Posts Tagged ‘unschooling’

What Style of Homeschooling?

Thursday, March 14th, 2024


What style of homeschooling fits your family the best? Here is a crash mini-course that describes each style of homeschooling, along with the pros and cons. It’s important to understand what type of homeschooling suits your family the best. It will depend on your own philosophy of education, and well as the learning styles and personalities of your kids.

1. Textbook Approach

Textbook Approach:
– Uses textbooks and workbooks to teach all subjects.
– Highly structured, age-graded with scope and sequence.

– Feels like a safe choice because the schools use it.
– If not sure about homeschooling, easier to transition back to school.
– Great for math for all ages (systematic) and high school sciences.

– A huge amount of material is covered in a superficial way.
The same topics are covered year after year.
– Information-dense reading is lifeless compared to living books and real-life projects.
– Tests and quizzes are based on trivia; original thinking is discouraged.
– Lots of grading for the parent; the school day lasts longer than most other approaches.

2. Classical Education

Classical Education
– Emphasizes classical literature, the study of Latin, and the Trivium:
– Grammar stage: (ages 6-10) Mastery of facts through memorization.
– Dialectic stage: (ages 10-14) Study of logic.
– Rhetoric stage: (ages 14-18) Proficiency in written and spoken language.

– Well-rounded education that teaches children how to think.
– Students are able to converse in a highly intelligent way; easier to get into Harvard.

– Mental fatigue from a long school day crammed with the maximum amount of academics.
– Many students have difficulty with Latin, which is a dead language. Spanish or other modern-day languages can teach the same root words and be useful in life.
– Children are pushed so hard that they don’t have time to develop their own pursuits and hobbies.

3. Charlotte Mason

Charlotte Mason
– Living books; no twaddle; short lessons; narrations.
– Nature study and notebooking.
– Fine arts, music, and poetry.

– Whole literature books rather than the usual excerpts in textbooks help the child to experience a work rather than just taste it. The reading is more interesting and not dry.
– Reading aloud and having children do open-ended nature study outside doesn’t require much energy for the parent.

– Some topics that require study don’t have living books. Comprehensive study of chemistry, for example, requires a textbook and not just a living biography.

4. Unit Studies

Unit Studies
– Integrate all subjects into one theme.
– Splash into one topic deeply until you master it.
– Hands-on activities and field trips.

– Greater retention of material because of immersion into subject.
– Students of all ages learn together and do assignments on different levels.
– Hands-on activities cause children to master the topic rather than just read about it.
– Encourages creativity and open-ended projects based on the subject.
– All learning styles are addressed, especially kinesthetic and visual learners.

– More labor-intensive to plan and set up hands-on activities.
– Some students don’t like hands-on activities and would rather read or write about the topic.
– Easy to leave out major topics of study if not systematically covering the topics.

5. Unschooling

– Unstructured and informal.
– Surround the child with a rich environment of learning opportunities.

– Natural curiosity of the child is not squashed.
– Freedom to pursue interests as subjects of study.
– Not fatigued from formal study; their mind can process what they’re interested in.

– Lack of systematic instruction, especially in skill areas, causes academic weakness.
– Natural laziness of human nature; student will not study what is necessary to learn unless instructed to do so.
– Leads to weakness in character because they only do what they feel like doing.


Computer-Based Education
– Using computer discs or online classes for education.

– Self-grading.
– No work whatsoever for the parent.
– Interactive with cartoons and positive re-enforcement.

– No interaction with the family; each student isolated from the others.
– No common base of learning; lack of discussion.
– Lack of real-life and hands-on projects.

Hopefully one or more of these styles of education fit your family. Let me know in the comments, which combination of styles is your favorite!

Thoughts About Unschooling

Thursday, November 4th, 2010


I just listened to a workshop about unschooling, and the whole idea fascinates me, to be honest. I love the idea of delight-directed studies, and my own children probably unschool for the second half of the day. But for the first half, I want my kids to have self-discipline and be involved in learning as a family. One of the reasons I homeschool is to be together as a family. Unit studies is really the only way to do that, teaching a topic (like Ancient Egypt) and living and breathing that topic as a family. That can’t be done with unschooling where kids only do whatever they feel like.

I asked the speaker whether you can just throw math out the window, and she said we don’t need all the higher math in real life anyway. I see many problems with this answer. First of all, you can’t internalize math unless you practice it. It’s similar to reading. It’s a skill that builds on itself, and if you stay in a weak position, you will always remain weak. That affects your ability to balance a checkbook, stay out of debt, or even pay bills. Secondly, if you ever want to go to college, you’re screwed. Thirdly, your kids don’t know what they want to be when they grow up. I guarantee that they will change their minds many times (even as an adult). What if they need higher math for the very thing they will love doing? You basically eliminate all possibility of many occupations. And is your child truly educated without knowledge of math?

She also said that children are naturally born good. This is simply not true. Scripture says we are born with a sin nature (Romans 3:23), and any mother of a toddler can testify to the fact that the child will insist on his own way and scream if he doesn’t get it. This is sin in its most raw state, out of control. Adults who do not deny themselves and follow Christ are equally selfish, but they manipulate their environment to make themselves look good. See, our time is not our own. Our time belongs to God. God, what do you want me to do with my time today?

Playing video games all day is what many children would do if left to themselves. “A child left to himself will bring shame to his mother,” is what Proverbs tells us. Children need to learn to obey when it’s the opposite of what they want to do. Otherwise it’s not true obedience. It’s just agreement that they feel like doing what you asked.

So many times in my own life I have had to crucify my own desires and do the right thing. Day after day, I need to do all the yucky jobs I hate. Like having to train my children in character when one child hits another child or is selfish. It takes so long. I just don’t feel like doing it. But I have to, or they will become worse. Doing the right thing is hard. Ask Jesus. He didn’t want to go to the cross. He denied Himself. He didn’t do “what He felt like doing,” which is what unschooling is all about.

That said, I do see unschooling working in an environment where there is self-denial and a transforming work of the Spirit in a child’s life. He would do what needed to be done (like math or writing), even if it wasn’t his favorite thing, just because that is what God requires of him, to be a good steward of his time. Then he would pursue other delightful interests that could help him have a specialization in the future.

However, laziness and selfishness are the natural results of a totally unschooling philosophy. That is what will naturally occur even in a believing Christian. This is hard to counteract.

Another idea that ran through my mind is that Jeremiah tells us that “our heart is deceitful and desperately wicked; who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9) I can’t even trust my own motives. I often realize later that I had selfish motives, when at the time I thought I was being altruistic and putting others first. So much more with children. When people say, “Trust your children to know what they should learn,” do they really know? “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child.” (Jeremiah 17:9) Scripture says that he will foolishly choose the wrong things if not directed.

Even though I enjoyed the workshop and would like to incorporate more delight-directed learning in my home, these questions are troubling to me. So I guess I’ll never really be a true unschooler.