Educating Witches: Homeschooling in a Pagan family.
Discussing home education in all its magick and frustration, with a sprinkling of parental musings here and there.
Curricula for Pagan Homeschoolers
Trying to select a curriculum for your homeschooling journey is either the most exciting or frustrating aspect of home education. There is such a wide range of materials and resources out there, it is easy to become overwhelmed, especially if this is new to you… and even if you are a seasoned homeschooler.
In the first few years, there is a great deal of trial and error. Furthermore, since children are always growing and changing, what worked last year might not work this year. Some parents worry about learning styles – is my child visual, aural or kinesthetic? Others believe the idea of learning styles is a complete myth. You might have unique challenges to consider, such as dyslexia or dysgraphia.
The curriculum you select may have to meet only very simple criteria – teach a child what he “ought” to learn at this age. Or you may have several expectations of a teaching program – addressing a child’s learning style or challenges, an emphasis on particular subjects, while delaying others for a time.
And, of course, as a Pagan, you might want that curriculum to reflect your beliefs and values.
If you select a boxed or other program that is already prepared and organized for you, you may find it very simple to supplement it with a homemade “Pagan beliefs and values” curriculum. Then again, you may not concern yourself as much with teaching Paganism to your child(ren), however still want a program that aligns with things that are important to you.
Here is a selection of curricula and methods of homeschooling, and some thoughts on them:
Waldorf and similar curricula is very popular among Pagans, as it is humanistic and there tends to be a very nature-centered tone to it. This includes Oak Meadow and The Bearth Institute, both of which I mentioned in my previous post.
You might be surprised to find I highly recommend the Charlotte Mason and Classical methods. Both methods are often utilized by Christians and seem to have very religious overtones, however both definitely have merit to Pagan homeschoolers.
The Charlotte Mason method includes an emphasis on giving a child the freedom to explore on their own and nature study. As Pagans, we often feel varying degrees of interconnectedness with the natural world, and usually closely align with animals, the seasonal cycles (on which our Sabbats are based), and Mother Earth. A method or curriculum that encourages exploring and interacting with nature is often very appealing to Pagan families. There are several resources for the Charlotte Mason method. My favorite two are Ambleside Online, which is quite Christian but easily adapted to Paganism or secularized entirely, and Secular Charlotte Mason.
What about the Classical method? Books such as The Well-Trained Mind (which is my main resource for curricula and homeschooling) and The Latin-Centered Curriculum are both unabashedly Christian. However, this method originates with the Pagan writer, Martianus Capella, who developed the system of the seven liberal arts that comprised early medieval education. This system is broken down into the trivium, which focuses on grammar, logic and rhetoric, and prepares students for the quadrivium, which consists of arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy. This system was further developed during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. For those seeking a rigorous academic education for their child(ren), this is an excellent system.
Some families “school at home”, which means they use textbooks and emulate the classroom setting. Two other methods of home education are the use of unit studies and cyber-schooling through an online school or curriculum, such as Time4Learning. Both of these styles tend to be completely secular (though religious cyber schools do exist) with an emphasis on straight-up academic knowledge, reading, testing, etc. They may not seem as rich and varied as other methods, however both are also easily adaptable and supplemented with Pagan materials.
Unit studies in particular may be useful if you embrace unschooling or child-led learning. There are a variety of ways to approach unschooling, from helping your child pursue their interests through unit studies, library books, websites, documentaries, field trips, and more (i.e. your child says, “I want to learn about pirates!”, and you help them do this), to radical unschooling, in which some parents are almost completely hands-off in the learning process. In this instance, the parent gives the child the freedom to learn organically, by self-guided exploration and discovery.
As you can see, the unschooling method has quite a broad spectrum when it comes to how parents approach it. For those Pagans who value personal freedom above all else, this style of home education may be very appealing. In this instance, there is no curriculum if you choose radical unschooling, unless you lean to the more conservative side of child-led learning. In that case, you are acting as your child’s educational facilitator.
I cannot think of any method of home education whatsoever that a Pagan would find objectionable. Curricula are a bit trickier, since the market appears to be dominated by Christian resources. However, that is changing slowly but surely, and there are many secular options. It is unfortunate that Pagan-specific curricula is rare, however you can see that some choices are very appealing to people with earth-based beliefs, and others are quite adaptable.
At its heart, homeschooling is not “for Christians”, any more than it is for “liberal hippie types”. Education is a choice and homeschooling is an option for any family who thinks it will work well for their children. It’s as simple as that.
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