How to Choose the Right Homeschool Methods for your Family

When I first started investigating homeschooling I searched out all the books on the topic I could find. That early research helped me understand that I didn’t need to recreate the ‘school-at-home’ method that I thought I would have to use (there are actually many different homeschool methods!). Up to that point, my only experience with homeschooling was the two programs I knew existed at the time (ACE and Abeka).

When I discovered a copy of {that's an affiliate link -->} The Well-Trained Mind and later explored more homeschooling books I learned that I didn’t have to rely on those ‘school-in-a-box’ programs and I could actually create a more personalized program. 

Understanding different homeschool methods and how they can work together will make you more confident about homeschooling. Learn all you need to know about choosing the right homeschooling methods for your family.

Who knew there was more than one way to homeschool?!

Because I knew why I wanted to homeschool and had a small idea of what my goals were, I found methods that resonated with those plans. Like many homeschoolers, we’ve since created a more eclectic mix that works for us.

Six Popular Homeschool Methods

If you’re new and still in those researching stages (or if you just want to learn more about these various methods) we’re going to break down six of the most popular homeschooling methods.

For each method, we’ll look at the basics of the methodology, the kinds of families that might appreciate it, and some websites, curriculum, and resources for further reading or research. {Some of the links below are affiliate links.}

After we look at some of the more popular homeschool methods, we'll take a bit of time to discuss what you will want to consider before settling on the right method (or two or three!) for your family.

If you're just starting you may want to read this post: How to Homeschool - it shares all the details you need to know to get started with homeschooling.

Now let's take a look at those methods:

Traditional (school-at-home)

This method is the most similar to public school. It involves utilizing a “box curriculum” (often used in school settings) or online learning program. Parents either teach directly, or students work independently through textbooks or online lessons. 

It can work for:

  • Families that are new to homeschooling and feeling overwhelmed by all the homeschooling decisions and choices may find it’s easier to use a more traditional program.
  • Families that need children to work more independently may also prefer a more traditional method (or online program).

Traditional Curriculum:

Further Reading:

Relaxed Schooling (also known as Unschooling)

Completely opposite to the Traditional method is the Relaxed or Unschooling method. Generally speaking, this method allows children to take the reins of their learning. Within this method, there is a wide range for how it can look. On one end, parents may strew selected books around and expect learning to take place (with some guidance from parents). On the other end of the spectrum, parents are completely hands-off and let children learn what and when they want.

It can work for:

  • Families that need to “de-school” after a difficult public school experience may wish to use a more relaxed method.
  • Children who are independent and self-motivated could thrive with this method.

Relaxed Curriculum:

None?! You can use whatever interests the child or helps you focus on your relaxed homeschool. Here are some posts with curriculum suggestions:

Further Reading:

Delight-Directed (also known as Interest-Led)

Delight-Directed instruction is similar to Unschooling, in that children are given more choice in their academic pursuits. It differs in the fact that there are some oversight and even some rules or expectations for learning. For example, a child may wish to learn about electricity. Mom gives some specific guidelines -- perhaps a certain amount of reading per day, a specific format for recording science experiments, and/or expected writing assignments. The student pursues the topic he is interested in, keeping those guidelines in mind. 

It can work for:

  • Parents who want more involvement but still want children involved in choosing their course of study would appreciate the delight-directed approach.
  • Children who are independent and motivated would thrive with this method.

Delight-Directed Curriculum:

Like Relaxed homeschooling, Delight-Directed homeschools don’t necessarily rely on textbooks. Instead, they use a variety of resources and books. Here are a few posts that will inspire you:

Further Reading:

Classical

The Classical method, like the previously explained methods, also has a wide range of philosophies. At its core, the goal of Classical education is to seek after truth, beauty, and goodness through the study of great books and the liberal arts (which include grammar, logic, rhetoric, arithmetic, music, geometry, and astronomy). Many Classical homeschools include Latin and Logic in their curriculum plans. But no matter the subjects covered, students are expected to learn the “grammar” of a subject (the basic facts) first, then learn how to question and discuss the topic, with the end goal of becoming well-spoken and well-read. 

It can work for:

  • Families that want a well-rounded course of study may choose the classical homeschooling method.
  • Parents who desire a solid, proven educational course of study would benefit from this method.

