Choosing the best homeschool program can be a daunting task.
With the smorgasbord of options available—ranging from online classes through a local public school to unschooling to classical education (and many gradations in between)—families called to homeschooling are often confused and overwhelmed. Homeschool conventions can help bring clarity, giving parents an opportunity to listen to veteran homeschoolers and explore possible curriculum choices, but they can also add to the clamor, as parents are exposed to the wide variety of choices. How can parents invite peace into the decision-making process and select the best homeschool programs for their families?
Thankfully, while each family is unique and homeschooling choices may seem limitless, the best homeschool programs share many qualities or identifying traits in common.
The Best Homeschool Programs…
…Inspire Lifelong Learning
One of the hallmarks of a great education is lifelong learning. As Christians, we are called to be students of God’s Word and His world, so education for us should never cease, whether school is in session or not. In keeping with this, the best homeschool programs develop in our students and ourselves a sense of awe and wonder about creation and its Creator. They encourage curiosity and exploration, providing students with the ability and resources to dig deeply into any line of inquiry. They set a rich table of knowledge, inviting students to feast while honoring their unique capacities and palates. The best homeschool programs introduce students to the great people, ideas, and books of the past; and they do this fearlessly, secure in the knowledge that all truth is God’s truth. Because these programs are launching lifelong learners rather than merely trying to get students to graduation, they emphasize a mastery of the art of learning and the appreciation of truth, goodness, and beauty.
…Provide Structure while Encouraging Flexibility
The best homeschool programs can help provide guidance and assist in setting educational goals, but they should never be a straightjacket. They should neither prevent a student from pursuing something because it is not in the workbook or syllabus, nor should they cause frustration or anxiety because the syllabus introduces material that a student does not have time for, capacity for, or interest in. Because the best homeschool programs set a rich table, they also encourage flexibility. To remain healthy, students must eat at their own pace, knowing that if their menu differs slightly or even drastically from that of others, they are still at the same table and there is always time for dessert. It never becomes too late to learn. The feast is never over. Because the best homeschool programs recognize that acquiring knowledge and gaining wisdom is not a race, they honor the uniqueness of each child and each family. They do not expect every child to perform at the same level at the same age, and in fact, they tend to shift the emphasis away from performance at all, preferring methods of assessment that promote true wisdom over temporary fact acquisition.
…Draw Families Closer Together
Because the best homeschool programs treat learning as attending a perpetual feast, they are able to encourage learning in community. No one feasts alone. Because the purpose of education is the lifelong pursuit of truth, goodness, and beauty, and because learning is not a race, the rhythm set by these homeschool programs promotes continuity and community, conversation and reflection, over fractured busywork sharply delineated by grade. Family members are encouraged to share discoveries and insights and are taught how to respectfully challenge each other with thoughtful questions for further consideration. These programs encourage families to learn together and to learn from one another, with parents framed as the lead learners rather than the taskmasters.
Classical Conversations strives to epitomize these qualities of the best homeschool programs. Its very mission statement, to know God and make Him known, immediately helps parents focus on the big picture, whether they are still considering homeschooling, vacillating between curriculum choices, or already traveling the day-to-day walk of homeschooling. It reminds students of the reason for their education and keeps their sights trained on truth, goodness, and beauty. The structure of the program is carefully designed to be God-centered while also developmentally appropriate for children. Recognizing that God has appointed parents as stewards of their children’s education, Classical Conversations endeavors to incrementally build students’ ownership and responsibility for their own education so that they are inspired and equipped to be lifelong learners.
Each of the three Classical Conversations programs, Foundations and Essentials (geared towards elementary students) and Challenge (designed for middle and high school students) are highly customizable. Classical Conversations believes that parents are the primary teachers of their children even when they are enrolled in a Classical Conversations program. For this reason, their tutors are trained to empower and encourage parents to tailor the assignments and workload to fit their family’s and child’s needs, rather than keeping to an arbitrary schedule at the cost of stifling interest or burning out. Sometimes this can mean writing an extra page in a paper to accommodate a student’s enthusiasm for their research topic. It might also mean choosing not to read a book from the syllabus so a student can focus on in-depth studies related to the previous book. Or it could be scaling back a planned project because of an unexpected illness or travel opportunity.
Classical Conversations emphasizes incorporating ideas from the one-room schoolhouse into family routines to allow families to enjoy the experience of learning together and from one another, and to encourage parents to teach from a place of rest. The material that younger children learn in Foundations is covered again in greater depth by older siblings in Challenge, so families are continually able to discuss overlapping content together. The encouragement and support of Classical Conversations tutors help validate parents’ assessment of their students’ work, and the unique partnership between tutor, parent, and student can lead to strengthened relationships between parents and children during the high school years.
Classical Conversations encourages parents to invite peace into every phase of homeschooling, realizing that to do so, it is vitally important that parents recognize and assume their God-given role as their child’s primary educator. As parents understand that God has given them this task, they can have confidence that He will equip them for it and guide them in it. They can rest in His provision as they make each homeschooling decision.
Author: Rachel Brown
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