Homeschooling, Opinions & Experiences

Child Led Homeschooling

homeschool quote

I have been knee deep in homeschool education solutions for my children. I am discovering that the philosophies available that speak to me have a great deal in common, but the main ingredient in them all is that education and assessment are in the hands of the child.

2 new ideas I have been researching:

Reggio Emilia

An Italian based philosophy and is well known outside the states. Basically, it is a child led education based on the idea a child has a hundred ways of everything. It is the job of the educator to watch, learn, listen and encourage a child in all their hundred ways of learning.

The Hundred Languages

No way. The hundred is there.

The child
is made of one hundred.
The child has
a hundred languages
a hundred hands
a hundred thoughts
a hundred ways of thinking
of playing, of speaking.

A hundred always a hundred
ways of listening
of marveling, of loving
a hundred joys
for singing and understanding
a hundred worlds
to discover
a hundred worlds
to invent
a hundred worlds
to dream.

The child has
a hundred languages
(and a hundred hundred hundred more)
but they steal ninety-nine.
The school and the culture
separate the head from the body.
They tell the child:
to think without hands
to do without head
to listen and not to speak
to understand without joy
to love and to marvel
only at Easter and at Christmas.

They tell the child:
to discover the world already there
and of the hundred
they steal ninety-nine.

They tell the child:
that work and play
reality and fantasy
science and imagination
sky and earth
reason and dream
are things
that do not belong together.

And thus they tell the child
that the hundred is not there.
The child says:
No way. The hundred is there.

-Loris Malaguzzi (translated by Lella Gandini)
Founder of the Reggio Emilia Approach

Dr. Howard Gardner

Dr. Gardner has been touting a change in the current style of teaching based on his theory of multiple intelligences. He believes that our learning is an individual concern. There are 8 ways to learn and educate. He also espouses self assessment as apposed to short answer tests. 

Visual-Spatial – think in terms of physical space, as do architects and sailors. Very aware of their environments. They like to draw, do jigsaw puzzles, read maps, daydream. They can be taught through drawings, verbal and physical imagery. Tools include models, graphics, charts, photographs, drawings, 3-D modeling, video, videoconferencing, television, multimedia, texts with pictures/charts/graphs.

Bodily-kinesthetic – use the body effectively, like a dancer or a surgeon. Keen sense of body awareness. They like movement, making things, touching. They communicate well through body language and be taught through physical activity, hands-on learning, acting out, role playing. Tools include equipment and real objects.

Musical – show sensitivity to rhythm and sound. They love music, but they are also sensitive to sounds in their environments. They may study better with music in the background. They can be taught by turning lessons into lyrics, speaking rhythmically, tapping out time. Tools include musical instruments, music, radio, stereo, CD-ROM, multimedia.

Interpersonal – understanding, interacting with others. These students learn through interaction. They have many friends, empathy for others, street smarts. They can be taught through group activities, seminars, dialogues. Tools include the telephone, audio conferencing, time and attention from the instructor, video conferencing, writing, computer conferencing, E-mail.

Intrapersonal – understanding one’s own interests, goals. These learners tend to shy away from others. They’re in tune with their inner feelings; they have wisdom, intuition and motivation, as well as a strong will, confidence and opinions. They can be taught through independent study and introspection. Tools include books, creative materials, diaries, privacy and time. They are the most independent of the learners.

Linguistic – using words effectively. These learners have highly developed auditory skills and often think in words. They like reading, playing word games, making up poetry or stories. They can be taught by encouraging them to say and see words, read books together. Tools include computers, games, multimedia, books, tape recorders, and lecture.

Logical -Mathematical – reasoning, calculating. Think conceptually, abstractly and are able to see and explore patterns and relationships. They like to experiment, solve puzzles, ask cosmic questions. They can be taught through logic games, investigations, mysteries. They need to learn and form concepts before they can deal with details.

I found the following clip to be truly exciting.

What a deviation from our current American Education?!

It seems that no matter where I look or how deep I delve there is no right way to educate a child. Only the child’s way. That is both comforting and terrifying.

“If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.” Thoreau

My first vision of homeschool looked like this. ..


Then it looked like this…

waldorf education

My fear is that it’s actually going to look like this…


The decision to homeschool is a daunting one. The decision to let your child homeschool themselves, feels a little like flapping in the wind.



9 thoughts on “Child Led Homeschooling”

  1. Just my two cents worth, but I think that as is often the case, the answer lies somewhere in the middle. I hugely value what kids believe and want, however they also do sometimes need to know where the boundaries are and to feel loved because you set them.
    Of course, where that middle line actually is, is something that I often ponder. I know that I don’t always get it right, but then comfort myself with the idea that at least I try to get it right.

    On another note, the poem above resonated strongly with me in the part about taking away 99 of the answers.
    Connor and I were at an MIT symposium on the future of higher education a few weeks ago and one of the speakers talked about how in his circuit design class they had always taught (and graded papers on the assumption) that there was only one correct answer to a particular design question.
    After 50,000+ people took the course, it turns out that in fact there were 47 correct answers and that about 20+ were actually superior to the traditional ‘correct’ answer and that superiority itself actually had multiple answers as in fact it could be a balance between cost and efficiency. He apologized to all of his past students who he had marked as wrong, simply because he couldn’t see that they were correct.

