Homeschool Planning 101: Homeschool Methods – Finding Your Way
Yesterday, I finally tackled a chore I had been avoiding for several months. I finally filed the kids’ school work from last year. Usually, I manage to get that all put away after we finish our school year in June. This year, I was finishing the fourth and final book in my Blueprints for Homeschool Science series and then we were off to the California Homeschool Network Expo where I was a speaker this year. I had zero time to plan in the early summer when I usually do.
It worked out for the best, though. A few weeks away let me come to their files with fresh eyes and a new look at what we had done last year. What I learned told me a lot about each of the kids’ ideal methods for learning.
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Homeschool methods are one of those subjects homeschoolers love to talk about. Are you a classical educator? Do you subscribe to the Charlotte Mason method? Maybe you love Waldorf and all its natural, hands-on elements. Never mind that almost all of us just mix-and-match styles and philosophies to make them work for our own children.
If you don’t have any idea what educational philosophies might work for you, try this quiz at Eclectic Homeschooling. The questions are fantastic to get you thinking about your own methods, and the results will help you see what you want to pursue.
Methods are the combination of materials and styles you will use as you teach your children. Pieces of the methods puzzle include your own teaching style, your kids’ learning styles, how you prefer to evaluate what your kids are learning, and what kinds of things you want to teach. Blueprint Homeschooling contains an entire section on methods that contains several quizzes that might help you nail this down. Or go right to the best source and pick up Cathy Duffy’s 102 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum.
The real trick with methods is to find the method that works best for you and your family. I have seen so many beginning homeschoolers get burnt out trying to use a friend’s favorite curriculum. No matter how much your friends love Classical Conversations, if you’re not classical in your heart, it’s not going to work for you. This is where your work on defining your values will come in handy.
Why Methods Matter
One of my dear friends called me last June, needing advice to help her get through a crisis. She was certain she had failed at homeschooling during the previous year. I asked her a few questions and listened to her tell me all the amazing things they had done: hikes, directing and acting in theater performances, choir and music lessons.
“What’s the problem?” I asked her.
“The problem is that I didn’t think it was enough, and so I’ve been making the kids do worksheets to catch up on math, and we’re all in tears.”
At this point, I broke down laughing (with apologies to my friend, of course). See, my friend knows her methods. She knows that she likes to do life learning through unit studies. The fact that she had freaked out and resorted to worksheets meant that she was using the wrong methods for her family. I talked her through what the kids were already doing in their every day lives. Where were they showing proficiency in math and writing? Were they still reading often? Despite all her fears, her kids were right on track for their ages, and she went away with new ideas for how to add math and writing to all their amazing activities.
Discovering Your Own Methods
As I mentioned earlier, sorting through my kids’ work from last year helped me see what methods might work best for them. As I sorted through my son’s work, I noticed that I had printed out stacks of math worksheets and logic puzzles for him. Considering we were using Khan Academy for math exclusively, this was telling. I had assumed the boy was doing fine with the online environment on Khan. However, he was really learning more by practicing on those worksheets I gave him. This was my facepalm moment, when I realized he was doing twice as much work to master a subject he enjoyed. We had been using Math Mammoth with great success beforehand. When I asked my son if he wanted to return to it, he was excited. We will still use Khan as a supplement, but it’s obvious that he needs more school work that looks and feels like school work.
My daughter, on the other hand, had pages and pages of lovely drawings and text she had made in response to our lessons. Even though I had never assigned any sort of animal report, she had entire handmade books about various animals, complete with illustrations and facts about them. I’ve resisted this realization for many years, but notebooking is actually the way my daughter expresses what she has learned.
I tell you these stories because I want you to learn two things:
1. Even veteran homeschoolers need to rethink methods from year to year. Our kids are constantly changing and growing. What we used last year might not be the right fit this year. Last year, my son struggled so much with writing that writing a single paragraph was a nightmare. This year, he is excited about writing long letters to friends and family.
2. Listen to and observe your kids. It’s easy to get online and search for the “perfect” curriculum. What’s not easy is catering to the particular needs of each of your children as they learn. Knowing their learning styles and best environment for learning can help you as you plan your upcoming school year.
Once you have an idea what methods you will use, it will make choosing curriculum much easier. The next post will be about setting goals and coming up with a weekly schedule that will actually work for you. Please sign up for email notifications or like Multimedia Homeschool on Facebook to make sure you don’t miss a post.
Thank you for reading! If you took the methods quiz, feel free to share your results in the comments! It’s always fun to see everyone’s different styles.