Moore Method

The Moore Formula

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 longer 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 parental pressure.

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 explore.

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.


Delayed Academics: Key to Preventing Learning Problems

As children are pushed to achieve academic goals at earlier and earlier ages, the incidence of learning disabilities is growing at an alarming (some say epidemic) rate. There may be a host of root causes, from immune response issues to dietary and familial problems, but one factor is susceptible to immediate control by parents who choose to homeschool and that is the age at which traditional academic work is introduced to their children. One hundred years ago, it was common for children to enter school at age 8 or even later. Two hundred years ago, children were not even accepted in most schools until they could read.

Today, in contrast, the most arduous efforts of our public schools cannot produce high school graduates who can compare favorably in knowledge and skills with the 8th grade graduates of 1900. What on earth is going on? It is claimed by the education establishment that the fault lies variously with the children (learning disabled), their parents (incompetent and /or uninterested), or the government/tax payers (low funding), or all three. Educators seldom blame their own methods, materials, timetables, etc. Most people would agree that “one size fits all” items actually don’t fit most people very well, but when it comes to education, otherwise intelligent folks are inclined to bow to the “wisdom” of the established educational order in the matter of what a child should learn and when he should learn it. Homeschool parents come to me every day asking for “the list” of what their children should be learning at each grade level. Or, they come in very worried because Jr. is in third grade and doesn’t yet know his multiplication facts or parts of speech or the difference between a parallelogram and a trapezoid! Oh, my!

As a former primary teacher, I can attest to the almost total incompetence of the school bureaucracy – from the teacher colleges to the state mandated textbooks. Even though the new emphasis on phonics is a promising sign, it appears that the manic insistence on developmentally inappropriate “academic” goals will insure a large number of educationally handicapped children for years to come, incidentally providing job security for legions of special education teachers. As principal of a large, private homeschool Independent Study Program (umbrella school for homeschoolers), I see children daily who have been battered by this insane and inhumane system.

But, that is not the worst of it. The problem is compounded by the tyranny of “experts” who are determined to “help” homeschoolers by “diagnosing” and offering to “treat” all manner of suddenly discovered maladies from ODD (opposition/defiant disorder) to ADHD (attention deficit hyperactive disorder) to my favorite: Auditory Processing Disorder(APD), a wonderful catch-all for the late bloomer who hasn’t yet cracked the phonetic code of English. These “experts” would have us believe that otherwise normal children suddenly become “disordered” when they enter school or begin formal “homeschooling.” This is not to say that there are not children with very real medical and /or psychological problems, but the vast majority of children diagnosed with a “learning disability” are simply normal children with either a low tolerance for boredom (ADD), too much energy to sit still for long doing boring, repetitive work (ADHD), developmentally unready to absorb the material presented (LD, ADD,APD, Dyslexic, Dysgraphic, etc.) or possessed of a learning style which is incompatible with the curriculum in use(ADD, etc., etc.) The labels fly so rapidly and predictably to so many children that they have become virtually meaningless except to the professional “experts” whose livelihood depend on a full IN basket of educationally handicapped kids.

Many distraught parents opt to homeschool after receiving one or more of these dred diagnoses for their children. They remove them from school in order to help them overcome their “disability” and “remediate” their “deficiencies.” Although they intuitively know that their children are bright and can learn, they cling to the standards and timelines of the system that condemned their children and in so doing, create unnecessary difficulty for themselves and their offspring. Often, parents come to me in search of a curriculum to help their children “catch up.” I have to ask, ”Catch up to what?” In trusting that the state and the state’s schools know the best way to educate a child, they are in danger of destroying their children’s best opportunity to learn in the home environment. By pushing children too hard too early, resistance, aversion and fear of failure create barriers to learning, only compounding the damage already done by the school system.

