Educational Styles

Once you’ve decided to homeschool, the next step is to decide what style of education will work best for you and your family. Every situation and circumstance is different and there isn’t a “one size fits all” style or curriculum. For example, if you are only homeschooling your child temporarily and plan to put them back in public school, it might be best to stick with a more traditional method of homeschooling. If you get a unique opportunity like I recently had to live overseas, you might choose a more eclectic approach such as unit studies or unschooling. If you plan to homeschool forever and want to make education a way of life, the Charlotte Mason method might be right up your alley. If you like the idea of homeschooling but don’t want to go it alone, you might be interested in an approach such as Classical Connections where you have someone to guide you through the process and meet with other homeschoolers on a weekly basis.

The best resource I’ve seen so far for detailing the different styles of homeschooling and helping you determine which style might be the best fit for you, is this video by Sonya Shafer of Simply Charlotte Mason.

Here’s a quick overview of the primarily styles. She considers Unit Studies a method in it’s own, which I’m actually going to lump into the eclectic method of picking and choosing from the other styles.

Traditional: Textbook/workbook based curriculum which is the method employed in most public schools. There are many, many choices when it comes to traditional homeschooling. The big homeschool companies all offer packages based on grade level- Bob Jones, Sonlight, Abeka, etc. There is also a free option through your public school system called K12 which might be a good solution if you are only homeschooling for a short time. In essence, traditional schooling is public schooling at home.

Classical: The Classical method of education focuses on teaching children based on their level of learning and is divided into three stages. The Grammar stage focuses on absorbing facts- learning rules of phonics, spelling and grammar, learning parts of plants, animals, etc. The Logic stage begins to examine the “why” of things and the the Rhetoric stage teaches them to verbalize their thoughts and ideas both written and orally. The classical method also uses a chronological, four-year cyclical study of history and science. Most information about the classical method of homeschooling is found in the book The Well Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer and works by Dorothy Sayers. Memoria Press has great classical Christian curriculum options as well. Classical Conversations is another popular method of classical homeschooling where the family participates in a weekly class setting with other homeschoolers and spends the rest of the week studying the materials at home.

Charlotte Mason: Charlotte Mason was a 19th century classical educator in England. She both taught students and established a training school for teachers. She believed that 1/3 of education came from the home environment, 1/3 from habits of character and 1/3 from academics. Thus the Charlotte Mason is more of a way of life rather than just a classroom experience. Children primarily learn through living books and real-life experiences/observations. Miss Mason suggested that children should have no formal schooling until the age of six and should spend most of their growing up years outdoors discovering God’s creations. She believed education should be more than writing and arithmetic and should also include nature study, art, music, Latin and French. Here is a list of attainments she believed a child of six should have Like the classical method there is no specific curriculum, it is based on methods. The most common curriculum offerings are from Ambleside Online and Simply Charlotte Mason. There are also several books written about homeschooling with the Charlotte Mason method by Karen Andreola and  Catherine Levison.

Eclectic: This method picks and chooses from each of the other methods and creates it’s own unique curriculum and learning atmosphere. This method can be difficult to organize because there is no established path, however it can also provide you with a great amount of freedom and flexibility. I include Unit Studies in this group because typically there is no established scope or sequence, it is picking and choosing different interests and basing the lessons around them.

Unschooling: This is child-led learning or natural learning where a child is free to pursue things that interest him. John Holt was the founder of the unschooling movement and the underlying idea is that children naturally want to learn and will learn things the same way they learn to talk, by doing and observing. There is no curriculum for the unschooling method, parents follow the child’s interests and help them discover information as they seek it.