The method of home education you choose is entirely up to you. You can opt to follow the national curriculum, i.e. traditional learning, or you can employ one of the many methods and styles that have gained popularity over time. Here are some questions for you to think about when thinking about the best method for you and your child.
- Do you want your home-education style to help you instil a specific value system to your children?
- Do you prefer to leave value systems out of your specific home-school approach?
- Do you ascribe to a specific educational philosophy that would affect how you approach your child’s education?
- Are you neutral in terms of educational philosophies and prefer to focus on other aspects of education?
- Do you know how long you plan to home-school and whether your child will be returning to the classroom at some point?
- Is your home-school duration open-ended?
- Do you have specific personal, family, or educational goals that you want your child(ren) to accomplish while homeschooling?
- Will you be taking each home-school year as you come to it, rather than having overarching goals?
- Are there personal, financial, or medical circumstances that could affect how you home-school?
- Do you prefer to home-school irrespective of family circumstances?
- Do you prefer to follow a single home-school style that will define everything you do in your home education model?
- Are you comfortable mixing and matching home-school approaches to create whatever blend of home-school style best fits your individual child(ren)?
To help you decide what might work best for you, here is a brief introduction to some of the most popular home education methods:
- School at Home
- Charlotte Mason
- Unit or Project Studies
School-at-Home is basically the same as your local public or private school classroom, but it’s implemented at home. School-at-Home education is typically organized around complete curriculum packages, often arranged by school year, and might even be the same curriculum your local public or private school uses. School-at-Home education can be done independently and administered entirely by a parent-teacher.
This method suits parents who want to pick up a guide and just start delivering the teaching with lots of worksheets and resources. You also know the curricula are developed by experts and yield A* results. As well as if you plan to put your child in school later down the line.
- Conventional: School-at-Home education is easily understood in terms of conventional school. Not everyone who is looking at homeschooling is interested in “revolutionizing” the entire educational system, or willing to throw out all the methods and strategies of a conventional classroom.
- Formal Standards: Parents already know what they are getting, oftentimes in measurable and standardized categories that translate well into college admission essays and scholarship applications.
- Choices: There are lots of pre-packaged, grade-by-grade, ready-to-use curricula to choose from. And the educational market is loaded with schools vying for more students through distance and online programs. This means competition, which means a wide selection for you to choose from.
- Parallels Public or Private Schools: Students can stay on roughly the same pace with peers at the local public or private school. By conforming to state and federal standards, home school students can be reassured that their education is comparable to that of their conventionally schooled peers. Using the School-at-Home model, parents can even acquire and use the exact textbooks from their local private or public school.
- Short-Term Friendly: Some home school needs are short term, with students re-entering traditional school after a season at home. This short-term may occur when students are in unsettled locations or experiencing unusual living situations, as a consequence of a demanding work schedule (such as tennis, or acting, etc.), or perhaps as the result of an extended injury or illness. School-at-Home education allows the impacted student to spend a semester or a year out of the classroom, then to return, without missing a step.
- Expensive: Buying resources, including workbooks, teachers book and answer keys can get expensive.
- Locked-In: Since School-at-home learning often works through off-site school houses in online and distance learning classrooms, home schoolers are locked into whatever learning track that school has. One can’t “opt-out” of a subject area, an exercise, or a lesson.
- Burn-Out: Most schools will have different teachers to teach different classes. With parents teaching at home, it’s the same teacher and child for every subject for 6 hours of the day. This can lead to burn out if not managed well.
- Abeka books
- Saxon Curricula
- Houghton Mifflin – Homeschool
- Rod and Staff Bible Based Curricula
- Sonlight Curriculum
- Institute for Excellence in Writing
Based largely on the work of homeschooling pioneer John Holt, Unschooling is a free-form learning model which is student-centred, unconventional, and individualistic. Learning plans and study projects focus largely on the student’s interests but with high priority on experiential, activity based, and learn-as-you-go education. Unschooling will consist of some systematic and rigorous teaching when it comes to basic skills like reading, writing, and arithmetic, but this is often administered with a variety of technology and materials, and typically without conventional testing/evaluation. Unschooling allows home school parent-teachers to question most everything about conventional schooling whether public, private, or homeschooling. In this model, parent-teachers tend to be facilitators rather than lecturers, instructors or otherwise “conventional” teachers.
