So once you have decided to jump in and be a homeschooler, the next step would be to decide what type of homeschooler you want to be. What suits your family best? How do you think your children will learn the best. Knowing what type of homeschooler you want to be will give you a consistent framework to work within.
I will also say that none of these typical methods are good or bad – I’m not making any judgments here. That is why you as the parent get to choose which one works for you – even if it has some downsides – you can always “tweak” your method so it works for your family. There are other methods too, but these are really the main ones most families use.
So to get started, read through my descriptions. If one peaks your interest, then google that method and find out everything you can about it and see if you think it would be a good fit for your family.
Traditional curriculum or School At Home
This method is where you would go out and buy a traditional curriculum in a box, set up a school area – either on your kitchen table or in a dedicated space and do the work as the curriculum requires. I do have to say that even though this is how typical homeschooling is portrayed, and maybe the simplest and easiest route to go beware – it has the highest rate of burnout. It typically has textbooks, a fixed schedule, tests and grading like in school. Some parents like it because they might be insecure about their teaching ability and this way they know exactly what to do. Kids tend to hate this – its like school without the fun of friendships you get in school. It requires a lot of input from parents who become like a classroom teacher. It also tends to be slanted towards white, conservative, evangelical families so if you are not part of that subset, then you won't like many of these sites. I just included them because many of the families in this subset of home educators go this route. If as a way to get started you want to try it, here a some links:
This is a relaxed method where basically you use a little of this and a little of that. You would use this or that curriculum for basic skills like reading or math and then the other subjects are more like an unschooling approach where you follow the children’s interests and let them explore subjects. Sometimes eclectic parents will rely on traditional standards to make sure their children are keeping up with their peers in school. The “What your child should know” series by E.D. Hirsh Jr is an example of this type of guide. That way they feel better about making sure their child is covering “the important stuff” while having fun with the secondary stuff.
Unschoolers are relaxed, child-led, natural, out in the real world students, embracing freedom from school as their philosophy. They don’t typically follow a curriculum and learning is totally led by the child. A big proponent of this method is John Holt. Do some reading on his work and you’ll get a get picture of what they are about. Here are some links:
And here’s an interesting study done on how unschoolers typically turn out:
I would say that unschoolers are a special breed of homeschooler. Many homeschooling parents struggle with the idea that there should be no guidance at all, and to be able to give their kids a framework is a kind of insurance policy. But for unschoolers freedom IS their framework. Unschoolers tend to become experts in their area of interest and I would also add that unschooling tends to be a life-long prospect because many unschoolers would have a difficult time reintegrating into a traditional school. Unschoolers definitely have a personality all of their own. Unschooling is great for all types of family expressions. If your family feels strongly about freedom to learn and direct your own learning then go for it!
Charlotte Mason adherents believe their children are people in their own right and not merely containers to be filled with knowledge. They spend a lot of time exploring, playing, creating and being involved in real-life activities. They follow a particular curriculum and method that is more about real books not textbooks and narration and discussion rather than test-taking. Katherine Levinson’s books will give you a good overview of their philosophy, especially “A Charlotte Mason Education”.
This is a tweaked version of the very ancient approach that has been around since the Middle Ages. Basically they teach people how to learn for themselves using the Five Tools of Learning: The Trivium, Reason, Record, Research, relate and Rhetoric. After the years of preparation where children learn basic reading, writing and math skills they move to the Trivium of formal learning. The Trivium has three stages: The grammar Stage, the Logic Stage and the Rhetoric Stage. Their “textbooks” are Great books – compositions, collections and primary sources. They often combine language, History, geography for a quite holistic approach. My favorite resource is The Well-Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer.
Children learn at their own pace inside an environment designed especially for them. There are Montessori schools all over the world that follow the teachings of Dr Maria Montessori but a recent trend is to bring Montessori into the home. The environment, which is the child’s main teacher is child-sized, uncluttered and beautiful. It emphasizes special materials to teach concepts from an “error less” point of view. It is very child-led in that child explore the materials that are set up in your home environment (it is easy to even create “centers”). Needless to say there are no tests, and the curriculum is only the materials you have set up in your home. I think this method is great your younger students.
There are particular learning areas you can set up: Sensorial materials, Practical Life, Math, Language, cultural (which encompasses geography, science, social studies, art and music).
For more information you can research American Montessori Society and there are many online places that will give you training (which is very helpful if you wish to use materials correctly).
I will be posting on this blog my own training videos for parents (stay tuned), as well as a blueprint for using Montessori as a Homeschool Method.
This method is a popular homeschooling technique based on the work of Rudolf Steiner and stresses the importance of educating the whole child- body, mind, and spirit. In the early grades, there is an emphasis on arts and crafts, music and movement, and nature. Older children are taught to develop self-awareness and how to reason things out for themselves. Like Montessori, there are Waldorf schools all over the world but it is a trend to bring it into the home.
Waldorf curriculum and support is available from Oak Meadow.
Multiple Intelligences Homeschooling
Howard Gardner proposed that everyone was intelligent in some way and this form of homeschooling acknowledges that by allowing the child – each individual child – an opportunity to develop his/her unique talent.
Our family would have been considered “Eclectic”. I spent a lot of time picking and choosing among curriculum to find the one that worked for each of my kids. I even mixed up age groups depending on what my two very different children were good at or struggled with. We spent our days doing projects based on the children’s interests after a couple of hours each morning doing “seat work” – that is our reading, language, writing and math “basic skills” work. I think we were really happy with this somewhat relaxed method that still allowed me to feel we were covering the basics. Eventually, when they were older (and after we “discovered” it) we moved into a tweaked form of Classical Homeschooling (without the Latin). The classical method, once they were in middle and high school, prepared them very well to move to a local private school followed by a private liberal arts college. Basically, their younger years were a lot of fun learning, following their interests and a very hands-on approach and their later years became more academic and demanding to get them ready for college. It worked well for us even though I know this approach would not work for everyone. That is the beauty of homeschooling – you get to do what works for you!
Enjoy a time of research to figure out what kind of homeschooler you want to be, then go for it. Try your approach for the first year and see if you like it. If you find yourself – or your kids – frustrated then try a different approach next year. Actually, you don’t even have to wait a whole year – keep doing what you are doing unless it is obvious it is not working. The last thing you want to do is struggle through a year – or ten – hating this journey.
And here’s a great planner if you wish to use a planner: