I’m going to come right out with it. If you’re educating your children at home, you should care about educational philosophy. I’m not suggesting it’s easy or always fun, but it matters.
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I get it. Educational philosophy can seem daunting. Whether you’re studying traditional schoolish American education, unschooling, classical education, Charlotte Mason, Waldorf, Montessori, or other philosophies, there’s a lot to take in for homeschooling newbies and veterans alike.
Regardless of how intimidating it feels or how unnecessary it seems, studying educational philosophy will help you grow as a parent, learner, and home educator.
Why You Should Study Educational Philosophy for Your Homeschool
I researched home education for about a year before I actually started homeschooling my son back in 2009. My oldest kiddo was three when we started.
I read about all the possibilities that come with home education and learned just enough to be intrigued by the different philosophies. I also learned just enough to be too scared to actually implement them.
It took several years and some homeschool regrets before I was brave enough to trust myself and walk the path I wanted to follow all along.
As it turns out, it takes some work to get where you really want to be. The boldness to make that move didn’t come until I stopped looking at homeschooling on the surface level and dug into educational philosophy instead.
All that to say, if you’re homeschooling or considering homeschool and haven’t gone beyond the surface-level homeschool how-to, I encourage you to dig into educational philosophy for yourself. Here’s why:
You can do hard things.
Feel like all this talk of educational philosophy is too much for you? Don’t sweat it. You don’t have to be a trained teacher to care about education, teaching methods, philosophy, and child development.
You also don’t need an education degree to grasp these ideas and consider how they might apply to your homeschool experience. Not only are you perfectly capable of diving into the different philosophies, you’ll find it gets easier as you go along. What was once a challenging read will most likely be a stepping stone to more learning.
In a nutshell, think of any pep talk you’d give your child and give it to yourself. We don’t usually let our kids back down when something looks a little over their heads. Why should we hold ourselves to lesser standards?
By studying for yourself, you learn what education actually is.
It can be difficult to think outside the scope of your own educational experiences. If you’re not careful, you’ll shape your homeschool to resemble what you’ve always known and, chances are, your own educational experiences aren’t exactly what inspired you to educate your children at home.
That’s why it’s so important to study education for yourself.
That’s how you go from tests, missing homework, and one-size-fits-all teaching to teaching to the individual, interest-led learning, and, in the words of English educator Charlotte Mason, the understanding that education is an atmosphere, a discipline, and a life.
You may align with a specific philosophy and not even realize it.
It’s entirely possible that you align with a specific educational philosophy, but don’t even realize it. We spent years thinking we were “eclectic homeschoolers” before we shifted into a Charlotte Mason education.
(By eclectic, I mean a patchwork homeschool or that we couldn’t figure out how to define our homeschool because we incorporated elements from several styles.)
All of that time thinking we were “eclectic” really stemmed from me learning how other families applied the different philosophies. I listened to what they said and assumed they were all in line with their chosen methods; the problem was that knowing their applications alone made me miss how closely we were following one particular philosophy.
Others can be wrong.
By all means, read the summaries, join the Facebook groups, like the Instagram posts, and ask the questions. Follow the curriculum and jump in with two feet. These can all be great ways to learn more about what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.
Here’s the thing: all the tools, voices, and resources are helpful, but at the end of the day, they’re still tools, voices, and resources. They’re not all credible — as in legitimate experts or original sources — and all voices can’t carry equal authority.
Point being, the original ideas can get lost in translation. Letting others define education or specific ideas on education causes you to assess what happens in your home according to someone else’s understanding.
In turn, that can lead to thinking you’re not doing it — whatever it may be — correctly. You don’t want to get sucked into that confusing state. Instead, you need to know the educational philosophies for yourself so you can keep your eyes on what’s happening in your homeschool and stay in your lane.
Educational philosophy helps with homeschool decision making and execution
Know what it’s like to flip through the massive Rainbow Resource catalog or stroll through the vendor halls at a homeschool convention? It can seem like a world of possibilities. That, or a thousand and one reasons to panic.
It doesn’t have to be that way. A thousand-page homeschool catalog doesn’t cause decision fatigue when you know what you want to accomplish. Likewise, you can stroll the vendor hall without being completely overwhelmed or research with intention when you know where your focus needs to be.
Educational philosophy helps you find that focus and keep it.
Think about it, when you don’t know the philosophy behind your chosen homeschool resources, it’s hard to know when to enjoy freedom and when to stay on course.
For example, you might skip preparation elements, move too quickly through the curriculum, or omit the very practice a method relies on the most.
Or, if you don’t develop your own thoughts on educational philosophy, you may choose resources that lead you down a path that’s nothing like you intended for your kids.
Ultimately, while it may seem like something to put on the back burner, knowing educational philosophies and developing your own keeps you from doing all. the. things. In turn, that frees you up to focus on the few things that matter most in your family and homeschool.
Need some reading suggestions to get you started studying educational philosophy? Here are some to consider:
- Consider This: Charlotte Mason and the Classical Tradition by Karen Glass
- Home Education by Charlotte Mason
- For the Children’s Sake by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay
- Beauty in the Word by Stratford Caldecott
- The Core: Teaching Your Child the Foundations of Classical Education by Leigh Bortins
- The Well-Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise
- The Brave Learner by Julie Bogart
- Dr. Montessori’s Own Handbook by Maria Montessori
- Montessori: A Modern Approach by Paula Polk Lillard
- Understanding Waldorf Education by Jack Petrash
- Free to Learn by Peter Gray
- How Children Learn by John Holt
I also recommend checking into the following podcasts on your favorite listening platform: A Brave Writer’s Life in Brief, Simply Charlotte Mason Audio Blog, Schole Sisters, A Delectable Education, Ask Andrew, and The Mason Jar.
There are lots of great homeschooling podcasts around, but the above-mentioned are all helpful when you’re specifically diving into education philosophy.
In closing, over your head or not, don’t be afraid to do the work and study the different methods for yourself. It makes a world of difference in how you steward this time you have with your children.