This method works for parents are cynical towards conventional/traditional schooling and think classrooms basically teach kids how to be in a classroom as well as useless information, soon forgotten. You trust your student, generally, to know what’s best for him or her, provided there’s a little structure and a lot of freedom. You believe learning is richer, better, and more indelible when it’s aligned with our immediate needs and interests.
- Adaptability: This method is easily the most flexible methodology out there.
- Passion Driven: Unschooling allows students to academically explore their own passions.
- Loose Structure: Parent-teachers can direct education loosely, by providing minimal structure and an array of options from which students can choose their unique course of learning.
- Dignifies Diversity: Unschooling treats each student as a unique and creative individual. Unschooling is to conventional schooling as freelance art is to factory production.
- Lack of Structure: Students may need more structure and rigor than this (un)method provides. Unschooling allows for facilitators to implement added structure where needed, but it may not be sufficient order or oversight for some students.
- Knowledge Gaps: Unschooling can be sporadic and un-systematic in covering content. This may mean core competencies are left out which they may need down the road.
- John Holt & Pat Farenga, Teach Your Own: The John Holt Book of Homeschooling, 1st Paperback Ed. (De Capo Press, 2003).
- Clark Aldrich, Unschooling Rules: 55 Ways to Unlearn What We Know About Schools and Rediscover Education (Greenleaf Book Group, 2011).
- Mary Griffith, The Unschooling Handbook: How To Use The Whole World As Your Child’s Classroom, 2d ed. (Three Rivers Press, 1998).
- Oliver Demille, A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century. TJedOnline.com 2009.
- “The Master List of Unschooling Resources” by WeedemAndReap
- JohnHoltGWS.com – List of Unschooling Blogs
- Unschoolers.com – Free Resources
Eclectic homeschooling, also called “Relaxed” homeschooling, is the most popular method of homeschooling. The reason for its popularity is obvious. Home school parents love to share ideas and resources across different methodologies because their key focus is not in propping up a method, or touting some favoured curriculum. Their main objective is educating their child and each child is unique. Eclectic homeschooling is typically child-directed, resourceful, and non-curriculum based. It has no built-in loyalties to a particular method and tends to treat curriculum options like a buffet instead of a set meal plan. Parent-teachers can sample from any combination of other homeschooling methods, or resources. This model is the most flexible of all methods.
This works for parents who are a “learn as you go” kind of person, and are comfortable with the responsibility of bringing different curricula together into the same learning plan. Or You’d feel “trapped” if you had to stick to just one homeschooling style.
- Well-suited to Mature Educators: You don’t have to be an expert teacher to understand what works and what does not work for your student. This method allows you to make adjustments as you see fit, like a mature educator. To make those adjustments takes a little wisdom coupled with the flexible integrity needed to shift where necessary and hold your ground on the non-negotiables.
- Popularity: This method is a common default option. As a result, it’s not hard to find networks, groups, or meetups to walk with you through your homeschooling journey.
- Too Many Options: Having the most flexibility and the most resources means the Eclectic method can feel too open-ended, overwhelming you with options. If not done wright, it could be a bad experience.
- TheHomeschoolMom.com – Eclectic Method
- Jeanne Faulkner, “Instead of Curriculum,” (TheHomeschoolMom.com, 2013)
- Amber Oliver, The Relaxed Art of Eclectic Homeschooling (Self-published, 2012).
- Kelly Crawford, Think Outside the Classroom: A Practical Approach to Relaxed Homeschooling (CreateSpace, 2014).
- A2Z Homes Cool
- Learning Style Test
- Time4Learning – Eclectic Homeschool Page
- The Great Courses
- Eclectic-Homeschool.com – Reading List
The Classical Method
The Classical method is based on Greek and Roman traditional teaching methods, which include a trivium-based curriculum and the study of classical texts. It also incorporates Greek and Latin studies.
A major characteristic is that students study numerous subject areas in chronological order, allowing them to appreciate the impact of ideas across time. Another distinguishing element of Classical education is the utilisation of Socratic dialogues. Socratic dialogues encourage pupils to move beyond basic “comprehension” or “skill training” in order to develop enriched understandings of self and world through open-ended questioning.
Additionally, there is also the ‘Principal Approach’ which is a biblical model based on the Old Testament and funeral biblical world view.
This method works for Parents who loves the idea of teaching through classical works and reviving the lost sciences of Logic and other Trivium subjects. The students learn chronologically, making their way to modern philosophy and thought. Instead of exams, students are assessed on their arguments and critical thinking.
