I feel like I’m asked the same question by every new person I meet when they find out we homeschool. “What kind of curriculum do you use in your homeschool?” The type of curriculum we use is a reflection on the method of homeschooling we do. So, what are the different homeschooling methods?
This is what most people think of when they think of homeschooling. Families who use a traditional method of homeschooling are bringing school to their homes. They typically have some type of classroom set up and work on a boxed curriculum, which has everything set and ready for you for all subjects. Their school day will usually look like your typical school day would in a brick and mortar school and follow the same kind of basic schedule.
The Classical approach is based off of the Trivium, which is the focus of teaching the child according to their cognitive development. The three parts of this approach are concrete thinking in the elementary years, analytical thinking in the middle school years, and abstract thinking in the high school years. Families who use a classical approach can be found reading classic literature and learning Greek and Latin languages. For more information on the Classical approach, a great book is The Well Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home by Susan Wise Bauer.
Charlotte Mason herself said, “Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life.” Families who use Charlotte Mason style of homeschooling believe in educating the whole child, not just the mind. You will find them using “living” methods of learning, such as using real books, doing nature studies in the outdoors, and learning about great composers and artists. They enjoy lots of hands on experiences to learn by doing. To learn more on the Charlotte Mason method, A Charlotte Mason Education: A Homeschooling How-To Manual by Catherine Levison is a good option.
The unit studies approach is exactly what the title insinuates- using unit studies in your lessons. Families use unit studies for different subjects, focusing on a particular unit at a time (usually a handful of weeks) before moving on. They can teach all subjects through out one particular unit. For example, when studying a specific unit, you will have your reading, writing, history, science, and math all come out of that unit of study. Sometimes, families may use unit studies for only one subject, and have multiple units going (one for history, one for reading, etc).This also offers lots of hands on activities for kids, and is thought to help them retain the information better. To learn more about unit studies, check out Unit Studies Made Easy by Valerie Bendt.
Eclectic homeschoolers piece together curriculum from all over the place. They pick and choose based off of what fits their child’s and family’s needs. They may use a mixture of different methods, or their own method entirely! Relaxed homeschoolers may have a more unschooling leaning, or more of a structured leaning. This is the category our family falls under and I LOVE it. Sometimes we work on unit studies, sometimes we have a bit of a Charlotte Mason flair, and it’s ever changing to fit our needs. The possibilities are endless and give us so much flexibility. To learn more about relaxed/eclectic homeschooling, The Relaxed Art of Eclectic Homeschooling by Amber Oliver is free on Kindle Unlimited!
Unschoolers get a bit of a bad name sometimes. Unschoolers are not families who do nothing. They just follow a bit of a different approach than most people think of when they think about homeschooling. Unschooling families work off of their child’s interests and let them lead the way. So, instead of using a curriculum, you will typically find them learning by doing. Does your child love engineering? Then that will likely be the focus of their work. Do they love art? Then that will be the focus. They believe educational gaps are normal, and not everyone should have to learn the same things. (And yes, I know children who have gone to very prestigious colleges after being unschooled!) To learn more about the unschooling life style, read John Holt’s Learning All the Time.
If you’re starting out your homeschooling journey, I hope this list helps to break down the different methods of homeschooling for you so you can choose the method that best suits your family. What’s important isn’t what type of homeschooler your best friend or neighbor is, but what type of learning style best suits YOUR family and YOUR child.
Which type of homeschooler are you? Join my online homeschooling community to discuss homeschooling methods, or jump in on the comments below!