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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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, 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 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:
- A Charlotte Mason Education by Catherine Levison
- Homeschooling the Early Years by Linda Dobson
- The Relaxed Home School by Mary Hood
- The Unschooling Handbook by Mary Griffith
- The Well-Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer
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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Kris Bales is a newly-retired homeschool mom and the quirky, Christ-following, painfully honest founder (and former owner) of Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers. She has a pretty serious addiction to sweet tea and Words with Friends. Kris and her husband of over 30 years are parents to three amazing homeschool grads. They share their home with three dogs, two cats, a ball python, a bearded dragon, and seven birds.