Mine is a Holistic Teaching Approach

As I work my way through this Doctor of Science in Physician Assistant Studies (DScPAS) degree, concentrating in Educational Leadership, I have discovered many things about my teaching style. While I completed the coursework but not the dissertation for a PhD in Educational Leadership in Higher Education, that program was geared for administrators. It had a strong emphasis on leadership and little on education. My current program, if you choose the Educational Leadership track, is focused on teaching and learning.

Donna Miller published “Curriculum Theory and Practice: What’s Your Style?” in 2011. (You can read an excerpt here.) As a homeschooler, I immediately recognized “linear” as school-at-home with boxed curriculum, “holistic” as eclectic with a Charlotte Mason approach, “laissez-faire” as unschooling, and “critical theorists” as something radical school educators adopt. I am a holist through and through.

This was an “ah-ha” moment for me that explained a lot of what motivates me in education. I can identify it as the main reason I decided to homeschool. There is nothing particularly inspiring or pedagogically advantageous about a linear style. It may be an efficient way for accreditation boards and school administrators to demonstrate and document what they want accomplished, and for teachers to educate a large number of students, but it results in diminishing education to simple knowledge acquisition and fulfilling expectations rather than critical thinking and creative expression. In terms of the trivium, most acquired knowledge and skill is only at the grammar stage, with some at the logic stage and little at the rhetoric stage.

Consistent with Charlotte Mason’s educational philosophy as well as others, providing a rich educational environment while still giving structure to the learning process is a holistic approach. One can imagine taking students through all three trivium stages in a course or even a lesson. First, provide high quality learning material for the grammar stage. Assign activities to work on individually that requires critical thinking skills of the logic stage. As a group, carry out discussions and presentations using rhetorical skills. That is my educational vision.

Besides inspiring me to homeschool, it also explains why I was so far ahead of the curve using blended learning and flipped classrooms in the 2000s, long before active learning became the widespread discussion it is today. Higher education eventually adopted online learning but, once again, did so for its efficiency rather than any pedagogical advantage. Linear face-to-face classes became linear online classes with even less peer and teacher contact. Rather than inspiring and leading students to become independent learners, it forced them to be so whether they were ready or not. And when they sink, schools shrug their shoulders and say, “Well, they just weren’t well-suited for online learning.”

Now all of America’s students and teachers have been thrown into the waters of online learning and are expected to swim without being given any lessons. All they can do is take classroom pedagogy and try to map it on to the online format–the proverbial square peg into the round hole. This is not good online learning–nor it is homeschooling. It is what it is, and parents need to make decisions with this likely to continue in the next school year.

What is most appealing about Homeschool Connections as a holistic science educator is the freedom to develop courses with proven effective teaching and learning approaches that schools cannot implement. They are too constrained by the need to demonstrate that they meet requirements of state and accreditation standards. This creates the myth of “core knowledge” and “educational gaps” that are essentially meaningless. It also creates students with heads stuffed with knowledge that they cannot apply and skilled in discerning and providing what is expected rather than what they have learned. It is the antithesis to independent thinking and learning.

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