Teaching and learning are neither difficult nor mysterious. It does not take a trained expert to teach the phonetic code to a child who is ready. READY is the operative word. As a former first grade teacher who learned to read in the first grade, I once thought that all children could and should learn to read at age six. It took a determined homeschooling neighbor, my own “late” reading daughters and the research of pioneering homeschool advocates, Raymond and Dorothy Moore to convince me otherwise.

We were very excited about homeschooling and started right in with MCP Plaid Phonics when Tenaya was five years old. She learned the letter sounds quickly but could not put them together to make words. We were both frustrated while the neighbor boys, two years older than my girls, played happily and didn’t even attempt to read. Their mother, Susan, introduced me to the Moores’ books and philosophy. I was unconvinced but I had no choice. My very bright and eager daughter was not reading no matter what we did. Had she been in school, she would have been labeled dyslexic simply because she did not read. Her sister, however, would have earned a whole list of labels: ADHD (she bounced off the walls when she wasn’t climbing them), APD (she made no sound/symbol connections until she was about nine), dyslexic (she couldn’t read), dysgraphic (she couldn’t write) among others.

Dr. and Mrs. Moore’s first book, School Can Wait and its twin for laymen, Better Late Than Early, introduced me to the facts about education and child development. The Moores collected early childhood research from medicine, ophthalmology, neurology, and psychology and came to the inescapable conclusion that for most children, the optimum age to begin formal academics is between the ages of eight and twelve! For those of us who are steeped in the culture of early academics, this is a strange pill to swallow. But the Moores didn’t stop with mere laboratory research; they studied homeschool families in the 70’s and 80’s to see what happened when children were free to learn at a more natural pace. The result was several more books, culminating with The Successful Family Homeschool Handbook. This volume elaborates on “The Moore Formula” which Dr. and Mrs. Moore developed over the years as they combined research with practical application.

The “Moore Formula” includes three elements in approximately equal portions: study, work and service. They do not recommend formal academic studies before age 8 and in some cases, as late as 12. (My younger daughter fell into this older category.) This does not mean that the child does not learn anything until age 8+. Children are learning voraciously from birth and only the roadblock of clumsy “schooling” can retard or stop a child’s otherwise insatiable thirst for knowledge. Books are useful and important tools, but for a young child, the world is filled with much better learning opportunities than can be found on the printed page alone. When a child is allowed to explore and question and wonder, whole worlds of interest can open that might never be discovered otherwise. In this homeschooling style, a child might learn to read at five, at seven or at twelve, depending on the child.

This more relaxed early learning/teaching style will incorporate important developmental areas often neglected or ignored by formal curricula: listening, hand-eye coordination, large motor skills, spatial relationships, personal relationships, knowledge about the physical environment, memory development, imagination, logic and many more. Because of the overwhelming presence of electronic media in our lives, children are often have difficulty using their own imagination or even listening to a story without pictures. They are so bombarded with constant sound from radio, TV, and electronic games that they can hardly think for themselves. Giving children time in the early years (hopefully with a minimum of TV, etc.) to develop physically, neurologically and emotionally allows them to move into formal academics with a maximum of preparedness and energy.

Since we are on the topic of physical and academic readiness we should spend a few moments on learning styles. It is important to understand that each child has a unique learning style that might be different from yours or his siblings. Regardless of when you start teaching your children formally it is critically important to teach in a manner that best fits the child’s learning style. The absolute best publication we know of to assist you in determining and understanding your child’s learning style is Mariaemma Willis’ and Victoria Hodson’s book, Discover Your Child’s Learning Style. The blending of this book with the works of the Moore’s will provide you the foundation of a highly successful homeschool experience.

Delayed academics does not mandate delayed reading; it encourages parents to wait until their children are ready. Until that time, parents can read to their children, play games with letters and sounds, and watch for signs that their children are beginning to catch on to the code. Once that happens, you cannot stop a child from reading. Some will move quickly and others will make slower progress, but as long as the instruction is phonetic (this is vital), children will make gradual progress until they are reading at an adult level. The catch here is that although you can toss out the LD labels, you may not be able to use a packaged curriculum (Oh shucks!) One of my daughters learned to read (effortlessly) at age 8 and the other at 10 ½. One used Primary Phonics readers and the other preferred Dr. Seuss I Can Read primers. Once past the primers, they simply selected (with my guidance) books they enjoyed. Gradually, they moved to more and more difficult material. Both are college graduates with enjoyable careers.