    1. Your two cents are always welcome! I too loved that poem and your story is spot on. It reminds me of my first real set back in education. Math and I have a poor history, but I think it lies more in my stubbornness than my abilities. I found Algebra quite interesting until my first test. When despite the correct solutions, I did not show my work and therefore failed. It deteriorated to absolute hate when despite the correct solutions and showing my work on the second test, I still failed. I had not used the correct method found in the textbook. It was at this point that higher Math was no longer of any use to me. What would my life have been if that teacher had been enamored of my ability to hear, understand and solve using a method I had conjured in my own brain instead of simple regurgitation? In the end the education was there for me to take or leave. It was my choice. I just don’t want to miss something like that when it comes to my children. I want to see all of their potential elevated, not just what fits neatly in someone else’s ideals.

      1. So many of us out there. I had exactly the same experience with maths. Exactly the same.
        Then when our son was in school here, they did exactly the same thing to him. He was not allowed to use the Vedic maths methods that he had learned in an extension course we had sent him on and was failed, literally given 0, for not using the ‘approved’ method of calculation.
        When I confronted the teacher about it (very gently, as it is literally illegal here in Taiwan to even suggest that a teacher may be wrong and you can be sued for slander – even if they are categorically wrong) he explained that he had never heard of Vedic maths and so it was not allowed in his classroom as a correct method.
        I think that it was that moment that crystallized the knowledge that we had to provide something better for Connor than the destruction of thought and ability that passes as an education system and we got serious about planning for homeschooling.
        I shudder to think about how many people over the years have had their abilities crushed by similar experiences.

  2. Thank you so much for putting such scholarly thoughts into this subject. I feel a little daunted, actually, but will push through because I love this conversation.

    My son is incredibly artistic. Obviously traditional school could never work for him. He has been sculpting since he was three. It is not so much that his artwork is gorgeous, as it is non-stop. He needs to create. He needs to use his hands. He builds intricate things, with tape all over them. He is only nine-years old. His artistic talent will catch up to him at some point. For now, it is enough that he thinks this way.

    We got thrown into homeschooling because he was so miserable at school. His teachers adored him, but knew the system was failing him, and suggested we try alternatives. We have gone through the state-issued curriculum, which was like school only worse. We finally adopted our own version of Old School Homeschool, as he calls it – where I put art in the center of the page and try to tuck lessons about Europe in the Middle Ages, Science, Math and Language around the edges.

    We are very new, but enjoying the process of learning to do things this way.

    No child should be crushed by education. Many children are crushed. I wish I could save them all. I can certainly save my own.

  3. It is exactly this sort of sentiment that will save them all, eventually. At least that is my hope! I am hopeful just hearing a public school admit that your child needed more than was available. That is a start.

    I am an avid researcher and am just starting my look into homeschooling vs private. I am not fully ready to say I will be homeschooling, but I am ready to say there is nothing else comparable available at the moment.

    Somewhere in this conversation is the truth I have been avoiding. “I’m not good enough.” I don’t know a parent that doesn’t look at their child and think “he/she is a better version of me, I don’t want to mess that up”. This is why I am an information junkie. I know at the end of all this research I will be better educated, better prepared and feel more confident in the choice to homeschool. I do not feel it at the moment.

    Thank you for stopping by and sharing. Reading about other parents who have taken their children’s education in hand with courage is helpful to not only myself, but anyone that might have the thought “I’m not good enough”.

  4. Been following along and this is really thought provoking. I’m a product of the standard American education, and when I look back at it I start to wonder what I could have learned if given the freedom that homeschooling appears to offer. It’s funny, you ask why can’t a child chew gum in class and my conditioning kicks in, “of course you can’t”, but I can’t honestly answer why?

    So the thing that this sparked in my mind is around the traditional methods used in testing our kids. You take a test, get a grade, then move on. There is no look back at the items missed. How is that educating if you never review the items that were not grasped. Shouldn’t that be the focus to confirm full understanding. I received many good grades in my life and honestly today have retained little to no lasting knowledge on much of those courses.

    I’d rather my children get a deep lasting understanding of something they are interested in as opposed to a fleeting understanding of a lot of info that they are told they “should” be interested in. And I have not found an educational institution that can offer that level of specificity and attention for my kids.

    1. I was going through, reading old homeschooling posts to get my self geared up for the school year and found a comment I did not respond to. Not to mention, a really good response!

      It’s it funny that so much of what is ingrained in us as “appropriate” behavior in school doesn’t seem to have merit. Why can’t you have a drink or a snack? Why do you have to raise your hand and not talk to your neighbor? Is it so impossible an idea that a child can learn while, eating, chewing gum or discussing it with their neighbor. I can remember leaning over to my classmate and asking if they understood how to answer the problem and if she would show me at lunch, guess what I got, negative attention and demerits.

      You make another good point, education should be all encompassing and a hierarchy. Everything built upon a foundation, now there is no foundation, just short term regurgitation.

      Thanks for the comment and sorry this reply was so long coming. I feel if a human takes a moment out of their day to share, it should be acknowledged.

  5. Thank you for a well researched post to get us all thinking. I have been fortunate to be able to work in and around education, and am learning new ways to bring the idea of child led learning to life. We are learning right along side of our children it seems! Glad to have found your blog.

    1. That is one thing about homeschooling I truly love, “learning right along side our children”. I’m amazed at so many things I thought I knew only to discover I knew just enough to get by. It also really illuminates just what my education was really about, knowing a little bit about too much. Right now is summer and I am a busy bee getting my house purtied up and organized, so class time is not on the agenda. But unlike most schools, I don’t think learning just stops with summer. At least once a day, I’m sitting down in front of my girls to teach them something. Once I gave up the idea of classroom and lesson plans, it was really incredible to see that learning will happen if someone is there to facilitate it. That’s not to say I’m going to go free range unschool, honestly I’m a bit too chicken. Of course, my kids are young and I’m just starting out, that could change in time.

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