“Which Homeschool Curriculum is Best?”
by Homeschool.com’s Rebecca Kochenderfer
Are all homeschool programs equal to one another? Absolutely not! In most cases, they do all cover the same concepts. But, the order in which they do so and the way the material is presented is what makes them unique. With so many choices, how can you choose the one that’s best for your students? The first thing you’ll want to do is figure out which homeschool style best suits your family. From there, you can choose a program that fits your individual style!
Homeschooling looks different for each family. That’s largely because there are different methods and homeschooling styles that suit each individual family.. If this is news to you, you’re probably wondering which category best describes your own family! Below, we’ve outlined the most popular homeschooling styles:
- School-at-home: Even if you are unfamiliar with homeschooling, this is probably the method most familiar to you. That’s because this method of homeschooling attempts to take the classroom atmosphere and recreates it in a home setting. Students typically use the dining table or their own desks while they complete schoolwork. Not surprisingly, this method is a) the most costly and b) the one with the highest burnout rate. Some popular school-at-home publishers include ABeka Book and Bob Jones University.
- Unschooling: As its name implies, unschooling is just the opposite of schooling formally. The “un-” indicates a complete breaking away from traditional methods of teaching and learning. Students learn about the things that interest them instead of a prescribed list of objectives. This method of learning is probably the most natural way because it’s interest-led and interests vary from person to person and from day to day. Some great books on the topic of unschooling include Dumbing Us Down and Sandra Dodd’s Big Book of Unschooling.
- Classical: Classical homeschoolers look to our founding fathers for inspiration. The goal of this method is to teach students how to be independent learners. Classical homeschoolers teach according to students’ developmental stages. They’re classified as being in either the Grammar (Upper or Lower) stage, the Dialectic stage, or the Rhetoric stage. (Some Classical homeschoolers refer to a stage known as “Preparing” before the Grammar stage.) As an example of curriculum, many Classical homeschoolers enjoy The Well-Trained Mind for its simplicity. Others seem to like Tapestry of Grace for its thoroughness.
- Charlotte Mason: For Charlotte Mason homeschoolers, there is a huge emphasis on nature and living books. In addition, short (but “deep”) lessons are valued over long lessons that barely tap into topics. Living books are real books you’d pick up at the library, usually in the juvenile nonfiction section. Instead of using textbooks – which only deliver a set amount of information and at a publisher’s discretion – Charlotte Mason homeschoolers prefer to use a book in its entirety. These books are said to make their topics “come alive” for readers. They also usually have their students keep a “nature notebook” for science and a “Book of Centuries” timeline book for history. Time4Learning is PERFECT for those who choose to give their students a Charlotte Mason education. Lessons are short, freeing students up to engage in nature notebooks and living books. Also, online homeschooling, in general, takes a weight off parents’ shoulders. You’ll have the basics covered and can go in-depth with topics that truly interest your students.
- Montessori: Homeschoolers who take a Montessori approach believe even young children can become independent if given the opportunity. The Montessori approach places emphasis on avoiding things that don’t have an aesthetic appeal; if it’s “clutter,” Montessori homeschoolers will eliminate it. Preferring wooden toys over plastic, they also emphasize quality over quantity. There are many great Montessori homeschooling resources available!
- Relaxed Homeschoolers: Relaxed homeschoolers are often considered “borderline unschoolers.” These homeschoolers don’t quite lean all the way toward unschooling, but that’s usually just a technicality. Many of them don’t use the label “unschooling” because they do have at least some things they want their children to do/learn, even if it’s just the three Rs.
- Eclectic Homeschoolers: Eclectic simply means they don’t subscribe to any one homeschooling method. Rather, they take what they can use from any homeschooling method and toss the rest. As an eclectic homeschooler, students may use a textbook for some subjects and involve themselves in a unit study for other subjects while simultaneously “unschooling” for electives. Or, they may use textbooks for everything but might pull from a variety of homeschooling styles to teach from the textbooks. Using this method of homeschooling, you’d simply pull from resources you enjoy using, which may be a mixture of online homeschooling and other resources.
- Waldorf: Waldorf homeschoolers pull from the teachings of Rudolf Steiner who said students should be taught holistically – their bodies, minds, and spirits – instead of just teaching the mind. At the younger levels, students hone in on their arts and crafts skills, nature, music, and movement. As they get older, students are taught to have a sense of self-awareness and to think things through on their own. Waldorf students don’t always purchase textbooks; instead, they often make their own starting with what is known as the Main Lesson book. Furthermore, Waldorf homeschoolers don’t generally allow students access to television and computers because they believe such items are bad for the mental health of young students.
Once you’ve figured out which homeschooling style is the perfect fit for your family, you’ll be able to choose a curriculum that suits your style. A word of caution: don’t get too caught up in labels at the expense of happiness. A label makes things easier to define, but it’s okay if you don’t fit completely into any specific label. What’s important is that you use homeschooling to your advantage and choose the curriculum that makes you happy. Remember: the best curriculum is the one that actually gets done!