You Don’t Need a Philosophy of Education to Homeschool

Educational Philosophies for Homeschool Boxes

What’s Your Philosophy of Education?

Whether you have no idea what the answer is to that question or your mind instantly rattled off a response, this article will give you some food for thought. Educational philosophies are a hot topic in the homeschool community, and they can be a great tool for growing in educating our kids. But, when we start categorizing things, sometimes they get more complicated than they need to.

Educational Philosophies: Is It Really That Complicated?

When I first started homeschooling, there were only a handful of companies that sold their private school curriculum to homeschoolers. My homeschool support group was made up of families who either used that curriculum or created their own. I knew several wonderful ladies who taught me the same thing Carole Joy Seid says in Homeschooling Made Simple: 

All you really need to homeschool is a Bible, a library card, and a math book.

As time went on, and more curriculum companies came on the scene, that message began to get lost. Instead of talking about ways to creatively use the resources at the library, we handed our new homeschool families a bag stuffed with curriculum brochures and catalogs. Choices are great, but when they become too overwhelming, we need to be reminded of simplicity.

Educational Philosophies: Just Another Box?

Learning about educational philosophies can help us wade through the ocean of homeschool curriculum that’s out there. Likewise, they help narrow the choices when we have so many options. They can also improve our understanding of how our kids learn. Educational philosophies can help us create goals for our homeschools that keep us focused and on track. However, an over-emphasis on labeling ourselves can lead to some unwanted results. 

I’ve been amazed at how many people will pull their kids out of a public school because they don’t want their kids “forced into a box” but then create a new box out of their preferred educational philosophy. The reason there are so many educational philosophies is that there are many paths to a good education. In fact, the last time I studied this topic, there were five popular educational philosophies. Now, the list is up to ten! Do we really need to label ourselves this specifically?

When we focus too much on labels, we can develop a critical spirit toward those who don’t share our views. This is unfortunate because diversity in the homeschool community is a beautiful thing. My kids loved hanging out with their unschooling friends and enjoying the freedom of their lifestyle. They also had great respect for our friends who were more structured and spent a lot of time reading complicated textbooks and doing difficult assignments. Even though our family used other methods, we could still appreciate and benefit from our friend’s differences.

Kids running and playing

Educational Philosophies: For Teachers or Students?

It’s hard for us to be impartial when evaluating educational philosophies. We will always gravitate to the one that resonates most with our personal preferences. That’s why it’s helpful to remember that they are imperfect philosophies, not laws. Their purpose is to help teachers understand the methods of teaching and the principles behind them. Therefore, we don’t have to pick one and stick to it at all costs. The variety of educational philosophies shows us that children can learn and be taught successfully in many ways.

Sometimes, we choose books and curriculum that align with our principles and chosen methods, but they don’t connect with every one of our kids. This can certainly be discouraging after researching and spending money on curriculum. If this happens, it isn’t because the educational philosophy was all wrong or our curriculum is bad. They just may be the wrong fit for our particular child, our family, or the season of life we are in. However, some philosophies may not fit us at all, and that’s okay too.

Out of my five children, I have some who cannot stand Shakespeare, or hands-on projects, or independent reading. We had to deal with bad attitudes when those things were required by our curriculum. Eventually, I had to accept that all of my kids weren’t enthusiastic about the same things. They didn’t all learn or retain things the way I loved to teach them. This was difficult, but the beauty of homeschooling is that I had the freedom to adapt. I learned to choose which battles I was willing to fight. Sometimes I fought the attitudes, and sometimes I threw out the assignments.

Get Out of the Box and Embrace Simplicity

I will never forget listening to one of the ladies in my homeschool support group share how she designed her children’s curriculum. She simply copied the table of contents from a subject textbook and went to the library. She truly homeschooled with a Bible, a library card, and a math book. Even though I didn’t choose her method, she taught me that homeschooling doesn’t have to be complicated. This wonderful lady also taught me to appreciate the curriculum companies that did all of that investigative work for me!

Educational philosophies can help inform and direct our choices, but they don’t have to become dictators or measuring tools that control us. While it is interesting to know that you are a Classical-Charlotte Mason-Montessori-Reggio Inspired Homeschooler (something I didn’t know about myself until I went here), it is more important to know that you are the perfect person to teach your kids. Really, it’s just that simple. Your unique blend of creativity and interests will make just the right environment for your kids to learn successfully. Trust in that, and you’ll be able to stay clear of the boxes!

Jessie Wiegand

Author, Jessie Wiegand

Jessie is a mom of five who has been homeschooling since 2000. She loves serving the homeschool community and has been active as a support group leader and co-op teacher in southeast Michigan for over 15 years.