A miscellany of methods: unschooling, Reggio Emila, objective method & more


World View Approaches /Classical/Historical/(in contrast to Hirsch’s cultural literacy view), seek the liberation of students’ minds from the cultural biases and thinking of their generation. Classical schools such as Calvert School emphasise the study of classical periods in Western Civilization, and important ideas and events from other traditions with the view that children can be interested and should be interested in their place in time and space. Science, music, and art are “taught to open the child’s eyes to the worlds without and the world within and to enlarge his view of his environment”. See http://www.calvertschool.org

The Importance of History Studies In Forming A Worldview:

According to classical educator Wes Callihan, the goal of a classical liberal arts education is to enable the student:

• to comprehend his position in space, time, and culture and his relation to other places, times, and people;

• to appreciate and learn from the difference between his own and those other places, times, and people;

• to construct and defend a coherent, biblical worldview as a result of his education.

Wes Callihan said that one absolutely critical role of classical education is teaching a student the relevance of the past: “And knowing oneself also depends on knowing history–where we came from and why we are who we are. The twentieth century has decided that the past is irrelevant, and in an excess of mind-boggling arrogance it considers our age to be the definition of reality, truth, and value.But if we teach them that our age is just one in a long series of ages, that our culture will pass and another succeed it, that ours is not intrinsically more right about what it believes or valuable in what it has produced than any other, they will be far better equipped to learn the lessons of the past.

– Wes Callihan, Preparing Younger Children For A Great Books Education by Wes Callihan (Callihan a former Classical Literature educator at secondary and university institutions, co-author of “Classical Education & the Home School” and currently the sole tutor of the Schola Classical Tutorials given over the Internet)


The Christian World View:

Sonlight Curriculum suppliers, for example, while stating that they place a premium upon cultural literacy, advocate that “children must be made aware of these books and their content so that they have a foundational base of knowledge and, more importantly, so that they will be prepared to RESPOND TO THESE CULTURAL INFLUENCES” and become “world-changers: people who will make a difference—for good—within their culture”.

David Quine author of the award-winning high school curriculum “World Views of the Western World” believes: Because ideas have consequences, the major views of God, the universe, human nature and morality are examined. Philosophy and theology serve as the basis on which all other disciplines derive their thought and are therefore expressions of philosophy and theology. The Quine curriculum is a rigorous study of a diverse array of philosophical and theological ideas of Homer, Virgil , Plato, Augustine, Socrates, Aristotle, Augustus, Aquinas, Dante, John Wycliffe, John Hus, Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, John Calvin, William Tyndale, John Milton, John Bunyan – In it Bunyan, John Locke, The Federalist Papers, Charles Dickens, Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Darwin, David Hume, Immanuel Kant, Friedrich Hegel, Soren Kierkegaard, Friedrich Nietzsche, Jean-Paul Sartre, Adam Smith, David Ricardo, Thomas Malthus, John Maynard Keynes, John Stuart Mill, Frank Knight and Hazlitt.


According to Christine Miller, through classical history studies, children will “see a Master Plan as events and epochs unfold before them” and will know that history is truly His Story–the story of the Lord’s dealings with mankind, universally and individually….The saturation in His Story frees them from our overbalanced American culture and worldview, to give them eyes that see beyond our borders, beyond our media’s presentation of life and the world, beyond their years.”

Teaching History Chronologically” by Christine Miller at

History through Literature Approach:

“This is another reason for using primary sources in studies as much as possible and for reading the Great Books: if all our studies of the past are from modern books, we are still stuck in the present. A child needs to form an increasingly focused mental map of history and of the world in order to comprehend his place in space and time”.

– Wes Callihan, Preparing Younger Children For A Great Books Education

Christine Miller author of “History Through All The Ages” (a classical education guide) states these reasons why the use of literature is superior to textbooks for teaching history:

— Interest: children are more interested and fascinated with what they are learning when learning it out of real, “living” books rather than textbooks;

— “Living books”, literature, makes historical figures come alive, giving them depth and character and thoughts and feelings and struggles and joys in ways that textbooks cannot possibly do.

