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Eclectic, Charlotte Mason, Unschooling? What Does It All Mean For Me?

If you haven’t been in the homeschooling sphere long, there will be many terms that are confusing and unusual. Don’t despair, I will guide you through the many choices of homeschooling methods.

I have been researching homeschooling since my oldest was 3 months old back in 2002. I have become somewhat of an expert in the different genres of homeschooling, having attempted many myself. Sit back, relax and come along with me on a journey through the sometimes despairing vocabulary that is homeschooling.

Traditional / Classical Method

At the heart of classical homeschooling is what is called the Trivium. There are 3 levels of learning called the Grammar Stage (typically Grades 1-4), the Logic Stage (typically Grades 5-8) and the Rhetoric Stage (typically Grades 9-12).

There is a strong belief towards instilling a balanced approach to learning and with subjects such as History, Science, Geography and the Arts rotating on 4 year cycles, it gives the child a chance to go around the subject 3 times throughout their schooling.

The Grammar Stage is based around fact memorization. Young children are eager to soak up facts and the “building blocks” of grammar rules, mathematical facts, foreign language vocabulary and scientific truths. This four year stage is where the ground work is laid for future stages.

The Logic Stage is a time of change, of analyzing and reasoning the information that has been obtained in the earlier Grammar Stage. This is the time the student begins to question the why behind all the knowledge.

Logic is applied to all subjects, causing the student to dig deeper into the why in English (thesis development and essay writing), the why in Math (algebra and geometric theories), the whys of History (why were battles fought, what logical decisions and fallacies shaped the world) and the why of Science (where they learn the Scientific Method) and the why of Foreign Language (Latin and Green are often a staple of this method).

The Rhetoric Stage is typically the High School years. A time of self-expression, self-examination and learning how to communicate that to the world with clarity and purpose. This is a time to dig deeper into subjects that specifically interest the child.

Many people who are drawn to the Traditional or Classical Method are Christians who strive to base their child’s knowledge in a Christian Worldview. If you are interested in reading more about Classical Christian Education, I would encourage you to head over the the Well Trained Mind website by Susan Wise Bauer. There are books and encouragement to help you along the way.

Charlotte Mason Method

In the later half of the 1800’s into the early 1900’s Charlotte Mason was a British educator who’s philosophy was comprised in a series of lectures that became a 6 volume series called Home Education. Her belief was in creating a well rounded child through atmosphere, discipline and life.

The website  Simply Charlotte Mason, puts it as such, By “Atmosphere,” Charlotte meant the surroundings in which the child grows up. A child absorbs a lot from his home environment. Charlotte believed that the ideas that rule your life as the parent make up one-third of your child’s education.

By “Discipline,” Charlotte meant the discipline of good habits—and specifically habits of character. Cultivating good habits in your child’s life make up another third of his education.

The other third of education, “Life,” applies to academics. Charlotte believed that we should give children living thoughts and ideas, not just dry facts. So all of her methods for teaching the various school subjects are built around that concept.

The basis of any good Charlotte Mason education are “living books”, books that draw you into a story that puts your imagination in the middle of whatever subject you are learning. No dry textbooks or boring lectures. Children experience, feel, do the work.

Some of the important cornerstones of her philosophy are Narration, Copywork, Nature Study, Hymn Study, Art Study, Music Study, Spelling and studying foreign languages.

Montessori Method

This method was invented by an Italian physician and educator Maria Montessori who placed emphasis on independence, freedom within limits, and respect for a child’s natural pyschological, physical, and social development.

According to the Canadian Council of Montessori Administrators the Montessori Method would include

 

  • A carefully prepared child-centered environment
  • Mixed age (family groupings) per classroom
  • An opportunity to progress at his/her own pace
  • Activity-based learning
  • Freedom and responsibility
  • Co-operation, collaboration, not competition

 

