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Different Styles of Homeschooling Explained

Homeschooling is growing in our country. It is a completely valid and effective way to educate our children. It is legal in all the states. If you do not know the law as it pertains to homeschooling in your state, I would highly recommend familiarizing yourself. Homeschooling is beautiful and can bring so much joy in your life. It can also be incredibly overwhelming, especially when you are starting out.

There is a pressure we feel as homeschool parents, mostly put on ourselves by ourselves, to not screw this up. We feel that there is no one else to blame and if we do not produce amazing, talented, geniuses, we have failed. We look to state standards and common core to tell us what our children should know by a certain age. We stress out if they are not doing the same things as their public school counter parts.

I am in community with A LOT of homeschool families. Do you know what is amazing??? Each homeschool looks different. There are similar themes that run through many of the families, but each one is distinctly different. We have different ways to schedule our days. We use different curriculum. We have different teaching styles. Some of us have free range children. Some of us use online curriculum. Some of us are classical in our approach, some are text book lovers, some adhere to schedules, some do not, some have designated school rooms and some school wherever they may fall. And you know what… they are all doing it right.

As homeschoolers, we get to set the tone. We get to set the pace. In North Carolina, I am the chief administrator of my school. I am the one who sets the goals and decides what we will be learning. We are asked to keep attendance, keep immunization records, and do yearly testing. Outside of those requirements, I have complete creative control of our homeschool. Now… it is my goal to have my children college ready when they graduate from highschool. Will all of my children go to college? I don’t know. Do I want them to have the option? Yes. So, I will build our highschool years to include those courses needed to get into college.

Ok… so how do you know what is best for you? How do you know what style of homeschooling will work in your home? How do you know if you are doing it right? Honestly…trial and error. For real… you might have to go through a few years (yes years) of finding your groove. You will need to take time figuring out 1. How do you learn? How do you teach? 2. How do your children learn? Are they auditory learners? visual learners? kinesthetic? I would recommend reading a book called 8 great Smarts by Kathy Koch.

We just completed our tenth year of homeschooling. I have gone through my own journey from creating school at home, using a boxed curriculum, unit studies, and now delight directed learning. For me, it was a giving up of control and realizing the beauty of including my kids in the decisions of what and how we learn. I love the way we school, but I understand it is not for everyone. Perhaps the following list can help you understand more about how you homeschool and how you want to homeschool. Perhaps it can confirm you are on the right track? Perhaps it can challenge you to try something new? Maybe, just maybe, it can give you peace in the process to follow your conviction and desire to homeschool.

In my experience, there are seven different methods or philosophies of homeschooling: Classical, Charlotte Mason, Montesorri, School at Home/ Traditional, Unit Studies, Unschooling and Delight Directed, and Eclectic. I do not claim to be an expert in these methods, but I think I know enough about each one to give a fairly hearty overview.

Classical

Classical education depends on a three-part process of training the mind. The early years of school are spent in absorbing facts, systematically laying the foundations for advanced study. In the middle grades, students learn to think through arguments. In the high school years, they learn to express themselves. This classical pattern is called the trivium.

Susan Wise Bauer

The early years of Classical Education focus on building the foundations of language. Children’s minds are very absorbant in early elementary. A lot of memorization is used during these years. Rules of phonics, spelling, grammar, stories, poetry, history, science, and more are focused on during these ages.

The second phase of classical education is referred to as the “logic stage.” Children begin to ask “Why?” and are paying more attention to cause and effect and relationships between the different fields.

The final stage is referred to as the “rhetoric stage.” Building on the foundation of the first two stages, students are able to use elegant language and thought as they begin to explore fields that interest them.

Classical education has a strong focus on language, the various fields of study are interwoven, and is systematic and rigourous. You can search for a group called Classical Conversations (they can be found across the country) to learn more about the classical approach and join in community with others who share a similar desire for educating children.

Classical education can be very time intensive and may involve some creativity and extra effort on the part of the parent when encountering struggling learners.

You can read more about the Classical Method of Education HERE.

Charlotte Mason

The Charlotte Mason approach can be explained in this way, “Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life.”

