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 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.
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.
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.
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: Homeschool Planning – it shares all the details you need to know to start planning your homeschool year.
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.
- 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).
- Homeschooling Styles: Textbooks from TheHomeSchoolMom
- Ten Reasons I Love Abeka from Meghan Carver
- Facts About Virtual Charter Schools from OCHEC
- Abeka vs. BJU from The Unlikely Homeschool
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 Homeschooling from Successful Homeschooling
- The Unschooling Handbook from Mary Griffith
- How to Be a Relaxed Homeschooler by Living Montessori Now
- 10 Reasons we chose our relaxed homeschooling style from Unschool Rules
Delight-Directed / 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.
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:
- Delight Directed Curriculum Planning from The Unlikely Homeschool
- Delight-directed Learning: Using Curriculum as a Jumping Off Point from Ben & Me
- Delight Directed Learning by Lee Binz
- Delight Directed Homeschooling at Bright Ideas Press
- 4 ways to encourage delight-directed learning from Simple Homeschool
- The Gifted Child and Delight Directed Homeschooling from Raising Lifelong Learners
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).
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.
- The Well-Trained Mind by Susan W. Bauer & Jessie Wise
- How to Start a Classical Homeschool from Classically Homeschooling
- Using a Classical Homeschool Education with Multiple Ages from The Kennedy Adventures
- Classical Homeschooling in our Home from Simply Convivial
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:
- What is the Charlotte Mason Method? at Simply Charlotte Mason
- 7 Characteristics of a Charlotte Mason Education from Simple Homeschool
- A Charlotte Mason Companion by Karen Andreola
- A Charlotte Mason Education by Catherine Levinson
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 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 to learn about the same topics at the same time would appreciate the unit study method.
Unit Study Curriculum:
- 4 Reasons Homeschooling with Unit Studies Works from Ben & Me
- How to Create Unit Studies from The Happy Housewife
- 13 Benefits of Unit Studies and How to Make Your Own from Homeschool Your Boys
- Planning Out Unit Studies for the Homeschool Year from This Outnumbered Mama
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?