Early on in my homeschooling journey, I sent out e-mails to homeschooling moms I knew asking for advice. One lady advised me to develop my personal philosophy of education and sent me her own as an example. At first I didn’t completely understand. After all, you just buy the curriculum from the publisher you want, right? What does it mean to develop your personal philosophy of education?
After understanding the differences or similarities between some of the most prevalent educational philosophies today, I have made decisions regarding them, sometimes consciously, sometimes unconsciously, and have crafted my own personal philosophy of education. It is personal and specific to our family, but I offer it as an example. If you would like to write your own philosophy of education, feel free to take my outline and keep what you like, and alter what you don’t. Happy homeschooling!
MY PHILOSOPHY OF EDUCATION
Presuppositions: What I assume will be true about education whether I consciously think of it or not.
1. Every fact points to Christ.
2. Education should be comprehensive. (liberal arts)
3. Education requires self-discipline.
4. The most valuable subjects are language arts, logic, and math.
Denials: A few items that I reject.
1. The unformed feelings of children matter.
I’m not talking about feelings like the bare sense perception of sitting on a tack. Yes, if Caleb is sitting on a sharp object, his loving parents should take his feelings into consideration regardless of how they are formed. Rather, feelings here refer to affections, loves, emotional conditions of the heart. A modern educator may ask a child how he feels about such and such activity. Frankly, his feelings don’t matter if they are unformed by a superior transcendent value.
2. Money is the difference between a good and bad education.
3. Families should closely follow the government’s core standards.
4. Facts can be neutral.
5. Evolution is science.
What I want as a teacher:
1. Throughout all subjects, God should receive the glory for success; and every failure should remind us of our need for a Savior.
2. I want to follow the model of the Trivium, assessing my children’s stages of development (grammar, logic, and rhetoric). I want to emphasize children developing a “life of the mind” over vocational skills.
3. I want to teach all my kids together for history, science, fine arts appreciation, and Bible, connecting the subjects as much as I can, each child learning and doing projects and reading on his own level. This aids family discussions on the things we’re all learning together and saves my sanity trying to juggle over 100 teacher’s manuals a week (say 5 kids, 5 subjects a day, 5 days a week!)
4. I want resources that hold my hand, even scripted, telling me how to teach and what to say. This may change as I get more experience; but for now, I don’t want to put things together myself.
What I want for my children: (bullet points underneath each subject show practical points of importance to me)
1. Bible—I want to value it, adhere to it, and know it. It is memorized above and before anything else, so they can draw on those truths to give an answer to the important questions of life. Children should see that the Bible is the foundation for all other facts. The Bible is the most classic and enduring “Great Book” in the world. Children should “search the Scriptures” (John 5:39) and find them “sweeter than honey.” (Psalm 19:10) I want my children to have a personal relationship with their Maker and His Son and to love Him with heart, soul, mind, and strength.
- Curriculum that is friendly to Reformed Baptist doctrine.
- Preferably integrated with our history and science studies, if possible.
- Emphasize memory work, including catechisms.
- I also want to study church history and read some works of great theologians in order to recognize ancient heresies when they crop up under a “new” name.
- Apologetics and evangelism; an emphasis on missions and defense of the faith.
- An emphasis on character training, on heart more than or as well as head; internalizing knowledge.
2. Language arts
A. Reading—Christians are people of a Book. I want my children to love to read, as that will be the source of their self-education for years to come. I want them to discern what is good, beautiful, and true. I want them to engage in the “Great Conversation,” the Great Books and ideas that shaped Western Civilization and made it great. God’s fingerprints are seen throughout a lot of those ideas, but we want them to be able to decipher where they diverge from godly thinking and not be puffed up with knowledge that does not edify.
- Curriculum must be a strictly phonics-based approach to teaching reading.
- Using actual books, not readers with snippets of material from different sources.
- Spending more time actually reading than “busy work” of filling out workbooks for reading comprehension. Literature sheets can be nice, but are not necessary until around 7th grade.
- Integrating Socratic discussions (preferably with scripts or lots of help for the teacher) and writing on the rhetoric levels.
