How to Homeschool
published on 3/4/2007 by Kim A. Howe, M.S.
There are a wide variety of educational philosophies reflected in homeschool curriculum available today. Some of the more popular philosophies in homeschool education include: Classical Education, Core Curriculum, Waldorf, Montessori, and Unschooling.

Moving Beyond the Page incorporates wonderful aspects from many of these approaches to education. Like the Waldorf Theory, we believe in educating the "whole" child, and our lessons reflect this belief. Like Montessori, we don't emphasize grades or tests and believe in respecting the individuality of each child. We also believe in giving students a level of freedom in what they study and encouraging them to experience their education in the real world - two hallmarks of Unschooling.

At its core, however, Moving Beyond the Page curriculum is most closely aligned with what is known as the Constructivist Theory of Education. This is not a theory that you are likely to hear about much in the homeschooling world, but its tenets are both simple and powerful.

Constructivists view learning as an active process in which the learners actively construct knowledge as they try to comprehend their worlds. Constructivist theory is about facilitating the learner to go beyond simple memorization toward understanding, application and competence. Constructivist theory indicates that understanding, application, and competence cannot be achieved without actively engaging the learner.

Experiential Learning

The constructivist learning theory comes out of a body of research from cognitive psychology (the study of how people think and learn). It holds the belief that learners must construct knowledge for themselves. Learners are encouraged to think about what they are learning, as opposed to just reading, hearing, or memorizing information about a subject area. Learners should be actively engaged in learning; constantly being asked to synthesize and evaluate what is being learned. Students must experience, on some level, what they are being asked to learn in order for the learning to have meaning. In a constructivist-oriented learning environment, students acquire content while carrying out tasks requiring higher-order thinking.

Authentic and Challenging Projects

The constructivist approach to learning emphasizes authentic and challenging projects that require students, teachers, parents, and even others in the community to communicate and work together. With a constructivist approach at home, you and your child are encouraged to have constant dialogue and to conference on ideas and projects. It emphasizes that learners should assume the responsibilities of their own learning and must develop meta-cognitive abilities to monitor and direct their own learning and performance. That being said, parents must work as guides, must ask and answer questions, and should provide resources to help the child with projects and activities. Often parents will provide concrete teaching when necessary to help a child learn a skill or to understand or present new information.

Holistic Learning

Another key component of constructivism is that learners build new knowledge upon the foundation of previous learning. This idea is reflected in our concept-based approach to curriculum design. Learners can make connections between what is being learned and what has been learned in the past. In addition, subjects are not split out and taught individually. Rather, subjects are taught as an integrated whole — enabling learners to draw connections among the various disciplines.

Learning by Doing

Active learning is a great way to remember what underlies a constructivist approach to learning. Not just reading a textbook or hearing a lecture, but actually exploring what is being learned, applying understandings, experimenting with ideas, and forming new ways of thinking. Students must be given time to reflect on and discuss ideas and knowledge.

Homeschooling is an ideal setting for children to be actively engaged in what they are learning. Homeschooling provides children the time to work on projects, research, and reflect. It also allows you, as the parent, to guide your child as she attempts assignments and projects. Homeschooling lends itself to great discussions and since you are able to work one-on-one with your child, you recognize when your child needs more concrete teaching moments.

While it may be hard to sift through all the educational theories and decide which one you will choose, remember that you do not have to choose a single theory. Whatever you choose, however, I encourage you to actively engage your child in experiential learning.
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