After five years in school, will homeschooling be a fit for our family? Walk with us as we try to find out!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

10 Reasons for Our Classical Christian/Charlotte Mason Approach

I will start off by saying that I don't pretend to be anywhere near an expert on homeschooling styles.  After all, we only just completed our first year of homeschooling a mere three days ago!  We had a fairly clear mission for our homeschool from the start though for a variety of reasons.  That mission, coupled with wise counsel I received from seasoned homeschooling friends, helped form our homeschool approach.  I am certain our style will change a bit over time to fit our life circumstances, but for now we love how the mix of a Classical Christian/Charlotte Mason style is working for our family.  

Here are our Top 10 Reasons for using this approach in our homeschool:

1.  Learning Together
The Classical Model has allowed us to study the humanities, science and health together while continuing to challenge each of our test subjects at their own level in each of these subjects.  We study the same material, yet expect a different level of reading and/or writing from each test subject.  For example, using Tapestry of Grace this year, we studied many important figures in history together using read alouds and Story of the World.  In addition, TS 2, a lower grammar student, read picture books about each of these historical figures and completed a lap book about each on his own.  TS 1, an upper grammar student, read chapter books about these figures and completed a lap book with more detailed information about each historical figure.  Studying the same subject together minimizes prep work for mom and maximizes family bonding and shared interests.

2.  Living Books 
Using living books, a hallmark of the Charlotte Mason (CM) approach, has brought a love of learning back into the study of humanities and science for our boys.  I attribute the use of living books for history and science to be a major factor in the their enjoyment of these subjects this year.  

3.  Eliminating Busy Work
Through the use of Classical and CM materials, we have eliminated busy work in our home school.  Even in subjects like Math and Language Arts, we have been able to make each assignment count since it can be uniquely tailored to each test subjects' learning level.  Don't misunderstand me, the boys still complete worksheets and practice drills.  However, the amount of time spent on these activities can be minimized by the individual nature of homeschooling.

4.  The Gift of Time
CM believed that academic work was not the be all and end all of a solid education.  Instead she preferred that students focus on their fundamental skills in the morning, leaving the afternoon free for nature study and creative pursuits.  While we do work some in the afternoons to ensure that we meet our state's criteria for time spent in home school, the elimination of "homework" after school hours has given our boys the gift of time to explore their own interests and develop their gifts.

5.  Working with Their Natural Abilities
The Classical model purports that children in the grammar stage have a natural ability and affinity for memorization of facts.  While they are not yet ready for making connections between these facts on their own, we can begin to develop that process by discussing these connections with them.  We have tried to adhere to these ideas with our test subjects this year and working with their natural stages like this brought our their strengths and minimized their weaknesses.

Since TS 1 will be in the dialectic level next year, we brought up possible connections across facts and subjects more often with him than TS 2.  We saw that eventually he began to make some connections  on his own as well, signaling that he is ready to move out of the grammar stage into a more thoughtful stage.  

That being said, both boys memorized so much more information that I ever could have this year.  From poems, to history facts, to math facts, to science facts, I would love to have their ability to retain and recall information!

6.  Christ-Centered Education
We intentionally chose many Christian resources for our homeschool, such as Tapestry of Grace for history and Apologia for science, so that faith and learning are interwoven in a natural way.  These resources are in no way preachy, but instead assume that the user has accepted the Word of God as truth and they endeavor to build on that worldview.  We love that "religion" or "Bible" is not a separate subject to complete, but instead God is at the center of all aspects of our lives, including our academic pursuits.

7.  Room for Interest Led Learning
I love the term "interest led learning" that I first heard on Mary's blog.  As I think about what I have loved about our homeschool style this year, the room it has allowed for interest led learning definitely makes the top 10 list.  Many believe that a classical curriculum leaves no room for flexibility or delving deeper into the student's interests, but we have found the opposite to be true.  We have had the freedom, for example, to move more quickly through certain history or science units by reading and completing only the core assignments when the content is not riveting or enriching.  This gave us time to camp out on the units that fascinated us, devouring all the in depth resources and even finding more on our own.

8.  Tutorial Model
Both the Classical and CM models assume that children are able to work independently for some period of time each day. In fact, they should be working on their own, developing their own "relationships" as CM would call them to what they are learning without the influence of or interference from the teacher.  Using this tutorial model has helped me keep my sanity during this experiment of ours.  I can count on each test subject working independently for part of each day, which allows me time to work one on one with the other.

9.  Comfort and Stretching
Combining the Classical and CM approaches in our homeschool has provided opportunities for comfort and stretching for me as a teacher.  The Classical model is certainly more comfortable for me as I am generally a structured and organized person, which has made this first year of homeschooling doable.  The CM model has caused me to think more deeply about our educational goals and how to meet them while instilling a love of learning in the test subjects.  It has stretched me out of my comfort zone, pulled me away from the checklists and perfectly planned schedules to see educational opportunities outside of the homeschool classroom.

10.  Wise Counsel
I know I've said this before, but it bears repeating. We could not have had such a successful first year of homeschooling without the counsel and encouragement of seasoned homeschooling friends.  They spent lots of time with me, my friend Jen in particular, going over different curricula and how they might mesh with our homeschool mission.  Without this kind of guidance, I would imagine the vast number and variety of options out there could be overwhelming and disheartening.  

Next year, I hope to include even more of CM's wonderful ideas into our homeschool while maintaing all of the gifts we have received from our Classical Christian curricula.  

What is your homeschool style?  Leave a comment or link to your blog post.  I'd love to read about it!

Two weeks ago, I wrote the top 10 reasons we love homeschooling and many of those reasons could have fit here today as well.  Check out that post in you are interested learning more about how our homeschool works.

Top Ten Tuesday at Many Little Blessings

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