Atmosphere describes the surroundings in which a child grows up. Children absorb so much from their home environment… the people the encounter, the toys, the books, the general atmosphere. Children will see their parents’ values played out before their eyes on a daily basis.

Discipline refers to the development of good habits, specifically the habits of good character.

Life applies to academics. Charlotte Mason believed that “we should give children living thoughts, not just dry facts.” The ideas promoted in the Charlotte Mason methods surround this desire.

Charlotte Mason encourages the use of living books that make subjects come alive. Dictation, narration, and copywork are all important in the Charlotte Mason methods. Spending time in nature and studying artists and composers are very important components in the Charlotte Mason way.

Charlotte Mason lived during a time when formal education did not often go beyond sixth grade. This is a very strong method for young students, but may be a little weak in the high school years. Charlotte Mason is very language and literature savvy. A separate math and science may be needed when using this approach.

A few curriculum that are Charlotte Mason friendly are Simply Charlotte Mason, The Good and The Beautiful, and Parts of Schoolhouse Teachers.

Montessori

Maria Montessori was a medical doctor and Italian educator in the late 19th and early 20th century who focused her attention on how young children learn. Her findings led to an educational philosophy that revolutionized early childhood education and continues to influence preschools, daycares, church schools, and homes to this day. When I was a public school teacher, we had a Montessori program option for preK-5th grade. Her methods are very homeschool friendly.

Self regulation is the key to the Montessori method. A child is taught to regulate his or her conduct in an appropriate way in various situations. Characteristics of the Montessori philosophy include:

  • mixed age classrooms
  • cooperation and collaboration among students
  • hands on learning
  • active learning methods
  • teachers modeling behavior for students to emulate
  • teachers are facilitators, not instructors
  • respect for individual learning styles
  • freedom to choose between learning styles
  • guidance in positive behavior and conflict resolution
  • helping students see connections between subjects

Incorporating the Montessori Method in your home would include displaying educational materials and books in an accessible and inviting way for your children. You would make craft supplies, physical activity equipment, open ended building toys, and building tools available. You can search for Montessori curriculum or how to create the materials on your own.

Montessori is an actual teaching method, complete with training and a required certification. This is typically a method seen in public and private schools, but it starting to make its way into the homeschool scene.

School at Home/ Traditional

Traditional or School At Home is largely defined by the use of an all in one curriculum. This type of homeschooling often follows a traditional school schedule, and might even use the same curriculum used by the local schools. Traditional school is conventional and appealing to those families not wanting to “reinvent the wheel,” so to speak.

Many traditional curriculm is aligned to state standards or common core. This helps parents to know what they are getting. These curriculm allow for measures of success. These translate well to transcripts needed for college admission.

I know many people who bring their children home for middle school with the intention of sending them back to school for high school. A traditional curriculum is a way to keep your student on track with their public school counterparts.

While these all in one curriculum choices can be complete and comforting, they can also be expensive. There can also be a pressure that comes to complete the entire year that could lead to burn out for the homeschool teacher and student. The workload is often intense and may be hard for some types of learners.

Some great, traditional curriculm choices include Abeka, Bob Jones, Sonlight, Rod and Staff, and K12.

Unit Studies

Unit studies are thematically related learning plans where students will study the same event or object from the perspective of each subject area.

When I was a preschool teacher in the public school system, I built my whole year on unit studies. This is a really fun way to build your year. The units included in my preschool class included such things as transportation, zoos, plants, feelings and emotions, cooking, seasons, and more. You can use Pinterest to design some amazing unit studies.

We have used unit studies off and on throughout our homeschool. One year, my girls and I read through the American Girl History Books and studied American History. We would do different activities based on the books we were reading. For example, Kaya is a Native American girl who lives in the 1700s. Her horse is very important to her so we learned all about horses. My girls completed a lapbook about horses. If you don’t know what lapbooks are, I HIGHLY recommend looking it up. The website Homeschool Share has tons of printable templates for lapbooks. We also studied the time period when each girl lived. We found where they lived on a map. The books allowed for easy subject matter to study. My girls loved learning in this way.