— Literature paints us a picture of a time and place, of customs and society and manners. With literature we get local color and the big picture.

— An understanding is planted which begins to grow over time of the cause and effect nature of history, how an event can snowball and lead to other events, how choices an individual makes for good or ill can set mankind on a path from which there is no turning back, [and also} the “why underneath the events”.

— We begin to see that history is not just a separate subject in its separate compartment, but that history has had an effect on science, and math, and politics, and economics, and geography, and grammar [and the other way around as well].

These quotes were taken from “Using Literature to Teach History” by

Christine Miller

Finally we see the Use of Great Books as the key to the Supremacy of Ideas: British Charlotte Mason advocated that children should be fed a steady diet of quality literature or “Living Books” as she called it.

Exposure to real biographies and great classics will impart ‘living ideas” to our children and help them have an encounter with great minds. Charlotte Mason stressed that depth of learning through reading was desirable: “Let him, on the contrary, linger pleasantly over the history of a single man, a short period, until he thinks the thoughts of that man, is at home in the ways of that period. Though he is reading and thinking of the lifetime of a single man, he is really getting intimately acquainted with the history of a whole nation for a whole age.”


Mae Carden was sort of a cross between Charlotte Mason and Rudolf Steiner. An outstanding educator, Mae Carden opened the first Carden school in 1934 at 24 East 68th Street in New York City. Although Mae Cardon passed away, the Carden Method and Curriculum continue to be used by a number of private schools in the US and elsewhere in the world. On the key purpose of education, in Carden’s own words,

“The process of education should equip the individual with the ability to analyze, evaluate and classify all of the information that comes to him/her. The purpose of education is to teach individuals to THINK and develop good judgment. A sound education enables one to understand, organize, and apply everything he/she knows. Real education develops sound judgment and requires practical application of knowledge in all aspects of learning and in every phase of life. A collection of miscellaneous facts is NOT an education.” — Mae Carden read about her online here

The Carden method seeks to foster thinkers through its special curriculum, that interrelates all of the subject matter in a sequential manner that is continued from grade to grade. The Carden curriculum uses good classic literature, and incorporates language, rhythm, music, art appreciation, drama and playlets. Carden educators also take a firm view of the need to master the academic basics. The earliest years in school are considered the foundation on which to build future scholastic achievements. Carden believed that for the student with a sound academic background, good work habits and the will to succeed, there would be no limit to the opportunities readily available for him/her in the continuation of his education.

The above information is gleaned from the Carden Educational Foundation’s official website at
Carden School website (with their express permission).

A Homeschool Carden Curriculum is available from their
Carden school website



Russian born Ayn Rand, arrived in the US at the age of 21, and achieved international fame as philosopher, radical activist, but first and foremost as distinguished novelist of the 20th century. Her best-sellers were The Fountainhead (1943) and Atlas Shrugged (1957).

Ayn Rand’s ideas representing Objectivism have strong influence on today’s intellectuals particularly in the area of economic policy (Capitalism) and psychology. Objective Approach summed up (by the author herself) is found in the four elements: “Metaphysics: Objective Reality; Epistemology: Reason; Ethics: Self-interest; Politics: Capitalism. For more info on Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism visit the Ayn Rand Institute’s website

The requirements of the Basics of a Rational Curriculum, according to Ayn Rand on education, are: “The training [a child] needs is theoretical, i.e., conceptual. He has to be taught to think, to understand, to integrate, to prove. He has to be taught the essentials of the knowledge discovered in the past–and he has to be equipped to acquire further knowledge by his own effort in the future.”

Source:Objective Education Website at Objective Education.com

Gail Withrow elucidates on this saying “the overall goal of the Objective approach to homeschooling is to train the mind of the child by:

1.Continuously giving compelling reasons to motivate the child to expend the mental energy necessary to learn.

2.Explicitly encouraging mental effort to integrate across the curriculum.

3.Implicitly supplying the method of proper thinking via properly structured lessons concretized by real-life, easily graspable situations.