- Reading what is good, true, and beautiful, that in some way, even if unwittingly, reflects a Christian worldview; not crass pop culture like Walter the Farting Dog, Captain Underpants, or Goosebumps.
B. Writing—I want my children to learn to honor God in how they express themselves and to use the “sword” of the pen to build a stronger culture and to be the salt of the earth. Children should discipline themselves to write with neat and legible penmanship, and even prettily, if possible. Children should learn to write engagingly and logically.
- The right balance between enough handwriting practice in the younger years to develop a good hand in penmanship but not excessive amounts of writing for little fingers.
- Learning cursive. The public schools are cutting this out, but we will learn it.
- A writing program that does not expect all young children who are just learning the mechanics of holding a pencil to think and write creatively. Creative writing can be introduced later on.
- Integrating writing with the philosophies encountered in history, literature, Bible, and science.
- Using methods of narration, dictation, and copywork to develop writing skills.
C. Grammar—I want my children to understand the logic of English so that they write correctly and interestingly. Children should learn to persevere to understand the rules of language so that they may experience freedom in their writing.
- That children learn grammar in elementary, beginning with the basics even in first grade, but receiving an introduction to grammar no later than third grade.
- I would prefer them to learn basic diagramming in elementary, not wait until junior high.
D. Spelling—I want my children to understand the logic of English so that they write correctly and do not distract the reader with questions of their intelligence. 🙂 Children should not depend on spellcheck.
- A rule-based program that explains when to use which phonograms, thus enforcing phonics instruction. Children should read with an eye to correct spellings and exceptions to the rules of spelling. This can be integrated in all of language arts but shouldn’t hinder the child’s writing attempts.
- I prefer resources that are more independent, but don’t mind more teacher-directed resources if they most clearly explain the rules to the child.
- I don’t mind the idea of using studied dictation, but prefer other philosophies over Charlotte Mason’s for learning spelling.
E. Vocabulary—I want my children to increase their understanding of the English language, but not be so lofty and high-brow as to be unable to communicate to the common man. Speech should be pure, compassionate, and logical. Children should learn to enjoy words.
- Teaching Greek and Latin roots, prefixes, and suffixes for an understanding of how our words were formed and to increase understanding of unusual words.
3. Math—I want mathematics to illustrate the order and logic of God’s world, the unchangeable certainty of facts, and the importance of memorizing foundational information. Children should learn to persevere even if it doesn’t come easily.
- Drilling basic operations
- Conceptual understanding of those drilled facts: Charlotte Mason philosophy likes manipulatives and “real life” math, or learning through real life situations. Susan Wise Bauer also suggests one day a week for applying math in real life situations. I don’t want isolated drilled facts without conceptual understanding of them; therefore, Cuisenaire rods or Math-U-See manipulatives are important.
- Ability to re-explain the concepts
- Retention of facts learned
- An ability to complete basic problems mentally
- I don’t care about keeping up with common core standards, like graphing every year
4. History—I want to emphasize God’s sovereign hand throughout history, that it is He who “removeth kings and setteth up kings.” Daniel 2:21 Children should see His bedrock unchangeableness and faithfulness and develop a Biblical worldview through which they will view all events and philosophies.
- Learning world history chronologically, rather than just American history. I want to stress to the children early on about the big world we live in so they’re not self-centered or myopic Americans. (Charlotte Mason wrote about this as well as classical educators.)
- Using timelines (a Book of Centuries) to help the children gain a sense of their place in God’s plan and to make connections between what was happening in different places of the world that influenced cultures and events.
- Mapwork—again, to cement a sense of the bigness of the world. Americans should know more than just North America on the map. 🙂
- A mix of 2-3 “spines” or textbooks and other supplementary “living” books on the subject would be great. We want short, meaningful lessons from “living books,” not twaddle—dry, company-written textbooks, which can be the most boring books written. But I also do want a spine or two, written in living-book style, to be central to our studies throughout the year—to help keep us on track and lessen the potential for “gaps” in our education.
