It is not just the reasons for choosing home education that are distinctive from family to family and even little human to little human. The methodology, i.e. the how it is done, can be vastly different as well.
Page eight of the Welsh Guidelines on Home Education has a nice chart that summarizes three different approaches to home ed.
Structured – A fixed timetable or schedule with content sometimes following the national curriculum.
While that is a broad definition, many families who choose a structured approach actually could be described as ‘school at home’. This could include things like:
- Purchased curriculum – either a coordinated, complete series covering all subjects, or different ones specific to subjects, or even online ‘schools’. The costs can range from a few £££/$$$ per month upwards of hundreds or even thousands per year.
- School room/desk/work space – For some families it is a dining room table, for others there is an actual desk in the corner of a bedroom, and for some there is a whole room dedicated to school…learning…education.
- Timeline/schedule – Yes, like that definition says…some choose to have a fixed schedule, just like schools. Proudly displayed on boards sometimes. Some even parallel school hours…though generally speaking not too many actually start formal ‘school’ as early as eight or nine in the morning.
- Record keeping/samples of work – Whether it be completed workbooks, teacher’s planners, or photographic records, some families keep detailed records of the work that their child does. More about that in a moment though.
- Grades/Performance Rewards – Yes, some people continue to give grades…to mark papers in red ink. Or to base rewards on performing well in certain things.
Pros of Structured Home Ed –
Makes it easiest to ‘justify’/prove that ‘education’ is happening – be that to the local authority or family/friends.
Some children actually NEED structure – this is especially true of some autistic little humans with what was once called Asperger’s. The visual schedules, a desk, grades help them to feel more secure. And that is what is most important. (Though you may not need to read any further in this book.)
Autonomous or child-led learning – The learning is prompted and engaged by the learner and facilitated by the parent.
In other words, the child decides what she wants to learn. The parent then researches it or they do it together. Then purchase books and materials specific to that subject or borrow from the library.
While the child is charting the course of his own education, his interests, there is still an emphasis upon the adult as the teacher, the child as the student. There may even be a looser type of scheduling. Monday mornings is reading. Tuesday is maths. Wednesday is science…and so on. What happens in those blocks of time may be up to the little human, but the responsibility still rests on the shoulders of the parent.
Then you have…
Unschooling – The learner is encouraged to initiate own learning through exploration and engagement with activities of their own making or sourcing. Parents facilitate access to opportunity but try not to guide or lead.
Another phrase is self-taught. In other words, adults are encouraging their little humans to learn by the same methods of doing, trial and error, which allowed them to learn…walking, talking, and those unspoken rules of society. At later stages, this can also be compared to the methods that adults continue to use through out their lives to acquire new skills and learn new information…once they have been freed from the ‘prison’ of school and formal education.
The role of the parent here is also completely different. You are not ‘teaching’ anything or even attempting to guide or lead. Your primary purpose becomes to create an environment that allows your little human to learn. To provide to access to the materials that he needs to teach himself.
And to listen! This is a surprisingly forgotten role for many parents. To actively listen as your child extols the wonders of dinosaurs or Shopkins or the latest video game. To comment in such a way as to encourage them to explore more…and to instil a love of life-long learning. Even to ask intelligent questions.
This is not as easy or natural as it sounds. You are making dinner in the kitchen when your wonderful little human pops in demanding that you come see what she made. Or drop your writing because she has once more begun the ‘I’m Bored’ chorus and needs you to help her explore her options.
If Structured home ed is something that happens during set hours, unschooling is a lifestyle. It is 24/7/365…for years…actually for a life time. And that is not even RadiCool Unschooling…wait until we get to that one…
Of course, as with those reasons for choosing home ed, many families do not conform to just one method. Families may choose a structured approach for subjects like reading and math. But then a child led learning approach for science, music, or art.
Even with RadiCool Unschooling PanKwake, we still keep a weekly visual schedule that allows her to see the things that we are doing that week…home ed events, playdates, and other major/regular events. We even find it useful to have a gaming/art room that could sort of pass for a school room to some people. This is more about PanKwake knowing where to find things…and being able to game with friends.
The other thing to remember is that sometimes it is a transitioning…a learning process…for everyone. When I de-registered PanKwake from school, my intent was not RadiCool Unschooling. In fact, on our first and only visit by the home ed officer from the local authority, he was massively impressed by the hundreds of books, art supplies, and other materials I had for her. Likewise, his report was glowing on the bright pink desk that I had set up…and she refused to use.
Problem was that Structured home ed worked even less well for PanKwake than school had. At school, she was trying to ‘fit-in’ so she went along with their highly structured approach. At home, she quickly relaized…what’s the point? Consequently, every time I pulled out the books or the laptop for ‘school time’, it was a fight…a meltdown.
Eventually, I gave up. I said things like…
- She just needs to de-school for awhile after all that bullying…
- I’ll go back to a more structured approach once I understand better the issues underlying her differences (i.e. have a diagnosis)…
- She just needs a bit more time to be a child…when she is older…
A year slipped by…then two…then five…I saw progress. Not in the form of completed workbooks, but in terms of social skills, communication, and critical thinking. The very things that supposedly are challenging for #neurodivergent…PanKwake excelled. I realized…
PanKwake IS LEARNING!
I saw the strengths that she had developed eclipsing the challenges she faced. I saw her finding creative, ingenious ways of circumnavigating the challenges (such as dyslexia) that remained. My confidence in her…in myself…in Unschooling grew.
I knew that PanKwake and I believed other little humans, especially #neurodivergent ones, could thrive by teaching themselves.
I quit saying those things…and I embraced the beautiful crazzy of Unschooling…