The beauty of home education is that you can cater absolutely every aspect of learning to your particular child. A lot of people think that home education is literally a school at home and for some families that may well be true but for the vast majority of home educators that is not that case. There are so many different types and styles of education that all have their place, but for us, we don’t follow one particular style of education but rather we take certain aspects from a collection of different styles to suit us.
A lot of home educators kind of shun the idea of following the national curriculum and I’ve never really understood why. I am obviously only speaking from my personal experience so this may not be the case for you at all so don’t take that as gospel. With Eloise, we don’t follow the curriculum as such, but we do make sure we cover the majority of the topics, particularly in maths and English. That being said, any aspect she really isn’t interested in, we skip. We also most definitely cover a whole lot more variety of topics not even so much as mentioned in the curriculum too but my main reason for following with the core subjects is to make the transition back to school easier as we had planned for her to return at some point, however, this isn’t looking likely at the moment as Eloise is still quite reluctant to entertain the idea and that’s fine. It’ll always be her decision. With Lily, I feel like we may well stray further because I want her learning to be based around play for as long as possible and certainly past the age of 5.
Another thing we take from traditional school and curriculum-based learning are things like exception words (as well as spelling “tests” based on these), and curriculum focused workbooks, etc. We do this mainly to track learning progression, particularly with Eloise as she is 9 years old and just nearing year 5 and for the benefit of me when I’m planning areas we need to work more on to develop her understanding as well as an easier to follow log and evidence of her progress throughout the year. I also write a report style document at the end of the year just to summarise what we have worked on, where she is excelling and where we need to build her confidence. You don’t have to do any of that at all, in fact, a lot of home educators prefer not to but this at all. It’s totally up to you and what works for your children. I just happen to have a kid who loves spelling tests, haha.
I love how Montessori encourages self-directed activity, simplicity, open-ended toys as well as multiple ages of the children which often reflects home ed families and friends. It focuses more on real-life experiences rather than fantasy including everyday things such as making a sandwich or learning to use a knife to cut food. Montessori encourages us as parents, to allow a child to do these things for themselves from an early age. The play trays I set up for Lily are inspired by Montessori education with the idea that the child is free to choose an activity they have access to at all times for “independent play”. In contrast, I don’t like the absence of fantasy in the Montessori curriculum so we don’t adopt that element of this style.
I love the Waldorf style in that it nurtures and emphasises the child’s imagination and welcomes fantasy as well as the delay in formal learning. I also love the overall goal of Waldorf education in that they strive to educate the whole child “head, heart and hands”. I love the use of natural materials in the first instance with Waldorf education but do not adopt the discouragement of technology for children younger than a high school age as I feel that part is very outdated to the world we live in today.
This is quite possibly the style that gets the most stick because people automatically think that kids sit around all day doing nothing but in reality, no child left to their own natural interests will sit around and do nothing. Children are naturally driven to learn and unschooling is about allowing the child to follow their own interests without having “lessons” or set subjects. Children are left to their own devices when it comes to topics and while maths and English aren’t actively pushed onto the child they are most definitely things that they are lead to through the pursuit of knowledge. While we don’t strictly follow this particular method, we do take a lot of the main points like allowing the child to pick and choose the topics they’re interested in because where a natural thirst for knowledge exists it is inevitable that that path will lead them to subjects like maths and science naturally and so we allow Eloise to pick her topics and then base a multitude of subjects around that interest.
For example, the other month we did a Harry Potter themed topic where Eloise designed her own version of The Daily Prophet. Things like maths, for bar charts on Quidditch results, to science when talking about potions and of course the actual writing of the newspaper all incorporated various subjects together naturally.
In addition to this, things like history I have stopped setting anything for because she learns so much more when left to her own devices, she has a passion for all things history and immerses herself in the subject naturally.
Another style of education is Charlotte Mason which is perhaps the closest to our style, although accidentally so. This method focuses on shorter, age-appropriate lessons with guidance to help children develop clear thinking and establishing positive habits. I feel like Mason’s methods really echo what has come naturally to us as the main characteristics of her method involve books, immersing ourselves in nature at every opportunity along with music, art, poetry, and literature. Eloise always has her head in a book whether that be a novel, a play, poetry or a nature book and the nature side of things is certainly the way we are wanting to go with Lily, particularly the “living books” element although we won’t be implementing this as the main element as she gets older as Lily enjoys things like encyclopedias and factual books too and I personally feel they’re invaluable as children get older.
I feel like mainstream school really tarnished Eloise’s love for learning and set her off track having lost her natural desire to learn. I home educated her during her reception year prior to her starting school in year 1 and that year and the years prior to that she was immersed in nature, books, etc every single day and allowed to learn at her own pace and although at first, she seemed to adjust so well to a much stricter, formal environment it soon derailed her and dampened her natural spark.
This is something we are trying to avoid with Lily, we do not plan to send her to school until she is at least 7 and even then, only if she desires to. I truly believe that part of home education or even my parenting style, in general, is respecting my child’s wishes and giving them the power to decide which junction to take and trusting their judgment on matters of their own lives. Allowing them this freedom to make decisions like this from an early age will help them make positive choices in the future. I’m obviously not talking letting them choose to only eat chocolate biscuits forever and a day or staying up until 2 am every day but allowing their input and to respect their wishes on decisions that will ultimately change their life can only be a good thing. Trust your child to know their own mind and listen to their voice. I truly believe that children left to learn at their own pace and follow their passions from an early age can do amazing things.
I hope that has given you a bit of an insight into how we home ed and introduced you to some of the most popular styles of education. Please do note that I am going off my own research and interpretation of each of these education styles so I’m no expert and I feel like one blog post isn’t really enough to fully explain exactly how we go about home education because we are constantly developing a style that suits us. It changes and evolves constantly to cater to the children as they grow and change themselves. Lily has such a different style of learning to Eloise for example so we alter everything for each of them. Anyway, I hope you’ve liked reading this post, I really want to start bringing more home education content to my blog, it always seems to be the most popular topic at the moment when I ask so I’m glad you’re enjoying reading about what we get up to!