As homeschoolers, we all know the advantages of individualized learning. One-on-one training allows us to tailor education to meet our students’ exact needs, move at their pace, and fit their learning styles. But the simple fact that we enjoy teaching multiple children together points to the reality that there are advantages to learning in a group setting.
Group Learning Advantages
While teaching our multiple-aged children together is a fun and engaging way to approach the education of our children, sometimes it is advantageous to allow our children to learn with other students of a similar age or academic level.
History is one of the easiest subjects to teach to multiple levels at once, especially during elementary years. But, as students progress through seventh and eighth grade, and especially on into high school, the advantages to peer group study increase.
Group study allows a varied approach to history. Students who prefer learning history through reading can be challenged to engage in discussions that broaden their horizons and help them process through a variety of thoughts and ideas. Research projects can be presented orally, and the excitement of a student who loves history can engage and encourage another student who struggles.
If your student needs discussion and a strong hands-on approach to learning, a group or class environment might be the wisest choice, especially in high school. A co-op is the easiest way to accomplish this, but also look into single-class enrollment in a local public or private school. Topic-centered classes through the library or an arts center are also good options.
Science & Math
Science and math are probably the most dreaded and feared of all subjects for parents as they enter the high school years with their students. The best way to solidify difficult concepts, however, is to teach them to someone else. When structured well, group learning can provide the perfect platform for learning through teaching as students band together to process through math and science concepts.
But, this is not just advantageous in high school! Throughout the elementary and middle school years, students can come together – even if only once a week or so – to reinforce skills through games and contests, complete experiments together, or enjoy field trips.
Obviously, there are many reasons to maintain one-on-one learning for science and math, depending on learning styles. But, these two subjects tend to lend themselves more to group learning than any other core subject. So, if group learning is an option through a co-op or even cooperation with an informal group of friends, it can be wise to consider group learning as the default decision, then consider reasons why it would not be a good idea.
Early reading skills, grammar, spelling, and handwriting tend to thrive best in one-on-one teaching situations. In fact, this is the area where parents often see their children’s learning styles and preferences most powerfully exhibited. A decision to explore language arts in a group setting is often more driven by a parent’s lack of confidence in the subject than by a student’s need.
The primary advantage to a group setting for language arts falls more on the literature side of the subject. Sharing the experience of beloved – and also despised! – literature allows students to dig more deeply into thoughts and ideas.
A great deal of creativity can be applied to group learning in language arts. Spelling bees for confident spellers or groups for budding writers offer great motivation. Find or organize book clubs and literary groups. Even debate clubs or speech classes fit well into the group learning experience for language arts.
Homeschoolers always have to be creative when it comes to fine arts and electives. But out of all electives, foreign language study is one that greatly stands out in a discussion of group versus individual learning.
Although students can learn a foreign language on their own with a grammar book and the help of handy apps such as DuoLingo, nothing replaces the experience or challenge of engaging in a conversation with fellow learners and teachers. The group setting builds confidence, skill, and vocabulary in a way that independent learning never can.
Look for language learning classes available through your local co-op, library, community center, or local school options. Also, consider engaging with ESL classes. Often people learning English appreciate the chance to reciprocate by teaching others their language. If you live near a college or university, seek out missionary kids or international students who would love a home-cooked meal and a chance to help your children learn. Grab a few friends and get ready to create a group learning experience of your own.