Just like people in a specialized business or career field, homeschoolers can sometimes have their own special language. For example, there are homeschool terms for styles and for particular tools. If you’re considering homeschooling or haven’t been homeschooling for very long, these terms may still be a mystery to you.
Here are some popular homeschool terms you may be hearing.
Traditional homeschooling is the homeschooling style that most new homeschoolers may be most comfortable with. It emulates a traditional school experience to some extent. It relies on a regular curriculum and usually a schedule of some kind. But parents may set their own schedules and choose a curriculum that works with their children’s learning styles and personalities.
Charlotte Mason is a homeschooling style that focuses on every aspect of children’s lives—from their home life to their habits, to how and what they study. The style relies on living books, which I will discuss next, and repetition for learning. But the style doesn’t require dry, meaningless repetition for memorization. Rather, it involves repeating ideas in children’s own words for retention. It’s a liberal arts style in that it encourages studies in all the academic disciplines, as well as electives and crafts. The more children can be exposed to, the better they will be able to determine their own interests.
An essential aspect of Charlotte Mason homeschooling, living books may also be used by unschoolers or traditional homeschool styles as supplements. Living books aren’t informational textbooks. Instead, they inform through narration. The goal is to get children to connect with the subject of a book on a personal level. There’s no set definition of what a living book is. Ideally, they’re written from a single point-of-view, have a witty and engaging style, and don’t belittle children’s ability to understand. One veteran homeschooler suggests The Velveteen Rabbit by Marjery Williams (for younger children) and The Hawk That Dare Not Hunt by Day by Scott O’Dell (for teens).
Classical is another homeschooling style that guides children through three stages of learning, called the trivium. The stages don’t relate to traditional grades; they’re more like levels of preparedness. The stages are grammar, logic, and rhetoric. The grammar stage relies on the idea that young children mostly enjoy learning academic rules, repetition, and memorization. At the very least, they’re good at it. In the logic phase, they explore cause and effect and the question “why?” Then in the rhetoric stage, they apply the rules and inquisitiveness from the first two phases to creativity. Classical systems encourage children in the rhetoric stage to begin pursuing their unique interests.
Another homeschool style, unschooling is radically opposite in execution from traditional or classical. It doesn’t rely on schedules or a structured curriculum to accomplish learning. Instead, it encourages children to experience and do things that interest them. Their interests should lead them to pursue literature, science, math, or history, rather than the subjects leading them to their interests. A key element of unschooling is that it can look completely different from family to family. One family may be completely schedule free, while another may consistently rely on a mixture of unit studies, which I will discuss next, lapbooks, living books, and, rarely, traditional textbooks to delve deep into an interesting topic.
Yet another homeschooling style, unit studies combine all the academic disciplines in the pursuit of a single topic. For example, in doing a unit study about hurricanes, children might explore historically significant hurricanes, read novels featuring them, research the meteorology behind them, and determine the rate of frequency of hurricanes in a certain area. Unit studies allow families to pursue one topic together, with each child completing work at an appropriate level.
As a method children can use to store or study what they have learned, lapbooks work with almost any homeschooling style. They’re usually a series of smaller books stored in a larger manila folder that folds out onto their laps. Children will represent in some way—whether by crafting, drawing, or writing—what they have learned on a topic or subject. Working with the information in this way encourages retention.
Where Does BJU Press Fit in Homeschool Terms?
Though several of these styles could be combined with BJU Press curriculum, it would work best if you thought of BJU Press’s approach as its own homeschooling style. You as the parent are the key to your children’s learning. You have the freedom to choose a schedule and a teaching style that works best with your children. Your children should be able to focus on enjoying learning and gaining a mastery of each concept. BJU Press offers hands-on activities that make learning come alive and develop understanding, while inductive questions boost critical thinking skills.
Hopefully, I’ve been able to explain some of the lingo of the homeschooling world. Good luck on the exciting journey you have ahead!