The Traditional Approach

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When we think of traditional education, we tend to envision a professor standing behind a lectern delivering the day’s notes as they apply to the topic at hand. There is a set scope and sequence. Each day includes a pre-planned lesson and topics to be discussed. The pace is set by the curriculum used. Typically there is a text to follow and some type of workbook where blanks will be filled in to make sure the information is retained. Bringing the traditional method home would look about the same, sans lectern — unless Mom is REALLY into it!

These days, traditional materials come in a variety of packaging. One variation on the textbook is the worktext. A worktext is what it sounds like: a workbook combined with a text resulting in one consumable volume. Worktexts tend to require less teacher instruction and allow the student to work more independently. While still working within a set scope and sequence, the student can move along at his or her own pace. Worktexts can be very useful when teaching multiple children or children who are ahead of or behind the curve.

Computer-based educational programs are becoming very popular. One Christian publisher has a complete line of computer-based materials with internet-safe connections, multi-media presentations, automatic grading, and record keeping. The programs are based on the publisher’s print line, and follow a similar scope and sequence.

Most of us will use some type of textbook, workbook and/or worktext. If you are new to homeschooling, traditional materials may sound like exactly what you need. When we use traditional methods we feel secure that we are “covering everything” since the lessons generally follow a predictable scope and sequence, thus erasing fears of learning gaps. There are usually teacher’s manuals available (many times directed at homeschool moms in particular) that contain not only answers, but useful explanations, teaching tips, and directed activities. In some cases the lesson plans are “scripted,” meaning the materials tell us exactly how to teach the lesson right down to exactly what to say. Scripted lessons can provide a boost of confidence when tackling subjects that weren’t our personal favorite. There is no shortage of quality traditional materials available from Christian publishers.

“While we use textbooks as the basis for our children’s education, we don’t run our homeschool like a classroom. One-on-one instruction and independent learning are the key ingredients to our homeschooling.” – Steven and Teri Maxwell, Managers of Their Schools

There are myriad ways of using traditional materials. But using traditional materials within a traditional framework may not achieve your homeschool goals. Rather than become a slave to these materials, use them as your tools. Know where you are headed and make sure the materials you select will help you get there.

Here are a few other ideas to keep in mind when using traditional materials:

Feel free to modify. Just because you use traditional materials doesn’t mean you have to use them in a traditional way. Take advantage of the one-on-one learning approach home education provides and let the materials serve the child. Does the publisher’s pace go too fast? Slow down. Has your child already mastered a concept? Skip it. Was the program written for the classroom? Feel free to skip the extra worksheets and homework unless your child needs the extra practice. And don’t worry if your child doesn’t neatly fit into one grade level in all skill areas. Incorporate them into your scope and sequence rather than worrying about your child “falling behind.”

Feel free to enrich. Nothing will turn off the most ardent learner faster than a steady diet of nothing but textbooks, workbooks and worktexts. As you continue to explore other methods, borrow ideas that appeal to you and implement them into the program. Most traditional methods can be enlivened by incorporating rich literature, research activities, writing projects, and hands-on activities. Keep the textbook in its role as reference material and your focus on the child.

Feel free to mix and match. Don’t feel you have to purchase an entire line of curriculum from only one publisher. Look at a publisher’s line of materials with a critical eye, selecting those items that fit and rejecting those that don’t. If you feel no child should leave home without Latin and your preferred publisher doesn’t offer it — add on another publisher’s Latin materials. If you feel your preferred publisher doesn’t approach spelling in a way that fits your child, supplement with a different approach or use another product.

Further Reading
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