Styles and Set Up
On your homeschool journey, you’re likely to hear a lot about learning styles, teaching styles, curriculum styles, and so on. So much so, as a matter of fact, that you may end up getting overwhelmed if you’re not careful. That’s why understanding your mission is so important… With every choice you make for your homeschool, what are you going for?… what’s your objective?
Let me be really honest with you for a minute before we dive in. If you’re just starting out, you can hear all the information about learning styles that I could throw at you, but it likely won’t mean a whole lot to you except as a cool academic exercise.
Honestly, it’s because you don’t really know your children in that way yet. You may have an inkling about how they learn, what their natural bent is, and where their passions lie, but since you haven’t truly interacted with them in this academic context yet, you really have much to learn about them still.
The depth of relationship I have with each of my children is among my very favorite things in this entire world, and I imagine countless other homeschool moms and dads would attest to the same thing. So that brings us to our next anchor…
—> **Set up your homeschool with relationships in mind . **
So, what do I mean about that?
Simply this. As you get to know your children better in this academic context, you’ll be able to tailor the way you teach them to the way they learn best, and that will eliminate some friction in your relationship with your child … and break down barriers that may keep him or her from learning well and accomplishing the tasks at hand.
When you first start out, I always recommend gearing your homeschool to Mama’s natural bent (or daddy’s, if he will be the primary teacher.)
Why, you ask? That’s because whoever is leading the daily homeschool activities during that first year really needs to be completely at ease and fully invested in what you’re doing… (and I promise your children will react better to it that way.)
When I started homeschooling, all I knew was what I had grown up with, so I started with a boxed curriculum for each child— along with the video classes to go with them, since I felt completely inadequate to be a teacher of anything. Within a couple of weeks, we ditched the videos. I found that my young children were way too distractible to stick with them.
Once we stopped using the videos, I found that I actually COULD navigate through the curriculum on my own and bring them to a point where I knew they understood the material. PLUS, I had been really discouraged during our video weeks, because I didn’t know what they were learning any more than I did when they were in school. Once I took control, I was right there going through the material with them and enjoying all the conversations that goes along with learning together.
For those of you who don’t know, generally-speaking, we talk about 6 primary teaching styles in homeschooling: Traditional, Classical, Charlotte Mason, Unit Studies, Montessori, and Unschooling. I am giving you some great additional information and workshops in the resources for this lesson if you want to learn more about those specific styles.
Some of those styles will seem pretty familiar since they’re probably pretty close to what you knew as a child. Those more traditional approaches often require less planning and preparation from the parent because they provide lesson plans and teacher’s guides to give you what you need to do to teach each concept.
Other styles are gonna allow for much more creativity. If you are a creative mom who thrives on putting cool things together, those options may engage you in ways you never dreamed possible. I have seen a lot of parents “come to life” as they started homeschooling in these ways and their inner artist, explorer, researcher, or writer was unleashed.
As you study these homeschool teaching styles, though, always remember your mission. **Which of these do you think will allow you to pursue the hearts of your children in the most natural way? **Which excites you as a parent, so you can imagine it exciting your kiddos as well? Which makes you most comfortable?
If you were to poll homeschool parents, you’d probably find a large number of them would consider themselves eclectic in style— meaning they mix and match several of the styles together. That’s how I’ve homeschooled for a long time. I’ve done a little bit of classical curriculum, a little bit of a Charlotte Mason approach… a little bit of traditional… you know, a little bit of this, a little bit of that— but it all worked together beautifully, and by God’s grace, we have had children graduate and move on to the next step God had for them without missing a beat.
Very quickly, you’ll actually start learning together, which you’re gonna find is a super fun thing about homeschooling. Homeschool parents LEARN so much that we really should be the most interesting people on the block. We can converse easily about history and science and literature and mathematics, and philosophy, and really anything else under the sun— because you have most likely touched on that subject recently… either academically or through your conversations with your very inquisitive children.
I can’t tell you how many learning detours we have taken through the years, searching up information about something we read about or heard on the news or saw in a meme or whatever. **Learning is contagious— and once you start you don’t want to stop learning new things.**
So as you start learning with your children, you’ll begin to get a much better idea of how they think and how they learn best, so you’ll start adapting your curriculum and lessons to their particular learning style.
For some of your kiddos, you’ll find that they’re visual learners— preferring to see and observe things.
Others will lean to a more auditory learning style. They get more from hearing the material presented or listening to an audio book or lesson than reading it themselves… And repeating the material back to you is a big part of their learning process.
Another learning style you may encounter within your family is a kinesthetic learner. He or she will learn best by experiencing or doing things, so you’ll want to keep those kiddos moving.
