Christian Homeschool Resources & Homeschooling Advice

The Learning Spiral

The Learning Spiral

Psalm One Learning – Part 1
Homeschoolers are showing to the world that our students are exceeding expectations. This is happening in spite of the fact that parents are slow to "analyze a proper pedagogy" like modern educators would do. We thought it would be useful to share our opinion on why we think our kids do well. Perhaps thinking through these ideas will help your children improve their schooling by giving you a vision of why homeschooling works. The Bible says, "Without a vision, the people perish." We believe that a philosophy-of-education-vision will help you to assist your children to succeed by allowing you to think more clearly about your own personal "pedagogy" so you can do an even better job of teaching and guiding their lives.

We will explain this vision firstly by showing what we think most institutional educators’ educational approach entails. Then we will share our alternative point-of-view. We are hopeful that you will find our suggestions ring true with your own perspectives on why and how you are teaching your children.
Learning Spiral
Institutional schools teach their students via what we call the "spiral method." The spiral begins with the kindergarten year, which is designed to assimilate the child into the institutional setting. More important than being taught colors and numbers is the process of surviving and learning in the environment that educators are taught to be the second most important agent of sociological influence, namely the "school." (Fortunately for us, the family is still considered number one, but only until children reach “mandatory school age.” It is no wonder educators want it lowered.)

The successful kindergartner will be trained how to behave in class, how to stand in line, how to function in the society of the school institution. Then, in grade one, the child is taught a little bit of math, a little bit of reading, a little bit of science, a little bit of social studies, etc. By the end of the year the student has been exposed to a lot of material, but generally has not mastered much. But that's not a problem because what was missed the first time around can (in theory) be gained in the next round. The child gets a chance in third grade to catch what he or she didn’t get in second grade; in fourth he or she gets another stab at what was missed in third, and so on.

Each year similar subject material is covered, but each year it is at a little higher level. The spirals go on all the way through the thirteen years of "school." At the end of the thirteenth year, that is, twelfth grade, you're done. If you want to continue the spirals, you go on to four years in the college or university system, and then on to grad school, and the doctoral level, and . . .

The beauty of the spiral is that it takes thirteen years for K-12—nearly every time. Children are segregated by age on their own coil and methodically progress through to the end. The trouble lies in the fact that many gifted students are held back while slow students get left behind. The goal of the spiral is to present the student with a certificate of completion (a diploma) at the end of his or her thirteen years.

Now, of course, the diploma should signify that a certain standard of academic achievement has been met. However, most people realize that the diploma doesn't guarantee such achievement. In fact, there are many high school diploma-carrying members of our society that are functionally illiterate. For example, we recently learned from a prominent literacy group that in New York State over thirty percent of the adult population cannot read! It doesn’t take much logic to discern that if ninety-two percent of children go to public schools in New York, the vast majority of these functionally illiterate adults were trained in public schools. We would also think it is arguable that most of these adults did not go to private or parochial schools, and certainly were not homeschooled. So we think the argument could be quite easily substantiated that too many public school students are being graduated who cannot even read at the level of basic necessity. This is unconscionable. Can you imagine if this was happening in homeschools?

The problem is that the diploma really signifies the completion of the program (the spiral) – not necessarily any particular level of learning. This is why colleges, the military, and many employers now require more than a high school diploma to prove students’ readiness to go on in life. Colleges require SAT or ACT scores for just this reason; the military requires the ASVAB.

In our next article, we will continue to explain this educational point-of-view even further.

This topic and much more is covered in David and Laurie Callihan's recently completed brand new, downloadable Parent's Guide to the Christian Homeschool Daily Planner (with their Grand Plan built right in) and also in The Guidance Manual for the Christian Homeschool: A Parent's Guide for Preparing Homeschool Students for College or Career.  Learn more at They are regular columnists on Crosswalk's High School and general Homeschool pages.