Christian Homeschool Resources & Homeschooling Advice

The Learning Tree Part I

  • David and Laurie Callihan Authors
  • 2003 28 Nov
The Learning Tree Part I

Psalm One Learning – Part 3

We have spent the past two articles explaining a concept called "spiral learning" and how public and private institutional educators have devised this approach to provide what we believe is a steadily deteriorating, inferior education to millions of children over the past century. Homeschoolers are showing how true this is without even realizing why their educational "pedagogy" is superior. Thus there has been a "raising of the bar" once again. We hope that by elucidating the differences in these contrary points-of-view, we can assist homeschooling parents in thinking through a proper philosophy of education that will help make learning easier and more effective for their children into the future.

Now let's get into what we believe is an exciting, biblically superior way of learning that we have observed many parents are doing with their children without even realizing it. We call it the "learning tree" or "Psalm 1 Learning."

Learning Tree
It is our opinion that the integration of students of varying ages and learning styles is a better model for instruction. In fact, we would suggest that participation together in family education is a most effective learning model. Those parents that have decided to home educate their children might do well to consider going beyond mimicking the institutional spiral in their home, and consider what we call the Learning Tree (or Psalm 1 Learning). In fact, in many cases, parents have naturally strayed from the spiral in the home school.

For instance, many parents wouldn't consider allowing their student to go on to a new math concept before mastering a more elementary one. In the learning spiral the class must go on. It is this straying from the spiral that we believe is one of the main contributors to the academic success of homeschooled students across the board. Let's examine the Learning Tree in more detail.

The Roots
The educational philosophy we call the Learning Tree begins with the development of strong roots during the elementary years. We include the years between birth and approximately ten to twelve years old in the elementary years. This is the time to learn the "elements" that will lay a foundation for the growth of a strong tree. Just as roots take in nutrients and water from the soil around them, this is the time when the students will be mostly "soaking up" information from the world around them.

During this time it is of utmost important that the child's spiritual life is "grounded" in the Word of God—the Bible. Within this grounding, there are four roots that must be developed – mastery of four skills – reading, writing, arithmetic, and research. You will recognize three of these as the proverbial "3 r's" and we have added research skills as the fourth necessary root. (Obviously it wasn't a homeschooler who first spelled the "3 r's"—two of them don't even actually begin with the letter "r.") Mastery of these skills must occur before the student will be able to progress toward integrating information into life practices.

A very appropriate further analogy is that parents who spend time during these years "grounding" their children spiritually will provide a depth to the "soil" that will help to prevent spiritual shallowness. Those who have studied Jesus' Parable of the Grounds (or the Sower, as it is more commonly known) will recognize that spending this time in preparing our children's hearts with a depth in God's Word—teaching His ways, truths, and life principles—will help to prevent future difficulty associated with temptation and persecution. This is accomplished as we provide the time and opportunity for spiritual depth to take place during these years. (See Matthew 13; Mark 4, and Luke 8 for further study of this concept.)

In our next article we will share more about how to focus on these elementary years to ground our children solidly in the attainment of knowledge. We believe this clarity is so important to ensure our children are grounded and prepared for the future goals of attaining understanding, as well as wisdom. These clarifications are crucial in preparing them for the secondary years of education.

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.