Home Education - School at Home Approaches


Fixed curriculum

Curriculum framework

Own curriculum

Classical approach

Charlotte Mason approach

Unit Studies

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Fixed curriculum

A fixed curriculum is one where everything is all set out for the parent and child/children to follow.

Text book curricula have graded text books on each subject and follow a specific scope and sequence for each day of an academic programme. They have teacher's manuals, tests, and record keeping books or forms. It is assumed that the home is run on the same basis as a school with a teacher/pupil format.

Workbook curricula have consumable workbooks in which all the teaching text and written work is done in the book itself. Most include tests and checks to ensure that the material has been adequately understood. The pupil works independently (an advantage if different age children are involved) and the parent acts as a 'supervisor' only.

We (the Joubert family) have opted for a learning programme based on workbooks at the moment for various reasons. Our two eldest are at an age where they need to start looking at qualifications i.e. GCSE's or similar. The NCSC (National Christian School Certificate) offers various certificates which are recognised by many universities. Neither of the children wanted to do GCSE's at home. They did not want to go in and write exams, preferring to write tests as they go. Another reason is that I (Gayle) feel less concerned about things like "are they learning enough?". I know this is a ridiculous thing to worry about, but being a product of traditional education perhaps I am too far indoctrinated to leave it entirely behind me! Lastly, this method requires the least input from me and yet I feel confident that the children are learning relevant material. 

I adapt the material, sometimes, especially for the youngest child who is not following the certificate programme yet. I feel it is important to use any curriculum according to the personal learning styles and preferences of each individual child. For example, for an auditory learner perhaps you could read together when possible, rather than leave the child to work alone. Another may have an excellent memory and not need to do all the revision or writing required. This type of adaptability cannot be done in a school situation but is one of the most important advantages of home educating, in my opinion.

See: Suppliers

 
Advantages
 
There is little preparation (text book curricula) or no preparation (workbook curricula).
 
Has definite milestones of achievement with testing and assigning of grades or levels.
 
Pupils know what is expected of them.
 
Some pupils prefer to feel they are following a definite programme and like the structure.

Not 'exam oriented'. Children learn all of the material not only what pertains to a good exam result. Also, no exam stress.

Some systems do offer recognised certification.

Can be adapted to suit family and child.


Disadvantages
Some children may not be suited to this style of working.
 
Only the body of information which is deemed necessary for 'education' is followed and children rarely follow other avenues of interest. You can obviously ensure this does not happen. 
 
Children's minds are treated like containers to be filled with information.
 
Artificial learning experiences rather than experiential applied knowledge. Not always a bad thing, and you can supplement the work supplied.
 
Can work out fairly expensive.
 
Does not encourage independent thinking, although it is possible to encourage this especially by allowing the child to set their own goals, research material further and question what is being learned.
 
High stress rate due to boredom, lack of motivation or pressure to perform. Same as school!
 
Can be unnecessarily repetitive, although discretion can be used to delete unnecessary workload.

There is often unnecessary 'busy work'.

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National Curriculum framework

This simply means following the National Curriculum, using whatever resources you can find.

Books are available at most outlets which provide a basic framework of work which students in school are learning. You can also download the entire curriculum from:

www.dfee.gov.uk/nc

If you want to follow the exact work done in schools you can find out what texts are being used by speaking to your local school and ordering the books through a book supplier.


Advantages
Should the child go back into school at some stage they will have covered the same ground as other students.

Useful if child has chosen to write GCSE exams.


Disadvantages
Only the body of information which is deemed necessary for 'education' is followed and children rarely follow other avenues of interest. (can, of course, be overcome if care is taken.)
 
Children's minds are treated like containers to be filled with information.
 
May involve artificial learning experiences rather than experiential applied knowledge.
 
Can work out expensive.
 
May not encourage independent thinking, but again this can be overcome with encouragement in that area.
 
High stress rate due to boredom, lack of motivation or pressure to perform.
 
Needs planning and time consuming work by both parent and student.
 
