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Home-ed Methods

There are many different ways to approach home education and here we give a very broad outline of some of the most popular methods. It is important to consider your own goals, what you expect home education to achieve, and the personalities of the children involved.

To explore click on one of the following:

1. School at home

School at home is the name given to any method which requires the same sort of discipline and routine that is used in schools. Most home educating families start off this way and gradually find their own personal approach, often using many different methods and materials in the process.

Some different approaches to 'school at home' are:-
Fixed curriculum
Curriculum framework
Own curriculum
Classical approach
Charlotte Mason approach
Unit Studies
(Click for further information - opens in a new window)
    Advantages to 'School at Home'

  • Structure helps to know what has to be done and get on with it.
  • Everyone knows what is expected.
  • Children and parents feel satisfied when they can see definite progress.
  • Some children love rewards and feeling of progress/achievement.
  • (Can be less stressful if a loose approach is followed and too much emphasis isn't placed on rigid structure and routine.)
    Disadvantages to 'School at Home'

  • Stress when home activities interfere with structure and motivating children to 'work' isn't always a breeze!
  • Major time input with some methods.
  • May lose flexibility that is a main advantage of home educating.
  • May push child who isn't ready or hold back one who wants to go ahead if too rigid.
  • May lose advantage of being able to diversify or individualise learning.
  • Lose advantage of following child's interests.
  • 'School' mindset leads to losing spontaneous learning interest and may lead to dislike of learning.
  • Needs creativity and imagination to keep from being boring.

2. Flexi-schooling

Flexi-schooling means that some work is done at home and some at school e.g. sport, art, music. This is an option only if your local school is prepared to consider the arrangement. One advantage to the school is that they still get the subsidy paid for the student, so many do consider it while others have never heard of such a thing and would have to be approached with a feasible proposal.

    Advantages to Flexi-schooling

  • Structure helps to know what has to be done and get on with it.
  • Everyone knows what is expected.
  • Children and parents feel satisfied when they can see definite progress.
  • Some children love rewards and feeling of progress/achievement.
  • More interaction with peers if this is desirable (may not be a positive aspect!).
  • Broad range of activities without parent having to make that extra effort.
    Disadvantages to Flexi-schooling

  • As for whatever method is chosen for the 'home' part of education involved.
  • As for some aspects of school i.e. peer pressure, bullying.
  • More likely to be subject to inspection by LEA.
  • Still tied down to routines of school.
  • Less freedom to follow interests and school may insist on national curriculum being followed and overseeing work done.

3. Semi-structured approach

The 'Semi-structured Approach' involves using some curriculum, allowing flexibility and for children to be responsible for their own learning. The children follow their own interests where possible, with parents encouraging diversity, research etc. This approach also allows for other worthwhile activities - for example, if your child is content to practice music or do some art, not insisting that grammar or maths is done instead. Some structure may be used where appropriate. As children very often won't 'choose' to learn maths or grammar, some parents use specific workbooks for these but allow for other subjects to be learned more naturally. This approach does require input from parents, and sometimes more so than with a structured approach, although it depends largely on the child involved.

Some families who follow this approach spend a great deal of time on outings either on their own or with other home educators where children are given a wonderful insight into castles, museums, factories, sports and many other worthwhile places, including theme parks! This approach only works if children are given many resources like books, computer access, outings, television and, of course, discussion time!

    Advantages to the Semi-structured Approach

  • Children have more positive approach to learning.
  • Children take responsibility for themselves.
  • They gain a broad knowledge of many things.
  • They are not tied down to work which they are not interested in, and therefore won't remember.
  • The family can structure work to their own requirements using some structure where required.
  • Flexibility.
  • Much less stress to 'get things done' or 'keep up'.
    Disadvantages to the Semi-structured Approach

  • Parents tend to worry about whether they are 'doing enough'.
  • It doesn't suit all children, particularly those who prefer structure and routine.

4. Autonomous approach/Unschooling

This approach involves the child following his own interests entirely, with encouragement and access to a wide range of resources. It DOES NOT mean that the child does nothing all day, although there may be some days where it appears nothing much is being done. Many autonomous families say they simply 'live life'. Life with a toddler involves sharing the joys of his or her growth, introducing new things and explaining life as it happens. Autonomous families simply take this approach all the way down the line. Children learn to read because they want to. Some only want to when they are older than the norm, and this is perfectly acceptable. Children are not required to study what does not interest them, but encouraged to follow their own innate thirst for knowledge.

Children go on to do GCSE's or college courses when they are ready.