4.Systematically providing essential factual content from the wealth of human knowledge”

Gail Withrow, Home Taught at Hometaught.com

Unique to the Objective Approach perhaps is its emphasis on the importance of structure in the homeschool upon learning and thinking:

One, the importance of teaching in a logically sequential structured way that will reinforce the student’s logical method of thinking (picked up from the teacher’s method of presentation).

Update: The Home Taught links are currently defunct, for alternative resources, see Objective Education
Two, structure within the homeschool itself. “The degree of structure that the parent provides depends on the child’s stage of learning: informal, formal, or independent stage. The goal of education is to raise an independent learner who is capable of setting his own structure to achieve his goals in life. The parent’s effort to create an appropriate structure for learning (especially through the formal stage) helps to ultimately develop rational, independent thinkers.”
For the best resource on Objective Education, see their new “Bible”, Teaching Johnny to think: A philosophy of education based on the principles of Ayn Rand’s objectivism

Criticisms of the Objectivist Approach to education:

An Objective Education with its strong defense of “self interest” and rejection of the role of spiritual consciousness, morals and ethics in education, strike many as a soulless education. According to Objectivists, the components of an Objective Rational Curriculum are: Reading /Writing/Arithmetic/ Mathematics/ Science/ History/ Geography/ Literature. Foreign languages, music and the arts, team and individual sports are not regarded as essential to the overall goal of developing rational thinking skills, and acquiring factual knowledge about reality. On this point, Objectivism clearly parts company with nearly all the other major philosophies reviewed in this series; Not only do Waldorf, Charlotte Mason, Classical, Montessori all uphold the crucial role of the arts and musical forms in developing the holistic education of the whole child, they also stress the importance of ethics in educating the child. Recall also that Howard Gardner in “Intelligence Reframed : Multiple Intelligences for the 21st Century” and “The Disciplined Mind : What All Students Should Understand” (reviewed above) says that an education based solely on factual knowledge alone is inadequate, that what is needed is an “education of understanding” of things including the “deepest questions about the world”. Recall also that Gardner’s ideal educational curriculum, while grounded in the traditional disciplines must be capable of addressing the concept of truth; beauty; and morality.

What may be interesting to homeschoolers to note is that Objective Education proponent Gail Withrow gives a thumbs up and mostly positive review of the Well-Trained Mind Curriculum



Homeschoolers often use all these terms interchangeably.

Delight Directed Learning places the student in charge of their own learning, helping them find something they want to accomplish. The delight directed method uses natural curiosity to motivate the student. The student acquires basic concepts of learning (reading, reasoning, writing, researching, etc.) during the process of examining the topic of interest. Less control can lead to more learning (however, the parent still maintains responsibility for steering the studies and ensuring learning meets educational goals). The Charlotte Mason and Waldorf methods (examined earlier) are largely a delight-directed approach to homeschooling see February newsletter


Interest-Initiated or “Unschooling” Approach: Unschooling families prefer that children learn from real life experiences, in the course of the natural routine of daily life of the family as well as in the real world. Children are allowed to pursue their interests with encouragement and resources provided by their parents. But parents refrain from teaching when unschooled children do not feel like it or when they are not interested. Child-led or interest-initiated learning or Unschooling ways are not considered homeschooling because the parents are not teaching the children…the children are “teaching” themselves. The main criticism about this approach is that unschooled children receive an incomplete education without the benefit of systematic tutorials.

Unschooling at the extreme end of the spectrum is usually a reaction against formal schooling and formal school institutions. Unschooling has had a long movement in the States, first started with disillusioned parents pulling their children out out of the public school system and putting them into co-op style “free schools”, then eventually bringing the kids home to “unschool”. It could indeed become a trend here in Japan, with the many free schools having already sprung up all over the country. In the context of our own little newsletter community here, where many of our kids attend local public schools, there is already a strong tendency to use the “Unschooling” Approach at home in supplementing with a Western style education.