A lot of time could be wasted on 'busy work'
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Own curriculum

The choice here is to allow the student to choose the subjects and use texts to suit. You can be as flexible as you want to be. In all cases your time is flexible and you can choose whether to follow a fixed time table or not. The advantages / disadvantages given are only applicable where the choice of study is student led.

Where the curriculum is chosen by the parent, most of the same advantages or disadvantages of a fixed curriculum would apply.


Advantages
Flexible.
Student follows interests and is therefore more motivated to learn and retain information.
Many, varied, texts and resources can be used.
Lends itself to project type work.

Disadvantages
Students may only superficially glean information without retaining much, unless some in-depth study is carried out e.g. discussion, projects, research, outings to relevant places.
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Classical approach

The Classical Approach was started by British writer and medieval scholar Dorothy Sayers. She warned, during the 1930's, that schools were teaching children everything except how to think. She felt that any tyrant could influence people who had not learned to think for themselves. She wrote an essay called The Lost Tools of Learning in which she stated: "Is not the great defect of our education today .. that although we often succeed in teaching our pupils subjects, we fail lamentably on the whole in teaching them how to think: they learn everything, except the art of learning." She proposed reinstating the classical form of education used in the Middle Ages.

Children are taught tools of learning, known as The Trivium. The goal is to produce students who can teach themselves. The first stage, the Grammar Stage, from approximately age 6-10 focuses on reading, writing and spelling; Latin; developing observation, listening, and memorization skills. The goal is to master elements of language and develop a general framework of knowledge during the stage of concrete thinking.

The second stage, from approximately ages 10-12, when children are entering the stage of abstract thinking, is called the Dialectic Stage. Discussion and debate is encouraged and taught. The goal is to equip the child with language and thinking skills capable of detecting fact from fallacy. The student reads essays, criticisms and arguments. History study leans towards interpreting events, while higher math and theology is begun.

The third phase, called The Rhetoric Stage, at around age 15 encourages eloquent and persuasive language skills.


Advantages
Encourages thinking skills, verbal and written language.
Children learn to teach themselves and acquire knowledge.
Children learn from the great minds of the past.
Flexible.

Disadvantages
Little prepared curriculum available.
Too much emphasis on ancient classics and past rhetoric.
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Charlotte Mason approach

Charlotte Mason believed in respecting children as persons and involving them in real-life situations. She encouraged allowing them to read good books instead of what she called "twaddle" - inferior teaching material. She abhorred the way children were treated as containers to be filled with information.

She felt that children should be involved in a broad spectrum of real-life situations and given ample time to play and create. They were to be taught good morals and habits. Her approach was to teach basic reading, writing and arithmetic skills and then expose children to the best sources of knowledge for all other subjects. This included nature walks, visiting art museums, reading real books with "living ideas" (books which made the subject come alive).

The method stresses narration and dictation of passages from books as well as discussion of good books.


Advantages
Reading encouraged of excellent literature.
Encourages curiosity, creative thinking, and love of learning.
No busy-work (meaningless tasks).
Stresses character and good habits.

Disadvantages
No prepared curriculum.
If higher level subjects are to be followed e.g. physics, chemistry, grammar, maths .. they would still have to use traditional texts or methods.
May focus too much on mental knowledge rather than experience or applied knowledge.
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Unit Studies

To do unit studies requires taking a central theme or topic and studying it over a period of time integrating language, arts, science, history, etc as they apply to the topic. For example, one may undertake a study of transport. This would involve, reading and writing about various aspects of cars, boats, aircraft, etc. Projects could involve building a simple motor, or cart. Students would learn about the science of motors, the history of transport, and they could work out traveling time from place to place involving maths and interpreting a map. They could look at the influence transport has had on our life-styles, our environment and world history.


Advantages
Encourages curiosity, creative thinking, and love of learning.
Children of different ages can study together.
Less planning time because there are no individual subjects but rather different aspects of one subject.
Intense study of one topic is a more natural way to learn.
Knowledge is interrelated and is more easily learned and retained.
No time restraints.
Flexible and interesting.

Disadvantages
Could cause stress for parent and student if too much is undertaken.
It is difficult to assess level of learning, if this is required.
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