We have also use the Christian Hero Then and Now books to build some pretty great Unit Studies. My friends at Homeschool Legacy have some FANTASTIC Unit studies that you can download and print and are perfect for grades 2-12.

Unit studies are a great approach to learning. It is very easy to incorporate all the areas of study when they are younger, but you will likely need to have a separate, consistent math curriculum as your students get older. Unit studies can sometimes produce gaps in learning. They can be a great complement to other curriculum and help bridge gaps between subjects.

Unschooling and Delight Directed Learning

Unschooling is a method born largely out of the teachings and observations of John Holt.  Unschooling is a free-form learning model which is student-centered, unconventional, and individualistic. From what I understand from reading some of John Holt’s work, unschooling is the complete opposite of conventional schooling. It very much casts off anything to do with conventional schooling and gives children the complete control of their education and schedules. Parents are merely facilitators who follow the child’s lead. Unschooling requires a sense of adventure and an open mind. Unschooling allows children to find a passion and helps them develop said passion.

Unschooling typically has a very loose structure. “Unschooling savors the individual creative expression over assembly line efficiency.”

Delight Directed Learning is how I describe the type of schooling we do in our home. You can learn more about our philosophy HERE. I will say that I believe (and this is simply my opinion) that unschooling, in it’s truest form, goes against God’s design for family. God has given children into the authority and care of their parents. When we let our children rule the home and lead the family, we have thrown the balance off in an unhealthy way.

Delight directed learning still allows for wide margins to explore passion and creativity. The “academic” portion of the day is very minimal in comparison to the interest led and passion seeking portion. The parent is the facilitator and instructor. The parent studies their child and learns how to best guide and help them find that passion.

Delight directed learning involves taking a lot of detours when something peaks a child’s interest. I have a child that only wanted to learn about pandas for three years. As the parent, I guided her in that passion and helped her to learn about China, careers with pandas, facts about pandas, etc. She learned how to use Google Slides to present findings. She learned to ask questions at the zoo, use Google to complete searches. She needed guidance to pursue that which interested her.

I do believe children need to learn to endure hard things. Unschooling says, “You choose what do you do.” Delight directed says, “There are things you still have to do… like Algebra”. Again… this is my opinion, determined through our years of homeschooling.

Eclectic Homeschooling

Not sure that you can find one particular method that works for you? Do you like aspects of each of the above methods? You may just be an eclectic homeschooler. Eclectic or relaxed homeschooling is extremely popular right now. “Homeschool parents love to share ideas and resources across different methodologies because their key focus is not in propping up a method, or touting some favored curriculum. Their main objective is educating their child and each child is unique. Eclectic homeschooling is typically child-directed, resourceful, and non-curriculum based.”

This method is very flexible. You may be a person that needs structure for 3 days of the week with allowing time for nature walks or spontaneous fieldtrips. You might have a student that thrives on checklists and traditional schooling and another student who is creative and needs freedom to explore.

This is a method that is great for those of us who have been at this homeschooling thing for a while. You are confident in who you are. You are able to step away from the box curriculum and co op classes without fear that you are failing your children. This method allows you to pick and choose your favorite aspects of various methods and incorporate them into your homeschool. It also gives the ability to change directions when needed.

This method can get overwhelming when you start to see all the options out there. You may have FOMO (fear of missing out) and want to have all. the. things. We live in a time when there is always something new and shiny trying to grab our attention. Homeschool curriculum companies are popping up all the time. Eclectic homeschooling can become very overwhelming, very quickly.

Here is a quick glance some of the curriculum options that would work well with the various types of homeschooling. This is just a few of the amazing options that exist.

I hope this has helped you as you move forward in your homeschooling journey. Here’s the thing… you may start off as an unschooler and end up as a traditional homeschooler. I always recommend people sit down and develop a vision for homeschooling. Why are you doing it? What are your ultimate hopes and dreams for your kids. Vision for homeschooling and philosophy are different.

This about it like this… if vision is the why and philosophy is the how, I would encourage you to hold tightly to your vision and loosely to your philosophy.

What type of homeschooler are you?

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