- Using narrations to test listening skills for elementary. Evaluations would be nice for 7th grade and higher.
- Integrating Socratic discussions (preferably with scripts or lots of help for the teacher) and writing on the rhetoric levels.
- I prefer strictly chronological history, but wouldn’t mind using a curriculum that arranged it more sequentially within geographic regions, still following the overall chronological cycle.
- I prefer a 4-year cycle repeated three times, as suggested in The Well-Trained Mind, in order to give the logic and rhetoric stages a full 4 years to interact with the material. But I’m not opposed to a 6-year cycle in elementary, and two 3-year cycles for 7-12 grades.
- I would like hands-on ideas; but this would not be a deal-breaker if it weren’t there.
5. Science—I want us to glorify God for His orderly, beautiful handiwork, generally revealed to man through His creation, described clearly in Genesis 1. I want to foster in my children a spirit of inquiry, awe, gratitude, and humility; and responsibility to fulfill God’s command to subdue the earth.
- Unapologetically young-earth. Apologetically so. 🙂 The curriculum must give answers and apologetics for how to defend God’s Word. Evolution must in no sense be kowtowed to as “science” in any form. The Bible must be the foundation and all other “science” seen as false if it disagrees with a statement of Scripture.
- Regularly going on nature walks to purposely study God’s world and be amateur naturalists, recording and identifying what we see in nature journals.
- I want a curriculum organized for me, not doing my own general schedule as outlined in The Well-Trained Mind. I need more structure than that.
- I would prefer to not jump around between topics every 6 weeks all throughout elementary, as in school textbooks; but would prefer to focus on a topic for 3-4 months, or half of the school year, as in My Father’s World.
6. Foreign Languages—We have been blessed to know English as our mother tongue, the most widely used modern language. However, other languages help to increase logic, to understand other cultures, and learning Biblical languages can help children to more quickly recognize error and to be more useful for God’s worldwide kingdom. Children should try hard to communicate with others in their mother tongue for the purpose of evangelism.
- Early fluency in Tsonga.
- Learning the basics of and attempting Venda and Afrikaans in junior high and high school.
- One or two years of Greek study, possibly in junior high or high school.
- Outside of Tsonga, that no languages would take over the more important studies of the 3 R’s and logic.
- Formal Latin study outside of study for vocabulary purposes is not important to us (at least at this point :)). We have too many other languages to study.
7. Fine arts—Art and music are an important part of a well-rounded individual and of worshipping God. They open children’s minds to transcendent values, which are the foundation for an enduring culture. Children should learn to appreciate art and music and to develop their own abilities in these areas as much as possible.
- Learning to appreciate and enjoy conservative, classic, enduring, God-honoring, awe-inspiring art and music.
- The ability to identify major contributors and their contributions to art and music.
- Piano instruction beginning in second grade and stopping when we deem that lack of ability hinders, rather than laziness.
- The ability to read music and sing harmony as well as on pitch, not abusing their own vocal chords or others’ ears. 🙂
- Basic instruction in different elements of art.
- Learning other instruments is not as important. I don’t know how to instruct in these, and that will be difficult over here. If the children express an interest, it is important to me to do my best to help them learn; but I won’t initiate too much if they aren’t interested.
- I feel it unimportant that children learn to appreciate or “tolerate” modern art and music, which contribute to the death of a culture.
8. Practical Living—Children must learn how to care for themselves, the home, and learn to serve in ministry. They must not be self-centered, but learn to serve other family members and submit to authority. They learn to fulfill their roles.
- Learning how to do household chores and to prize personal neatness.
- Learning to be a good steward of personal health (food choices and exercise).
- Practice some handicrafts. (For guys, also know how to fix fundamental car problems and run basic tools.)
- Knowing how to work hard as unto the Lord.
- Doing some sort of regular exercise in high school.
- Learning to type and handle a computer.
- Able to listen and speak well with proper manners in social settings. Enjoys family and others.
- Able to handle finances well.
- Have a teachable spirit that enjoys learning and can self-educate.
- Able to organize, plan, and manage.