Classical Curriculum: 

Further Reading:

Charlotte Mason

Charlotte Mason was ahead of her time (the late 1800’s) in her belief that all children, despite economic status, deserved a well-rounded education. She wrote extensively about education and family. Her methods were more holistic in nature, incorporating educational experiences into everyday situations. Journaling, nature study, composer and picture study are all hallmarks of her influence. She also expressed the need for habit training -- teaching children from an early age the importance of the habits of diligence, obedience, and attention. She considered these important elements in a good education.

It can work for:

  • Families that want a more gentle introduction to formal schooling would benefit from this method.
  • Parents that prefer a holistic approach, who believe that education is a part of life, would thrive with the Charlotte Mason method.

Charlotte Mason Curriculum:

Further Reading:

Unit Study

The Unity Study approach is an integrated method. You choose a topic (or book) to learn about, and all the academic subjects are integrated into the lessons about the topic. For example, your child wants to learn about ancient Egypt, so you read books about the subject, look at important scientific discoveries of the time, write with hieroglyphics, or other activities. The goal is to be immersed in the one topic throughout the entire school day.

It can work for:

  • Children that prefer hands-on projects would love this approach.
  • Parents who want all their children learning about the same topics at the same time would appreciate the unit study method.

Unit Study Curriculum:

Further Reading:



Which homeschooling method is right for my family?

Besides the six methods briefly explained above, you can find more, including Montessori, Waldorf, or Thomas-Jefferson-based education. It would take too much time to explain every single method, so I chose to highlight some of the more popular methods. A simple internet search will provide plenty of reading if you're interested in researching further.

When you’re reading and researching, you’ll probably find a method or two that resonates with you -- start with those. Many homeschool families find that an eclectic approach (combining a few various methods) works well for them. There are no rules that say you must choose only one homeschooling method. 

As you continue homeschooling, you’ll discover the methods that work best for you. It’s a process that can really only be achieved when you’re actually homeschooling. You’ll find that as you gain confidence and truly understand your goals for homeschooling, your methods and choices will change and grow with you.

But, when you're first starting, there are a few things to consider when you're narrowing down your choices.

Related: Homeschool Books to Encourage & Inspire You

1. Why did you choose homeschooling?

Your reasons for homeschooling should play a part in choosing the right mix of methods for your family. 

If you chose to homeschool to provide your children with a rigorous and deep education you may choose a more Classical approach. 

Or, if you prefer a more natural, child-led method, you may find a mix of Charlotte Mason, Unit Studies, and some Interest-Led time provides the education you desire.

Related: Why homeschool? What You Need to Know About Finding Your Purpose

2. Your Personality & Teaching Style

While many people think about their children first when choosing materials and methods, I believe it's important to consider yourself as well. It can be difficult to teach if you aren't inspired by the curriculum or the methods you've chosen. 

Do you love hand's on projects? Try adding some unit studies.

Prefer to cuddle with the kids and a good book? Look at methods that incorporate good literature.

And don't forget to take your own teaching skill into consideration. Most homeschool moms find that they are passionate about a few subjects (for me that's history and literature) but flounder in others (hello, math!).

For subjects that you are passionate about, you may want slightly more freedom to pursue interesting topics. But you might want to consider a textbook or worktext approach for subjects you find harder to teach.

Most of all - what inspires you to continue learning? That's a great place to start when considering which methods will work best for you.

Related: Finding Your Homeschool Teaching Style

3. Your Children

You'll also want to consider your children when you're doing your homeschooling research. Think about their personalities and what they love doing.

I have an art-loving, wiggly daughter so, even though we have a Classical/Eclectic approach, I like to ensure we have time in our schedule for her interests.

So think about your kids and what inspires them - what methods speak to those inspirations? How can you incorporate their interests?


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Your turn…

Are you new to homeschooling? I don't want you to leave overwhelmed by all these different homeschool methods but I do want you to understand that successful homeschooling takes time and planning. Make sure you download the quick-start guide to help you get started (fill in your email address in the form above) and read this post for the five things you need to do to get started: How to Start Homeschooling.

Perhaps you've been homeschooling for awhile? I’d love to hear how you’ve combined methods to create a unique homeschool experience. Leave me a comment!

Tonia L

Hey! I'm the owner of Happy Homeschool Nest - a website devoted to helping homeschool moms balance the needs of homeschooling with managing a healthy and happy home.