We used the Moore Formula instead of a formal curriculum. The girls worked at many jobs and invented as many businesses including one, Fun Ed, that is still thriving as part of Excellence In Education Resource Center. They were involved in numerous service projects culminating in overseas missions work. Most people would classify us as unschoolers and I would not argue except to qualify that label by saying we did use the Moore Formula to balance our lives.

This happy ending would not have been possible without the concept of “delayed academics,” for our daughters would have been labeled early and often had we taken our little non-readers to the “experts.” Thankfully, we went instead to Dr. Raymond Moore and his wonderful wife Dorothy, who told us that as long as they were making progress, we should not worry. They were right!

Modern schools were intended to do for education what Henry Ford did for auto manufacturing. In some ways they have succeeded, but remember that children aren’t molten blobs of metal that can be reshaped by any mold to fit in any space for any purpose. Children are unique and delicate human beings with special talents, strengths and weaknesses. Each has his own developmental schedule, which we ignore at our peril. As homeschoolers, we have rejected the “system” for a variety of reasons; we have stepped outside the box. Remember that the box includes much more than just the building. Stepping outside the box and giving our children the very best tailor made education includes questioning the school schedule and curriculum as well. Things that are mass-produced are never of the finest quality and the same goes for a copy of a mass- produced item.

The best education for your child is one that is developed for his or her unique learning schedule and learning style. Only the parent can judge the appropriateness of the schedule by watching for things to “click,” but we can get quite a bit of guidance from Raymond and Dorothy Moore’s many books on homeschooling and Willis and Hodson’s Learning Style Profile found in Discover Your Child’s Learning Style. Trying to get a head start by pushing early academics can backfire, causing difficulties for years to come. Instead of worrying about a “learning disability” because your child does not fit the style and sequence of “in the box” schools, spend your energy on developing your child’s natural interests. You will be amazed at the results.


Learning How To Think
by Dr. Raymond and Dorothy Moore – Moore Foundation, Camas, Washington

No wonder Thomas Edison’s mother was so angry at Tom’s teachers who declared him to be stupid and ill-behaved. Young Tom found little or no challenge in the rigid boundaries of classroom instruction. His creativity stifled, his fantasies grounded, he begged out of the mental prison. His fine mind clearly was not being challenged, and he rebelled against the stupor being imposed upon him by a stolid pedagogue. He refused the extrusion process in which most students come out the same-sized bologna and went home to have fun in real-life learning by observing, experimenting, and creating.

Exactly the same havoc is being wrought on our children before our very faces these days as we blithely look on. All indications are that something is wrong with “the system,” but we are so much prisoners of convention that we can’t believe the ball is in our court. Besides it is inconvenient to be bothered so we turn the other way. Then we wonder why we reap such horrendous failure and delinquency in an era when our children should be riding high in all areas. In fact, we are finding that warm, responsive parents who educate their children at home usually bring out genius in some area, such as art, music, electronics, writing, astronomy, and other sciences.

Learning to be thinkers rather than mere reflectors of others’ thoughts should be a constant goal in the education of your children, both for their academic achievement and for character’s sake. If you help your children to think through the consequences of their thoughts and actions and to realize that one day they inevitably must face those consequences in one way or another, they are more likely to be on their way to sound behavior.

The recipe for making thinkers is simple, but requires your close, affectionate, and consistent attention to your children:

First, your truthful responsiveness (and again we stress consistency) is crucial. Don’t give them a silly answer one time and a serious one another. This does not mean you have no humor, for the best of humor is not farcical, but grows out of real life incidents. Joking and jesting, on the other hand, are being humorous just for the sake of being funny and are never appropriate if you want stable thinkers.

