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Considering Methods & Styles of Homeschooling
Lillian Jones

Parents looking into homeschooling these days are frequently told that the first thing they need to do is pick a method or style - and you'll find lists of those all over the Internet. Careful... All this attention to methods and styles can actually be a stumbling block to a smooth beginning, if for no other reason than that it can add unnecessary stress and overwhelm in a growing avalanche of information on "how to homeschool."

Recognizing your child's learning style at some point can be important - but then quickly picking and starting in with a method of education, even if it seems based on his learning style, can create complications. Don't feel you need to be in a hurry to "pick a style or method" or "get started" at "homeschooling" - seasoned veterans will usually reassure you that you have all the time in the world to get your feet wet.

It's an enormous decision to break away from the traditional system and the established forms of education, and it brings a lot of thinking, researching, and soul searching. With the weight of that decision, it's all too tempting to fall into the comfortable idea that the best way to begin is to shift from one familiar structure to another set curriculum or method, often with an unconscious focus on the parent or program as a teacher more than the individual child as a learner. For that matter, if you're really excited and have a lot of great ideas about how you're going to teach, you might need to stay extra careful to be concious of keeping your own creative needs identified separately from your child's learning needs.

That being said, there are some good sources for finding out more about learning styles. Thomas Armstrong is one good resources: Multiple Intelligences and how they apply to learning; and the A to Z Home's Cool site links to a number of other articles and websites on the subject: Determine Your Child's Learning Style.

What I've seen over the years is that homeschooling is most successful as a way of life when we can manage to let go of the limiting notion of a separate activity called "homeschooling." Although there are many important things to learn (and to study) about the world and about our lives, learning can and does thrive quite abundantly and naturally without a structured schooling format. Children want and need their parents to be parents, not home school teachers. The greatest joys and successes seems to come in just being, learning, and growing together in mutual respect, and that can take many forms that have no categorized name.

Children have a certain amount of inner knowledge about how they learn best, even if they're not able to recognize or articulate it. Once they're home, and after you've allowed for a good decompression/deschooling time if they've been in school, it's not long before you begin to notice them learning a lot of things seemingly out of the thin air. You find them having very strong opinions about how they learn best - and you witness an amazing process as they grow and learn. Don't buy into the notion that you need to first pick your style or method, because it's really about the inner workings of the child, not the parent, and the best method or style of homeschooling in your home will ultimately be to support your individual child's best method or style of learning.

Consider starting your homeschooling journey together in a truly relaxed way - just exploring for a while. You have time to take walks in nature and notice all the little things you see. Spend time at the library and help your children, if they'd like, to find books that might interest them. Do crafts and projects - the juvenile nonfiction section of the library has lots of good books with fun and creative project ideas and even science experiments. Watch films together; play games; and read wonderful books to your children. Go to the chamber of commerce to find out what they tell visitors about your area, and try an Internet search about it too - take field trips to interesting places. Have good conversations, and look things up in books or the Internet as questions come up. Support their interests but also give them the space to eplore them on their own. Before long, it will begin to become apparent what they know and how they learn. Little by little, you can add elements to facilitate their personalized learning paths.

Helen and Mark Hegener, publishers of Home Education Magazine, wrote a wonderful editorial, Reshaping the Puzzle to Fit the Pieces, about the kind of freedom homeschoolers have outside the system, in which they observed:

"The experiences and perceptions of homeschooling parents have led them to seek a different route for themselves and for their children. Instead of searching patiently for the pieces of the puzzle, they might reshape the entire puzzle to fit the pieces they hold in their hands."
I think it's important to keep the same thoughts in mind about how we operate within the homeschooling world itself, because following an individual's needs and inclinations can lead to treasure that can't be found in just following a pattern developed by someone else.

Here's another remarkable bit of wisdom from a lovely book by John A. Taylor - Notes On An Unhurried Journey, Avalon Publishing Group (originally published by Four Walls Eight Windows). These thoughts can really be an inspiration while traveling the homeschooling journey:

"When we adults think of children, there is a simple truth which we ignore: childhood is not preparation for life, childhood is life. A child isn't getting ready to live - a child is living. The child is constantly confronted with the nagging question, "What are you going to be?" Courageous would be the youngster who, looking the adult squarely in the face, would say, "I'm not going to be anything; I already am." We adults would be shocked by such an insolent remark for we have forgotten, if indeed we ever knew, that a child is an active participating and contributing member of society from the time he is born. Childhood isn't a time when he is molded into a human who will then live life; he is a human who is living life. No child will miss the zest and joy of living unless these are denied him by adults who have convinced themselves that childhood is a period of preparation.

How much heartache we would save ourselves if we would recognize the child as a partner with adults in the process of living, rather than always viewing him as an apprentice. How much we would teach each other...adults with the experience and children with the freshness. How full both our lives could be. A little child may not lead us, but at least we ought to discuss the trip with him for, after all, life is his and her journey, too." - Professor T. Ripaldi

None of this is to say that we can't pick up some interesting ideas from some of the schools of thought often referred to as "the methods and styles of homeschooling," but keep in mind that there are realistically as many ways of homeschooling as there are homeschoolers. You can find a directory of the most widely discussed methods and styles on the A to Z, Home's Cool website: Methods & Styles. There are also some very interesting articles on the Eclectic Homeschooler site: Homeschooling Styles. Don't miss the articles on unschooling, because regardless of whether that's a philosophy you want to pursue, you'll find a lot of helpful ideas in the articles that can be an enormous help along the way.

Also take some time to browse the main area of this website, BestHomeschooling, for lots of other articles about homeschooling and learning, as well as links to good articles in other sites.

Embarking on the homeschool journey is exhilarating, and you will be truly amazed by the discoveries you'll make along the way about your child, yourself, and the nature of learning and growing into one's own, unique, best self. Enjoy the journey!

Copyright 2006 Lillian Jones

If this article was helpful, you might also enjoy these:

Top 10 Gems - "What I wish someone would have told me during my first year of homeschooling."

Crock-Pot Homeschool: A Dozen Ingredients For Healthy Nourishment

You'll also find useful items in: Learning, Teaching, and Online Tools.

Lillian Jones, the editor of BestHomeschooling, once trained to be a teacher and taught in public schools for a short time before realizing that she didn't feel comfortable in the system. Later, while homeschooling her son, she found that teacher training was much more of a hindrance than a help. She has long been active in homeschooling activism and online support, especially with the HomeSchool Association of California. Her writing has been published in a number of popular publications and books about homeschooling, most recently in the book, See, I Told Me So!. She now pursues her lifelong passion for art, painting and traveling.

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