Short & Sweet Guide to
Home Schooling Methods
Below I list short summaries of the main home schooling methods. There are probably as many philosophies on home schooling as there are home schoolers, but these are the main home school methods you'll hear referred to by name. I think there's something to learn from each method. Perhaps that puts me in the "ecclectic" category! :)
I categorized the methods into: most over-all structured methods, least over-all structured methods, idealist methods, and e-schooling methods. The thing to remember is that there's no one-size-fits all method or curriculum, which is why many families use a custom blend that works best for them. Read about the different methods and slowly develop your own approach, taking into consideration your educational philosophy, goals and your child's learning style.
Traditional Home Schooling... aka Structured Home Schooling... "School in a box." This method most resembles traditional schooling, and eases most parents' worries. Lessons are already planned out, with no educational "gaps." This approach relies on textbook reading followed by answering questions. It's easy to find many traditional curriculums. The key is to make it work for you. Tailor the program to your child by limiting assignments and moving forward when they grasp the material well. Assigning every problem in the book may become burdensome. Creative supplementing is essential when using this method to keep learning fun and interesting.
A Beka Book is the
Christian-based version of traditional home-schooling
Accredited Home Schooling... Similar to that described above, but using an accredited home school curriculum. Companies provide record-keeping and even more structure, with the thought of better recognition to colleges and employers. This is not necessary for a good education, and takes away your freedom to choose what to teach and how to teach it. It also caters to the accrediting agency, rather than your child.
Classical Home Schooling... Teaches children based on their cognitive development in three stages, Grammar (grade school: absorbing information), Logic (middle school: learning the "why" and discussing more), Rhetoric (high school: communicate knowledge to others & test the unknown). This method produced many educational "giants," but could be overwhelming for some families.
Trivium Pursuit has resources for Christian classical home education
Get Info on Susan Wise Bauer's website
Classical Home schooling website
Classical Home schooling magazine online
Curriculum from Veritas Press
Charlotte Mason Home Schooling... A British educator developed a system with broad curriculum & education for the whole, well-rounded child. This education consists of: atmosphere (the child absorbing their home environment), the discipline of good habits and character, and "life" (aka academics). Charlotte relies on rich literature, focusing on living thoughts and ideas, rather than dry facts, and encourages time outdoors. "Living" books are used, which are those usually written in story form by someone with a passion for the subject, making the subject come alive. She emphasizes treating the child as a person, not an empty container to dump information into.
Simply Charlotte Mason... official site with plenty of good resources, including a living book search. Read about her, her method and her educational philosophy. Download this free e-book with helpful tips and encouraging ideas.
Five in a Row... a curriculum using a unit study approach based on outstanding children's literature. Just bring home one of the books on the book list and locate the corresponding lesson plan in the teacher's guide. Each day, you use the story to teach a different subject.
Ambleside Online... a free online curriculum designed to be as close as possible to Charlotte Mason's own private schools. It includes a suggested book list for study, but you must create your own lesson plans.
The Montessori Method... Teachers capture the child's attention and maintain concentration by creating an optimum environment to invite the child to explore hands-on. The environment is key. Interestingly enough, it somewhat mimics the home. This method doesn't use testing or grades, and focuses on the process, not the product.
Montessori Homeschooling... created by and for homeschooling families
Montessori Services & their sister site For Small Hands sell a fun collection of products in keeping with this environment-centered vision.
The Moore Formula... Proponents claim a low-stress, low-cost program with high achievement and sociability. This method avoids rushing children into formal study until age 8-10, as their website states "A child's motivation is more educationally productive than the most skilled teaching." Parents give children tools rather than toys to develop interests. Children are involved in study, work, and service every day. This method aims to cure teacher and student burn-out and encourages self-teaching.
Moore Foundation official site
Moore Academy Explains the method further and has a downloadable info packet
Unit Studies... Incorporates a theme into all subjects, allowing you to teach multiple children the same material on different levels. They make learning a natural, more relaxed process. Many parents still use a traditional math & language curriculum. This makes a great supplement to other methods, although some use it entirely on its own.
How to Develop a Home School Unit Study Instructions and suggestions
Home School Share provides free quality, literature-based studies & resources
Free Unit Studies from the Home School Learning Network
More Unit Studies (not free) from Home School Learning Network
NoteBooking... Rather than measuring yearly progress by completed workbooks and formal testing, some parents grade by the notebooks their child creates in each subject. They "show and tell" what all the child has learned. They show through drawings, photos, and maps. They tell through written narrations, observations, reports, copywork, lists, and timelines.
For more info and helpful links w/ free printable materials, see my notebooking page.