     The basis of the Montessori Method is in having Sensory Materials, Practical Life Materials and Academic Subject Materials. If you would like to investigate this subject further please refer to Montessori Homeschooling.
Unschooling or Child-Directed Learning
    There are many misconceptions when it comes to unschooling. Much of the public that is unaware of this “unusual” method do not understand and assume the child is lazy and sitting around watching television all day, who will never qualify to get a job or “succeed” in real life. Nothing could be further from the truth.
     Unschooling refers to not having a “School-At-Home” philosophy. Meaning that learning happens all the time by curious and interested children, not just between the hours of 9 and 3 Monday to Friday, but learning happens whenever, wherever with whatever resources the parent provides.
     They do not follow an all-in-one curriculum method, but instead place interesting books, videos, field trips, experiments, craft projects and real life instances within the reach of their children. Often taking many trips to the library, local parks and local businesses to partake in real world situations, learning by doing, by getting messy and making mistakes (intended Magic School Bus pun).
     This method lends beautifully to Child-Directed Learning and Project Based Homeschooling.
Unit Study Method
    The unit study method helps the mothers of multiple child with multiple ages and stages, to incorporate all the subjects into one unit study.
     For example if you were learning about the War of 1812, in Language Arts you would read a story about  a child who lived during that time period, you could incorporate copywork, spelling words and grammar based on the topic. In Math you would count how many troops were in the battle and how much ammunition they would need or how to ration food, working on fractions. In History, you would read about the battle and with Geography you would study maps of the battle.
     There can be a varying degree of difficulty placed in the lesson for the different members of the family based on their level of understanding. After reading about the battle you may ask your kindergartner to draw of picture of what they heard, while encouraging your third grader to research a General’s life from the battle, and expecting a 200-300 word essay from your 7th Grader.
     Whatever the reasoning for choosing this method it is a fun alternative and teaches children that life incorporates all the subjects, all the time. If you would like to investigate this method further please click here , here , here, here and here. There are alot of links and alot of information just take your time and soak in the information listed within.
Internet / DVD Instructional Method
    This method can take on many faces. There are umbrella schools, all-in-one online curriculum both in DVD and online forms. There are specific subjects online or available to buy individually. There are teacher led classes and tutors. In certain provinces there may even be public school courses online. 
     For the parent who is unsure of themselves in a certain subject area, or who may not have the time to devote to a specific subject, then this method will work well for these situations.
     Many parents incorporate some form of online learning with the other methods that have been discussed. Look into the website She Knows for an excellent article on this method.
Eclectic or Relaxed Homeschooling
     This is another commonly misunderstood approach to homeschooling.  Eclectic homeschooling typically means that you do not use a one size fits all curriculum, but you piece together bits and parts of some or all of the above methods.
     For example in the 9 years of our homeschooling we have been Classical Christian, Charlotte Mason, Online Unschoolers. (If that even makes sense!) However; the best part of homeschooling is that you can customize your learning plan to your children, to your job(if you work from home or away from home) and depending on the season in life you’re in (pregnancy, moving, sickness, financial struggles), you may also find yourself bumping from method to method. And that’s O.K, momma!
     You need to do what works best for your family. No two families will be the same. With religious differences. Discipline styles, Learning Disabilities and Family Life, you cannot put yourself or your children into a box. Above all RELAX. I wish I had realized how important that would be at the beginning of our journey. I’m certain we all would have enjoyed it more, if I could have calmed down and realized the precious gift I was being given.
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Homeschooling In Canada? What Are The Legalities?

If you homeschool long enough you will inevitably have people ask you if homeschooling is even legal. You can rest assured in all of Canada and most of the world, for that matter, it is indeed legal; however, it is important that you are aware of  the laws and regulations governing your province.

I would encourage you to read through these articles so you can become well versed on the laws of your particular province.

I would highly recommend becoming a member of HSLDA Canada. The benefits are enormous and there is something to be said for the peace of mind it affords you. HSLDA will provide you will 1. Legal Services 2. Insurance Services and 3. General Services.

Please check them out and encourage other moms in your group to join. They fight for the good of all homeschoolers in Canada and we need to show our support. They have made it even easier now with very resonable monthly, yearly or 2 year payments.

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How Does Your Child Learn?

It is important before you dive into searching endlessly for curriculum that you take the time to analyze your children’s learning style.

There are numerous online tests designed to give you more insight into your child and I will give you links to some of these. However; in this article, we will focus on Auditory, Visual and Kinesthetic learners.

