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Most Popular Methods of Homeschooling

April 26, 2018


In my last blog I mentioned the importance of recognizing your strengths and playing to them when it comes to deciding what homeschooling should look like in your home. Deciding which approach to take should take into consideration who your child is as a learner, as well as who you are as a teacher, facilitator, or guide.  Part of knowing yourself and knowing your child is identifying which homeschool style or methodology is the best fit for your family. 


This blog will cover some of the most popular homeschool approaches.  Remember that experimentation is an important part of homeschooling.  Just because you start with one approach, doesn’t mean you are locked in for life.  You may even want to do a “trial run” over the summer, and run each day as a homeschool day focused on a different approach.  Then reflect with your kids and talk about which day felt the best, which day was most difficult, and why.


Happy Customizing!


Charlotte Mason Approach

  • Based on writings of Charlotte Mason.  She rejected the idea that children are to be treated as containers that need to be filled with pre-digested information

  • Learning occurs in real-life experiences, not in artificial scenarios

  • Approach to learning is based on interest, application, and uses authentic conversational or narrative style literature rather than text-books

  • Lessons are short and engaging

  • Lessons are focused on core subjects of reading, writing, and math, with other subjects deferring to authentic experiences such as observing wildlife, attending art museums, and reading books with “living ideas”

  • Character qualities and habits are important to teach

  • Fine Arts are incorporated into real-life experiences on a consistent basis

  • Families spend a lot of time reading alone, together, and aloud

  • Library trips are a must

  • Learning takes on a less structured approach than traditional education

  • Relies on a decent amount of independent learning

  • Learning is not bound to a curriculum

  • Spending time outdoors accounts for a significant amount of time

  • Reading is a main platform for teaching everything

  • Values depth over breath

  • Real-life experiences are values; busy work is not

Classical Approach

  • Children are taught tools of learning through what is known as The Trivium, which is divided into three parts:

    • Grammar Stage:  The early years are spent memorizing facts with a focus on reading, writing, spelling, Latin, listening, memorization, and observation skills.  The goal is to develop a framework of knowledge.

    • Dialectic Stage:  middle years are spent putting facts together logically and begin to demonstrate independent and abstract thought (arguments/opinions).  The goal is to equip child with language and thinking skills capable of detecting fallacies in an argument.  Latin, essays, argument, criticism, history, theology, and higher math are studied.

    • Rhetoric Stage:  High school years are spent communicating knowledge through rhetoric with a goal of using language, both written and spoken, eloquently and persuasively.

  • Autobiographies are used over text books

  • School is rigorous and challenging

  • Parent must be life-long leaner, learning alongside child

  • Philosophy and ideas that have influenced civilization are a key part of discussions

  • Discussions are deep

  • Child is an independent learner

  • Child will do a lot of learning through writing essays

  • Approach focuses on study, work, and service

  • Pacing is largely determined by student’s readiness and mastery of skills

Eclectic Approach

  • Approach combines different methods for a custom-fit learning experience that focuses on student’s learning style, personality, interests, etc.

  • Parent rarely buys a full curriculum to use exactly as is, but will likely create own curriculum by pulling from a variety of sources (can still use guides and resources to help with planning)

  • Requires more input from parent since there is no reliance on just one resource

  • Curriculum/resources used will likely change from year to year and from child to child based on what works/is needed

Internet/Online Education Approach

  • Courses are often accredited

  • Heavy reliance on technology as most everything is provided online

  • There are often no books to buy or documents to print

  • Students advance upon successful completion of lessons

  • Certified teachers often available via e-mail or live chat rooms

Montessori Approach

  • Approach primarily utilized at preschool and elementary level

  • Allows children to participate in activities of their own choice

  • Learning environment is carefully planned and features a wide range of hands-on, self-correcting learning materials

  • Relies on independent learning in which parent is more of a guide than a teacher

Principle Approach

  • Approach is a Christian method of education in which the Bible is the center of every subject

  • God’s principles are the basis of every area of education

  • Textbooks and workbooks not heavily relied upon; Bible used as a resource

  • Child creates notebook known as the 4-R (Research, Reason, Relate, Record) Method

Traditional Approach

  • Approach is similar to what is used/done in public schools

  • Can be secular or faith-based

  • Graded material with Scope & Sequence for 180 days x 12 years. Uses traditional textbooks, workbooks and teachers manuals (think school at home). Also can include video and/or computer programs.

  • Students use textbooks and workbooks, and take quizzes and tests regularly

  • Parents are provided with teaching guides and lesson plans

  • Very structured and time-oriented approach

  • Covers more width but with less depth

  • Utilizes defined goals and deadlines

  • Child does well at memorizing facts and details

  • Requires some level of independent learning

  • Child must be able to stay engaged with little in variety in terms of teaching materials

  • Keeping records and grades are used

  • Teaches basically the same things that are taught in public school

  • Student performance is valued over student interest

  • Follows a consistent plan and schedule

  • Relies on testing as primary method of assessment

Unit Studies Approach

  • Approach typically incorporates a variety of subjects into a single topic or theme with a focus on what interests and motivates your students

  • Duration of unit can be days or weeks but goal is to delve into topic deeply over time

  • Units can be created by the parent, found online, or purchased as preplanned prepared unit

  • Parents who teach this method are often creative, out-of-the-box thinkers

  • Parent is creative force behind development of units and therefore this method requires time and energy

  • Goal is bigger than transfer of information—it is important that the units are interesting and fun

  • Works well for multi-age family with a variety of learning interests and styles

  • Technology is often an integral part of learning

  • Kids are active in the learning and creative process

  • Assessment is based more on informal observation and rubric-based product and process-driven performance rather than tests

Unschooling Approach

  • A free-range, less structured approach to learning based on a belief that children are naturally curious and will retain more if they are free to follow their own interest

  • The child leads the way based on interests and the parent provides a supportive learning environment such as lots of quality literature and books, and learning resources

  • Adults model a lifestyle to be emulated

  • No specific curriculum is used or structure is relied upon unless it is what the child wants

  • There are little to no preset goals and little to no structure

  • Family has a lot of natural curiosity and love for learning

  • Grades are not used

  • Child learns at own pace 

  • Belief that the only subjects worth learning are those that children show an interest in

Waldorf Approach

  • Approach is based on respect for and acceptance of each child with belief that children have a natural inclination to actively explore their physical and social environment

  • Recognizes the importance of developing imagination and inspiration in students of all ages

  • Foundations laid for life-long physical, social, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual growth

  • Takes into consideration age-specific developmental needs

  • Learning environment is set up to offer limits, structure and protection, as well as the possibility to take risks and meet challenges

  • Early childhood learning is mostly experimental, imitative, and movement and sensory-based

  • Elementary education utilizes social models and artistic ideas as a means of instruction

  • Middle grades are regarded as artistic and imaginative

  • Upper grades are focused on developing intellectual understanding and ethical ideas such as social responsibility and encourage students to think critically and apply learning to real-life situations

  • A focus on real rather than virtual experiences to support the child in forming a healthy relationship to the world

  • Artistic activities such as storytelling, music, drawing and painting, rhythmic games, and modelling that foster the healthy development of imagination and creativity

  • Meaningful practical work such as cooking, baking, gardening, handwork and domestic activity that provide opportunities to develop unfolding human capacities

  • Emphasis is on the processes of life rather than on learning outcomes

  • Qualitative assessments, or measuring the quality of student work, are used daily to determine student growth, while quantitative assessments, such as standardized testing, are used rarely










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