Common Teaching Approaches

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Sometimes when you are searching for teaching materials for your children, it’s not just the number of products that is confusing, but it’s a shock to discover that the products are coming from different ideas of how children should be taught and what they should be learning.

A home school curriculum fair is kind of like an interdenominational meeting, but there aren’t just doctrinal differences–there are different educational philosophies, different teaching approaches, and different convictions about what kinds of lifestyles home schooling families should have.

Common teaching approaches

All home schooling materials fall into two main categories: traditional textbook curricula and non-textbook curricula.

The Traditional Approach-

In the Traditional Approach, graded textbooks or workbooks follow a scope and sequence that covers each subject in 180 daily increments over a span of 12 years. Teacher’s manuals, tests, and record keeping materials are usually available that correspond to each of the texts. Textbook curricula assume you will run your home school like an institutional school.

Worktext programs present textbooks in consumable workbook format. The student learns his lesson, is given assignments, and is tested all in the workbook. The worktexts include tests or checkpoints to ensure that the material in each section is mastered before the student moves on to the next. Worktexts also allow more independent study and require minimal teacher preparation time and supervision.

Video programs are also available that are actual classrooms on video. The child follows along with the video as if he or she were attending an actual classroom, and uses the accompanying textbooks or workbooks.

Traditional curricula are also available on computer. Many satellite schools and well as universities now offer computer courses on CD or through the internet.

Most of the textbook and worktext programs used in private Christian schools are available to homeschoolers. They each share a distinct doctrinal perspective, and usually contain strong elements of essentialism (the view that there is one “right” essential course of study for all children).

Some questions to ask yourself before trying the traditional, textbook approach are listed below. Yes answers indicate this approach may work for you and your child:

1. Did my child perform well in a school classroom?

2. Does my child like to complete assignments and to have defined goals?

3. Is my child academically oriented?

4. Will my child complete assigned tasks with a minimum of prodding from me?

5. Am I the kind of person who will follow through with the lesson plans and pace of the course of instruction?

Some additional questions to ask before using the workbook approach with your child:

1. Does my child read well and have good reading comprehension skills?

2. Can my child work well independently?

3. Can my child learn without a lot of variety to the teaching materials?

Strengths of the Textbook/Worktext Approach

 Everything is laid out for ease of use

 Follows a standardized scope and sequence

 Has definite milestones of accomplishment

 Testing and assigning grades is easy to do

Weaknesses of the Textbook/Worktext Approach:

 Is geared to the “generic” child. Does not take into account individual learning styles, strengths and weaknesses, or interests

 Assumes that there is a body of information that comprises an education and that this information can be broken down into daily increments

 Treats children’s minds like containers to be filled with information

 Focuses on transmitting information through artificial learning experiences

 Is teacher-directed and chalkboard oriented

 Different aged students study different materials

 Expensive when teaching multiple children

 Discourages original, independent thinking

 Has a high “burn out” rate

Non-Textbook Approaches

Although there are a number of excellent textbook and worktext programs available, many home educators object to the fact that textbooks are teacher-directed, chalkboard-oriented, and seldom take into account different teaching approaches or the different ways children receive and process information.

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