A traditional education isn’t only available in a centuries-old, brick-and-mortar edifice. While several approaches to homeschooling exist, one of the easiest – and often most successful – for families to implement, is a traditional course of home instruction.
Traditional homeschool programs focus on the three R’s – reading, writing and arithmetic – enhanced with instruction in the arts and sciences. Guided by daily lesson plans, the home teacher maximizes instructional time while ensuring no gaps in instruction. The traditional approach works for all type of families, whether new or experienced homeschoolers.
The roots of traditional homeschooling are deep. It began in the early 1900s when Virgil M. Hillyer, headmaster at the Calvert School in Baltimore, developed the first homeschool program. Hillyer mailed lessons to families whose children were unable to attend school because of influenza. At home, parents taught their children the lessons that had been used in the classrooms the previous week. As word of this unique program spread, lessons were printed and mailed to families all over the world who wanted a traditional American education.
Homeschooling Roots Keep Growing
From those roots, homeschooling has continued to grow, fueled by families who desire an affordable, quality education along with the flexibility and customization homeschooling offers them. Their children flourish with one-on-one instruction, and the family often grows closer as they share the joy of learning with one another. U.S. government estimates suggest that several million children are educated at home each year.
Throughout its history, traditional homeschoolers have relied on some key components: a rigorous academic program with an emphasis on the three R’s, coupled with lessons about the arts and sciences. This combination forms the building blocks for future instruction. The curriculum should offer the best educational materials taken from a variety of sources. (Programs accredited by the Commission on Elementary Schools, a division of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, meet the highest academic standards).
Children are most successful when their instruction matches their skill level, which can vary from school to school. Placement testing not only helps determine proper grade level in a program but also can ensure the child is working on the appropriate course level. The placement test should be reviewed by an academic professional versed in the curriculum and student skill performance.
Detailed, Daily Instruction
Once the appropriate level for instruction is chosen, traditional homeschooling families rely on a comprehensive lesson manual. The manual provides the homes teacher with detailed, proven guidance for daily instruction, integrating subjects and resources. A good traditional homeschool program includes daily lesson that are easy to use and provide clear objectives. The lessons must involve all learning modalities; a combination of visual, auditory and kinesthetic instruction can secure each child’s success. Using a daily instruction manual makes the home teacher’s job easier, more efficient and more successful.
Also, the instructional materials should be age-appropriate. Older children should be involved in more self-instruction, while younger children should be working closely with the home teacher.
The lessons should be woven together from subject to subject to reinforce instruction and promote the child’s content mastery. At the same time, this approach makes instruction more engaging – for the child and the home teacher.
To assist a family, traditional homeschool programs should include additional resources, including answer keys for all work. Other valuable resources may include high-quality offline materials to supplement daily instruction. Online instructional materials, designed to reinforce and expand on daily instruction, often afford children a better understanding and appreciation for daily instruction. These materials can include videos, science experiments, additional readings, links to museums and other resources to further engage children in what they learn each day.
Available Teacher Assistance
It is not uncommon for home teachers to have questions or to need assistance with daily instructions. Having the ability to obtain the support of real teachers, experienced with the curriculum, can be invaluable to families who homeschool. Teachers may answer questions about how to teach a lesson, provide new approaches to meet a child’s individual needs, and offer support and encouragement. This teacher support should be available by phone, e-mail or online chat.
Testing is another valuable component of a good traditional homeschool program. Because lessons become building blocks to additional instruction, it is vital for home teachers to make sure their child understands each lesson. Being a home teacher and grading the work of a child objectively can prove challenging. If an experienced teacher who understands the program grades tests, the home teacher is freed from this challenge, allowing them to focus on instruction. The testing serves other purposes as well. It not only provides the home teacher with comfort in knowing their child is learning the material, but also encourages students to perform better.
The involvement of experienced teachers through testing also allows opportunities to provide the student with customized instructional materials. This includes exercises to reinforce areas where students need more help, or advance materials for the child who needs a greater challenge.
A Homeschool Community
The best traditional programs have means for students and home teachers to become part of a school community. A secure system of communication can facilitate learning and camaraderie. Such systems can involve chat boards and pen-pal programs. Through their involvement in these programs, students can develop friendships with children from all over the world.
Homeschooling provides families with a unique and valuable experience. Children achieve their full potential, and families grow as they work together through the lessons. The traditional approach ensures that children develop the skills and expertise necessary for future study and life’s challenges.
This article, from the FPEA Guide to Homeschooling in Florida, was written specifically for this Guide by Bob Graham, who has written extensively for Calvert Educational Services, a longtime provider of traditional educational curriculum.