- Well-proven: This is a time-tested and well-proven educational style and is very systematic. There are many ready-to-use curricula
- Great-Books: There is focus on some of the greatest classical books that deploy some of the most influential ideas and most important conversations throughout history. Because reading is key to get ahead in this method, students become well-read, have outstanding vocabulary and find most things easy to comprehend.
- Logic & Critical Thinking: The trivium reinforces learning logic and implementing it with critical thinking or as lateral thinking and problem solving.
- Reading amount: Students may find the amount of reading to do to difficult and with the pressures, it has a knock-on effect on the comprehension. It may even be the books studied are too sophisticated for the students.
- Time Trade-offs: Reading is time-consuming. This means students have less time to focus on other activities.
- Less Experiential/Interactive Learning: The main premise of Classical learning revolves around reading books and discussion, whereas as other methods use methods that are more hands-on.
- Languages: Some may argue, students are better off learning Spanish, Arabic or mandarin as opposed to Greek and Latin.
- Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise, The Well Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education, 3rd ed. (Norton, 2009).
- Robert Harris, “On the Purpose of Liberal Arts Education” by VirtualSalt [Online], 14 March 1991.
- Ravi Jain and Kevin Clark, The Liberal Arts Tradition: A Philosophy of Christian Classical Education (Classical Academic Press, 2013).
Charlotte Mason Method
Based on the principles of Charlotte Mason, a 19th century homeschooling pioneer, this Christian home school system emphasises brief times of study, often 15-20 minutes for elementary children and 45 minutes for high schools. And instead focuses more time on nature walks, nature diaries, historical portfolios, and lots of practice in observation, memory, and storytelling. Students also read biographies, classics, and other “living literature” (i.e., stories, with heroes, life-lessons, and important socio-ethical implications).
This method works for parents who want their children to live literature and embrace nature to hone learning. Instead of extensive exams, they create portfolios to capture their learning.
- Nature Walks: Science and learning is done in nature with observation, processing, recording, and creativity.
- Time-Tested: While not as old as the Classical method, the Charlotte Mason method still has a rich and successful history, spanning more than 100 years.
- Low cost: Most Charlotte Mason materials are inexpensive, downloadable, or otherwise free.
- Elementary Oriented: The nature walks, and free-writing journals are well-suited to young students who learn in a lot of tactical, movement-oriented ways. In this way, the math and science components for CM are strongest with elementary students.
- Primary only: This method has its strengths in primary school teaching but lacks in secondary school, as it was devised by a nanny who was teaching the children at home. Most parents end up drawing from non-CM sources to cover the resource gap in secondary school.
- Old-Fashioned: Some of the classical training manuals are old-fashioned which might be difficult to grasp and implement in a modern world.
- Christian-based: Whilst not a drawback if you Christian, the Charlotte Mason method is a historically Christian learning model, but one can easily apply their own religious or secular view.
- Catherine Levison, Charlotte Mason Education, new edition, (Beverly Hills, CA: Champion Press, 2000).
- Catherine Levison, More Charlotte Mason Education (Beverley Hills, CA: Champion Press, Ltd., 2001).
This home-schooling method was devised by the early 20th century Italian physician and educator, Maria Montessori. This method is a student-based approach utilising free movement, large-unstructured time blocks (up to 3 hours), multi-grade classes, and interest-based and individualised learning plans. Teachers instruct only indirectly, using lots of manipulatives (tactile objects like tools and toys), and by giving the student a range of options from which to choose.
This method works for Parents who see children’s learning to be based on their own pace and nature instead of having a template applied to them. As well as wanting the learning to be immersive, and tactile. Jeff Bezos is famously known to have a Montessori upbringing.
- Elementary: Montessori method incorporates the findings of early child psychology and thus is readily adapted for young learners, who need to touch, move, and play in the course of their learning.
- Special Needs friendly: Montessori method was originally implemented in treating learning disabled and mentally handicapped children. Mrs Montessori found it so effective that she replicated the model for other students as well.
- Genius Friendly: The Montessori method enables those students who really are extraordinary in their abilities to work at their own pace and have their curricula adapt to their particular needs and interests. This allows the gifted student to move through material faster than would have been allowed in conventional classrooms.
- Physical: Montessori appeals to lots of parents and teachers because of the heavy use of tactile physical interaction. Not only is this approach beneficial for children generally, but some learners may prove more gifted when employing this particular learning style. Spatial and tactile intelligence are often are downplayed in the traditional classroom, but these virtues are celebrated in Montessori schools.