There appears to be interest among educators in starting schools that use the UNSCHOOLING methods. Working Mother Magazine says “These days, Reggio schools are the hottest topic in early-education circles. No educational approach has caused such excitement since the advent of the Montessori method …” This is why… Reggio approach is radical in that it follows the children’s interests, rather than a set curriculum of academic goals.

There are no teacher manuals, curriculum guides, or achievement tests. The curriculum is not established in advance. Teachers study the ideas expressed in children’s words, drawings, and play to help them learn how to scaffold further learning. Teachers become skilled observers of children in order to design and implement their curriculum which is often characterized by real-life problem-solving among peers, with numerous opportunities for creative thinking and exploration.

Teachers often work on projects with small groups of children, while the rest the class engages in a wide variety of self-selected activities typical of preschool classrooms. The children learn principles of science, math and language through hands-on projects directly related to their expressed interests. Reggio children are given access to diverse materials paint, watercolors and clay they also use wire, wood, sequins, feathers, cans, corks, fabric, shells, pine cones, etc.) Reggio teachers believe that children have many languages besides words, and that these languages can be expressed through visual representations in many media.

“The projects that teachers and children engage in are distinct in a number of ways from those that characterize American teachers’ conceptions of unit or thematic studies. The topic of investigation may derive directly from teacher observations of children’s spontaneous play and exploration. Project topics are also selected on the basis of an academic curiosity or social concern on the part of teachers or parents, or serendipitous events that direct the attention of the children and teachers. Reggio teachers place a high value on their ability to improvise and respond to children’s predisposition to enjoy the unexpected. Regardless of their origins, successful projects are those that generate a sufficient amount of interest and uncertainty to provoke children’s creative thinking and problem-solving and are open to different avenues of exploration. Because curriculum decisions are based on developmental and sociocultural concerns, small groups of children of varying abilities and interests, including those with special needs, work together on projects.”

“Projects begin with teachers observing and questioning children about the topic of interest. Based on children’s responses, teachers introduce materials, questions, and opportunities that provoke children to further explore the topic. While some of these teacher provocations are anticipated, projects often move in unanticipated directions as a result of problems children identify. Thus, curriculum planning and implementation revolve around open-ended and often long-term projects that are based on the reciprocal nature of teacher-directed and child-initiated activity.”

Reggio Emilia schools seek to replicate the home and communal spaces in their environment. Classrooms have huge glass window panels that open out onto a central piazza and with a large, centrally located atelier and a smaller mini-atelier — clearly designated studio spaces for large-and small-group activities. There is an effort to create opportunities for children to interact in the piazza and classrooms; classrooms are connected with phones, passageways or windows; and lunchrooms and bathrooms are designed to encourage playful encounters.

Source of excerpts: “Reggio Emilia: Some Lessons for U.S. Educators” by Rebecca S.New



Relaxed Approach — “Do not make the mistaken assumption that you are necessarily unschooling just because you use a “relaxed” approach to learning. Families, like mine and many others, try out homeschooling in the Kindergarten year. They don’t have a strict format for learning; they go by the young child’s interests, let him set the pace, and teach a little on the side depending on how much structured learning the child can handle. Does this mean they are unschooling? No, it doesn’t. These families are developing a structure that works for the age and ability of the child. At a later point, whenever the child is conceptually ready (usually around 7 or 8), these parents will have to decide whether to continue developing the structure by setting specific curriculum goals, planning how best to teach and achieve those goals (homeschooling)—or to step away and let the child proceed to control his own education, to study whatever he wants, or not at all if he doesn’t feel like it (unschooling). The crucial difference between homeschooling and unschooling is whether the parent takes an active role in leading the child’s education, or backs away and leaves the ball in the child’s hands.” – Gail Withrow, HomeTaught

Read about Ann Zeise’s story of how her family went from packaged “Curriculum To Unschooling”


This educational philosophy has three major concepts:

(1) knowledge of American Christian history,

(2) an understanding of the role of US in the spread of Christianity,

and (3) the ability to live according to the biblical principles upon which America was founded.