Second, remember not to expect much deep or consistent thoughtfulness of children under age eight, and even less if they are younger.

Third, beginning at around ages three to five, ask why and how questions, first very simple ones and then more complex as they grow older. Don’t demand deep or complex answers until the age range of about eight to twelve (but be happy and especially attentive if your child has achieved this cognitive readiness earlier). Yet don’t feel disappointed if your child is a slow developer; he may be the brightest of all.

Around ages three to five you can ask or answer such questions as “Why does Daddy leave every morning? (He goes to work.) Or “How do you get water out of the faucet?” (Turn it on.) Or yet, “Why does ice float?” (It has air inside, making it lighter than water.)

There is always a risk involved, of course, when children are encouraged to think. A key challenge will be how attentive and responsive you can be to their questions and the consistency of your sound example. Otherwise they will look to others.

In the first place, we start our children out wrong when we force them into any institutional care before they are able to reason consistently. No teacher or caretaker can listen, respond, and provide the love and firmness that are needed in these early years. Formal academic pressures, whether at home or school, may force a child to learn many facts but will fail to allow the child to attain his or her maximum cognitive development. Such reasoning skills as putting oneself in another’s place, abstract thinking, and moral judgments of right and wrong cannot be taught to children on a consistent basis until they are around eight to twelve years old – the ages when they reach cognitive readiness.

Many schools, realizing that their children are not ready for such thoughtful studies, simply give them workbookish nonsense, which is boring and stifles their imaginations, which are normally so excited in their early years. We give them adult contrived fantasies such as Sesame Street and Mickey Mouse. We then proceed to institutionalize and conventionalize this foolishness in the classroom almost to the point of reverence, when in fact it deprives our youngsters of doing their own thing.

Because of time constraints and other pressures, teachers tend to handle classes by having students memorize facts for tests rather than helping them apply principles, digest, assimilate, and organize information. Such techniques make the student more or less dependent on the judgment and perception of others.

Look at the finding of Professor McCurdy when he was preparing the report on genius for the Smithsonian Institution: Your children need (1) a great deal of you (2) very little of their agemates, and (3) a rich experience in exploring for themselves.1 Somehow young Tom Edison’s mother understood this. It mattered not for her that she did not have a college education, nor will it for you.

What does matter is that you give your children a lot of warm responsiveness. Do not rush them into formal study at home or in school, but in due time see that they have the basic learning skills of the Western world, and open the doors – in libraries, at home, in the great outdoors – for them to search for themselves. Otherwise they will fail to reach their potential because they have been sent to school before they were cognitively ready for what they would experience.

As was implied earlier, children who are taught to think for themselves invariably will be asking more whys and hows and few whats, wheres, and whens, which are the questions answered by the curriculum in most conventional schools today. And when we give them the right models they get more than the instruction becomes three dimensional. When we do, we will have many more George Washingtons and George Washington Carvers; Benjamin Franklins and Andrew Carnegies; Abraham Lincolns and Wright brothers; Abigail Adams’s, Pearl Bucks and Sandra Day O’Conners. Already we are seeing a great many such youngsters in the home school renaissance, which harks back to the educational practices that gave us such men and women through the history of America.

When you are warm and responsive, a consistent comrade to your children, you will build creative integrity. As they grow into ages of consistent reasonability, they will think things through in a sound way and will be safe for the family democracy. Such children are much better candidates for self-control, the kind of discipline which will be a credit to you. They have that quality of self-worth which is altogether more productive than mere self-esteem. They will be creative, free-enterprising individuals of the kind who build strong families and great nations.

1 Harold G. McCurdy, “The Childhood Pattern of Genius,” Horizon 3 (May, 1960):33-8

The above article was excerpted from the Moore’s book Home Built Discipline, pages 138-142.

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