How to Homeschool: Determining Your Homeschooling Style


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Welcome to Day 3 of Homeschooling 101, where I’m covering 10 tips to help new homeschooling families get off to a great start. Today, we’ll be talking about determining your homeschooling style.

10-days-april-kris

When I first began homeschooling, I had no idea there were different styles. If I had known, I still would have had no idea what my style was or where I fit it. My biggest suggestion in determining your homeschooling style is to read about many different styles, even if you’re pretty sure a particular one will not suit you.

Very few people are ever 100% any given style. Even those who lean very heavily toward a particular style may find that they shift toward other styles during different seasons of their homeschooling life. No matter where you find yourself on the spectrum, I think that there is always something we can pick up from others.

Day 2 - P365

I jokingly call my homeschooling style “classically eclectic with a Charlotte Mason twist.” Don’t have a clue what that means? Let me explain the styles.

School-at-home

This homeschooling style looks very much like a public or private school classroom. It is typically very structured and relies heavily on textbooks. School-at-home families may have a dedicated classroom (though many other styles do, as well since it helps to keep the clutter contained), student desks, a whiteboard, and a school-like schedule. There will usually be regular tests and graded work.

This looked very much like our homeschool the first year. We started each day with the Pledge of Allegiance (I wanted the kids to learn it) and even had a certain time for recess. A lot of families thrive on this familiar structure and routine.

Oh, and don’t try to take my whiteboard away from me. I still used it every day. And, it’s a must-have for a rousing game of Pictionary.

Classical

The classical style follows three stages of learning: grammar (grades 1-4), dialectic (grades 5-8), and rhetoric (grades 9-12) and encourages a chronological, four-year cyclical study of history and science. These are the families that you’ll often find teaching their kids Latin from an early age.

Some well-known names in classical schooling circle are Susan Wise Bauer (author The Story of the World and First Language Lessons curriculum) and the Bluedorns. As I mentioned, this is a style toward which I lean strongly. I love the four-year history cycle and Latina Christiana was our Latin curriculum of choice.

Charlotte Mason

Charlotte Mason was a 19th century British educator who encouraged learning through “twaddle-free” living books, nature study, art, music and free afternoons for children to explore on their own. The Charlotte Mason style models itself after Ms. Mason’s teaching, seeking to allow children to make natural connections about the world around them.

Day 16 - P365

Unit Studies

Unit studies, also called thematic studies, incorporate all or most subjects into one general theme. These themes are often based on the interests of the child and can offer a nice balance between unschooling and more structured learning. Unit studies typically cover all subjects except math and phonics.

We used unit studies exclusively for our first couple of years homeschooling, with me writing my own units the majority of that time. I love the interest-led, all-encompassing aspect of unit studies.

Unschooling

Unschooling, often called child-led or interest-led learning looks least like a traditional school setting. The theory is that all people learn best when they are interested in what they’re learning, so children are allowed to direct their own learning with parents as facilitators.

The unschooling spectrum runs from relaxed homeschoolers who often still have some parent-directed learning to radical unschoolers whose learning is completely child-led.

Eclectic

Eclectic homeschoolers may be eclectic in their curriculum choices, picking and choosing what they like best from a variety of sources, or eclectic in their schooling style, picking and choosing what fits their families’ personalities best from the wide variety of homeschooling styles – or both, using an eclectic mix of curriculum and styling choices.

That’s where our family fits best – eclectic with a strong bent toward the classical style and enjoying a little taste of Charlotte Mason. Classically eclectic with a Charlotte Mason twist.

Whichever style sounds most appealing to you may be your base, but, again, I strongly encourage you not to discount any of the styles. There is much we can learn from one another and a style that may seem inferior to you now, may be the perfect fit a few years down the road. Homeschooling styles often evolve as our families change, growing, aging, and reaching new stages in life.

My favorite homeschooling books, covering most of the styles listed above are:

I hope you’ll come back tomorrow as we talk about one of the big questions for most new homeschooling families: choosing curriculum.

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18 Comments

  1. Kris, GREAT list -….we are eclectic but lean heavily on Principle Based teaching…with a little bit of Thomas Jefferson Leadership Education…CM/Child lead learning.  Have you ever heard of or met a family using Principle/TJED…I do not come across many…but they are also great ways to homeschool/teach your children

  2. Great (and pithy) descriptions of each general style, Kris. And I also love how you address the truism that styles are not rigid but flowing, particularly within each family, each season, and, sometimes, each child.

  3. Yes, Rebecca, I have heard of Principle/TJED. I actually meant to include them, but I forgot. Yep, my brain is old and feeble. 😉 Honestly, I don't know if I know each about them to write up a description, but I did mean to look them up and include them. I don't know anyone, IRL, who uses either, but I kow some online folks who do.

  4. Sounds like a great help, Ross. I'd be interested in taking a look at it, but I can't guarantee a review at this time — I'm *really* overcommitted right now. If you'd like to send a copy anyway, you can email me through the link on my blog. Thanks!

  5. I'm thinking that I am in the same boat as you ~ classically eclectic, but a Charlotte Mason twist. 🙂 Great post, girl!

  6. Great post!  I've always wondered the difference and which I will chose when we start homeschooling our kids who are now 3 1/2, 2 and 5 months.  Thanks for putting all of these together and your other posts as well!  

  7.  I recently found a homeschool yahoo group in my area that does play dates.  I'm going to meet up with them on Friday for the first time and I'm excited.  🙂 

  8. Just wanted to mention Diane Lockman's website – https://classicalscholar.com/welcome/ plus her book Trivium Mastery. I highly recommend them to anyone attracted to  the Classical approach but who finds The Well-Trained Mind a bit too much and a bit too prescriptive. This approach is refreshingly different. The road maps which she uses have really helped me fuse together all the different strands of my own eclectic approach.

  9. Kris, I utilize both…I write about Principle teaching throughout my homeschool blogging posts…and wrote a series about TJED – my last ten day series called:  Ten Days of Growing Leaders.  Tommy Mom – Teri, writes and weaves TJED every day.  I do have a really good friend irl who utilizes straight Principle method using the Noah plan…..and several who implement TJED – if you are ever interested in learning more.

    1. Would your friend using the Principle Approach and the Noah Plan be open to me contacting her via email? I’m very interested in using that method to homeschool my kids, but can’t find anyone who actually does it. Thanks!

  10. LOL! I totally understood your Classically Eclectic with a Charlotte Mason twist! That is so me! And I'm with you on my coveted white board…Mine all mine! It's wonderful for making charts, and it's magnetic so we can put up our maps and such to look at and explore.

  11. Love this. Up until now, I’ve been a school-at-home style with a little of everything else. I follow a curriculum according to our textbooks, but have no problem veering away from them to fit the needs of my children. I supplement/replace lessons with other books, activities that I feel encourage my child’s interests, and use the curriculum as a guide, per say. I see myself letting go of the school-at-home approach even more as I get more comfortable in my Homeschooling skin. Thanks again for this!

  12. Absolutely agree that different seasons in life contribute to what works best for a family. We were workbook schoolers for many years when I was pg and nursing and toddler chasing. Now we’re more Theme driven eclectic. 🙂 Works for us!

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