My elementary education professor once told me that everything I learn about teaching should go into a “toolbox” that I can draw from as I need it. I’ve taken that idea to heart both as a parent and as a homeschool mom. I often refer to our homeschool style as “eclectic”, which is a fancy way of saying “whatever works”! My children have given me ample opportunity to use a variety of the tools in my education toolbox.
My homeschooling methods are greatly influenced by Charlotte Mason and her philosophy of education. I use Charlotte Mason principles as the basis for our homeschool. We use My Father’s World as our base curriculum, which includes many Charlotte Mason approaches. Unless my children become very engaged in an activity, I try to keep lessons short. We sometimes change activities as often as every fifteen minutes. Charlotte Mason believed in using quality literature and whole books in education. We read unabridged classics, biographies, poetry, and dramas. I am very selective about what I read aloud and what I allow my children to read themselves. My children do copywork of Bible verses and sections of literature. We listen to classical music and study famous artwork and artists. I also use narration and take notes as a way to assess my children’s learning, rather than giving them tests. I do not give letter grades until junior high; rather I keep a journal and samples of my children’s work.
I have used several Montessori approaches, as well. During the preschool years I used practical life activities; my children spent hours using a pair of tongs or a spoon to move pompoms or beans from one container to another. When my children were little I had child-sized tools for them to use. My son spent hours pounding nails into boards or using a screw driver.
I use a unit study approach for some of our studies. Each year we study a different country as a family. We read books about and biographies of famous people from the country. We also do crafts, play games, cook food, and listen to music from the country. We complete notebooks, lapbooks, or various projects that show what we learned during our study.
For language arts and math we use a more traditional approach. I use the greatest variety of methods when I teach these subjects as well. I have found that what worked for my daughter often does not work for my son. My daughter was a child who learned to read much the way she learned to walk or talk. It was a very quick and natural process that involved a small amount of phonics instruction and lots of practice. Most of her reading instruction involved reading good books. Because reading did not come as easily for my son, I have needed to reach back into my toolbox for a different tool several times to help him learn to read. We are using a very structured phonics approach that seems to be working very well. He uses flash cards, a workbook, and handwriting pages. My children find writing very tedious, so when I am not specifically teaching writing skills I try to find ways to teach concepts using hands-on methods. For example, when I was working with my daughter on learning grammar I used word cards and symbols for diagramming rather than having her fill out pages in a workbook. In math we use a workbook and manipulatives program that uses mastery and hands-on learning.
As I think about our next school year, I realize it is time to once again reevaluate my teaching toolbox. My daughter is heading into her teen years and I know that I will need to readjust some of my approaches to meet her long-term goals. My plans include helping her become more independent by writing class descriptions and giving her a final due date for larger projects so that she learns to manage time on her own. I am also giving her more choices in what she studies.
One of the buzz phrases in public education is individualized instruction. As homeschoolers we have the ability to choose methods that work best for our children individually. I encourage you to spend time adding to your own teaching toolbox, and giving yourself the freedom to use whichever tool works best for you and your child.
Originally published at Hedua.com.