Finding Method in the Madness: School

You may not know it yet, but you have a philosophy toward education! How you approach learning can influence certain aspects of schooling. Learning about these philosophies can help you formulate a more organized system and solve problems that may occur. You never have to buy in to one philosophy fully, unless you want to…


by Amanda Black & Chanelle Henderson | staff writers for The Snap Mom

*Note: These can vary greatly in practice based on the school/group’s interpretation of certain things and how they implement the philosophies. The information here is an overview.

Type I: Traditional

Traditional education focuses on a specific body of knowledge that is passed on from a knowledgeable teacher to student.

Common Threads:

Teacher is Expert — Student is disciplined worker — Body of Knowledge is clear and consistent

Common Concerns:

Not enough Creativity — Too much focus on memorization — Students don’t learn to apply the information

(Neo) Classical Education

Founders: Socrates, Plato, Aristotle | Time Period: 470 – 370 BC | Location: Greece

Basic Premises:

Emphasis on self-discipline, authority, and respect — Improving body and mind — Three clear levels: grammar, dialectic, rhetoric — Lots of emphasis on grammar, writing structures, etc — Memory work is very important  

Author’s Note:

I feel that modern-day classical education does not always reflect the balance of play, creative arts, and the chance to process/discuss information that the original philosophers intended. In Classical Times, school would not have started until approximately age 7, and each student would have had a tutor that attended with them.  In its essence, classical education serves to empower the student to be a self-directed learner; however, nowadays it can also result in students that are dependent on the expert teacher for information and flying through a ton of information. This is dependent on the teacher and how they proctor the class.

Curriculums/Resources: Classical Conversations [Christian @classicalconversations.com], Classical Private Schools, The Well-Trained Mind, The Socratic Method

What We Love:

–Emphasis on high expectations and high quality ideas –Exposes kids to challenging ideas –The idea that asking questions is beneficial

What We’d Watch For:

— Low response to student readiness or interest — Often frustrating for students who are easily overwhelmed, active/creative, or don’t like school — The “hubris” effect where kids are just learning fancy sounding stuff but not really able to apply/use it

Use It at Home:

— Create a disciplined and orderly home where students are expected to learn and be respectful — Present lots of new information, and expose them to challenging ideas early on — Teach structure of language and application of patterns — Become an expert on topics or find a tutor who is

Charlotte Mason | 1900s | England

Basic Premises:

“Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life,” and “Education is the science of relations” — Emphasis on ‘living’ books — Forming good habits — Short lessons — Limited time to complete lessons —  Well-rounded and variety of lessons —  Mastery focused —  Whole language (less emphasis on grammar lessons)

What We Love:

Creative and literature-based learning — Short lessons — Emphasis on good habits  — Encourages free time and unstructured play

What We’d Watch For:

May be hard to start with kids who don’t like reading/books

Use It At Home:

–Invest in beautiful, interesting books that teach through stories and pictures  — Plan cross-curricular lessons around those books — Keep any lesson short and near your child’s attention span  — Focus on exposing children to many topics and on mastering skills that are age-appropriate

Type 2: Contemporary

Contemporary philosophies focus on the student and responding to his/her interests and learning styles.

Common Threads:

Student directs learning —  Teacher is an observer of student — Process of learning is more important than content

Common Concerns:

Not enough directed learning –Lack of exposure to variety of topics — Not enough formal, quantifiable grades

Waldorf | Rudolf Steiner | early 1900s | Germany

Basic Premises:

Predictable day —  Rhythmic day/week/year — Includes domestic, practical, and artistic tasks — Emphasizes imaginative and free play — Uses natural materials and surroundings — Importance of caring, warm adults —  Emphasis on individual motivation to learn — Tends to give emphasis to soul, spirit, and body and the cyclical nature of childhood– There are three stages: birth-7 (imitation), 7-14 (imagination), 14-18 (discrimination)

What We Love:

Seasonal/Rhythmic flow — Finds beauty and creativity important in all subjects — Appreciation for natural curiosity and learning in early years — Emphasizes quality models and use of natural materials

What We’d Watch For:

Lack of push for reading/math in younger years — Can be highly spiritual — May be lack of consistent assessment

Use It At Home:

Bring a lot of outdoor things inside — Create a rhythm to your week with routines — Emphasize the seasonal changes and outdoor play — Use natural materials — Let your kids be involved in everyday life tasks — Be a warm and good role model

Montessori | Dr. Maria Montessori | early 1900s | Italy

Basic Premises:

Highly prepared and organized environment — Teacher plans environment and takes education to child — Child directs areas of learning — Emphasizes sensory learning, self care, and character education — Children should be able to access and participate in their environment (furnishings are scaled to be child-accessible)– Three year bands — Promotes individuality — Protects a child’s concentration — Portfolio based

What We Love:

Self-directed learning — Children able to pursue passions — Self-care emphasized —   Children are empowered

What We’d Watch For:

Not enough social interaction taught/encouraged — Some skills can be skipped

Use It At Home:

Enable your child to reach all self-care items — Create child-sized versions of life tasks — Make toys easily accessible and child-driven — Simplify play environment (very orderly, minimal, and neat) — Provide natural materials

Reggio Emilia | Loris Malaguzzi | post WWII/1940s | Italy

Basic Premises:

Child-directed — Finds a child’s languages (learning style) and teaches them to use their abilities well — Knowledge-rich environment — Emphasizes self-expression — Caregivers’ relationship is important — Teachers make learning visible/model learning — Community is highly-valued — Open-ended and discovery based

What We Love:

Emphasis on problem solving and being an observer — Importance of community

What We’d Watch For:

Teacher not carefully observing student to learn what they need — Lack of consistent assessment

Use It At Home:

Build a strong relationship with your child — Learn how they learn and what skills they are working on — Talk out your decision-making — Provide natural materials

Unschooling | John Holt | 1970s | USA

Basic Premises:

Children want to learn and are curious — Over time students will push themselves to learn more — Life is an educator — Personal learning is more meaningful

What We Love:

Capitalizes on natural curiosity — No boundary between “life” and “school”

What We’d Watch For:

Hard to jump into with kids who don’t value education — No structure can be hard to monitor — Students may miss basic skills in some subjects

Use It At Home:

Dig into any subjects your kids are interested in — Visit places that they learn about — Lots of field trips!


Bibliography & Resources

Montessori: montessori.edu  book: http://www.amazon.com/Montessori-Method-Maria/dp/148101692X/ref=sr_1_5?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1430857391&sr=1-5

Waldorf: http://www.whywaldorfworks.org

book: http://www.amazon.com/Education-Child-Lectures-Foundations-Waldorf/dp/0880104147/ref=la_B001H9XG9A_1_11?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1430857332&sr=1-11

Reggio: http://reggioalliance.org

CC: https://www.classicalconversations.com

The Well Trained Mind site: http://www.welltrainedmind.com/classical-education/

book: http://www.amazon.com/Well-Trained-Mind-Guide-Classical-Education/dp/0393067084/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1430857069&sr=1-1&keywords=the+well+trained+mind

Home Education by Charlotte Mason http://www.amazon.com/Home-Education-Charlotte-Masons-Homeschooling/dp/160459425X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1416574246&sr=1-1&keywords=charlotte+mason

A Charlotte Mason Companion: The Gentle Art of Learninghttp://www.amazon.com/Charlotte-Mason-Companion-Personal-Reflections/dp/1889209023/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1416574246&sr=1-3&keywords=charlotte+mason

https://simplycharlottemason.com