Auditory Learners

These learners thrive on listening to what others have to say and participating in group discussions about topics they are learning.

They often have trouble following written instructions and need to have them verbalized.

It may appear as though you are being ignored by an auditory listener as they do not frequently make eye contact when learning. You may catch them having a conversation with themselves about what is being taught.

They are often great story tellers with great imaginations. Be careful to always answer  an auditory learner as they need thoughtful responses to their questions in order to process and make sense of their information.

Visual Learners

     The child who is a visual learner relates best to images and colours. They can often see plans and organizing of materials in their mind. They have a good sense of direction and are coordinated ( have good spatial sense)

They need visual aids, maps, videos, art lessons. They need to doodle and draw to make sense of the information being presented to them.

Colour coding information and making charts and other visual aids will help a visual learner to present information to other people.

Kinesthetic Learner

A kinesthetic learner is one who uses every aspect of their body and touch to interpret and understand the world around them. They have a hard time sitting through lectures and would rather “get their hands dirty” working out a problem, than reading a textbook. 

You will find the kinesthetic child restless if made to sit still too long and can be found reading upside down or standing up.

They love to play sports, run and dance. Role playing through history or making models is right up their alley.

It is more than likely that your child will fall in more than one category of learning styles, however; there will be a predominant style they will be prone to follow.

Take the tests so that you can make sure to cater the curriculum to their particular learning style and it will save you both many tears.

The following tests are meant to help you define your child’s learning style, they do not replace the professional advice of a medical doctor.

ldpride.net

I would also encourage you to read the following article from Dyslexia Victoria Online.

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Different Learning Styles

 With four children in the mix Homeschooling can be a big ship to steer some days. There are days when we get so much accomplished I feel the imaginary pat on the back of success; however, there are days when every move we make is met with resistance and it feels like nothing gets done. 

     Needless to say, I am always in search of the perfect method (even though my brain knows there is no such thing). I have the heart of a Mother, someone who always has hope that things will work out. 

     I have tried so many styles of homeschooling and I am still not entirely convinced of any one style right now….but the research continues. At the start of last year we would all sit at the kitchen table for Geography and History and Science and Bible. I was all prepared and happy and was met with resistance from some and compliance from others and the compliant ones would have to inevitably wait for their siblings to stop fooling around long enough to get the lesson accomplished. 

     After 2 months it started wearing on me to the point I didn’t want to sit at the table anymore….because I don’t want to spend the whole day upset with the children. I want our time together to be lighthearted and smooth. So the search was on again.

     I spent hours upon hours upon days reading blogs and looking how other people did things trying to come up with some method that works for us. I came across computer learning and decided to give Time4Learning a try. At $65 a month it was a good fit for about 3 months and during the last two weeks they started complaining that it was boring. My husband and I decided that it wasn’t worth putting forth the money just to see tears. In entered Head of the Class a free version of computer learning. Sadly this curriculum is no longer available. There was another couple of months of resistance; however, I made the children stick with this until I could come up with another method that would work.

     I personally love Time4Learning and Head of the Class and would have considered myself lucky as a kid to do my school work on them. They are engaging, thought provoking and informative. I think my boys would have been ok to stay on them indefinately, but the girls need more personal interaction I think. 

     Starting this school year I have implemented my own schedule. It is able to be customized, for long or short days. It allows students to progress at a comfortable pace while still taking in the same information. It frees up my time for questions and one-on-ones. It allows me to add in projects that would take to long and be too frustrating doing with four children. Also, I am not a morning person and this allows the children to begin their day without needing to wait for mommy to spring to life from her second coffee of the day. (I know, I know that’s an issue I need to work on)

   

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5 Top Misconceptions About Homeschooling

With almost 7 years of homeschooling under my belt, I can say with certainty that I have heard of many misconceptions when it comes to homeschooling. Until I had my first encounter with a homeschooling family when I was a Sunday School Superintendent, I had my own misgivings when it came to the subject. If you had asked me then, I would have told you that homeschoolers are hippy, religious fanatics who are over protective and shielding their children, who were all wearing jean jumpers by the way, from the world. I’m glad to say I was wrong. All of the homeschool families we have come across are caring, loving, helpful people who support and encourage and understand differences.

