A Thoughtful Response to Questions About the Moore Formula

Question: From the things I have heard, I have established that the Moore Formula is not for every child, that unit studies are not essential, that the Formula has more to do with the amount of time spent in work and service, which should equal the amount of time spent in academics. Is this a true analysis? Why or why not?

To answer this question in one short sentence, yes the Moore Formula is for everyone, no unit studies are not essential (but highly recommended, affordable and provide a natural learning environment that is based on your child’s interests) and yes work and service should equal the amount of time spent in academics.  Now for my explanation.

I do have to respectfully disagree with the opening assumption in your question, that it has been established the Moore Formula is not for everyone.  I believe the Moore Formula is and should be for every child.  The Moore Formula is based on credible scientific evidence coupled with Ellen White’s educational model of delayed formal academics with equal time being spent in academics & work along with various home or community service projects.  As Adventist Christians who recognize Ellen White as a chosen vessel and prophet of the Lord to speak His will to God’s church, we can know and trust that this is the best formula for education.

So yes, the Moore Formula is the ideal method for homeschooling, but how it looks like on a day to day basis for each family is going to be very different, based on the family’s dynamics and the ages, interests, strengths &, weaknesses of each child as well as the number of children in each family.  The Formula is not a boxed curriculum product to follow with little boxes to check and pages to complete each day for each subject, but an overall methodology on how to homeschool.  No formal study pressure until 8-10, short engaging lessons (getting longer as the child gets older), lots of projects, outings, games, and activities, combined with meaningful work and service.  The ultimate goal is perfectly given in the book Education on page 13.

  • “True education means more than the pursual of a certain course of study. It means more than a preparation for the life that now is. It has to do with the whole being, and with the whole period of existence possible to man. It is the harmonious development of the physical, the mental, and the spiritual powers. It prepares the student for the joy of service in this world and for the higher joy of wider service in the world to come.”

It’s us parents (including myself) that sometimes have a hard time thinking outside the box of how we were taught and breaking away from what the education system looks like in our society today. I think that when most people here the concept “No formal schooling until ages 8-10”, they freak out a bit and wonder how in the world they can pull that off with all the outside pressure to have their child be up to standard with their peers in the school system. Also if there is no schooling until 8-10 what in the world are we to do with our children!? What if they want to learn or they can already read?  Do we just let them do their own thing all day long?   One thing I want to clear up right away is that the Moore’s are not saying don’t teach your child before the age of 8.  They clearly emphasize that learning begins at birth and parents are constantly educating through day to day life experiences.  Here is a direct quote from their website detailing what the Moore Formula is:

  • “First, don’t subject your children to formal, scheduled study before age 8 to 10 or 12, whether they can read or not. To any who differ, as their evidence let them read Better Late Than Early (BLTE) or School Can Wait (SCW). In addition to our basic research at Stanford and the University of Colorado Medical School, we analyzed over 8000 studies of children’s senses, brain, cognition, socialization, etc., and are certain that no replicable evidence exists for rushing children into formal study at home or school before 8 or 10.  Read and sing and play with your children from birth. Read to them several times a day, and they will learn to read in their own time-as early as 3 or 4, but usually later, some as late as 14.”

Did you catch the part I bolded?  “Formal, scheduled study”.  It didn’t say don’t teach your child at all, but instead subjecting them to a formal scheduled program where they are required to follow and complete the various subjects, activities, workbook pages, tests, etc, as in the school system.  Also, they clearly say to read to your children several times a day and some will learn to read as early as 3 or 4.  There are a lot of misconceptions out there that the Moore’s are advocating a “free for all” until a child is 8 years old.  In the book The Successful Homeschool Family Handbook on page 7 it says:

  • “The true picture of the effective home teacher is more often a secure and happy mom.  She and the children do straightening up chores the first thing each day so the home will provide an organized, clean environment for learning.  She selects learning tasks for which each child is ready.  She requires only enough daily practice or drill to allow her children to progress appropriately to mastery of the basic skills.  Fun projects are used to integrate and reinforce basic skills.  And much of the day is framed around the child’s interests with work and service that build genuine golden-rule citizens and successful entrepreneurs.  After reading, writing and arithmetic and spelling are mastered reasonably and without rushing, she lets her scholars explore largely on their own, making herself available to help find resources and occasionally answer a how or a why.”

Doesn’t that sound wonderful!  The Moore’s are not at all telling parents not to teach their children, but under the ages of 8-10 make teaching informal with no study pressures. If they want to do math or reading or science activities go for it…but don’t “require” it from them and keep it short and engaging.  Once they show signs of frustration or boredom, move on to something else.  For all ages, learning should be fun and parents should use the child’s interests as the springboard to teaching the “subjects”.

Part of the Moore Formula approach is not having to rely on textbooks and prepackaged curriculum making it very affordable for families.  So how does a parent teach without these materials?  Using Unit Studies.  Unit studies are an excellent way to combine teaching multiple subjects with something that the child is highly interested in and that doesn’t feel like school (and is great informal way of teaching children ages 8-10). This provides a unified way for a child to learn and see all the wonderful connections on a given topic they are studying.

Again I think that there is some misunderstanding as to what unit studies are.  When most moms think about unit studies they think of extensive lapbooks and notebooking pages, lots of cutting and pasting and elaborate projects that require major planning and execution on the part of mom.  Yes, unit studies can include all of that, but at its most basic level a unit study is defined by the Moore’s as taking an interest or opportunity of the moment and turning it into an education in every possible area.  Basically you take any content subject your child is interested in (history, geography, science, health, bible, literature) and integrate it with a skill subject or multiple skills subjects (language, grammar, phonics, composition, spelling, penmanship, math, music, art) and you have created a unit study.  Unit studies can be as simple as combining just one skill subject with a content subject or as in-depth as combining multiple content & skill subjects.

For example, let’s say your child is very interested in birds.  To turn this into a unit study that combines multiple content and skill subjects you can visit a bird store or bird sanctuary speakwith an expert and observe the birds, go for a nature walk with binoculars and watch for birds and record your findings in a nature journal, get an incubator and hatch some chicken eggs, get some bird books from the library to read to your child or have them read on their own, have your child draw or paint a picture of his favorite bird, write a sentence or report (depending on ability of child) about one specific type of bird, where it lives, what it eats, etc, map out where it lives and its migration pattern if it has one, label a bird diagram and look up the definitions of related bird terms.  The possibilities are endless and the unit study didn’t require hours of planning, preparing lapbooks, etc.   Unit studies can last one day, one week or as long as needed to cover all the areas your child is interested in.

Unit studies are a very natural way to learn and provide your child with a love for learning because you are building their studies on those things they are interested in. Yes you can teach each of the skill subjects separately and successfully and it isn’t absolutely necessary to do them explicitly to follow the Moore formula, but it sure makes things a lot easier and fun to include them as part of your homeschooling, especially for families with many children.

So as you can see I agree with part of the analysis of your understanding, but more tried to explain what the Moore Formula is and is not to better clarify things.  Hope this helps!