    Advantages to Unschooling

  • The main advantage is that there is almost no stress and the family simply 'lives life' - a discipleship model of learning.
  • Children maintain a natural desire to learn without any of the negativities which often arise from forced learning.
  • Children can learn any academic subject or other skill at any age - when they are ready and willing.
  • Children can delve as deeply into a subject as they wish.
  • No academic frustration of burn-out.
    Disadvantages to Unschooling

  • Parents often worry and feel anxious because most of us have a 'school' mindset which is hard to eradicate.
  • There is often pressure from family and friends who do not understand this approach.
  • Children who are not motivated to learn, or who are already 'school oriented' have to be de-schooled and may not regain their original interest in gaining knowledge.


The J. Family's approach

When we first began to home educate it was definitely "school at home". We were compelled by South African law to follow an approved curriculum. We used ACE workbooks in the prescribed manner. Since moving to the U.K. we have had the freedom to try various approaches. I saw many advantages to 'unschooling' and willingly tried it.

Unfortunately, it didn't work for us. With any one child I would have continued, but with three of different ages, interests, and personalities, we were all frustrated. The children decided that they preferred a more structured approach. For a long time we didn't follow any particular curriculum and they had freedom to choose what they wanted to learn.

I wish it wasn't so, but it is easy to take a child out of school but it is very difficult to take the school out of the person. The children are used to 'achievement' and feel that if there is no measurable achievement they are not doing anything. School culture got to us all and we are having great difficulty letting go of it.

For a while we used different books and our eldest son, particularly, liked the fact that he could choose whether to answer all the questions in the book, write them on a piece of paper, or not write them in at all. He was beginning to enjoy the freedom he had in learning what he wanted to learn, although he still insisted that I write some sort of guideline for him to follow, albeit that he first chose the subjects himself. Some subjects had workbooks, some didn't and I have given him other books to read and work through. He likes order. He doesn't want to have to decide every day what to do because, he says, he doesn't feel like it then. He wants to have a schedule and to feel he has to do it, because he wants to make goals and meet them, but without a fixed commitment he feels he does nothing. I think that makes sense. I am like that too. I am not very self-motivated, but like to meet my goals. I would gladly pay somebody to nag and cajole me into keeping my resolutions on a daily basis. Ahh, for a personal trainer, dietician-cum-chef, personal study guide . ! Tim not only wants one, he has one who is all those things and more! His goals were not to reach a certain "level". They were "to study, Biology, Geography, Different cultures, ..etc"

Things changed for him when he turned 14, however. Suddenly we had to seriously think about the future. He wants to go to university so we looked at the options available to him. He began a Biology course through correspondence but as soon as he sent in his first assessment it came back with a letter saying they could not accept him as a student as he was under 16. This was a big disappointment to him and he decided not to continue with any other correspondence college, even one that would take younger students. He said he found it boring. I don't know the real reason, but he was adamant he no longer wanted to go that route.

He has chosen to follow another certification programme with a completely different syllabus to the National Curriculum. Quite a few students have completed their certificate course and been accepted into even the best universities. Unfortunately this means he no longer has the freedom to choose his subjects and has to follow a set course, but it was his choice to do this and he is doing well. He likes working on his own and as I said before prefers a fixed curriculum where he knows exactly what has to be done. Personally I find the concept and method boring, but he is the one who has to choose, not me!

Our daughter, now 9, also prefers to work in workbooks. (As I write this, she is reading with me and is nodding her head vigorously). She understands what is required and likes the idea that she can control her own work. She, too, finds that a structured learning time suits her. Sometimes she finds a section she doesn't like for some reason. It is usually maths and the repetition is boring. If she understands the concept I tell her to jump ahead.

Our other son, (12), is a kinaesthetic, auditory, social learner which, in a nutshell means that he likes company, likes to 'do' things and hasn't been much of a reader. Reading is something you do on your own, after all. I usually work individually with him. He likes reading to me and having me read to him, and seems to remember more that way, so that is what we do. I have never forced him to read literature on his own, trying to take it slowly and just show him the joy of books. Imagine my sheer joy when he first read a long book, of his own accord!

Of course this structured work is only a very small part of their education. I see education as a life process and this bit is simply helping us to cover some academic goals. We also exercise together, have bible time most days, work in the garden, do loads of art and craft, as well as woodwork once a week with a group we have set up. We get materials and plans from Opitec and love them!

I enjoy the children's spontaneous poetry and stories, their incredibly vivid imaginations and their growing sense of humour. There is no shortage of delight in them from us in all areas of their growth. They need not "do" workbooks to gain approval.

One advantage of following a structured (well, semi-structured) approach, is that many times they discover interesting facts which lead them to further research and discussion. For some reason they like the "school time" as they call it, but at the same time say "Yaaaay!" when we have an "off" day. I guess that would be no different to somebody like Oprah being pleased when her personal trainer allows her have a day off, but she still retains him to keep her fit and in shape. Well, it's my analogy anyway!


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