Welcome back! This is my favorite part in our three-part series on homeschooling because we’re going to look into different methods – or styles – of homeschooling. We’ll also talk about the cost of homeschooling, but choosing your method can make or break your homeschool. Many people choose a curriculum without considering what kind of teacher they are or what type of student their child is. Many choose a parent-intensive curriculum when they need an open-and-go workbook, or they’ve gotten a read-only curriculum when their kids do best with hands-on work. When problems arise from these mistakes, many people will then give up on homeschooling, thinking they’ve made a mistake believing they could ever do it in the first place.
Knowing your homeschooling style won’t protect you from every problem or from making any mistakes in choosing curriculum, but it can keep you from many of them and will help you know what to do when problems arise. I wish we had time to look into every method in-depth, but let’s look at the most popular.
When you begin the homeschooling journey, the most overwhelming part is choosing which curriculum to use. There are so many! And then not only are there tons of books and ideas, there’s also something called a method! What’s that about?! Well, actually, it’s your best friend. When you determine your method, or style, you eliminate most of those many, many curriculum choices. So choosing your method of homeschooling will be the next step after finding your tribe.
There are quite a few method choices, but here are five popular ones: classical, Charlotte Mason, traditional, eclectic, and unschooling. I would love to do an in-depth blog on each of these choices, but for now, I’ll just help you understand how to choose one or two of these methods. Yes, I said one or two…or maybe three! Often you can determine that you fit a certain one for the most part, but like parts of another and want to incorporate those in your homeschool. So let’s get right into it!
This method is steeped in history and ancient Greek and Roman philosophy to achieve the goals of knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. Classical education’s main focus is the trivium, meaning three roads in Latin. These three roads are grammar, logic (dialectic), and rhetoric.
- The grammar, or knowledge, stage lays the foundation for language and learning in elementary school through fact memorization.
- The logic, or understanding, stage starts around 5th grade when students begin to analyze memorized facts in order to determine cause and effect and grasp abstract thought. This stage focuses on learning to reason through logic and questioning.
- During the rhetoric, or wisdom, stage, high school students take the knowledge from the grammar stage and the understanding from the logic stage and begin to determine and present their own ideas in clear and original ways.
Classical education seeks Truth, Beauty, and Goodness through excellent books and shaping of the imagination with ancient myths and legends. Students study writing and speaking to learn effective communication and to craft eloquent arguments. The goal of classical education is to create virtuous, well-rounded persons who continue to learn throughout their lives. Critical thinking, the Socratic method, and subject mastery through looping are hallmarks of the classical learning method. Much of this method’s ideology is formed from Dorothy Sayer’s work, The Lost Tools of Learning.
Named for an English turn-of-the-century educator, this style implements short, manageable lessons, lots of outdoor time, and reading rich literature, or “living books”, instead of sitting through long lectures or reading dumbed-down literature Mason termed “twaddle”. Charlotte Mason called upon all educators and parents to see and respect children as whole persons, and to holistically educate the full child instead of focusing solely on the academic mind. She insisted that by introducing and teaching good habits early – such as obedience, attention, diligence, and others, every aspect of a child’s life would be positively affected. Emphasis is placed on good reading and grammar skills and engaged students who can clearly express themselves.
Nature walks, dictation and narration, art, and music are hallmarks of the Charlotte Mason learning method. For more information, read Charlotte Mason’s 20 Principles here.
Also called school-at-home or school-in-a-box, this method most closely mirrors the public school setting. Traditional learning is structured and scheduled and, as such, is often the choice of new homeschoolers who are not yet comfortable self-guiding their children’s education. The pre-packaged curriculum is usually a complete full grade, and sorts learning into separate subjects including math, English, science, and social studies. Traditional learning is teacher-driven in its planning, implementing, and grading, but curriculum guided with a teacher’s manual, mapped-out lessons with daily assignments, and chapter or unit tests. As students advance, traditional curriculum can guide them in independent work.
Organized subjects, daily schedules, and textbook deskwork are hallmarks of the traditional learning method.
This is a style in which parents pick and choose from varying methods, curricula, and resources so as to best fit the family’s needs. For example, math could be selected from a Charlotte Mason style curriculum while science may be selected from a classical curriculum and other subjects may be a mix of two or more curricula. Some eclectic homeschoolers even fully create their own entire curriculum! This method allows for an educational design fully tailored to each student and highly flexible for parents.
Many times, parents gravitate to the eclectic method once they’ve gained experience with curriculum choices and more fully understand their kids’ preferences and learning styles. Customization and a relaxed style are hallmarks of the eclectic learning method.
As its name suggests, this method – or philosophy, rather – does not use a formal curriculum but relies solely on student-directed learning. It is the most individualized style of “homeschooling” as the student makes all his own decisions regarding his education. Workbooks may be used if the child prefers, but workbooks are never mandatory. Kids control what, how, and when they learn, and there are no goals, deadlines, curricula, tests, or grades. The parent’s role is less teacher and more facilitator by creating an environment that fosters natural curiosity as the child learns through interactions with others, outdoor activities, interesting books, exploring museums, visiting zoos, and having plenty of free time and play. People often have mixed feelings about unschooling, but it is legal in all 50 states – though unschoolers are still subject to their state’s non-public education structures. But all of life is filled with opportunities for rich education, and those opportunities are the hallmark of the unschooling learning method.
Hopefully, this quick run-through of these few methods will help you make the best decisions for your family. And remember that if one style doesn’t fit your family, you can simply change, or combine! For our family, we have a classical spine and a Charlotte Mason heart, drawn together with an eclectic flair. 😉
Don’t forget that we’ve just scratched the surface of these methods and that there are many other less-used approaches. For more information on both homeschooling methods and curriculum based on those methods, I highly recommend Cathy Duffy’s 102 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum – Choosing the Right Curriculum and Approach for Each Child’s Learning Style. Choosing curriculum can be a daunting task, but Cathy Duffy introduces readers to the myriad choices for methodologies, and then directs them to curriculum choices based on those methodologies. This book is a Godsend for new homeschoolers!
For many new or prospective homeschoolers, this may be the biggest question: how much does homeschooling cost? And the answer is: homeschooling can cost however much you want it to cost! Since the government doesn’t dictate which curriculum you must use (at least here in CO), you can choose based on your budget, homeschooling method, and personal desire. Homeschooling your kids can be as easy as obtaining a library card and having access to the internet! Or it can include high-cost curriculum, a high-cost co-op, and high-cost field trips. And there are myriad choices in between. Certain methodologies are inherently more expensive and others inherently less expensive, but each can be done on a shoestring budget.
The main portion of your cost will be your chosen curriculum, school materials, field trips, and extra-curriculars. However, there a lot of curriculum swap meets and Facebook pages that make gathering material much easier and less expensive. When you break down the costs of sending children to public school (clothes, shoes, backpacks, notebooks and other materials, electronics, etc.) versus the cost of homeschooling, homeschooling is much cheaper! For comparison, check out this article.
Thank you for joining me for this series. I hope it has been a help to you and that your homeschool is a joy and success!