When I first started looking into the “how to homeschool” I was overwhelmed by the options. There are many styles to choose from; Charlotte Mason, Montessori, Traditional, Unit Studies, Unschooling. I had no clue which would be right for us. However I was drawn to the idea of Charlotte Mason, Unit Studies and Unschooling.
My parenting style leans towards child direction. I watch B closely and see what is of interest to him and follow those interests. I also enjoy a lot of structure. B is technologically inclined and prefers learning on the computer. He is also fascinated by documentaries. All of these factors landed us in the realm of what I call the “Eclectic Techie Homeschool”. I have taken elements of various homeschool methods and mixed them into our own special blend of learning.
There seems to be a fair bit of controversy right now about “screen time”. While I’m not supportive of endless hours of mindless video games I am also not against video games in general. I prefer B play video games that have educational value. In my opinion there are two types of screen time – educational and recreational. The best advice I’ve been given is to ask myself whether or not B is learning something from his screen time. If he’s learning, it’s educational screen time. If he’s not learning it’s recreational screen time. While it’s important to know everything our children are doing online I believe that it’s the recreational screen time that parents need to be most wary of.
I’ll get more into what we use for curriculum in another post. I want to explain the pro’s and con’s I’ve found with what we use and how we use it. My focus in this point is the styles of homeschooling that we use.
The Charlotte Mason method was most appealing to me. If you’re not familiar with this method it is based on the idea of learning from “living books”. Books that are rich in information without the dryness of textbooks. Who wouldn’t want to explore this option? To me, it’s like hidden learning in a time of just reading with my kid. The downside is that we don’t have many books, the room to store books, the money to buy books nor the ability to go to the library on a regular basis. But we do have tablets with the Kindle app. Many of the books recommended in various Charlotte Mason curriculum plans are public domain. Which means I can get them for free on Kindle. This solves many of the problems and allows us the freedom to take our library with us wherever we go.
What we do with the Charlotte Mason method is copywork, narration and nature study. Every day B has to copy out a quote, passage or scripture. This helps to see grammar and punctuation in action. As he gets older the copy work will get longer. Copywork can be as simple as a couple sentences from a good book, a memory verse I want B to learn or an inspirational quote to help him overcome some challenge he’s facing. There are many sites that offer copywork pages for free or cheap or you can simply pick something. Brainy Quotes is a great site to find quotes.
Narration is simply recalling details from what has been read. Sometimes B reads on his own. Sometimes we use audiobooks. Sometimes I read to him. Whatever approach to the literature we use, he has to tell me in his own words what happened. This helps me know how much of what was read/listened to was comprehended.
Nature Study is simply getting out into nature and observing and recording. This is where science meets exercise, art and language arts. What do I mean by this? Well nature is science, that’s probably obvious but so is observing and recording. Exercise is simply because we get out into the world, walk around and experience nature. Art and language arts comes with nature study journals – drawing what is observed and writing the observations. We’re both into photography so we tend to photograph rather than draw.
Unit studies are a great way to teach children who have vast interests like B does. He likes picking topics and running with them. When done well, unit studies can also cover off many subjects at one time. We are currently doing a unit study on Jazz music. We look at the history, the styles, where it began and how it spread. So we’re covering history, music, and a bit of geography.
Most of the time we use websites and videos in our unit studies but this is where Charlotte Mason’s “living books” come in handy. When we were studying Germany we got books from the library and read about Germany. Stories about life in Germany during different eras were more interesting to B than learning the facts of the country.
While unschooling is a great method of allowing children to explore their interests and developing a love of learning the reality, for us, was that it would not work. Mostly because I was given a one year trial by B’s dad to homeschool. As mentioned in a previous post, he’s not fully on board with homeschooling. One of the ways that I was able to convince him to give the year long trial was to create a plan for the year. Unschooling doesn’t allow for that type of structure.
I’m still drawn to the idea of unschooling and reserve one day a week for unstructured learning. On this day we either go on a field trip or we play games, bake, sew, knit or if we feel super lazy we watch documentaries. We have annual passes to IMAX and can often be found checking out what’s going on at IMAX. It’s fun to see the world in a larger than life format. CurioustiyStream.com is also a great place to find high quality documentaries to watch at home.