Homeschooling: Which Style Best Fits Your Needs? Part 1

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All good parents have their kids’ best interests in mind. I’m grateful to live in a country where parents are free to choose which style of learning they’d like to provide for their children. More and more parents are jumping on board to homeschool. However, I’m continually astounded at how dinosaur-ish some people’s thinking continues to be regarding homeschooling lifestyles.

I myself (when I was a mother of two in my 20s) used to think keeping your children home to educate them must be illegal. Once my husband convinced me it wasn’t, I  launched many-a-diatribe about how it could never be “as good” as a “real” education. (Public apology to all homeschoolers: Forgive me. I was young. I knew no better.) The difference between me and those who never sway from a perpetual prejudice against homeschooling is that I took time to research and learn more about it. Some don’t. If you’re on the fence, perhaps wanting to consider the idea, this post provides an overview of the main types homeschooling. You can always change things up if one style isn’t working but hopefully, you’ll at least get a feel for where you might like to start after reading the following list:

The unschoolers of homeschooling

This is what most homeschoolers consider the most ‘radical’ style of homeschooling. If you want to understand unschooling, you should definitely begin by Googling, “John Holt” who is a pioneer of the homeschooling lifestyle. When considering this form of learning, think freestyle, few to no textbooks, unconventional, individualistic, interest-led, activities-based education.

Unschoolers still use systematic learning at times, such as when teaching reading, arithmetic or writing skills. However, parents typically view themselves more as facilitators of learning rather than instructors. The majority of learning takes place through life experiences and activities.

Homeschooling, classical style

At the opposite end of the spectrum, you’ll find those who prefer a classical homeschooling method. This is one of the most popular styles of learning at home and is often biblical-world-view based. Classic literature, the Great Masters of Art, Greek, Latin, Ancient Rome and more are typical subject matters in a classical homeschooler’s planner.

This style follows a traditional timeline of teaching the gathering of data and learning of facts in the lower grade level, then critical and logic thinking skills throughout the middle learning years. The upper grades focus on self-expression and rhetoric. It’s more rigorous than a relaxed, unschooling method; however, like all at-home learning programs, it is adaptable to individual needs and goals.

Charlotte Mason homeschooling

After you’re done Googling, “John Holt,” you can do a quick search on “Charlotte Mason.” Equal to Holt as a top pioneer of the home-style methods of learning, parents who choose this option typically inculcate a true love of learning in their children through various means. Living history books and Bible reading are main components of the Mason style of learning.

Short study periods alongside much outdoor activity (such as nature walks and free play) make up the gist of a Charlotte Mason learning environment. Journaling, memorization, copy work and mastery of observation skills are also points of focus in a Charlotte Mason homeschool.

Unit Studies

Unit study learning takes a main topic, such as “Civil War era”, then builds a semester’s worth (or year’s worth) of learning around the subject focus. The curriculum will include core skills such as grammar, reading and writing, as well as science, history and art projects too. All of the lessons stem from the main topic.

For instance, a Civil War unit study might include basic history facts about the era, followed by assigned reading of several historical fiction books or biographies. Writing assignments will be based on what was read. Art projects might include various crafts that children of the era might have enjoyed. Math work might focus on market prices and tax information of the time period or other pertinent cost-of-living or income exercises. Think: Calculate how much it cost to build a house during Civil war times.

Eclectic learning styles

One of the greatest benefits of homeschooling is that it allows you to do your own thing. Parents are the primary educators of their children. As a Christian, I believe God has provided all the graces and resources I need to help each of my children reach his or her full potential as a child of God, which is the purpose of education. The eclectic style of homeschooling pulls a bit from here and a bit from there, with parents piecing together their own, unique programs according to the strengths, weaknesses and interests of each student.

Eclectic homeschooling might be curriculum-based or not. It is primarily a self-directed form of study but also includes parent-instructed courses, as well. The sky’s the limit with an eclectically arranged school day, and this style of homeschooling often includes numerous components from several of the other styles.

Basic homeschooling ideas

This is merely a brief synopsis of homeschooling styles, as there are many others. Stay tuned for Part 2 of “Homeschooling: Which Style Best Fits Your Needs?” where I’ll share additional styles of learning at home such as “school in a box” and public school at home” options.

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