I believe that most of the misconceptions come from being uninformed. So ,as with me, I’m sure others just want to educate the world on this incredibly, enriching educational choice.

As a homeschooling mother of 4, I have had to debate these issues with our families, our friends, our neighbours and society in general. As I lay these out, please realize that there are always exceptions to the rule. Just as we are different from other families in our own cities, we are different from other homeschool families all over the world. However, in this beautiful world of ours it truly does take all kinds. Life would be dreadful if we were all clones.

#1. Is this even legal?

Oh, the height of misinformation! It would just take a quick Google search for anyone not familiar with homeschooling to find out in less than 5 minutes that it is in fact legal to homeschool in Canada and the U.S. I believe society in general has been fed an incredibly negative image of homeschooling from the media. What are they suppose to think? It is such a disservice to us who do homeschool who have to put up with jeering neighbours and very unfair questions.

Yes, there are different rules governing each state and province and they do need to be followed, but for the most part if people would just ask the homeschool parents if it is legal, we would be more than happy to set them straight. I believe the more  positive media that people see, the better this situation will get.

#2. What about socialization?

Having heard this concern so many times, it makes me wish people could spend a week in my home. They wouldn’t question that anymore. My children are articulate, friendly and will have a conversation with anyone of any age. They are involved in many social outings and activities with public school children every week. They love life and they love people, all people. They are very tolerant and wouldn’t shy away from speaking or praying in public.

I live in a small city and there are an overwhelming amount of homeschool and community activities to keep us out of the house all day. I have to consciously make the decision to say no to some outings so as to have time for schoolwork and family time. You can become so wrapped up in the socialization bubble that you neglect fostering relationships with your children in the quiet times at home.

I do realize that there are homeschoolers who are not social and are not involved in community activities, but from what I’ve seen they are few and far between. Just like there are public schooled children who don’t socialize in school well and are not in any activities outside of school, there are homeschoolers like that; however, I believe we need to be judged on an individual basis, not in a lump sum.

#3. It’s too expensive!

It can be expensive to homeschool. If you allow yourself to become a curriculum junkie and buy all the latest materials from all the lovely and compelling ads that you see in the pursuit of the PERFECT curriculum, you will be struggling financially and emotionally. The perfect curriculum doesn’t exist. A fancy curriculum can promise you the moon, but if you don’t utilize it correctly or it is not in line with your children’s learning style, it is no better than a free resource off of the internet.

I begin researching for materials for the coming year starting in January of the current year. That way I have lots of time to prepare and analyze the styles and to determine if that free resource off of the internet is equally as good. You need to keep your head about you at all times when it comes to determining what’s really necessary.

I have been researching homeschool methods and materials since my now 12 year old son was 3 months old, because I knew the time would slip away and I would be forced to make a decision. I like to be prepared and for most part I have been. I only spend what I’ve wanted to, not what I’ve felt pressured into. It is possible to homeschool for free, minus printer ink and paper.

#4. I could NEVER spend that much time with my kids! When would I get time for myself?

While it is true that your children being home 24/7 can be trying on the nerves. I see the benefits of close relationships between my children and I and between siblings being close that far out way any inconvenience I may feel on not getting alone time.

If someone is concerned on getting alone time there are several ways that can be accomplished.

– arrange with a fellow homeschool mother to take her children for an afternoon and vice versa

– make sure the children go to bed at a decent time so you can have time with your spouse or alone.

– be honest with family and friends, let them know you need regular alone time, even if it’s just shopping without littles. Give them the                  chance to offer to watch your children.

– Let your spouse know it’s important for date nights or solo shopping sprees. If he sees how happy and relaxed it makes you, he’ll see                    the benefits of stepping up and taking the children to the park for a few hours or hiring a sitter for some much needed romance.

– many homeschool progams require a parent to sit and wait. If it’s a library take the time to peruse the adult section. If it’s someplace                  else, bring along a book, laptop, project you’re working on. Or take the time to socialize with fellow homeschool mothers.

– the one that works for me is letting my children know that I cannot be there constant source of entertainment, they can read, play LEGO’s, invent a play, play quietly in their rooms, watch the occasional educational video.

