If you’re new to homeschooling, you’re probably wondering how to go about it. Which method, what curriculum and how many hours will it take? In this post, I’ll take introduce you to the seven most popular approaches to homeschooling.
This will provide you with a framework for every other homeschooling decision you make from here on when it comes to choosing curriculum, helpful tools, and other resources. The beauty is you have options – you can choose what best fits your child, yourself, your budget and your goals.
The approaches are about as different as your children, for starters. And that’s okay! This is part of what makes homeschooling so wonderful.
The seven most popular approaches to homeschooling:
- Charlotte Mason
- Unit studies
You don’t have to follow only one specific approach or one curriculum. Many parents frequently end up combining a little bit of one with a little of something else, creating something that works for them. Some of the approaches also overlap. Read through the descriptions and imagine how it could work in your family. If one approach doesn’t work, try something else!
If you are a Christian, I would recommend reading through this information prayerfully. God will give you wisdom and insight as you go. God chose you to be the parent, and He will equip you.
Classical homeschooling is one of the most popular and most prestigious methods of homeschooling, dating from Ancient Greece and Rome, or in the case of Biblical-Classical models, as far back as Hebrew concepts from the Old Testament. The framework of this method consists of:
- Working through Great Books (classics and masterpieces)
- Learning facts and data in the foundation phase
- Developing logic and critical thinking in the primary phase
- Exploring rhetoric and self-expression in high school
- Subjects are compiled into a chronological reading plan, fitting everything into a historical timeline, building on ideas and concepts year after year.
In short, it’s an approach that is excellent at teaching children how to think deeply, critically and logically, by working through content in a systematic fashion with plenty of room for stimulating discussions and debates.
The downside of this approach is that it is reading-intensive and may not be suited to learners who prefer more experiential methods.
Curricula for classical homeschooling
Charlotte Mason approach
This approach is based on the work of a 19th-century homeschooling pioneer, Charlotte Mason. She created this method on a low budget and it is all about active learning. Students have short study periods (20 minutes for young students and 45 minutes for high schoolers), interspersed with plenty of time in nature. Students create nature journals, portfolios, projects and a narrative approach to most content. Reading classic books, biographies, and books with stories about heroes, life-lessons and meaningful themes play a major role.
It’s great for young children, especially those who need to learn with plenty of movement, sensory experiences and the outdoors. The flexibility lends itself to overlapping with Classical and Unit study methods.
The downside is that it is not as suitable for high schoolers – you will require additional material for math and science.
Curricula for Charlotte Mason
This approach is based on the work of Maria Montessori, an Italian physician, and teacher from the early 20th century. She specialized in working with special-needs children and developed this method using free movement, plenty of free time, multi-grade classes and creating an individualized learning plan for each child.
It’s perfect for young children (especially those with special needs), because the approach incorporates early child psychology, allowing children to move, touch, and explore to learn.
It’s a very specific method of teaching (you’ll benefit from additional training), expensive, and not suited to older children.
Curricula for Montessori
The Unschooling approach
The concept of unschooling is based on the work of John Holt. He developed a student-centered, individualistic method that allows for an intense focus on the student’s interests and active learning. Reading, writing, and math are taught systematically, but using various tools and technology and without traditional assessments.
It’s a very flexible approach, allowing students to learn but also have plenty of time to pursue training in their interests such as dance, gymnastics, art, or music. The rich variety of learning experiences within this approach makes learning exciting.
Parents and students may feel a little lost with a complete lack of structure, and there may be some knowledge gaps if no guideline is followed.
Curricula for unschooling (yes, the name implies there shouldn’t be any, but I know you’re looking for it!)
Obviously, this approach is about doing what it says – doing school at home in the traditional format. This is usually done with the same curriculum as the public schools, or those of a private school. Tests and exams are done online or at centers and content may be provided online or purchased.
This approach is useful for students who have short-term homeschooling needs (due to circumstances, traveling, work schedule, injuries), so they can stay up to date with schools.
It can be very costly to buy an all-in-one curriculum (depending on what you choose and whether it’s available second-hand), and it offers little freedom to explore. Parents and students may burn out trying to keep up with the amount of time it requires.
Curricula for school-at-home
The Unit Study approach
This is not an all-round approach but more of a method to use to explore certain topics from different perspectives. For instance, spider webs could be studied in nature, the geometric shapes could be studied for maths, and students could look for similar patterns used in history and so on. Unit studies are used as a tool within some of the other approaches mentioned so far, as well as eclectic schooling below.
Unit studies are so much fun – they provide children and parents alike with time to explore every detail of a topic in various ways such as role-play, real-life experiences, and excursions, creating pictures and researching creatively. It can also be used to help children with their weaker subjects.
It’s not a complete approach, you need one of the other approaches and curriculum or a guideline of some sort to support it and plan your unit studies to avoid knowledge gaps.
Curricula for unit studies
THE favorite – eclectic approach
This is the approach where most parents end up after buying one or two curricula, figuring out what works and what doesn’t, letting a child explore different interests and methods and finally, compiling the recipe that works for YOUR child.
It’s the little-bit-of-this and a little-bit-of-that approach, allowing you to combine the methodologies that work best for teaching math one way and reading and writing in another way. It’s a free-for-all buffet of options to suit your routine and your child.
Use what works, and try something else when you need to. The flexibility allows you to explore how your child learns best as they grow.
You may find the wealth of options a little overwhelming. Take it slow, remember why you are homeschooling and reconsider what your goals are for your child before spending too much on a little bit of everything!
Curricula for eclectic homeschooling
Stuck on choosing a curriculum? Here’s a post that will help you figure it out.
What approach do you like best and why? What materials do you use to support your approach? Share down below and let’s help each other.