Unschooling... This method has no curriculum or guidelines. You simply study whatever the child is interested in, using real life, every day experiences and exploration. This has been said by some to be more of a family lifestyle then a system of education. It's very full-time, hands-on for parents, not to be taken casually. Children can learn and retain more by diving into subjects that peak their interest, but parents must take great care to expose children to a diverse field of interests to lead their studies. Children must have constant access to things that interest them. Unschooling is the least structured and least formal of all methods.
Gather materials from just about anywhere. Check libraries, book stores, and online sites dedicated to your current study
Computer Based Home-schooling... This online option allows students to take a course or their entire schooling via internet. Working parents and working students appreciate that the student may work independently on their own schedule, but parents must regularly check the child's progress, to ensure they're staying on task. Students must be very disciplined, self motivated, and be able to learn by primarily reading. This is not ideal for hands-on learners, and may lack in the areas of creativity and discovery.
Virtual Schools... Children receive a public school education, with free curriculum and materials, in their own home. They graduate with a public school diploma. Your child is assigned to a teacher who regularly checks their work and progress, so accountability isn't entirely just up to you, as in computer based home schooling. Like in accredited home schooling, parents give up their decision-making right. Parents must carry out the teacher's decisions. You're also subject to government oversight and perhaps interviews with school officials. If you leave virtual schooling to independently home school, (as many families have feeling choked by the growing restrictions) you may even be investigated. Student academics are less then those of students who attend regular public school. Overall, this method negatively affects the home schooling community, and if used wide-spread it may jeopardize home schooling freedoms in the future!
If you're considering this method, read about some of the hidden costs and aggravations of virtual schooling, and why so many families have decided it's just not worth it HERE. You'll also find links to some resources for lower-cost home schooling alternatives.
University Schools... These schools blend home schooling with private schooling. Students may take a course or a full course load, as in college. They attend a traditional classroom 2-3 days a week, and are less expensive than private schools. You'll still run into some of the same disadvantages of public schools, but it may be preferable for single or working parents.
Eclectic Home-schooling... Whether you're indecisive or just want to use bits of each method at once, this approach is for parents who are flexible and want to choose methods and curriculum to meet the needs of their child. Most parents purchase a base curriculum then supplement it to meet their child's particular needs, though some write their own curriculum. Most use text books in addition to exploration. If a curriculum is ineffective, it is dropped. Accordingly, the method may get pricey, and children may suffer from lack of consistency while parents dabble in various materials. But, when planned well and used effectively, this approach blends the best of various methods to suite the educational needs and learning style of the student.
Eclectic Home Schooling Online... an online magazine for creative home schoolers
Click Schooling... daily curriculum ideas
Curr Click is a formerly home school e-store... it sells all e-format resources, and every week they offer a freebie! Here is their freebie page. Sometimes they give away lapbooking or notebooking kits (either of which could be adapted for other uses too)
How did we get so many methods?
Unfortunately for those home
schooling thirty years ago, there were very little resources
and information available on the subject. They were
pioneering into a great unknown, determined to improve the
educational experience for their children. The only
problem was they only had their own experience to draw from.
So, they generally adhered to a strictly traditional
method using textbooks and workbooks, which, by the way, were
difficult for many to even get their hands on. So, many
did their best to imitate the school system, bringing it
As home schooling expanded and people learned through trial and error, they tried to get away from the "school at home" mentality. They learned the hard way that this approach is less-than-ideal. This lead to the less traditional and less structured methods.
When people consider home schooling today, the traditional textbook/workbook approach is still usually the first method they consider, because it's familiar. But, if you aren't putting your children in public school, why would you want to imitate it at home?
Thankfully, home schooling has come
a long way. We now have experienced home school
teachers to learn from, so we don't have to repeat all of
their frustrations and mistakes. Our natural tendencies
will lead us to repeat their mistakes. Save yourself
unneeded difficulty and do your homework before jumping in!
I'd recommend reading the advice of veteran
home schoolers, since they've
already been where you're headed. Here is my
reading page of book
I've tried to make note of helpful information as I come across it. You can read what I've learned in researching home schooling by making your way through this site. The more I learn from veteran home schoolers, the more I see that so many diverse people independently arrived at similar conclusions on many topics. These include some basic do's and don'ts, home school vs. school at home, the necessity of home school goals, and maintaining balance. Read more on all of these topics and more listed on the home school page.
Wow, that was a lot of information
to take in. Maybe you connected with one or two methods, or
maybe you thought most all of them had aspects you'd like to
incorporate. Where do you go from here? The most important
thing to take away from these methods is that you have
options to personalize your home school, so you don't have to
settle for a one-size-fits-all approach. Just develop your
own approach as you go, using what works and scrapping the
rest, and keep in mind the need for balance.