10 Most Popular Homeschool Methods

10 Most Popular Homeschool Methods

Choosing a homeschooling method or philosphy is a lot like trying to find just the right shade of blue in a bucket of crayons.  You may get lucky and find it on the first pass or you may need to blend the colors to get the perfect shade. Just as there is no perfect shade of blue, there is no one method or philosophy of homeschooling that works for everyone. There is also no rule against creating an a la carte method of education by combining aspects from several philosophies that speak to your family’s needs. I consider myself a Classical Homeschooler but we have adopted aspects of other methods into our day. We have chosen the top 10 most polular methods. Some require more preparation than others, but all get the job done. For additional information, click on the name of the method.

Charlotte Mason was a British educator who invested her life in improving the quality of children’s education.  The Charlotte Mason method includes Narration and copywork, Nature Notebooks, Fine Arts, Languages, a Literature based curriculum instead of textbooks, and real-life applications.  This methods suggest using “classics” and other “living” books rather than textbooks which are “dumbed down.”  Formal lessons are delayed until age 6 and written narration is delayed until age 10.  Emphasis is placed on Nature walks and a nature journal is kept.  History is taught chronologically and a history time line is constructed.  This method recommends short, focused lesson in order to instill a love of learning.  For more information, check out Ambleside Online.

Classical Education is a philosophy of learning which maintains that a child’s abilities mature in specific stages that correspond to 3 stages known as the trivium; the grammar stage, the logic stage, and the rhetoric stage.  The grammar stage concentrates on language skills, memorization, and a general gathering of knowledge in each subject.  The logic stage focuses on a child’s abilities to understand more abstract concepts, use formal logic, and see cause and effect.  The Rhetoric stage is when students concentrate on using their knowledge and reason to express thoughts in clear, concise, eloquent, speech and writing.  Formal lessons begin early and history is taught chronologically.  Susan Wise Bauer is the modern day expert on a classical education and has simplified the process in her book The Well Trained Mind:  A Guide to Classical Education at Home.

Cyber Schools are in abundance as more and more families have access to the internet.  Cyber schools are often referred to as Virtual Academies or Online Academies, and will for a yearly fee, approve and oversee the use of a curriculum for a homeschool parent.  Often, their services will also include administering tests, keeping records, and providing transcripts and diplomas.  There also exist cyber schools free of charge that employ your state curriculum.  Cyber schools are a great option for working parents who are unable to school their children themselves.

Distance Learning  is very similar to cyber school in that teachers use correspondence (letters or e-mail) online as well as online curriculum.  In order to meet state homeschool regulations, some states may require enrollment as a full time student in a program.  Distance learning achieves that goal and many of the distance schools are accredited if that is a requirement of state compliance.  The biggest difference between distance learning and cyber school is that often, you may sign up for one or two classes to supplement your homeschool curriculum.  Lectures are provided either live or previously taped. You can find many distance programs with a simple internet search.  Many are Christian schools but a few are secular.  Key Stone, A Beka, BJU, and Oak Meadow.

Eclectic homeschooling can best be described as a “mix and match” in order to meet your child’s needs.  Most educational methods dictate to a large extent, what, when, and how a student should learn.  Unfortunately, in many ways this often leads to a “one size fits all” approach where the student is expected to conform to the chosen curriculum and teaching methods.  Many children do perfectly fine under these circumstances – however, there are some children who do not.  Using an eclectic approach is a more flexible and individualized.  It requires more preparation, but in the end, it may be far more satisfying for both you and your child as it will allow you to integrate your child’s learning style in a way that makes the material easier to absorb and play to his or her strengths making the learning process more enjoyable.

Montessori methods were developed by physician and educator, Dr. Maria Montessori in 1870.  This approach is based on her observation that children learn naturally when in a “properly prepared environment” that is designed to promote independent learning and exploration by the child.  This method emphasizes skill specific hands-on activities, thee extensive use of concept-specific manipulatives, and learning through real-world “work.”  This method is best used for small groups of children rather than a single child.

School at Home or Public eSchool is for parents are wish to re-create a traditional school experience in their homeschool without actually “going to school.”  Quite often, this is the first approach employed by new homeschool parents, especially if their children have already enjoyed great success in a school environment.  This may be a good choice for children and parents who prefer a structured, scheduled, learning experience.  Those who choose the School at Home method, often prefer to used what is called boxed curriculum.  Boxed curriculum is designed by grade and will include all text books, work books, etc.  all by the same publisher and will include pre-set lesson plans to follow.  Boxed curriculum do not allow a great deal of freedom, however.

Unit Studies  are a great way to involve your child in the education process and encourage a love of learning.  A Unit Study is a method of organizing a child’s learning experiences within a framework of a single topic or theme. For example, a unit study on “flowers” might include reading fiction about flowers, studying flower species and anatomy, calculating the amount of time it takes a flower to bloom, reading about the symbolism of different flowers and their meanings, visit a plant nursery, visit a museum to observe the different uses of flowers in art, writing poems and stories about flowers, and drawing flowers.  Unit studies can be adapted to appeal to any learning style and can combine different homeschooling methods.  It is also a good choice for parents teaching children of different ages and grade levels because children can read and do activities together, but still complete assignments each on his own level.

Unschooling is often referred to as “child led learning” and is self directed by the child.  Learning is child initiated and child directed.  This philosophy maintains that most basic skills will be required by and through life experiences, and that children learn better when they truly want to learn and are self motivated to learn about a particular topic.  Ideally, this means that the parent acts as a facilitator, providing opportunities for learning, but never trying to force a child into learning they have not chosen to learn.  Most unschoolers do not use text books or workbooks unless the child has specifically asked for one.  A math lesson may take place in grocery store by determining how much of an ingredient is needed to prepare a recipe.  For unschoolers, the world is their classroom.

Waldorf is a method that was first developed by Austrian educator Rudolph Steiner in 1907 in his book, “The Education of the Child in the Light of Spiritual Science.”  According to Steiner, a child’s learning is based on developmental stages, specific 7-year cycles, which guide what a child should learn and when.  Waldorf education seeks to awaken the child to his own inner nature and that of the outer world.  This method delays formal education until age 7.  Waldorf instruction relies on lecture based experiential learning where a subject is introduced through direct experience, then the child is guided to explore the subject, then the concept is discussed.  Waldorf emphasizes arts and crafts, music and movement, natural science, and social skills.  Children journal their thoughts, experiences, and conclusions, including daily drawing or painting.

About Marcy Guyer


  1. […] most difficult questions!! With the answers to those 3 questions, you are now ready to explore the different types of homeschooling and determine the best fit not only for your child but for your family. Remember, homeschooling is a […]

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