This post may contain affiliate links.
Today I bring you the next post in my summer guest post series on Homeschool Methods. Kay Chance who writes at Heart to Heart homeschooling is sharing her Natural Learning Approach. She gives some fabulous tips and resources! Enjoy reading!
So I went a little crazy when we decided to homeschool. I started reading all the books and each seemed to have The Way to teach children. I latched on to the “rigorous” one, but soon found my five-year-old son wasn’t as interested in rigorous as I was.
Not that it was a bad philosophy or method necessarily. It just wasn’t a good fit for us.
Then I read a book where I experienced one of those “ah-ha” moments. When I thought, “This just makes sense.” Dr. Ruth Beechick’s You Can Teach Your Child Successfully changed my view of education. Teaching this way brought a much more relaxed and peaceful atmosphere to our homeschool.
When you google homeschooling methods the term “Natural Learning Approach” isn’t even included in most lists. Well, actually none that I can find. But it does exist because it is how we homeschooled our children for 15 years. (And just to reassure you, they are in college now and doing quite well.)
A Natural Learning Approach to Education
The Natural Learning Approach to education draws from the ideas of Charlotte Mason, research on child development, and Dr. Ruth Beechick’s common sense methods of teaching. And that is how I would define it, a common-sense approach based on what we know about the ways children learn.
Guiding Principles for Using a Natural Learning Approach
- Observe how children learn naturally.
- Apply those observations to teaching.
- Teach thinking skills in each subject, not as a separate one.
- Combine subjects to help kids make connections.
- Recognize that education includes the mind and heart of a child.
An Example of What a Natural Learning Approach Looks Like
1. Observe how children learn naturally.
How do babies learn to talk? It isn’t through board-book textbooks and worksheets. You simply talk to them. They are constantly absorbing the language around them. They imitate sounds, and then utter their first words. Then their words grow to phrases, the phrases to sentences, and before you know it they are talking (and you spend the rest of your life trying to get them to be quiet!).
Of course it is imperfect at first, but that is a part of the learning process. Their grammar is a bit messy at times. They speak in fragments and run-ons, use words incorrectly, and mix up pronouns.
But as they grow, you read books like Goodnight Moon and Runaway Bunny, and look through picture books naming letters, colors, and objects. Then as they progress in their ability to speak you might gently tell them the correct way to say something when they make a mistake. Or simply restate their word or phrase correctly.
These are all things many parents do without ever studying “how do I teach my children how to talk?” because they come naturally.
2. Apply those observations to teaching.
By observing how children learn to speak, which happens before they ever start formal education, we learn how they process and absorb language learning. So when it comes times for them to learn to write, we can follow the same approach. Since they learned to speak through imitation and experimentation, they can do the same to learn to write.
First they copy the words of others. This is a simple method called copywork. They start with letters then words, phrases then sentences. They read then write, write then read. And they copy some more.
3. Teach thinking skills in each subject, not as a separate one.
As they mature they move on to dictation. In dictation they translate the spoken word into the written one. Just consider the advanced thinking skills dictation requires:
- They don’t just know that the speaker pauses, they use context to interpret that pause as a comma, colon, semi-colon, or period. They have to recall the rules of punctuation to make this choice.
- They listen to the readers inflection and the context of the sentence to decide if a question mark is used.
- They hear a word and have to remember its spelling, not as a part of a list, but in context of the sentence. They have to choose whether to use such words as their, there, or they’re based on how it is used in the sentence.
These skill are so much more advanced than a list of ten isolated exercises in a grammar textbook.
4. Combine subjects to help kids make connections.
Instead of writing a paper on a random topic, in the natural approach children write about the subjects they are already learning about. Writing is a skill subject, meaning it is used in other subjects. History is a knowledge subject. Why not have children use the skill of writing as they learn about history?
And history isn’t the only subject writing can be incorporated. For math students can write out math rules to help them understand and remember them. In science children can keep nature journals carefully describing all they observe.
5. Recognize that education includes the mind and heart of a child.
As children are reading books, and better yet as we read together, we have the opportunity to address not just the minds of our children but also their hearts. And this often happens though having good conversations about what we are reading.
Reading aloud provides us a way to talk about the big things in life. It helps us to bring up subjects such as character, like in Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes. The protagonist Johnny struggles with his pride. We can use this opportunity to talk to our kids about the issue of pride in a non-threatening way by making our conversation about Johnny and not our kids. We can discuss the consequences and see the character grow.
Why Try a Natural Approach
When we use a natural approach to homeschooling, we actually help kids to make connections. It is an effective way of teaching because we can combine subject areas. And it simply makes sense.
Resources for a Natural Learning Approach
Trail Guide to Learning Series—A full curriculum except for math.
Brave Writer & The Brave Writer Lifestyle
Heart & Mind: What the Bible Says About Learning by Dr. Ruth Beechick
The Three Rs by Dr. Ruth Beechick
You Can Teach Your Child Successfully by Dr. Ruth Beechick
For the Children’s Sake by Susan Schaeffer Maccaulay
Kay Chance homeschooled her two sons for 15 years. Now that they are in college, she blogs at Heart-to-Heart Homeschooling where she encourages and equips other homeschooling moms to thrive as they nurture faith, deepen relationships, and simplify homeschooling.
She is also the author of the Middle School Extensions for the Trial Guide to Learning series and Content Coordinator for Homeschooling Today Magazine. You can also find her on Facebook and Instagram.