There are many ways to home educate your child. As a home educating family in the UK, you are completely free to choose any style or method that suits your children best. Here, in no particular order, are a few of the well-known methods and philosophies. Also refer to the approaches to home education section in the links page for websites containing further information. Some of these philosophies were developed with schools in mind, but can be (and have been) successfully adapted to suit the home educator.
The structure and course of education is child-led. The child is allowed to self govern in terms of what s/he wants to learn and when. The parent(s) may often act as facilitators rather than teachers. (In America, this style of education is sometimes referred to as un-schooling, although unschooling can also refer to the period of unwinding following withdrawal from school). Autonomous education doesn’t necessarily mean unstructured, because the child him/herself may decide on a structured approach to learn about some subjects. However, learning is not imposed or controlled by another person. It is also recognised that knowledge is interrelated rather than compartmentalised.
This is a formal style of home education, sometimes called “school-at-home”, where the parents teach the child using curricula and/or timetables they have either bought/obtained or devised themselves. Many families feel more comfortable using a structured approach, some find that this naturally suits their child’s individual learning style. Other families move between structured and unstructured methods depending on what suits their/their children’s circumstances at the time. Off-the-shelf curriculums can be purchased. Many American companies provide quite formal multi-subject curricula (some of these follow established educational philosophies such as Classical Education, Charlotte Mason or follow a particular belief system). There are also a small number of British curriculum providers which tend to focus on meeting the national curriculum (although home educators are not obliged to follow the national curriculum).
Classical Education uses history, studied chronologically, as it’s core, linking in other subjects as they arise. Based on the three-part process (called the “trivium” of training the mind), this method models a modern liberal arts education based on the educational philosophies of the Ancient Greeks and Romans.
The first stage, roughly up to the age of 9, is the “grammar” stage and involves exposing children to a wide range of information which they can memorise for use in the later stages.
The second phase of the classical education, from around 10 years of age, the “Logic Stage,” (or dialectic stage) is the time when the child begins to think more analytically. They are less interested in finding out facts than in asking “Why?” and paying attention to cause and effect, the relationships between different fields of knowledge relate, and the way facts fit together into a logical framework.
The final stage is the “rhetoric” stage, which builds on the first two stages, from around age 14. The student of rhetoric applies the rules of logic learned in middle school to the foundational information learned in lower school. Students also begin to specialize in whatever branch of knowledge attracts them.
Charlotte Mason believed that children were born persons and should be respected as such. Her motto for students was “I am, I can, I ought, I will.”
Charlotte Mason believed that children are able to deal with ideas and knowledge and that they are not blank slates to be filled with information. She thought children should do the work of dealing with ideas and knowledge rather the teacher acting as a middle man, dispensing filtered knowledge.
Possibly the most well known of Charlotte’s methods is her use of living books instead of dry, factual textbooks. “Twaddle” refers to books or information that is “dumbed-down” and insults the child’s intelligence.
Therefore a Charlotte Mason education includes, among other things, first-hand exposure to great ideas through books. There are some similarities with Classical Education and Charlotte Mason’s methods.
The Montessori method places an emphasis was placed on self-determination and self-realization. This entails developing a concern for others and discipline and to do this children engage in exercises de la vie pratique – exercises in daily living. These and other exercises function like a ladder – allowing the child to pick up the challenge and to judge their progress. The essential thing is for the task to arouse such an interest that it engages the child’s whole personality.
This connects with a further element in the Montessori programme – decentring the teacher. The teacher is the ‘keeper’ of the environment. While children get on with their activities the task is to observe and to intervene from the periphery.
Developed by Rudolf Steiner in 1919, Waldorf education is based on a developmental approach that addresses the needs of the growing child and maturing adolescent. Waldorf teachers aim to transform education in to an art that educates the whole child—the heart and the hands, as well as the head.
There are some similarities between Steiner Waldorf and Montessori, such as having respect for the child, but there also some important variations, such a differing approaches to structure.
Rather than studying separate academic subjects, a theme is studied for any given length of time, be it a week, three months or longer. Maths, English and so on are then studied as part of and in the context of the current theme. In common with many other Education philosophies, there are no boundaries between each subject. For example, in studying Ancient Greece, Maths and Science might be studied by examining the work of Ancient Greek scientific discoveries and theories, History would pervade the entire theme, Geography might be included by looking at the extent of the Greek empire and so on. Either student or parent can initiate a topic for study and it can be as indepth as the family choose. Unit Studies can be bought “off the shelf” or home-made.
No single approach or method is followed, rather the family borrows from various approaches and forms their own unique philosophy for what suits their individual child best at any given time. The children can have a say in what they learn and when, but parents might offer some basic rules, “must dos,” or structure.
Flexischooling is part-time attendance at school. The exact pattern of a child’s attendance at school is a matter for the parents and school to agree. The child is fully registered at the school and attracts full-time funding for the school concerned. The child is subject to the national curriculum and all its attendant requirements. There is no automatic right to flexischooling, it is purely at the discretion of the school’s governing body (who may delegate the decision to the headteacher). The situation is different for private schools.
This page is merely an overview of the many different ways that families home-educate.
Please also refer to the approaches to home education section in the links page.