Block Learning is Fantastic for Homeschooling, And Here’s Why
For homeschooling families, I truly think that block learning is fantastic. And in this episode of the Art of Homeschooling podcast, I talk about why I think that is.
If I had to guess, I would say that most of my audience is a product of brick and mortar public schooling. I’m raising my hand!
Traditional learning methods follow a school day rhythm that touches on each subject, every day. You might remember this!
And this method is designed mostly for testing outcomes. Also for easy planning.
But learning at home has a much different dynamic. And here at the Art of Homeschooling, I recommend block teaching. Because I think this is the best, strongest method of homeschool teaching.
Let’s talk more about what block teaching is. And how it’s similar to and different from other popular homeschooling methods.
I also have three tools for you, to help you strengthen you own block teaching, regardless of whether you craft your own homeschool lessons or draw from a curriculum.
You’ll want to follow along here on the show notes for terms and definitions, quotes, and link. Let’s get started! Just tap the play button above to join me and hear all about how block learning is fantastic for homeschooling!
Block Learning & Other Similar Methods of Homeschooling
You might already be familiar with block teaching. But if not, block teaching is one of the most distinctive principles of Waldorf education and Waldorf-inspired homeschooling. But it’s not limited to Waldorf.
Here’s the definition of block teaching, according to Unesco (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization): “a ‘block’ of time – for example, a number of weeks – being devoted to a particular topic or prescribed set of learning objectives/outcomes. It can also indicate a way of organizing the school day using long class periods (more than 60 minutes and typically 90-minutes long) to incorporate more activities and materials to engage the learners. It can be used to make time allocation more flexible to enhance activities such as project- and problem-based learning.”
Other Similar Methods
Other similar teaching methods include unit studies and project-based learning. Let’s define those too, so you can consider their inherent differences.
Unit studies are “time-specific overviews of a defined topic or theme that incorporate multiple subject areas into the study plan. …these studies often involve multisensory learning where each activity is organized according to the thematic idea.” (www.time4learning.com)
Project-based learning “… is a child-led teaching method that gives students the opportunity to answer a question or solve a problem by having them take part in an engaging, hands-on, sometimes, long-term project. Children use their current skill set and knowledge to do the research. As parents, we mentor them along as needed, and provide them with the tools they need. Once your child is done with their project, they’ll then use their communication skills (listening, writing, and speaking) to share their findings.” (www.time4learning.com)
I often describe the main difference between block teaching and these other similar methods with my mantra, “go deep, not wide.”
Unit studies tend to go wide and try to fit every single subject into one unit of study. Project-based learning is more open ended and often child-led.
Main lesson blocks on the other hand allow us to dive deeply into one subject or skill, using the topic as a vehicle or container for learning along with skills development and the arts.
Why Block Teaching is Fantastic for Homeschooling
A block of study or main lesson block can be taken up by the whole family so the learning can reach multiple ages. And the family can become deeply immersed in the topic for several weeks. From literature and stories you can read together every day, to drawings on the chalkboard to inspire everyone, to paintings or artwork to hang on the wall or fridge, songs to sing, poems to recite together, field trips to take, or even films to watch.
There are so many ways to immerse your home and your homeschool into a main lesson. And for planning purposes, the simplest way is to plan a block per month.
If this idea is new to you, check out the links below. And here are some examples to illustrate how a main lesson block builds connections and gives the learning a context.
One example is to teach a fifth grade block of Greek mythology with a language arts focus on writing skills and vocabulary using the Greek root words. A second example is a third grade block on farming to teach the math skill of measurement.
Going deep into one topic and one skill set builds understanding of a subject and puts the learning in context. Which creates so many connections for children as they learn!
This is why the block teaching method speaks to me, why I used this with my own kiddos in our Waldorf-inspired homeschool, and why I share it with so many homeschoolers. For homeschooling families, block teaching has so many advantages!
3 Tools to Strengthen Your Block Teaching
- First, choose a “spine” ~ your main reader.
This is your main resource. It can be a story collection or novel, or in the older grades, it might be a biography or non-fiction book, to build your block upon. You can plan to read a story, chapter, or section from your spine each day of the block.
- Second, determine your purpose.
Start your planning by thinking about your block’s purpose or focus. In addition to the story content, will you focus on word families, paragraph writing, a series of watercolor paintings, copywork, measurement, fractions, maybe creating a mural? One focus at a time is enough!
- Third, “One is enough!”
You can build out your block plans with things like poems, songs, games, handwork, or hands-on projects. But one at a time is enough! One song, one game, one hands-on project for each block is more than enough!
Remember, simple, doable, inspiring.
Main Lesson Blocks Are Very Fruitful!
I’ll leave you with this quote from Roberto Trostli, author of Rhythms of Learning, to inspire you,
Main lesson blocks can unfold with this same ripening. And they really do bear fruit!
Thanks so much for tuning in today. And I hope this episode brings you a sense of why block learning is fantastic for homeschooling! See you next time. 💜
More Resources to Dive Deeper
Here you’ll find five articles about main lesson block teaching:
- “What is a Main Lesson Block?”
- “Why Does Main Lesson Block Learning Work?”
- “The Essentials of a Main Lesson Block”
- “How to Plan a Main Lesson Block”
- “Recording the Learning in a Main Lesson Book.”
Block teaching is also one of the hallmarks of the Taproot Teacher Training for Homeschoolers, an annual training I host every summer. At Taproot, you get to attend workshops where veteran homeschoolers present their block teaching models with a really special Taproot touch. You can experience how to plan blocks for multiple ages, how to create daily and weekly rhythms for your main lesson blocks, how to sprinkle in the arts and more. All while sitting side by side with other homeschooling parents, asking questions, sharing ideas, and soaking it all in.
Also worth checking out is Episode #88, Can We Homeschool Without a Curriculum?
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