Homeschooling Approaches



Although every family is unique, certain homeschooling approaches have become popular in one form or another. Most homeschoolers do not exactly follow one style or method, but rather select ideas and methods from among different approaches to best fit their family’s needs. Many of these methods have several common elements such as defined objectives, lesson plans, frequent library visits, family nights, portfolios, and even tutoring and mentoring. When looking at the differences between homeschooling approaches, it is important to see what they have in common as well as their differences.

The first step in choosing a homeschooling approach is to gather information about the options that exist. Ask yourself a few questions to help you decide what homeschooling methods best fit your family. Are you a highly organized person?  Do you like your day to be predictable, or are you inclined to stay flexible, ready to adapt to changing circumstances?  Would you prefer that you not be told what to do?  Do you want your curriculum to be planned for you, with teacher instructions and worksheets for the children?  Or do you want to be able to pick and choose which books they read and which activities to engage in?

As you study these descriptions and talk to experienced homeschoolers, you can start to get a feel for the style that best fits you and your family.


The following are the most popular homeschooling approaches:




School-at-home is the style most often portrayed in the media because it is so easy to understand and can be accompanied by a photo of children studying around the kitchen table. This is also the most expensive method and the style with the highest burnout rate. Most families who follow the school-at-home approach purchase a boxed curriculum that comes with textbooks, study schedules, grades, and record keeping.


Unit Studies


Unit studies use your child’s interest and then ties that interest into subject areas like math, reading, spelling, science, art and history. For example, if you have a child who is interested in ancient Egypt, you would learn the history of Egypt, read books about Egypt, write stories about Egypt, do art projects about pyramids, and learn about Egyptian artifacts or mapping skills to map out a catacomb.




Unschooling is also known as natural, interest-led, and child-led learning. Unschoolers learn from everyday life experiences and do not use school schedules or formal lessons. Instead, unschooled children follow their interests and learn in much the same way as adults do—by pursuing an interest or curiosity. Unschooled children learn their math, science, reading and history in the same way that children learn to walk and talk.


“Relaxed” or “Eclectic” Homeschooling


“Relaxed” or “Eclectic” homeschooling is the method used most often by homeschoolers. Basically, eclectic homeschoolers use a little of this and a little of that such as workbooks for math, reading, and spelling, and taking an unschooling approach for the other subjects.


Classical Homeschooling


The “classical” method began in the Middle Ages and was the approach used by some of the greatest minds in history. The goal of the classical approach is to teach people how to learn for themselves. The five tools of learning, known as the Trivium, are reason, record, research, relate, and rhetoric. Younger children begin with the preparing stage, where they learn basic reading, writing, and arithmetic. The grammar stage is next, which emphasizes compositions and collections, and then the dialectic stage, where serious reading, study, and research take place. All the tools come together in the rhetoric stage, where communication is the primary focus.


The Charlotte Mason Method


The Charlotte Mason method has at its core the belief that children deserve respect and that they learn best from real-life situations. According to Charlotte Mason, children should be given time to play, create, and be involved in real-life situations from which they can learn. Students of the Charlotte Mason method take nature walks, visit art museums, and learn geography, history, and literature from “living books,” books that make these subjects come alive. Students also show what they know, not by taking tests, but via narration and discussion.


The Waldorf Method


The Waldorf method is also used by some homeschoolers. Waldorf education is based on the work of Rudolf Steiner and stresses the importance of educating the whole child—body, mind, and spirit. In the early grades, there is an emphasis on arts and crafts, music and movement, and nature. Older children are taught to develop self-awareness and how to reason things out for themselves. Children in a Waldorf homeschool do not use standard textbooks; instead, the children create their own books.




Montessori materials are also popular in some households. The Montessori method emphasizes “errorless learning,” where the children learn at their own pace and in that way develop their full potential. The Montessori homeschool emphasizes beauty and avoids things that are confusing or cluttered. Wooden tools are preferred over plastic tools, and learning materials are kept well-organized and ready to use. Most homeschoolers use the Montessori method for younger children.


Multiple Intelligences


“Multiple intelligences” is an idea developed by Howard Gardner and Harvard University’s “project zero.” The belief is that everyone is intelligent in his or her own way and that learning is easiest and most effective when it uses a person’s strengths instead of their weakness. For example, most schools use a linguistic and logical-mathematical approach when teaching, but not everyone learns that way. Some students, the bodily kinesthetic learners for example, learn best by touching and not by listening or reading. Most successful homeschoolers naturally emphasize their children’s strengths and automatically tailor their teaching to match their child’s learning style. Successful homeschoolers also adjust their learning environment and schedule so that it brings out their child’s’ best. The goal for the homeschooling parents is to identify how, when, and what their child learns best and to adapt their teaching style to their child.


Hybrid Homeschooling (part-time)


Hybrid homeschoolers work in the middle ground between a traditional type of schooling, and homeschooling. Many hybrid homeschoolers work with their public school system or utilize co-op classes, tutors, and even private school programs. While hybrids work with a more traditional type of schooling, they only do this a few days per week. Homeschoolers find this method more appealing as children get older, because it provides a more structured environment for the child, and can take a lot of weight off of the parents shoulders as well as free up a good deal of your time. One program that offers a hybrid option is iQ Academy.


Internet Homeschooling


The Internet Homeschooling method has become a widespread phenomenon that allows homeschoolers to harness the power of the Internet by accessing virtual tutors, virtual schools, online curriculum, and quality websites. Parents are turning to this method because they can set their own schedule, learn online wherever there is internet access, talk to teachers one on one whenever their child needs help, and can study subjects that interest their child. Also, schools like iQ Academy, let you work at your own pace, and even provide students with a laptop*.

Many internet homeschooling programs provide broad, engaging curriculum, individual support for students, and personalized instruction. With Internet Homeschooling, you never need to feel that you can’t find help, expert advice and/or resources to home school your child. You’ll never have to worry about not being able to teach your child Calculus and Physics. There is a wealth of cutting-edge online curriculum programs, free online-public school programs, private distance learning schools, homeschool support academies and more. One such Internet Homeschooling program is iQ Academy—a complete online school that fits your schedule, and your family. As an accredited, public, tuition-free school, iQ Academy offers an innovative, high-quality alternative to the traditional learning experience.