Discover Your Homeschool Method
What’s Your Homeschool Method?
Your homeschool method is your teaching style.
Read on to find out which one (or two or three) fit you and your family best!
Although every homeschool is unique, certain homeschooling styles and approaches have become very popular. Most homeschoolers do not follow one style or method exactly especially since there are so many different types of homeschooling styles. Instead, they select the ideas and suggestions that fit their family and eventually end up with a method all their own.
It may take some time to develop your own routine and you may discover that you start out more structured in the beginning and become more flexible and relaxed as time goes on. Every family is unique, so find the type of homeschooling that works best for you and your children. Not sure how to find out your unique homeschooling method? Take this easy homeschool styles quiz to get an idea of what homeschool method works for you. Remember, if you take the quiz a few times and get different answers, you may be an eclectic homeschooler! See the explanation below for more information on eclectic homeschooling!
So, what’s a learning preference?
Some children prefer structure and learn best when they are told what to do, others learn best on their own. Some children do their best work around the kitchen table, and others excel when they are out-of-doors. 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. Here is a special learning styles quiz designed to help you figure it out.
These are the most popular types of homeschooling, however, there are many more and many combinations of these. In fact, each homeschooling family will have their own unique homeschooling style!
You can click on the name of the homeschooling style to see what a “typical day” is like for each.
Or, visit our Homeschool Styles Podcasts to learn more. In addition, visit our
Homeschooling Approaches page for explanation on more homeschooling styles.
“Relaxed” or “Eclectic” homeschooling method is used most often by homeschoolers. Basically, eclectic homeschoolers use a little of this and a little of that, using workbooks for math, reading, and spelling, and taking an unschooling approach for the other subjects.
For the family who practices “relaxed” or eclectic homeschooling, mornings are often used for more formal, “have to” work, and afternoons are used for hobbies and other special projects. There are no specific times set up for each subject, but instead, the child is expected to meet certain educational goals.
For help, the eclectic or relaxed homeschooler may rely on regular classroom standards for their child’s grade level and for some this may be what is traditional homeschooling (for example, studying multiplication in the 2nd grade, California missions in the 4th grade, and U.S. history in the 9th grade). They may also use standardized tests to measure their child’s progress.
The advantage of the Eclectic method is that the parent feels that the “important” subjects are being covered thoroughly. This method also allows the family to choose textbooks, field trips and classes that fit their needs and interests. A complete list of books, catalogs and online curriculum is available in Homeschool.com’s Resource Guide at www.Homeschool.com/Resource.
“During our seven years of homeschooling we have used several approaches, including a unit study curriculum. Then we began using some of this and a little of that and doing lots of field trips, having more of an eclectic approach. For a couple years we ‘co-op’ schooled with my sister-in-law and a close friend. It was a great experience. This year we’re trying a few subjects in an online school, while keeping some of the workbook subjects that we’ve had success in. Our curriculum includes band for three of the kids at the local school, Civil Air Patrol for our oldest son, Boy Scouts for the middle son, and Girl Scouts for our daughters and myself, as well as active involvement and service with our church. We also include many field trips and activities with our local homeschool support group.”
The School-At-Home Approach to Homeschooling
School-at-Home or Traditional homeschooling 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. You may wonder what is traditional homeschooling? This is it! This is also the most expensive and the type of homeschooling method with the highest burnout rate.
Most families who follow the school-at-home approach purchase boxed curriculum that comes with textbooks, study schedules, grades and record keeping. Some families use the school-at-home approach, but make up their own lesson plans and find their own learning materials.
The advantage of this style is that families know exactly what to teach and when to teach it. That can be a comfort when you are just starting out.
The disadvantage is that this method requires much more work on the part of the teacher/parent and the lessons are not as much fun for the children.
A complete list of curriculum suppliers is available in Homeschool.com’s Resource Guide. The school-at-home family follows the schedule established by the curriculum they purchased. For help, school-at-home families contact their curriculum provider. Their children may also turn assignments into the curriculum provider for grading and evaluation.
“My daughter prefers the school-at-home homeschooling method. I had intended to follow a more relaxed plan myself, but she likes having different subjects and lesson plans, and a part of each day devoted to ‘schoolwork.'”
Unschooling Method of Homeschooling
The Unschooling homeschool style 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. In the same way that children learn to walk and talk, unschooled children, learn their math, science, reading, and history.
Pat Montgomery, homeschooling advisor for over 50 years and founder of Clonlara Private Day School, defined unschooling in a speech she made to parents at a homeschooling conference in August 2001, titled: Unschooling: Catch the Spirit.
“I think, first we have to define what unschooling is, because it is different things to different people. For some it is living and learning without any school at all. For others, it means not using any pre-packaged materials. For others, it is letting kids do whatever they want. For me, unschooling is taking responsibility for your own learning and the learning of those around you. It’s focusing on the interests of the child. It’s focusing on your own interests, your own abilities. It’s learning in spurts and it’s goofing off – not necessarily in equal doses. And, all of it, for me, spells freedom. Freedom to learn. Freedom is never given. It is taken.”