The Principle Approach studies how God ordained three government institutions– home, church and civil government to unfold His purposes. Unlike the historical/classical/worldview approaches to homeschooling, history is not studied for history’s sake, nor for the purpose of obtaining an interdisciplinary perspective. History is studied to evince the seven Biblical principles upon which Principle educators say the US was founded and which govern all areas of our lives (politics, business, recreation etc).


2.Self government

3.Christian character

4.Conscience is the most sacred of property

5.Christian form of government

6.How the seed of local self government is planted and

7.The American Political Union.

To develop strong powers of abstract thinking, students record a lot using the Note Book and the 4R methods:

1. Research–God’s Word to identify God’s principles

2. Reason–from the researched material the importance and significance of a subject

3. Relating–the truths studied into the student’s life

4. Record–the individual application of the Biblical principles.

Is it defensible to design curricula based on Principles/morals/ethics/character etc? Should education be kept separate from matters of morals and religion? Steve Moitozo in his article “The REAL GOAL of Education” makes a compelling argument that if you believe education should prepare a child to move from childhood to adulthood to take his proper place in society, then that preparation process should involve the mastering of five essentials: morals, values, ethics, problem-solving, and decision-making. Read the whole article at At Home in America.com


It is my hope that this series of surveys of the “best of the best” educational methods has benefited each reader in some way. It may also give some of us some yardsticks or direction to choose schools (for those of us who do put our kids in school institutions) and homelearning curricula and materials (for those of us who homeschool and afterschool our kids).

Or for others, it may have helped us see areas where our children’s education is currently lacking, so as to better guide and supplement it. Should we be inclined to take the responsibility upon ourselves to guide our child(ren)’s education, there will surely be one method, if not an eclectic combination of methods that will work for our family.

You will find a mindboggling array of homeschooling materials, and when you have purchased them – do remember there are many ways to use curriculum and educational materials at home:

1–Use one complete subject-oriented curriculum with textbooks and/or workbooks in each separate subject following the curriculum supplier’s scope and sequence;

2–Mix and match different textbooks and/or workbooks in each separate subject following a self-designed structured long term educational plan or ED Hirsch’s Core Knowledge scope and sequence;

3–Follow a “unit” curriculum wherein the traditional subjects are integrated around topical studies. Use choice quality books, notebook/scrapbooks or do activities and projects, or a combination of these. Variation: Follow texts for key subjects such as grammar, language, math and/or science and units for the rest.

4–Follow a liberal arts classical/chronological history/world view curriculum

5–Plan your own studies using “real” books rather then textbooks.

6–Use one of the curriculum packages or miscellaneous materials based on various educational philosophies such as Montessori, Waldorf, Carden schools.

7–Take a truly Eclectic approach to schooling. Mix and match, tweak curricula and materials to your own liking. (Read the article “Putting Together an Eclectic Curriculum by Cafi Cohen at Home-ed-press.com You might like to apply principles gleaned from various learning theories (eg, Multiple Intelligences theory) .

8–Let children study whatever they become interested in. Just make accessible to your children all kinds of interesting and stimulating books, videos, cassette tapes, games and other educational material.

In short, the possibilities are limitless!

A final word for those of us who may be worrying about college possibilities for our kids, we can take heart that there are many parents who HAVE succeeded in homeschooling their children through to colleges.

Take the story of Joyce Swann who, using a highly STRUCTURED and traditional approach who home-taught her ten children from first grade through master’s degree programs (correspondence schools and external degree programs offered by major western universities). The Swann children typically received high school diplomas at age eleven, bachelor’s degrees at age fifteen, and master’s degrees at age sixteen, all this with a daily three-hour homeschooling schedule (Accelerated Education see Home-school.com ; Swann’s Homeschool Tips see Home-school.com At the other end of the spectrum, Cafi Cohen “UNSCHOOLED” her two kids (Grades 7-12) using an eclectic mix of materials and a relaxed self-directed learning approach to select colleges (Stanford among them). For inspiration or to find out how they did it, read their inspiring stories. “Putting Together an Eclectic Curriculum” is Cafi Cohen’s story of how she unschooled her children to college see Home-ed-press.com


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