- Highly Adaptable: Because of the relatively “hands-off” approach of the Montessori teacher, students can choose from the teacher’s list of options. And they can pursue that study interest for long blocks of time or short blocks if they so desire.
- Fosters Art and Creativity: Since this method facilitates decision making, emphasizes physical-tactile interaction and is very adaptable in length, young artists may find Montessori classrooms the ideal context in which to develop their masterpieces. Creativity and ingenuity are assets here.
- Small Class Size: Teachers are expected to work with only a few students at a time, and to engage generously in one-on-one instruction time with each child.
- Secondary School: This method seems to work best for younger learners and is not generally used beyond elementary school.
- Unstructured: This open-ended methodology can feel unstructured, non-rigorous, and unstimulating to some students who crave external challenges, competition, rules, and imposed order.
- Maria Montessori, The Montessori Method (Frederick A. Stokes Company, 1912).
- Maria Montessori, An Absorbent Mind, Revised Ed. (Holt Paperbacks, 1995)
- Maria Montessori, Dr. Montessori’s Own Handbook (Frederick A. Stokes Company, 1914).
- Tim Seldin, How To Raise an Amazing Child The Montessori Way (DK, 2006).
- American Montessori Society
- International Montessori Index
- Living Montessori Now
- American Montessori Society – Family Support Materials
- Montessori-Pierson Publishing Company
- Michael Olaf – Montessori Store
- EdVid—Montessori Educational Videos
- JMJ Publishing & Livable Learning – Hope4ME printables
Unit studies are thematically connected learning programmes in which students explore the same event or topic from each subject area’s perspective. For example, in Geography, students could study Egypt, the narrative of Exodus from the Bible in Reading, “out of Egypt” ideas of human beginnings in Science, and pyramids and triangles in Geometry-Trigonometry. These topics might be addressed singly or together. This is also sometimes called Project-based learning.
This method works for parents who are intrigued by the idea of studying the same event across different subject areas. Who want the student to see how ideas look from different perspectives and who prefer depth of understanding, over breadth of information.
- Student-Directed: Unit studies lend well to student-directed learning plans, thus teaching students responsibility and self-awareness through the course of their own education.
- Holism: By approaching learning as a holistic tapestry of different interwoven subjects, students can grow a more “connected” sense of knowledge.
- Bolsters Weaker Subjects: Using this method, parent-teachers can incorporate subject areas that would otherwise repel students. In this way, Unit studies empower students to work in and enjoy their weaker subject areas by leveraging their strengths in other subject areas.
- Knowledge gaps: Unit studies are notorious for leaving major knowledge gaps. By thematically joining subject areas according to objects and events, the constant risk is that one of the subject areas (like Math, or Chemistry) is insufficiently addressed or entirely ignored.
- Homehearts – The Unit Study Approach
- Lori Pickert, Project Based Homeschooling: Mentoring Self-Directed Learners (CreateSpace, 2012).
- Valerie Bendt, Unit Studies Made Easy (Bendt Family Ministries, 2004).
- Susan Wise Bauer, “Thoughts on Unit Studies” (WellTrainedMind, N.D.).
- Gail Kappenman, “What is a Unit-Study?” (Crosswalk.com, 2009).
- Unit Studies by Amanda Bennet
- DIY Homeschooler – Free Unit Studies
- Donna Young – Unit Study Planner
Other Schooling methods
The Waldorf education philosophy originated in the early 1900s with Rudolf Steiner, who believed that child development could be grouped into three distinct stages of roughly seven years each. He proposed that:
- Early childhood education should focus on creative play and active, hands-on learning
- Elementary education is the time to introduce academic instruction, while teaching students to increase their imagination and manage their emotions
- Secondary education should focus on critical thinking, empathy, and community service
More of an educational movement than a homeschooling style, there’s no set method of World Schooling, but it often involves travelling with your children, and encouraging them to interact in the world around them, and gain an insight into different cultures. This is a flexible choice, so you might have a loose curriculum, or enrol your children in schools wherever you’re travelling.
This method works for parents who wish to introduce children to the wider world around them and use it as a platform to actually learn and discover.
However, it is expensive, not everyone can afford to take trips around the world and stay there for long periods. Resources: Ultimate Worldschooling Resources & Destinations – A Curriculum! (worldtravelfamily.com)