Unschoolers embrace that freedom and believe strongly that learning happens naturally and effortlessly and they trust in their child’s ability to direct their own learning. This Ted Talk video by a 13-year-old homeschooler is an excellent example of Unschooling. He calls it “Hackschooling”. Notice how he does not use one single curriculum. Notice how his learning is based on his interests. Notice how his homeschooling takes place at home, at Starbucks, and out in the community.
The advantage of using the unschooling homeschool method is that unschooled children have the time and research abilities to become experts in their areas of interest.
The disadvantage is that because unschoolers do not follow the typical school schedule, they may not do as well on grade level assessments and may have a difficult time if they re-enter the school system.
For help, unschoolers turn to other homeschoolers and to the community. They set up classes and clubs together. They trade private lessons with other homeschoolers. They do not take tests and do not teach to state-mandated standards or schedules. It’s important to compare your personal style to find the types of homeschooling methods that work for you!
The “Classical” homeschool approach has existed since the Middle Ages and has produced some of the greatest minds in history. The goal of the classical homeschool technique 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 the three R’s. 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. For help, homeschoolers following the classical homeschool technique will read books about this method, find websites about classical homeschooling, and possibly join a classical homeschooling support group.
Classical homeschoolers have a unique way of creating “History Notebooks.”These notebooks are very popular with Eclectic homeschoolers too. Many Eclectic homeschoolers will borrow this way of teaching history and will add it to their own Eclectic curriculum. The most popular book on the Classical approach is “The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home” by Jessie Wise and Susan Wise Bauer.
“After comparing homeschool methods, we decided to use the classical approach in our homeschool. I believe that the classical approach is one that gives my child a complete education, one that teaches him/her to think and ask questions. I prefer my child be able to tell me why World War II took place, as opposed to telling me specific facts about World War II. I think this is the biggest difference between classical education and any other method or approach. “
Charlotte Mason Homeschooling
Charlotte Mason Homeschooling method has at its core the belief that children are not mere containers waiting to be filled with knowledge, but persons in their own right deserving of respect. 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).
For help, homeschoolers using the Charlotte Mason homeschool teaching style can gather information from books, web sites and perhaps even create their own Charlotte Mason support group. Students also show what they know, not by taking tests, but via narration and discussion. Popular books on this method include “A Charlotte Mason Education” and “More Charlotte Mason Education,” both by Katherine Levison.
The Waldorf Homeschooling method is a popular homeschooling technique. 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.
The Waldorf homeschooling method also discourages the use of televisions and computers because they believe that computers are bad for the child’s health and creativity. Books about the Waldorf method are available from the Rudolf Steiner Bookstore (916-961-8727). Waldorf curriculum and support is available from Oak Meadow. It’s so important to align your homeschool curriculum by learning style.
The Montessori homeschooling method is another popular homeschooling style. 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 approach emphasizes beauty and quality 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. For help, the Montessori homeschooling family would turn to their library to read books about the Montessori method. They might also contact a Montessori school in their neighborhood for suggestions and guidance.
The Montessori method also discourages televisions and computers, especially for younger children. Although Montessori materials are available for high school students, most homeschoolers use the Montessori method for younger children. Books and curriculum on the Montessori method are available from American Montessori Consulting (562-598-2321).
Multiple Intelligences Homeschooling
The Multiple Intelligences Homeschooling Method 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 weaknesses.
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. For example, an active, hands-on learner, who has a hard time sitting still to read, may prefer to listen to audio versions of classic children’s books, while drawing or building things. Or, you may have a voracious reader who learns best by reading and then writing essays to show what she knows.
Most successful homeschoolers naturally emphasize their children’s strengths and automatically tailor their teaching to match the child’s learning style. Successful homeschoolers also adjust their learning environment and schedule so that it brings out the child’s best. For help, the family using the “multiple intelligences” model would turn to books about learning styles and different homeschooling methods.
Unit Study Homeschooling
The Unit Study Method of Homeschooling is a somewhat eclectic method of homeschooling that allows students to take a deep dive into topics that interest them or as an organized way to thematically cover assigned grade-level concepts.
Unit studies incorporate the basic subjects into a thematic unit. Any unit can cover reading, writing, math, science, social studies, and fine arts. Lessons are adaptable to different skill levels, various learning styles, and multiple intelligences.
Thematic unit studies start with a primary subject area, such as Literature or History. This primary subject progresses in sequential order from topic to topic. Each chapter ties in other subject areas with practical hands-on activities. The students make meaningful connections between the various subjects.
The daily schedule is streamlined so the parent does not have to juggle separate textbooks for each child. There’s not enough time in the school day to cover everything anyway. Each student can explore the topic at their own ability level.