If you’ve been around homeschooling any length of time, you’ve seen and heard about many different styles and philosophies. Perhaps you are wondering what is the educational philosophy of Five Senses Literature Lessons? How does it fit together with what you know about other homeschool programs and their philosophy of education?
At Five Senses Literature Lessons, I have created something new, based on my knowledge of how children learn best, and my extensive study of homeschooling philosophies. One of the easiest ways to understand something is to compare it to something you already know about. So here is your quick-start guide to compare Five Senses Literature Lessons to other homeschool styles.
Just like classical education, the Five Senses Literature Lessons approach is based on a belief that children are best served by a varied and interesting education. Both philosophies include lessons in science, history, language and art that help build a wide and stable foundation of knowledge. The difference is in the details of the approach.
Classical education emphasizes a 4-year history cycle starting with ancient times. Historical stories from a long time ago and based so far away can be hard for children to relate to. Instead, Five Senses Literature Lessons emphasizes having your child learn about the world immediately around them in the Orange Level. As you and your child move to the Yellow Level, you’ll progress to learning about the history of the United States of America. I believe children need to know the history of their own country so they can relate that to the history of the rest of the world.
Languages are alive!
Classical education also emphasizes learning Latin early. Instead, Five Senses Literature Lessons believes in exposing children to many different languages to help their brains make connections about language and communication. In the Orange Level, we suggest ways to include Spanish, Italian and Japanese in your child’s education. In the Native American Yellow level, you’ll introduce words in Zapotec and Cherokee, so that child can see that the Native American groups have the same depth of language and culture as other groups of people in the world. As your child grows older, the brief exposure to many languages will have given them a base upon which to build. Your child may choose a language to become fluent in or learn greetings in many languages. Both are valuable in the modern world.
Critical learning for common sense
I disagree with the classical education philosophy about the three stages of development (grammar, logic, and rhetoric). I believe that even young children are capable of logic and reason. They can start learning to think critically about topics often reserved for older children in other programs. Five Senses Literature Lessons invites children to think about why and how, early and often so that their ability to make good choices and logical conclusions is well developed before they become teenagers. Rote memorization of things that they can easily look up, like long lists of historical dates, is a waste of energy when a child could be creating an understanding of why an event is historically important.
Just like Charlotte Mason, I believe in the power of books. However, Five Senses Literature Lessons emphasizes the use of picture books for children, instead of longer texts. Younger children often do not have the life experience to picture something in their heads that they have never seen. No matter how good the description of a beach is, it can be hard—almost impossible—to picture one in your head unless you have seen one in person or you’ve seen a picture of one. So, we give children pictures to help them understand the stories better.
Art in Context
Charlotte Mason espoused teaching children about fine art. Five Senses Literature Lessons teaches children about art, as well. However, instead of doing studies of individual artists, our lessons integrate fine art into the body of the lesson. In the Yellow Level, as your child learns about Native Americans, they will look at art made by Native Americans. This way of incorporating art study into the main lesson gives children a deeper appreciation of the artwork itself as well as an understanding of its historical relevance.
Building skills for life
I agree with Charlotte Mason about her belief in “purposeful activity”. However, instead of sending you off to find purposeful activities on your own, many of our lessons have activities to help your child develop life skills, like cooking and crafting. These activities are tied to the main lesson and support your child’s understanding of the main topic. Each purposeful activity has notes on how to adapt it to your child’s skill level. I would never suggest you just “knit a hat,” since the skills for knitting are rather advanced. Instead, you are given directions for age-appropriate activities that will build your child’s skills while not creating too much stress.
Waldorf and Montessori
These two philosophies are both beautiful. They may not seem to have a lot in common at first, but they both emphasize child development and hands-on learning, just like Five Senses Literature Lessons. While using Five Senses Literature Lessons you may see hints of both of these philosophies. However, we differ in one big, important way.
Five Senses Literature Lessons requires very little special equipment. Waldorf and Montessori classrooms place an emphasis on specific toys and materials. The specific items can be expensive to replicate and hard to find. Five Senses Literature Lessons uses items commonly found around your own home and easy to acquire from your local grocery or big box store. The hands-on activities in every program here, are designed to be easy and inexpensive to set up and enjoy.
Just like in Unschooling, Five Senses Literature Lessons respects the learner. It is very important that the child be interested and engaged in their learning. So the lessons we have created are designed to engage your child.
Unschooling emphasizes that children learn when they are ready and I wholeheartedly agree. However, I disagree with the unschooling philosophy on how a child gets ready to learn. Unschooling theory says that every child will eventually be ready to learn everything in their own time. I believe that children may need help and guidance to learn the underlying skills they will need to explore their education fully. And some children who aren’t pushed to develop underlying skills may have long-lasting lag-time in their educational development.
Building skills and confidence is crucial
An example of this is learning to write. Five Senses Literature Lessons provide lessons with fine motor activities and games. These games help develop your child’s finger strength and coordination. Not all children seek out those kinds of activities on their own. Many children need a parent to encourage them.
In the Orange Level, lessons emphasize learning to recite nursery rhymes. You work with your child on learning how to tell a story. Both of these kinds of activities provide skills that help children learn to write their own thoughts down on paper. These skills give children a firm grasp of how language works. They are different than the physical act of writing letters, but essential to the final product of using language effectively. When the child is ready to learn writing letters I recommend using Handwriting Without Tears. Using a well-structured handwriting program is important to ensure the child learns to form letters the right way and isn’t guessing or mimicking the shapes they are seeing, which takes longer and is less neat and organized than true writing.
In the Yellow Level, I recommend having your child do short copy work passages. These build the muscles of the hands and eyes needed for writing. There are different ways to use these copy work passages depending on your child’s writing ability and readiness. The goal is to help the child gradually gain the skills they will need in an age-appropriate way. Don’t expect the child to magically learn it on their own. As their parent, you give them the tools to be able to write. Then, when they are ready, they can put their own thoughts down on paper.
This method of building up the child’s skills and confidence so that they are prepared to do things for themselves is a fundamental pillar of the Five Senses Literature Lessons approach. Skills are built slowly. Not to hold children back, but to allow them to blossom without pressure.
Time to follow your child’s passions
One key feature of Five Senses Literature Lessons is that the program is designed to take less time than other programs. This ensures your child has plenty of time to explore their own interests, play outside, or to take lessons further. The lessons are designed to lay a foundation of learning. A foundation that supports your child as they follow their own interests and explore the world.
When you compare Five Senses Literature Lessons to other homeschool styles, you see that Five Senses Literature Lessons is a different philosophy of education. It focuses on whole child learning and emphasizes a respect for children and their natural development.
Five Senses Literature Lessons seeks to help children develop on a natural path with encouragement to gain skills that their brains and bodies are prepared to participate in. These programs help children build a foundation of both skills and knowledge that they can use to move forward with their education and in life. Children are complex people who deserve a complex and rich education that they can participate in, even if they are delayed in some areas. Every child is an individual who is working at their own pace. To that end, Five Senses Literature Lessons programs are highly adaptable and provide parents with guidelines for making lessons easier or more challenging. Every child deserves a personalized education, which is the heart of every curriculum I write.
About the Author
Laura Sowdon, OTR/L is an occupational therapist, writer, speaker, educator and creator of the Five Senses Literature Lessons homeschool curriculum. She has worked as an occupational therapist with children in public and private schools, as well as private practice. Laura has taught and managed homeschool co-ops as well as homeschooling her own three children. Laura is dedicated to the idea of educating children at a pace that aligns with brain and physical development milestones and respects neurodiversity in all its forms.