Say you’re new to homeschooling and have no idea of the different teaching methods out there. Are you “qualified” to teach? How do you adjust teaching to your student’s learning style? Where do you find age-appropriate lessons or tasks, based on your child’s developmental stage? So many questions!
Here is a quick list of teaching methods and practices that you can easily use and incorporate into your homeschool (starting from mostly teacher-centered and moving toward mostly student-centered).
1. Modeling: Mostly Teacher-Centered
By far one of the most effective teaching methods is modeling, where a teacher shows, or models, the educational materials and outcomes for the student.
For example, math modeling may involve writing down a sample problem on a piece of paper (or board) and going through it first as a teacher, while the student watches.
For children who are visual learners, having someone model the desired lesson material can help them see the information instantly. For children who are auditory or kinesthetic learners, though, modeling may be less helpful than having them sound out the information or work through it themselves.
2. ‘Correcting Mistakes’: Mostly Teacher-Centered
Do you have children who love to point out whenever you’ve made a mistake? Use that to your advantage in your homeschool!
This play-based strategy can make a wonderful difference in your relationship with your child as you learn new material together.
For example, if you’re teaching language arts, you can intentionally make a grammatical error by saying something that just “sounds” wrong – e.g. “Marie eats an egg. So Diana and Sarah ‘eats‘ an egg too!” – then your child can pretend to be the teacher and correct your mistakes. You can even make a game of it and decide to give out points for every mistake corrected!
3. Scaffolding: Teacher- and Student-Centered
Scaffolding is a popular concept among educators where teachers provide specific, bite-sized chunks of instruction for a limited amount of time, eventually leaving the student more independence until they’re completing the tasks on their own.
For example, say your teaching goal is to have your child memorize a poem. You can start by writing out the following children’s poem on a board or piece of paper:
When I was One,A.A. Milne, “Now We Are Six“
I had just begun.
When I was Two,
I was nearly new.
When I was Three
I was hardly me.
When I was Four,
I was not much more.
When I was Five,
I was just alive.
But now I am Six,
I’m as clever as clever,
So I think I’ll be six now for ever and ever.
Through scaffolding, you could decide to erase words one by one (or two by two, etc.) from the board until the child can repeat the whole poem from memory.
(For an auditory learner, you could recite the poem aloud but leave out key words, asking them to fill in the missing word: “When I was Five, I was just _____?”)
As your student develops, scaffolding may look more involved: having them look up new words in a dictionary before writing an essay, or explaining how they need to do steps 1, 2, and 3 before they can do step 4 on their own.
4. Montessori: Teacher- and Student-Centered
Maria Montessori died in 1952, but her educational legacy continues to this day. After serving children with disabilities in Rome for several years, she decided to expand her work and opened a “children’s house” or Casa de Bambini in 1907.
Her research drew international interest, and today thousands of Montessori schools – primarily for elementary school-age children – operate around the world.
Montessori’s method of education rests on three primary factors: the teacher, the student(s), and the environment. Montessori used many objects to foster learning, such as math manipulatives and geometric shapes to educate about size, shape, color, etc.
In a teacher-guided work cycle that lasts about three hours, students can choose what activities they work on, where they work, and how long they work. “No competition is set up between children, and there is no system of extrinsic rewards or punishments,” explains Chloë Marshall in this in-depth article about Montessori education.
(NOTE: This emphasis on independent learning and child-specific activity can complement the Charlotte Mason and unschooling homeschool approaches.)
5. Project-Based (or Problem-Based) Learning: Teacher- and Student-Centered
According to the University of Buffalo, project-based learning takes place when students apply course knowledge to produce something. This often goes hand-in-hand with cooperative learning, where students work together in groups to achieve a common goal.
For example, say your students have been learning chemistry in a relatively theoretical way. Your end-of-year project may be to have them submit a group entry to a local science fair, which is more practical and hands-on.
Likewise, problem-based learning happens when students conduct “outside research on student-identified learning issues (unknowns) to devise one or more solutions or resolutions to problems or dilemmas presented in a realistic story or situation.”
You can devise a scenario where your students need to work in labs, compile research, or put together a presentation to decide the best answer or course of action to recommend.
6. Inquiry-Based (or Inquiry-Guided) Learning: Teacher- and Student-Centered
This method of teaching is similar to the Socratic method, where the teacher’s role is to ask questions and encourage the students to seek answers. It is inherently open-ended and aims to build more of a dialogue rather than supply already-made information. This is also a great way to build critical thinking skills in your child!
Examples of inquiry-based learning could include answering “What happens if….” questions, dataset analysis, applying findings to a given situation or problem, etc.
7. Experiential Learning: Student- and Teacher-Centered
Have you ever attended homeschool debate rounds? This is a prime example of experiential learning in action!
Experiential learning focuses on application, observation and reflection to build student skills. While the teacher may still be involved to a degree, the students take more of an active role in the learning process. This may work better for middle- and high-school students than elementary.
Other approaches to experiential learning could involve symposiums, reflection journals, and panel discussions.
8. Role Plays & Simulations: Student- and Teacher-Centered
Does your student love the theatrical arts, drama, and other performance-based activities? Then role plays and simulations may be one of the best teaching methods to add to your homeschool!
Feel free to suggest playing out hypothetical situations with your student – whether it’s reading through a Shakespearean play, conducting a “mock interview,” or recording a simulation on your phone or other electronic device.
While you may initially think of this as geared toward older students, we’ve found it can work well with elementary-age children too!
For example, try imitating animal walks and sounds in your science classes (such as a “penguin walk” when studying the Antarctic). Learning history? Dress up as specific historical characters. Studying geography? Try speaking in a different language (or study a few words in that language) as you “travel” to specific countries.
9. Team-Based (Small Group) Learning: Mostly Student-Centered
Sometimes children learn best in social settings, and student-centered (or constructivist) teaching methods may provide the missing ingredient!
In this approach to learning, students may be responsible for planning activities, assessing their own progress, and conducting their own lessons. While teachers may act more as a consultant, they mostly remain on the sidelines as the students monitor themselves.
Often homeschool families will use older siblings to mentor and “tutor” the younger children, but if you’re homeschooling an only child, there are plenty of KC-area homeschool co-ops, groups, and enrichment programs that you can join for social interaction.
Schools in Finland use the “Buddy Up” strategy where 6th-grade students team up with 1st-grade students as mentors and friends. (You can read more about Finland’s innovative educational approach here!)
Interestingly enough, the U.S. has a historical precedent for this too: student monitors in the 1800s who essentially governed themselves, according to this fascinating History article: https://www.history.com/news/in-early-1800s-american-classrooms-students-governed-themselves
10. Fieldwork & Clinical Learning: Mostly Student-Centered
As the name implies, fieldwork and clinical learning methods may include working in assistant positions, internships, hours of community service and volunteering, extracurricular activities, or job shadowing.
Your goal with this teaching method is to give your child real-life opportunities to give back to their community, and prepare them for the world after graduation. As they grow, this can also mean helping them make professional decisions at their current job or internship.
BONUS: Your teacher ‘qualifications’ as a parent
As you read through this list, you may find you naturally prefer some of these teaching methods and strategies over others. That’s the beauty of homeschooling!
As your children grow and change, you may find yourself implementing more (or less) of these teaching methods as you need. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach that will work for every child.
Lots of research shows the No. 1 most accurate factor in determining student success isn’t socioeconomic status or school type, but parental involvement – how active the parents are in their education! (See this article for more details: https://www.waterford.org/education/how-parent-involvment-leads-to-student-success/)
So take heart, and feel free to reach out anytime if you have questions in your homeschool journey.