Published here with permission from The MOORE REPORT INTERNATIONAL - July/August
The Moore Foundation,
Box 1, Camas,
Unschooling and the Moore Formula. Is there a Difference?
by Dorothy N. Moore
The word UNSCHOOLING is difficult to define. I have heard it described in various
ways, even as structured, disciplined, real-life learning, and simply how any individual prefers
to do it. Mark and Helen Hegner of HOME EDUCATION MAGAZINE sum it up with,
"Unschooling is a wonderfully nebulous term, subject to individual interpretation."
Perhaps the closest description is to say what it is not: any education that is
too close to conventional or traditional school-type education. On that basis, the Moore Formula
would be unschooling, too, but it is more than that.
THE MOORE FORMULA is quite closely defined, though I doubt that it functions exactly
the same way in every family or even with every student. But it does follow a specific recipe
with many characteristics that are really not optional for the best results. It consists of
two very important facets: STUDY with a balance of WORK AND SERVICE, meaning about as much
or more work and service as study. Because work has the connotation of money earned, while
service is more likely thought of as volunteering with no pay, together they provide a constructive
balance to counteract selfishness. Indeed, they can overlap.
The Moore Formula also recognizes the principle of READINESS for any task. No matter
what the job is that the child needs or even wants to do, whether physical, mental or spiritual,
research strongly supports the principle that he will learn it faster with less stress for
both teacher and student if he is mature enough to do it.
Though a child is ready to do some simple physical jobs as soon as he can walk,
such as putting away his toys, he is usually not ready for formal study until he is at least
age 8 to 10 and possibly 12. Up until that time, much informal learning should be available
to him, including more useful work, learning games (phonics, math, etc.), life experiences
(bakery, market, fire station, post office, etc.), true books read to him on a variety of subjects
(language arts), including Bible (history), nature (science), biographies (history) and travelogues
(geography). The long this type of learning can continue, at least until age 10, the better
will be the foundations your child will have upon which to build the superstructure of more
formal learning. Indeed, some skills may naturally develop, though hopefully never through
An example of building a strong foundation of experiences is the letter I received
along from a parent along with a returned Saxon 54. The mother explained how she had used only
such things as Math-it, experiences with money, games from Ruth Beechick's Beginners 3R's,
practice in measuring, telling time, etc. for her daughter until age 9 and explained
that she thought she should be ready for Saxon 54, but it was too easy. So she was hoping that
we would just exchange it for a Saxon 65. In other words, the foundation in math which she
had gained informally during those years, had prepared her for sixth grade formal math. If
you live in a state where a curriculum is required at age 6 or 7, this can be fulfilled by
labeling your informal learning with school names as above in parentheses.
These early years, starting at birth, and leading up to more formal learning, are
the years for parents to "Keep it simple, Sweetheart or Sir (KISS) by carrying out the
guidelines found by the Smithsonian Institution's study to contribute to genius. These are
(1) warm, loving, educationally responsive parents and other adults; (2) little association
with children outside the family; and (3) a great deal of freedom under parental guidance to
The Moore Formula in its best form also considers the individual child's INTERESTS
and APTITUDES. The wise parents will always keep these in balance, so that the child's development
will be harmonious. All the mental faculties need to be cultivated. We find that the unit or
project method is uniquely adapted to do this. Because it is so difficult for some parents,
including certified teachers, to get out of the conventional "cookie cutter" syndrome
and build their curriculum around their individual child, we have set up our Moore Academy
to help them. For new or burned out homeschoolers we offer a "Full-Service Program,"
where an educational counselor helps you set up and maintain by close contact a personalized
plan for your child. In a sense, this is essentially a hands-on learning project for the parent,
as well as the student. After a year of this kind of help, most parents and students can continue
with a more limited service or even on their own.
The Moore Formula does include reasonable structure not so much as to
disallow flexibility within the curriculum but in terms of the body or circadian
rhythms which require regularity in the basic home program in order to obtain the highest emotional
and learning stability for your child. That means regular going to bed times, getting up times
and meal times. Irregularity on these items will not only sap a student's brain forces, but
will also make him less capable of discrimination between right and wrong. Such regularity
is the basis of sound discipline, beginning at birth, and defined as the fine art of discipleship
training of the most fundamental kind to provide character development.
What about accountability? Fortunately, no state makes any requirement in system
or method, but several do require some accountability. This can be done no matter whether the
family is unschooling or using the Moore Formula. In fact, many states require a portfolio
or a teacher evaluation in order to be legal, but that doesn't deter homeschoolers regardless
of what system they are using. Some people with questioning relatives join the Moore Academy
simply because the two evaluations required in the full-service program satisfy the doubters.
We definitely require these brief reports, for our written feedback so that we can more adequately
help both the parent and child to be successful. Some kind of accountability is also essential
in any kind of legal challenge.