Homeschool parents all have one thing in common—they want the best education possible for their children. Figuring out which approach isn't an easy task, but holistic homeschooling has a number of advantages.
There are approximately 3.5 million homeschooled children in the United States, surpassing charter schools at 2.5 million. Homeschooling parents today have more resources and connectivity than generations past of homeschoolers.
What Is a Holistic Homeschooling Approach?
When you use a holistic approach to education, you look at the entire person as a whole and not just specific learning goals. While academics and basic skills are an important component, holistic education also seeks to develop emotional skills, social behaviors, spiritual beliefs and community connectedness.
Looking at your child as the whole person and what their purpose in life might be is a big advantage over public learning. The sheer number of students in a traditional classroom doesn't allow for much individualization. On top of that, educators must meet specific standards for testing, which requires a focused approach that applies across the board rather than an individual approach for each student.
Philosophies that Match Holistic Approach
There are a variety of educational philosophies and curriculum available for parents to use in approaching education. The one that works best for your child depends upon what type of learner your child is.
- Charlotte Mason: A philosophy from the 19th century. This form of learning hones in on paying attention to detail, keeping lapbooks and exploring the world at large.
- Waldorf Schools: The focus of Waldorf schools is on experiential play and artistic expression. It could be called an unschooling approach in the lower grades with a shift to more critical thinking by high school.
- Montessori: You've likely heard of this educational movement as many charter schools run on a Montessori model. With this approach, the child guides their own learning, but the teacher points them in the right direction.
A focus on interest-based learning has always been popular in homeschooling circles. Because you only have to prepare a curriculum for your own children, you can create a curriculum around space or race cars or horses.
What a Week of Holistic Learning Looks Like
Imagine that your child loves horses. Anything that involves horses is going to pique their interest, so you create an equine-based lesson plan for your child. A week of holistic learning based on your child's interests and developing the whole person looks something like this:
- Reading great literature about horses (Black Beauty, etc.).
- A field trip to a local horse stable and field trip with other homeschoolers riding horses (social).
- Learning how horses are measured and how high a "hand" is (math).
- Studying the anatomy of a horse and drawing pictures of horses based on anatomy (science and art).
- Volunteering at a local equine therapy center (connectedness to community).
Of course, there are many other things you can add to this curriculum, including history and studying famous racehorses or how horses were used in the 1800s on a daily basis. The key is to find something your child loves and center learning around that interest while still driving the basic academic skills your child needs to succeed as an adult.
Developing Confidence in Your Child
One of the key advantages of homeschooling with a holistic approach is that your child's self-confidence grows. The child focuses on something that already has a positive association, such as horses and then completes tasks in their own time. With homeschool, if your child doesn't understand a concept, it's okay to take a step back and slow down until they understand the fundamentals of that concept.
Allowing more time is another way that holistic homeschooling takes into account the needs of the child as the whole person. One child may pick up a math concept on the first try, while another may need to review it or even go back to some fundamentals to truly understand that concept. When you only have your own children rather than a full classroom, you can devote the time needed to understand each point better.
Character Is Everything
Building character isn't an easy task. Every child has some flaws, whether it is being too hard on themselves or not wanting to put in the hard work. As the parent, you know your child better than anyone else. If you're able to take a step back and think of those flaws as areas that need work, then you can find tasks that help your child develop critical character skills that allow them to succeed as an adult.
For example, if your child gets angry when they lose a board game, sign them up for a sports team and encourage them to look at the effort rather than the reward. If your child does their part for the team, the team may not always win, but they should feel satisfied that they tried their best. Build the character traits your child lacks one skill and one activity at a time. Holistic education allows you to focus on those elements that are both strengths and to work on the weaknesses.
Beyond the Confines of the Classroom
With holistic education, you're not confined to the four walls of a classroom. The focus is on the person as a whole and that means someone who lives in the real world, participates in activities, volunteers and works with others. Holistic education is very much about balancing all the different activities of homeschooling while still learning the academic skills your child will need in the upper grades and for higher education pursuits. Step back, take a look at the big picture and come up with a plan that allows your child to thrive in their own skin.