is going to be your best bet for learning the material.

Examples: Unschooling; Thematic units; Charlotte Mason; Montessori

Goal: Creating real-life solutions to real-world problems.

Method: Setting individual social responsibility as its highest goal, students define problems they want to address and then learn the academic skills they need to create a solution.

Pros: Harnessing passion can lead to intense learning and doing. The integration of skills and knowledge can create a greater purpose to learning.

Cons: Younger students may get frustrated by the amount of time it takes to acquire certain skills they need to carry out a project. Parents may get frustrated by the down time that can exist between major projects. This approach also takes a lot of parental planning and involvement for kids under the age of 14.

Examples: Problem Based Learning

Goal: Understanding great thinkers of the past allows you to appreciate your place rooted in the world today.

Method: This approach often stresses the intersection of arts and sciences, as well as the need for recitation, Latin, and logic. Teachers facilitate Socratic discussions, open-ended group conversations that debate issues.

Pros: Starting history from the beginning of time and cycling through it every 4 years makes a lot of sense.

Cons: The strict implementation of the classical approach doesn’t always work well for students with learning disabilities, especially kids who have difficulty with writing.

Examples: Calvert; The Well Trained Mind; Junior Great Books

Goal: Acquire practical vocational and life skills that prepare the student for a job immediately after high school.

Method: Students engage in hands-on apprenticeships, internships, job-training programs in addition to foundational academic skills.

Pros: It’s okay to acknowledge that not every homeschooler will go to college. Better to raise a child with a strong sense of self and self-respect, then to make them feel like a failure because they aren’t on the college track.

Cons: Can be easy to gloss over certain essential reading, math, and writing skills. Many post-high school vo-tech programs require homeschoolers to have completed Algebra 1.

Examples: 4-H units; Junior Achievement; Future Business Leaders of America; Mike Rowe’s Profoundly Disconnected campaign

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Last modified on April 14, 2020