Have you ever tried burying a time capsule? Well, I haven’t. Or I didn’t think I had . . . until I ran across a document written 8 years ago, when I started this journey called homeschooling.
I remember writing it. It seemed like a highly [possibly futile] academic exercise at the time, but a couple of “THE books” recommended putting down, on paper, an Educational Philosophy, including a list of long-term goals for your child/student. So I did it. For several reasons, not the least of which was that I occasionally fall into the “Type A” personality bracket, I am exceptionally competitive (academically; don’t put me on a snowboard!), and I was going to be darned if I was going to fail as a homeschooling parent! I would do everything I was supposed to do to make this successful. To make sure my child was/is/will be successful. End of story–for then.
So I wrote “My Educational Philosophy”. It sounded grand. It was grand! And I just rediscovered this classic document, encased in plastic (apparently so it wouldn’t meet a sudden death by a Great Food Mishap . . . or excessive fondling, LOL).
This single piece of paper brings a smile to my face now. Full of idealism and lofty language, the four paragraphs seem more like a presidential-hopeful’s speech than anything else! Words and phrases like: foster, respect, exploring, discovering, “effort to maintain excitement for learning,” “love for the subject is permeable”, “utilizing techniques and approaches” pepper the page. It’s not bad. But after 7 years of homeschooling my children, I smile because that still-white page represents precious dreams that have come true, a journey not yet completed, and dreams that should remain just that . . . dreams.
Being the personality type I’ve already described above, I’ve marked the original document with notes for changes. A revision is in order! But why put the effort in now, after I’ve marked off 7 years of experience and probably referred to this grandiose language exactly once during that time? Here’s why:
- Those words, phrases & dreams gave shape to our homeschool program. Though I never looked at them again, composing the document plastered the concepts within to my mind and heart. It is good to have ideals.
- Writing an educational philosophy can assist in planning by narrowing down your curriculum options and helping you to organize your thoughts. This is the main reason to perform this exercise as a beginner. Even experienced homeschool parents can get distracted by shiny new curricula on an iPad, though, so having specific goals and plans can help maintain focus. Or give you a reason to buy the shiny new curricula!
- Specific goals can also guide your budget by prioritizing what is most important and what can be left alone for the time being.
- It’s good for the soul to mark growth on a long journey. When we look at where we started and mark off key milestones, courage to move forward blossoms.
- It’s simply rejuvenating. Let’s face it: homeschooling isn’t easy. Burnout lurks around the corner. Recharging your batteries might be as simple as revisiting the passions, desires and goals that led you down this path in the first place. Find that love again.
Now let’s get down to the basics: what is an Educational Philosophy?
- There are courses in educational philosophy. That’s the long answer.
- Short answer: the WHAT, WHO, HOW, WHEN & WHERE of teaching and learning.
should you can you include in your very own Educational Philosophy?
- The purpose of education–from your perspective. Why do you value education? What’s most important to you?
- The role of the teacher and the role of the student. (Is the teacher there to impart knowledge or steer the students toward resources? How should the student interact with information or the teacher?)
- Is your home the center of training for your children? How does this affect academic endeavors?
- How do your religious beliefs &/or practices factor into homeschooling?
- How do you think your children learn best? (A learning styles inventory, available online, might be helpful to you.)
- What are your goals for your children? Don’t be afraid to branch out of “academics” with these goals! The beauty of homeschooling is that we can address the WHOLE child and not chop their education into separate parts. Their spiritual selves are developing at the same time they are learning sentence structure and multiplying fractions.
- You might wish to ponder Long-term Goals for your child that would encompass several years, or even through high school &/or college. (Short-term goals would be for a particular semester or year, and be separate from this document.)
- How will you balance the needs of individual students with your toddler’s needs? (Thinking about this ahead of time might lead to problem-solving solutions before you’re frustrated and pulling your hair out! Trust me.)
- What kind of a presence will your student/homeschool have in the community? In your church? With the neighbors? Work- and service-oriented goals may apply here.
- Have you studied various education &/or homeschooling philosophies? This would be a good place to expound on how you will use a certain philosophy or method and why you agree with such-and-such a philosophy.
- How will you use (&/or not use) technology in your homeschool?
- You may choose to list how each parent will be involved in the homeschool and what your qualifications are, though this is certainly optional.
You may choose to write your Educational Philosophy with just a few core components from the list above. Doing so will give your homeschool experience direction; clarity. If exploring more than this is overwhelming, stop here. Congratulations! Put that baby in plastic and tack it to a bulletin board!
Should you enjoy delving deeply into homeschooling/educational philosophy and methods, here are a few more questions & some resources that I’ve found helpful:
- What teaching methods will you employ? Wikipedia has some simple definitions of teaching methods. This site goes overboard with 150 examples: https://teaching.uncc.edu/learning-resources/articles-books/best-practice/instructional-methods/150-teaching-methods.
- How will you know when a student has learned a concept or the required information? Educators call this “assessment” and there are various ways to measure a student’s knowledge of a subject. Here’s a link that might help:https://ctl.utexas.edu/assessment/methods.
- Raymond Moore was one of the fathers of the homeschool movement. This foresighted Seventh-day Adventist educator helped many, many families in their homeschool journeys. He’s now deceased, but here’s a link to his foundation’s site: http://www.moorehomeschooling.com/article/68/about-moore-home-schooling/moore-formula.
- There may be books in your local library about homeschooling philosophy. Mary Pride’s Complete Guide to Homeschooling was the one I borrowed & found immensely helpful in dissecting the various homeschool philosophies and methods. Reading this book gave me a bird’s eye view of the homeschooling world, including key terms that I was able to use to search more efficiently for my own homeschool curriculum. Another book in the same category is Debra Bell’s Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling. Peruse your local library for other offerings.
- For the Children’s Sake, by Susan Schaeffer McCauley, follows the Charlotte Mason philosophy & methods of homeschooling. She outlines beautiful ideals and principles with some practical application.
- Ellen White’s classic book, Child Guidance, can be found as a pdf document here: http://www.anym.org/SOP/en_CG.pdf
- Try googling key terms such as:
–Homeschooling philosophy and methods
–Charlotte Mason philosophy and methods
–Unit Study Homeschool method
–Unschooling, delight-directed method, relaxed homeschool method
–Literature-based homeschooling method
–Eclectic homeschooling method
–Independent study homeschool method
–(you will find more, but this can get you started!)
(If you are an experienced homeschooler reading this, and you don’t see something listed that you have used, feel free to list your resources in the comment section!)
Developing your own Educational Philosophy, and putting it down on paper, can be an invaluable tool to guide your homeschool experience. Don’t forget that it is your own document, based on God’s guidance and your family’s particular situation/needs, so should you find that it’s not working for your family, please revise it! This is a tool for your homeschool, not the law.
If nothing else, an Educational Philosophy makes an interesting Time Capsule. But I hope you’ll find the process helpful, too.