Please do not make the decision to not homeschool based on how much time you believe you need alone. It can be a false trap to causes you to lose out on the joys of homeschooling.

#5. Homeschoolers are lazy and undereducated.

One of my favorite things about homeschooling is how my four children can develop their talents and interests and that they have the time they need to be interested in subjects and dig deeper if need be. My children are involved in community activities like Scouts Canada, Guides Canada, AWANA, Gems and Cadets, swimming lessons and homeschooling activities such as CO-OP’s, LEGO club, French class, soccer, gym and swim, skating and dance. And that’s just what we do, there are many more things we could do.

I know this is not true for every family; however, my children are one grade ahead of where they would be in public school. I believe that is in large part to the less one on one attention it takes to accomplish the same things at home. We also school year round so there is no need to play catch up at the beginning of the year. I find that because I’m able to correct my children’s work instantly they do not develop false methods of doing schoolwork.

When I made the decision to put my children in school for a year and a half, they fit right in. I just missed our time together as a family so we brought them home for good. Society claims tolerance for different lifestyles and choices; however, the homeschool family rarely benefits from this tolerance.

It is my hope that we as homeschoolers are not intimidated by the naysayers and stand firm for what we believe is the best choice for our families.

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2 Free Complete Homeschool Sites

     The deeper you dig into the world wide web, the more free resources you will find. Most homeschool families do not have unlimited resources when it comes to their homeschool budget. Therefore, it is essential to only spend money where you need to. Let me show you the top resources I’ve scoured for and gleaned out for you.

1. Easy Peasy All In One Homeschool

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This is a screenshot of the first day of fourth grade.

 A homeschool mother has written this complete curriculum for her family as well as yours and has complete or partial courses for each year of K-12. My own family used this curriculum for almost a year and we did enjoy it. I would copy the lessons into Live Binders because I didn’t want my children to skip ahead which they would do.

It is thorough and fun. There are as many hands on activities suggested as there are computer related activities. This curriculum is written with a Christian perspective, but I’m sure anyone could use this. Anyone of the subjects can be used individually.

You can follow Lee Giles, the curriculum writer on Easy Peasy’s Facebook page. There is also a Facebook page dedicated to Extra Resources and many other Facebook pages created by other moms who use the curriculum. There is no shortage of support for this free resource.

Here is a thorough review of the site by Cathy Duffy, author of 101 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum

2.  Ambleside Online

ambleside

This is the first week of grade 4.

If I could go back to the beginning and start all over again, this is the method I would follow. I love everything about Charlotte Mason’s philosophy. I do incorporate many of her aspects; however this curriculum just has it all and presents it so well.

This curriculum covers k-12 and makes it easy for a mother of multiples to follow along. I encourage you to dig into this wonderful resource. Hepburn Family Homepages has done a wonderful job at helping you navigate the big website, in bite sized chunks. Also visit Ambleside Online’s Facebook page.

Librovox (an audiobook website) has done a wonderful job pulling together the year booklists.

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Cost Effective Ways To Homeschool

In this day and age all families need to look for ways to cut costs when they are homeschooling. Having a family of 6, I understand the need to use the most effective methods possible.

Hands down the best resource for any homeschool family is the internet. There are a multitude of free resources that can be downloaded or printed out. Free unit studies, lapbooks, novel studies, math sheets…you name it. My goal on this blog is to share as many of these free resources with you as I can.

The next most valuable resource is the library. Not only is there wonderful literature, you can be involved in programs and sometimes you could convince the children’s librarian to start a special homeschool LEGO club or book club…etc.

Another cost effective method I have used, being Canadian, is to purchase ebooks and downloadable curriculum. It saves on shipping and ebooks are usually less expensive than their hard covered counterparts. You only need to print out the pages you actually need the kids to write on. Or be like me when the four kids need to use the same pages. Put them in a folder and add lined sheets.

There are so many contests and giveaways and samples associated with the homeschool world. Subscribe to a few resources and keep up to date with all the goodness. Some of my favorites are

I encourage you to stay tuned for all of the freebies I have gleaned from the world wide web. Have a great day!