Homeschooling with the Principle Approach
When we made the decision to homeschool, I
immediately began researching all the different choices available. My husband
wanted something classical; I was drawn to Charlotte Mason; we both wanted something
biblical. I finally stumbled across the Principle Approach. It is not the most
popular choice out there, mostly because it seems daunting as you first begin.
The goal is to “renew your mind” and gain the mind of Christ in education.
There are no textbooks, no packaged curriculum materials, and no people within
100 miles using this approach. Everything the average homeschooler looks for in
a curriculum choice, I’m sure.
Education in our home begins with study. I
consider the topic we will be covering. I define vocabulary words using
Webster’s 1828 Dictionary, highlight key words, and determine the seeds of the
definition. I then examine Scripture to determine how the subject may be seen
as an expression of God and how knowledge of the subject can be used to glorify
God and benefit man. I then teach from these basic principles in every subject
area. The subject of art is one of my favorites to illustrate exactly how I
prepare lessons and what the fruit of that study is. The seeds I gleaned from
the definition of art are “human skill” and “purpose.” Study of Scripture
reveals that the first mention of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit involves
giving skill to craftsmen to construct beautiful artwork for the tabernacle.
Their skill came from God, and the purpose was to glorify Him. As we study art,
we look for elements of human skill, including color, composition, and brush
strokes. We also examine the purpose of the artist and compare that to the
highest purpose of art.
My children are still young. Dakota is 8,
Steffen is 3, and Nisa is only 1. They are not involved in most of the study I
use to prepare for our units. The main purpose in spending so much time and
effort in developing these principles is to assist me in developing a Christian
worldview of education and to teach from these principles. A student can be no
greater than his teacher, so I must prepare myself to be proficient in all
areas until my children are ready to accept Christ as their teacher and have
developed the character and self-discipline to direct their own education. I
desire to inspire—to breathe life into— my children through thoughtful
conversation and study throughout the day.
What does this look like in practice? Our
day begins with our more formal “school” time. We do not have a schoolroom. We
don’t even have a kitchen table. What we have is a comfy couch good for
snuggling on. Here I read to the children, listen to my daughter read, and go
over new concepts, always starting with biblical principles, of course. My
daughter learns to reason from her Bible, her reading material, and the
definitions we look at. She is able to glean what the material says about God
and what applications can be made to our own lives. Copy work, writing, and
drawing are done at our coffee table.
Then it is time for real life. What I do
in the morning varies, but it encompasses those things taught best through
direct instruction. Afternoons are for discovery and application. My daughter
helps a lot in the kitchen, and it is amazing the amount of math and science
that can be incorporated into normal cooking tasks once you get into that frame
of mind. Because of my study and familiarity with the principles I plan to
focus on, I am always ready to take advantage of teachable moments when my
children are actively engaged in a task and curious to know more. Relevant
Scripture verses are ready in my mind or in my notebook so that I can truly
take advantage of the biblical method of teaching “here a little, there a
little” and teaching diligently in the home, by the way, as we lie down and as
we rise up (Deuteronomy 6:8).
The focus on reasoning throughout the
lessons builds a habit of thinking things through, determining their
foundations, and comparing those to the foundations of the Word. I am guiding
my children to construct their lives on firm biblical principles as they reason
each principle through for themselves and as we struggle together to make
personal applications. By connecting these principles to everyday life as much
as possible, I hope to teach my children that these godly principles are
applicable to all of life, not just the school room.
In the beginning, the amount of
preparation can be a little overwhelming. It would be easier to refer to a
teacher’s manual to determine what topic to cover next and what materials to
gather. I had to continually remind myself that we are not expected to teach
any more than we know and that not everything had to be perfect. In time, it
becomes a habit and a natural way of viewing the world. It also is very
liberating. I am not bound by schedules, the scope and sequence of a textbook
manufacturer, or the next topic covered in the workbook. The more prepared I
am, the more our education flows naturally from daily life. Whether we are
working in the garden, measuring ingredients, or exploring our backyard, I am
prepared to share verses, principles, and examples from the lives of men and
women. These conversations serve as a “hook” and to set the stage and the
boundaries for more rigorous study and application.
Dana Hanley is a homeschooling mother
of three from Lincoln, Nebraska.
She enjoys reading and writing most and is teaching herself to sew and knit.
She does pretty well with Proverbs 31:18, but not so well with Proverbs 31:15.
That’s all because of her blog, Principled Discovery, which can be found at www.HomeschoolBlogger.com/gottsegnet.
Originally appeared in Fall 2006. Used with
The Old Schoolhouse Magazine.