Something we don’t realize when we all first start homeschooling, is that it isn’t school at home. Rather, it can be a customized education based off of the individual needs of our children. One of the first things I discovered was that there is several types of homeschool styles. I spent the better part of a year exploring all of the different educational approaches. To save you some time, I summarized the most popular types.
My favorite approach is an eclectic, Charlotte Mason inspired method.
Charlotte Mason was a education pioneer who wrote six volumes on education. Her works are so rich, I have read several of her books over and over. Charlotte Mason’s approach uses nature studies, short lessons, immersion in fine arts, and the use of living books (instead of dry textbooks) to give children a gentle feast. Ms. Mason believed children should spend hours outside (up to six hours) playing, exploring, and observing nature. She also used narration so her students would learn to articulate or write what they had read. A Charlotte Mason education is an enriching and intricate homeschool style.
The Trivium is the core to a classical education. The three stages of the Trivium are grammar, logic, and rhetoric; each stage puts the student more in charge of his education and personal beliefs. Classical education is known for studying ancient texts and languages, reading living books, and hands on experimentation. It is based on the ancient model of education, the kind Socrates would have taught. Studying the ancients is popular, but not required.
Grammar phase students accumulate knowledge and build skills through memorization, copywork, and dictation, along with an intense focus on literature. The logic phase requires the arrangement of the information learned previously into logical sequences and order. The final stage requires the student to synthesize all he has learned and put it to practical use. Students do not just learn facts, they learn how to use the facts and defend their position.
A true classical education can be difficult to replicate at home, however it is growing in popularity. Classical education is one of the most affordable models. It uses actual books instead of consumable workbooks. These books can be found at the library or in the public domain, and reused for generations..
Waldorf is a style that originated in Germany. It is a holistic approach to raising children. It focuses on nature, art, and independent learning. It follows the natural rhythms and season. Every Waldorf classroom has a nature table. Social consciousness is also important in the Waldorf method. Like Charlotte Mason, formal lessons start later than most traditional schools, usually 8 years old. This is the method that started circle time, a common preschool activity. Waldorf is also child led and gentle schooling.
Maria Montessori, a physician and educator, was looking for a more child friendly approach to education. She taught around the same time as Charlotte Mason. Maria Montessori believed in honoring the beauty of every child. This method is very hands on and completely child led.
What sets Montessori education apart is the focus on practical work. Even the youngest children learn how to be independent by learning skills like cooking, household cleaning, and personal care. To support independence, Montessori uses child sized furniture and tools. Montessori is really about facilitating, not teaching.
A unit study approach combines the benefits of child led education with structured academics. Unit studies can last from a week or two, to an entire year. In unit study homeschooling, every subject is taught in relation to a central topic.
For instance, a unit study on space would include:
- Scientific study of space
- Reading literature set in space
- Practicing writing space words for handwriting
- Word problems and math problems with space themes
- Creating space art
- Hands-on space study projects
- Studying the history of space exploration
- Learning space vocabulary in a target language
- Writing stories and essays about space
Unschooling is a popular method that most people don’t understand. I prefer the term desire led learning, It is also the method with the broadest interpretation. All homeschoolers used to be considered unschoolers. Today it is a way of homeschooling that isn’t anything like school. Unschooling becomes what you make it. It is one of the most popular methods of home education. Most homeschool families unschool in some way. The possibilities are endless. It can be used for just one subject, or an entire education. Some unschoolers do formal lessons and others let life be the teacher. It is the polar opposite of textbook style learning.
This is the category most homeschoolers fall into whether they realize it or not. A little bit of this and a little bit of that is the eclectic motto. Sometimes this is called relaxed homeschooling. It includes teaching everything in the way your child best learns, and also providing plenty of time for activities and hobbies. Eclectic education is the best of homeschooling. It focuses on autonomy and flexibility. An eclectic homeschool could use a mix of textbooks, online learning, Charlotte Mason nature study, and unit studies. It is a school build completely by an individual family to fit with the philosophies and values of that family.
Your Family School
There are even more methods but these are some of the biggest and most popular. I love that homeschooling has so many options and diversity. It’s beautiful to teach your children how they learn best. Whatever style you use, it should be one that brings your family joy.