An Educational Philosophy {The Journey Thus Far}


I know that Christmas is just days away. I should probably be writing about defusing holiday stress, how we observe advent, or homemade gift ideas. You know, the usual Christmas-time blog stuff. As I type I am watching my mom and my two kiddos string the lights on to the Christmas tree here at their house where we are visiting for the holidays (halfway across the country from us). I’m feeling very Christmasish… but it’s more of a wordless-soul-saturating-exhaling of just simply enjoying the moments. I just can’t bring myself to write out the stuff I’m living and thinking right now, because I’m too busy savouring it all.

So, I want to write about the mad swirling of thoughts that rush through my brain lately on a quite unrelated topic. I’ve been researching and reading about education (specifically of children, more specifically with a mind to my own children) since before my first child was even born (over three years ago).

A long time ago – possibly before I even got married almost a decade ago – I acquired the notion that when I had children of my own, I wanted to homeschool them. I don’t remember how that desire came about, but I know that I’ve had it for a very long time. Since my children have been born the desire has remained constant, but my knowledge on the subject has been steadily increasing and widening.

I used to think that homeschooling meant setting up a little classroom in my home, teaching the kiddos a math/science/language/writing unit, then getting them to do worksheets, projects (oh! the bristol board fun we could have!), essays, and tests. Regular school done at home with just us, in essence.

Then I discovered that there are in fact very different philosophical approaches as to the best way to educate children. Many of them, actually. There is the Traditional Method, the Unit Study Method, the Charlotte Mason Method, the Unschooling Method, the Classical Method, the Literature-Based Method, the Workbox Method, the Leadership Education Method, and the Eclectic Method. You can read descriptions and find links for further research into each of these methods from this post (and the Part Two follow-up post) at Simple Homschool (an excellent blog on all things homeschool with many contributing writers and experts). There are undoubtedly even more not covered in that post.

So, if you thought that homeschooling was simply about deciding which curriculum to use, then you (like me several years ago) have a lot of reading ahead of you. Assuming you want to make a fully informed decision, that is. That is not meant to intimidate or scare you though – I very much enjoy my research, and continue to find it exciting and gratifying.

As I have read and researched and engaged in many a discussion with my husband, I have found myself naturally gravitating toward one or two specific philosophies. At this point I am most drawn toward and convinced by the philosophy of the Unschooling method (which is perhaps the most different of them all), with perhaps some eclectic bits and pieces thrown in as desired, and a definite nod to the Leadership Education Method (at least from what I have read so far since my very recent introduction via this website, as it seems to mesh quite well with the unschooling method. I believe the founder was a Mormon, which doesn’t necessarily negate the method but it is a note of importance, in my mind).

Unschooling is built on two simple observations, as outlined by this article. First, that children are natural learners. Second, that “forced learning kills the desire to learn”. I plan to do a follow-up post on Unschooling, going more in depth, but for now I will just say that from all I have come to believe and observe in my own children, the idea of unschooling is probably the most incredible and potentially life-altering possibility I have come across in a very long time. I hardly dare to allow myself to become too excited about it because it is much, much larger than simply my kids’ schooling plans. It is a way of life that busts out of the box with a vigour and revolutionary mindset. When you wholeheartedly believe that the system offered by society is inherently flawed and harmful to children, this possibility of a better way simply quivers with wide-eyed excitement and inspiration.

If you want to know more about unschooling or interest-led learning (terms often used interchangeably), then be sure to explore the following resources:

Curious About Unschooling? (the same article linked above)

The John Holt website on Unschooling

The Path Less Taken on Unschooling

The Path Less Taken – Unschooling FAQ’s

Some books I am hoping to read soon:

Unschooling Rules: 55 Ways to Unlearn What We Know About Schools and Rediscover Education (by Clark Aldrich)

Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling (by John Taylor Gatto. I am partway through this one already)

Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A’s, Praise, and Other Bribes (by Alfie Kohn)

The Unschooling Handbook: How to Use the Whole World as Your Child’s Classroom (by Mary Griffith)

How Children Learn (by John Holt. He also wrote “How Children Fail”)

There are lots more books by the above authors that I want to check out, as well as tons of other resources beyond that. If you are someone who tends to dismiss things like this as way too hippy/weird/out-of-the-box/crazy without really truly looking into it first, then my challenge to you is to do your research and then get back to me. Let’s discuss, let’s learn together, and let’s encourage each other to give our children the best possible opportunity to learn and succeed in life.

I know that any (good) parent truly wants the best for their child. I believe that providing the opportunity for my child to learn in a way that is most conducive to his success – even if it’s way out of the box – is not only my duty as a parent, but my privilege. And so I carry on with this journey researching unschooling and other philosophies of education, keeping an open mind to learn and a passionate heart, hoping that my children will learn to do the same.

I'm Beth. I created Red & Honey because I'm obsessed with the wild art of wellness.

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  1. Callie says

    “I believe the founder was a Mormon, which doesn’t necessarily negate the method but it is a note of importance….”
    Seriously?! Try substituting the word Mormon in this sentence with any other religious or cultural group, which you don’t have some prejudice against. See how bigoted that sounds? Yeah, it’s the same way with Mormon.

    • says

      What I appreciate the most about your approach is the amount of research and thought you have put into this. That alone shows that you are a wise homeschooling parent!

      I embrace much of the unschooling method, but I also recognize that (for us) there are things that my children must learn… whether they like it or not. :) I have found a balance between my desire for child-led learning and the need for developing skill sets that my children would otherwise avoid by setting aside blocks of time to cover the basics (or need-to-know info) while still providing much time and opportunity for our children to explore and learn on their own.