Finally, you may have some reading and writing learners. These kiddos take the visual learning thing a little deeper as they prefer to learn by reading the material, writing essays, writing in journals, and so on.
The real thing you’re going for in all of this, though, is relationships— through whatever style you end up going with. Like I noted earlier in this lesson, you can really alleviate some friction between you and your child— or between your child and what he needs to learn— if you familiarize yourself with the different approaches you could take with them. I wanted to share a couple of personal examples with you to give you an idea of how understanding the way your child learns can be really helpful as you set up your homeschool .
I thought I’d share a couple of the situations I’ve run into with my boys through the years to give you some ideas of the ways that understanding their natural learning bent will give you the tools to help them succeed and strengthen your relationship with them at the same time.
When my older son started middle school and found himself in a situation where the tests he was taking were getting harder, I discovered that although he’s incredibly smart and picks up on the material as soon as he either reads it or hears it, he was a TERRIBLE test taker. Seriously, we would review for the test and he’d do great. But then it was like he had never even heard the concepts when the test was put in front of him. I was baffled— all I could think of was why was he blowing off the tests? Didn’t he care about his grade? I was getting really frustrated because I felt like I’d failed in instilling in him the desire to “do all to the glory of God?”
But it wasn’t a character issue I was dealing with. Camden really, truly was a bad written test taker— but WOW! He was an amazing teacher of the material. He could (and can) literally not only tell me the facts, but tie stuff together, showing that he has a full grasp of the information. So, we started working with strength and natural bent in mind.
I knew I had to teach him to take tests better, because if he wanted to go to college, he’d likely not get a teacher who’d allow him to take everything orally; but I also needed to help him succeed and keep him learning and growing without making him believe he wasn’t capable of the harder classes because he did so poorly on the tests.
So, at home, we did things orally— I would have the test in my hand and ask him the questions. I totally disregarded multiple choice, matching, etc— and just made him tell me the answers without helps. AND. HE. COULD. DO. IT!! Why? Because he got to talk to me about those things… and that kid is a TALKER! Adapting to his natural bent helped him make it through high school with a better understanding of how he was created and how he needed to work to overcome his weaknesses. I don’t know that he’ll ever be a great test taker, but he sure does know his stuff!
Another example of setting up my homeschool for relationship’s sake happened in middle school as well. Our oldest son has a very analytical mind. He loves to take data and make it fit into concrete situations. He’s quick thinking, but “book learning” is more of a struggle for him. So, for pre-algebra, I made the move to a math curriculum called Life of Fred for him. He actually excelled with that. Everything is in story form and all the problems are word problems. It “clicked” with him, and honestly it would have clicked with me as well, so I thought it was great!
Payton was two years behind Cam in school, so naturally I pulled out Life of Fred for Payton as well. My concrete-thinking, math-loving, great test-taking second son was literally reduced to tears within weeks of starting that, because he simply couldn’t understand it.
We immediately shifted to curriculums that were much more “traditional” in scope for him with rows and rows of neatly laid out problems, and he became the math guy that everyone came to for help throughout high school.
So, there you have two brothers with two very different set of strengths and weaknesses academically. In a classroom environment, there would not have been the flexibility to make adjustments to curriculum and approach to suit their needs, BUT because I am their mom, and I love them deeply, pray for them daily, and desire God’s best for them always— **I was able to get to know them on a level I never imagined possible and teach them to their natural strengths while still coaching them on how to overcome their weaknesses with the goal of doing all to God’s glory, whether it comes easily or not. **
How cool is that?
As a homeschool parent on the mission of homeschooling for your children’s hearts and building strong, discipleship-focused relationships with them, you’ll have the time to get to know them deeply. You’ll be able to make them feel so confident in your love for them that you can avoid many of the insecurities that drive crazy behaviors in adolescents, because they’ll know they are secure in Christ and in your family— and you’ll be able to teach them to understand how they fit and what they can bring to this world.
The time you’ll spend investing in your children should be one of the greatest joys you have as a homeschooler. It’s a blessing, not a burden— and most people who don’t homeschool have no idea of what they’re missing out on.
Leverage that time to get into the inner workings of their hearts and minds. It’s there that you’ll find incredible insight. As it’s there that you’ll see the Holy Spirit give you unbelievable wisdom in your conversations with them. That, ultimately, is what will make the difference… no matter what teaching or learning style you all turn out to lean towards.
In our next lesson, we’ll talk about what you need to consider as you choose curriculum for your family. I’ll see you there
Homeschool Styles and Set Up
You will have so much freedom in the way you set up your homeschool! Keep your mission in mind, and you’ll always stay on the right track– no matter what options you choose.