Philosophies of Education
I have relaxed a lot since we first started schooling at home, but I still get nervous about what each might be missing or what they might need.
I have often hit this panic button myself... and this is what I have come up with... maybe it will help you guys.

There are four philosophies of education that homeschoolers have to choose from (Mary Hood). I think we all can easily embrace Charlotte Mason and the Moores... no problem. That is because both the living books and unit studies can be modified and integrated into just about any philosophy.
The war comes when we try to merge two opposing philosophies: the traditional essentialism and John Holt style unschooling. This is why we struggle with wanting to allow the kids to follow their delight and still see to it that they get everything they "need". I tried for years to walk in both camps and it is impossible. There is just too much information out there for anyone to get it all without being completely teacher directed and text book oriented. Even then, it oft goes in one ear and out the other because there is no real interest or understanding of the "big picture" to make sense of the details.
So it boils down to this for me. I decided that I truly did believe that there was too much information in the world now to "learn it all". The key is to learn *how* to learn. A child is not a vessel in which one pours knowledge... they are a wondrous self programming computer that needs to be turned on.
We live in such a different age then previous generations. When I was a kid we had a few books and a set of World Book encyclopedias. We had a TV with very little educational stuff... no History channel, no Learning channel... no CNN, no Weather Channel. In order to get the background one needed to be "well educated" I had to sit in school and be spoon fed.
But what I really learned was that I was stupid, because I didn't do well in school. My real education came from my enrichment experiences outside of school.
Well... look at the world around us... now the opportunities for "enrichment experiences' are limitless... especially if you have the time to do them. Kids have computers, cable TV, videos, audio tapes, and more children's literature than was ever available to past generations. But if the kids are cooped up in test books and "schoolie stuff" they do not have time to taste of these things.
But if they are allowed to sit down at the banquet table (so to speak) they can virtually educate themselves... with only a little time set aside now and then for specific teacher led instruction for those "intensive skill things".
We have such a wealth of educational experiences all around us... all they need to do is learn how to access, use, and enjoy it. They need to give themselves the background to make sense of the world. They will build on it if they love it... it is only natural.
I have run into a really interesting phenomenon... I may have mentioned this on the list before. Because I evaluate for over 100 homeschoolers, I get to talk with a lot of parents about "how they homeschool". I am absolutely aghast at how some of them have never read a book on homeschooling, or attended a curriculum fair or homeschooling seminar. They do not feel any sense of curiosity or wonder about homeschooling or the variety of materials available to them. They just do it the way they were done.
This to me is a prime example of "public school" mentality. No curiosity, no self education, no original thinking, no challenging the status quo... no nothing. They call me up during the school year and want to know little things they could easily find out on their own if they just got a basic book about homeschooling. It really saddens me that they don't know how to think or learn for themselves.
I guess the ones that bug me the most are the ones who don't ask questions... they just complain and I have to dig around and find out what they need to know. Sometimes I loan out simple little book and they return it saying they never got around to reading it. My goodness... do I have to take a funnel and pour it into them? I don't mind at all spending time with the ones who will use our conversation as a spring board into their own learning quest... but the ones who will not teach themselves frustrate me to no end.
Interestingly... the more relaxed homeschoolers are mostly the ones that have educated themselves to see the big picture and get some perspective. They make choices because they have discovered that there are choices to be made. One thing leads to another... a chain reaction of learning opportunities.
If one has a lot of children, then a good math program and a few grammar lessons would be helpful... but the rest can be learned in the course of 12 years if one sits at a smorgasbord banquet table. If one sits at a table where only gruel is served... well... no wonder they lose their appetite. Unschooling requires a resource rich environment. How can anyone help but learn in such a world as ours if they are given the time and tools to do it?
An example are my girls, who are in school this year... they are learning how to "do school" but they don't read, don't sew, don't go on our field trips, don't do computer... they don't have time to do what they have always done to learn.  They long to return to homeschool next year so that they can have time to read again.
Interestingly, after being unschooled all these years... they went to "school" and are doing just fine.  Whatever "gaps" they may have had... they figured out how to fill it. It took about 4 months but now they are doing as well as anyone with all the tests, reports, memory work, schedules, etc... They know how to learn.
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Philosophies of Education
from "Teacher-led Learning" to "Interest-led Learning"
Essentialism:  Follows a strict scope and sequence, repeating over and over, year after year.  "A child is a vessel into which we pour knowledge. " Learning by rote with workbooks and tests. 
A Beka Book
Bob Jones University Press
Public School textbooks 
Self Teaching: 
School of Tomorrow
Rod and Staff 
Christian Light 
Literature Based:  Using quality literature in a sequential manner to teach integrated subjects.  They avoid "twaddle" or poorly written books, in favor of quality books.  Good for children who love to read.

"Charlotte Mason"  -  reading quality literature and learning through real life experiences.

Sonlight Curriculum - prepackaged literature collections with teachers guides. 

Unit Study (Thematic):  Teaching according to a theme, and integrating all the subjects into that theme for added reinforcement.  Unit studies are a type of submersion method where the child learns a great deal about each theme.  Usually it is very hands-on learning.

Amanda Bennett

Resources:  library books, time lines, videos, field trips... 

Unschooling (or "Relaxed Homeschooling"):  Allowing the children to pursue their own interests while providing an enriched environment to inspire them.  Teaching them how to learn independently and to love learning.

Resources:  things used in everyday life such as:  books, magazines, newspapers, videos, games, field trips, tools...

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Learner Structured vs. Teacher Structured Spectrum
Here is more information on the "Learner Structured" (aka child-led, interest-led, or unschooling) vs. "Teacher Structured" (aka school-at-home, traditional homeschooling, etc) Spectrum.  We would probably all find ourselves somewhere between these two points.
Emphasis on Learning vs. Emphasis on Teaching
Learner Structured methods place a greater emphasis on learning.  The teachers job is to monitor learning and help the learner when necessary. Teacher Structured methods place greater emphasis on teaching aspects of education like lesson plans and specific instructional materials.
Process vs. Product Oriented Learning
In Learner Structured methods, the process of learning is more important than the product.  In Teacher Structured methods, the emphasis is on finishing the teacher planned lesson, thus emphasizing the product over the process.
Independent Learning vs. Dependent Learning
Learner Structured methods encourage students to lead rather than follow someone else's ideas.  They are encouraged to be independent and self-motivated.  Teacher structured methods encourage the student to do what he is told and to be hesitant about doing things his own way.  This encourages dependent learning.
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The Full Spectrum of Homeschool Styles of Education
 Learner Structured
Teacher Structured
Observing: Being Available: Shaping the environment: Directing: School-at-home:
Student makes all the learning decisions.  Teacher has a hands-off policy.  The teacher is the cheerleader. Student decides what to learn and when to start and stop.  Teacher provides instruction when the student shows an interest or ask questions. Teacher provides a rich environment from which the learner chooses what to study.  Student and teacher often collaborate. Teacher decides what will be taught.  There are many teacher directed projects.  The emphasis is on a well rounded curriculum and the teacher provides many field trips and projects to arouse interest.  The child has less time to pursue his own interests. Teacher decides the timing, content, and method of education.  Standard curriculum is used with textbooks and workbooks.
Resource:  "The Pennsylvania Home Education Handbook" by Diana Baseman

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