      Granted, I now have older children (10 & 12) who are very responsible and at the age where I can give them guidelines and let them learn on their own, but this system has worked well for my family since we began homeschooling. The beauty of unschooling for us is that we could encourage our children from a young age to recognize and develop their unique interests and passions (unlike many college students who still have no clue what they want to do when they grow up – ha!), and to teach themselves, which is really what they will be doing (we hope!) 365 days a year for the rest of their lives.

      Beautiful post! Thank you for sharing!

  2. Pamela says

    I wrestled with homeschooling vs. Public schooling for years. In the end I let my children decide and they chose going to the local school. That turned out to be the worst experience we ever had. Not because they were going to a school but because the school was Inadequate and lacked the extra curricular opportunities we desired. Also, the systems philosophy (lack of, really) towards bullying was not acceptable. So we did some research and talked to other parents and found a new school system. It has been the best for us. My two school aged children are straight A students every term, my daughter (11) has received 6 congratulatory letters for her achievements. My son (9) has been involved with the Civil Rights team for over a year and this past November was invited to attend a conference with our state’s school and political leaders to help write a sort-of constitution that adresses bullying and bias-based behaviors in our schools. He was 1 of only 8 to receive the invitation. Even though they are doing so great, our family feels that it is impossible to have one entity supply all of their education. School helps, especially on a social level, but we also homeschool as a supplemental tool. They have required reading, writing, history and math assignments and we do science experiments regularly. We are also fortunate in the sense that we live close to several museams and cultural center’s and libraries for doing workshops. They really never have a’ day off’ or weekend or vacation.

    • Pamela says

      I’m sorry, that should read “received 6 congratulatory letters from the House of Representatives for her acedemic achievements. “

  3. Sara L says

    Homeschooling has been totally different then I expected it would be! I’m a touch of a lot of different approches. Unschooling facinates me. From what I understand, people that unschool *well* put a LOT of effort into it. Exposing their kids to a facinating world and limiting junk info. In once sense traditional homeschooling can take much less effort then unschooling. With good unschooling you need to know your child we’ll and talk lots and expose them to lots and lots. I know unschoolers who have put all of their (10) children in gr 10 and they’ve done just fine. However, I’d love to hear what their method of unschooling is, because it can differ greatly. I know of a few families who have unschooled and it’s mostly sitting around all day, watching tv, living in your jammies… seriously. We have a somewhat traditional homeschool out look, but I choose the kids curriculum based on what they need or want and we set up their day on what works for them. Anyways!
    It’ll be great hearing how things work for you! I’m sure you’ll do a fantastic job :)

    • says

      Yes, that’s probably very true – unschooling can be done very well, or very poorly… although I think that could probably be said of traditional homeschooling as well (like just doing the curriculum, rigidly, and being too lazy to expose your kids to the extra stuff that they get in school, like field trips, etc.).

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, I always love hearing from other mamas who are in the homeschooling stage right now :)

  4. says

    We’re unschoolers/leadership ed-ers; interest-led learning rocks! I love lots of what’s been/being written out of the leadership ed philosophy, particularly about the phases of learning. We’re still a work-in-progress, just really wanting to cultivate (read: not kill) our kids’ natural love of learning. So thankful we have the option to homeschool! Bless you as you continue to seek God’s best for your family! (And Merry Christmas) :)

    • says

      Joy, I totally did not know that you guys are unschoolers… I’d love to chat more with you about it! Sounds like you are enjoying it, which is so awesome to hear.

  5. says

    I am so excited for you! It is such a wonderful feeling to find something you know just fits with you and your family. Unschooling has always been something I have found interesting, though I have no desire to homeschool my future children.

    My husband and I plan to enroll our future kids in a Waldorf school which we are lucky enough to have where we live. I don’t know if you’ve heard of Waldorf, but it is based on a developmental approach that addresses the needs of the growing child with an emphasis on imagination in learning and thinking that is both analytical and creative. Waldorf teachers strive to transform education in to an art that educates the whole child – the heart and the hands, as well as the head.

    I don’t even have kids yet and it makes me so excited just thinking about it.

    • says

      I have definitely heard of Waldorf, and how exciting that you have a school close by! I think that’s an amazing option. I don’t know a ton about it, but what I do know is intriguing to me, and seems like something I’d support.

  6. Jule says

    I love the Yeats quote. I am on the same leg of the journey, and I am so excited to learn you are homeschooling, too! By the way, I read your blog because you aren’t writing about Christmas crafts right now. Yours is one of the most inspirational, educated blogs I have come across. Thank you!

  7. Serena says

    P.S. my whole lapbook thing I told you about works beautifully with interest led schooling. We let ciara pick the subjects she is interested in, and then create the lapbooks for them. Its a ton of fun putting them together =)

  8. Serena says

    I have so many thoughts on this, but mostly I just agree with michael’s comment. Homeschooling really is just about knowing your kids. I went into homeschooling ciara thinking that I would do it the same way my mom homeschooled us, whic worked beautifully. Preschool, and Jr Kindergarden looked very similar to how my mom taught, and then I got discouraged with it and sent ciara to a private school for half of sr kindergarden. After that I began to form a completly different approach to it, and the last half of sr kindergarden and grade one were amazing. We have completly tailored ciara’s education to her. and frankly I have mixed a bunch of different methods together. The only one I have come across in my reseach that I truly did not like was the Charlotte Mason Method =)

  9. says

    Anyone I have known who has homeschooled has shaped their philosophy with time. Whether homeschooling, public or private schooling, it’s all about knowing your child and looking to shape that. I look forward to reading your thoughts on “unschooling”.

    • says

      Thanks Michael. Yes, I really think that being aware of your own child’s needs is the most important thing, rather than placing them into the regular system without thought.

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