Monday, March 2, 2009

Home School Methods

Below I list short summaries of the main home schooling methods.  There are probably as many philosophies on home schooling as there are home schoolers, but these are the main home school methods you'll hear referred to by name. I think there's something to learn from each method.  Perhaps that puts me in the "ecclectic" category!  :)
    The thing to remember is that there's no one-size-fits all method or curriculum, which is why many families use a custom blend that works best for them.  Read about the different methods and slowly develop your own approach, taking into consideration your educational philosophy, and your child's learning style.   


Idealist Methods

Charlotte Mason Home Schooling...  Charlotte Mason was a British educator who brought classical ideals into modern education through the following avenues:
  • Atmosphere: absorbing the home environment
  • Discipline: cultivating good habits and character
  • Life: academics
Many educators today have embraced her philosophy, as it is rooted in a firm belief that we must educate the whole child, not just his mind. It utilizes a broad curriculum full of rich literature, focusing on living thoughts and ideas rather than dry facts. In place of dull text books, "living" books are selected, which are usually those written in story form by someone with a passion for the subject, making it come alive. Children learn to narrate what they'e learned from an early age, both for memory retention and as a means of assessment. This method includes plenty of time outdoors, and science is studied through first-hand experience as much as possible. Children are treated as people rather than an empty container to dump information into. As such, learning is to be meaningful and connected rather than rote drill. As this is the method I identify with most, I have an entire post linking to my favorite Charlotte Mason resources

The Montessori Method... Teachers capture the child's attention and maintain concentration by creating an optimum environment to invite the child to explore hands-on.  The environment is key.  Interestingly enough, it somewhat mimics the home.  This method doesn't use testing or grades, and focuses on the process, not the product.

The Moore Formula...  Proponents claim a low-stress, low-cost program with high achievement and sociability.  This method avoids rushing children into formal study until age 8-10, as their website states "A child's motivation is more educationally productive than the most skilled teaching."   Parents give children tools rather than toys to develop interests.  Children are involved in study, work, and service every day.  This method aims to cure teacher and student burn-out and encourages self-teaching.

NoteBooking... Rather than measuring yearly progress by completed workbooks and formal testing, some parents grade by the notebooks their child creates in each subject.  They "show and tell" what all the child has learned.  They show through drawings, photos, and maps.  They tell through written narrations, observations, reports, copywork, lists, and timelines. This can be used along with any homeschooling method. 
  • For more info and helpful links w/ free printable materials, see my notebooking page.

Most Over-all Structured Methods

Traditional Home Schooling... aka Structured Home Schooling... "School in a box."  This method most resembles traditional schooling, and eases most parents' worries.  Lessons are already planned out, with no educational "gaps."  This approach relies on textbook reading followed by answering questions.  It's easy to find many traditional curriculums.  The key is to make it work for you.  Tailor the program to your child by limiting assignments and moving forward when they grasp the material well.  Assigning every problem in the book may become burdensome.  Creative supplementing is essential when using this method to keep learning fun and interesting.  (Recommended article: Home School vs. School at Home)
  • A Beka Book  is the Christian-based version of traditional home-schooling 

Accredited Home Schooling...  Similar to that described above, but using an accredited home school curriculum.  Companies provide record-keeping and even more structure, with the thought of better recognition to colleges and employers.  This is not necessary for a good education, and takes away your freedom to choose what to teach and how to teach it.  It also caters to the accrediting agency, rather than your child.   

Classical Home Schooling... Teaches children based on their cognitive development in three stages, Grammar (grade school: absorbing information), Logic (middle school: learning the "why" and discussing more), Rhetoric (high school: communicate knowledge to others & test the unknown).  This method produced many educational "giants," but could be overwhelming for some families. I identify with much of this method, as it overlaps with ours a great deal.   

University Schools...  These schools blend home schooling with private schooling.  Students may take a course or a full course load, as in college.  They attend a traditional classroom 2-3 days a week, and can be less expensive than private schools.  You can still run into some of the same disadvantages of public schools, but depending what your goals are it might be a good fit.  

Least Over-all Structured Methods

Unit Studies... Incorporates a theme into all subjects, allowing you to teach multiple children the same material on different levels.  They make learning a natural, more relaxed process.  Many parents still use a traditional math & language curriculum.  This makes a great supplement to other methods, although some use it entirely on its own.

Unschooling...   This method has no curriculum or guidelines.  You simply study whatever the child is interested in, using real life, every day experiences and exploration.  This has been said by some to be more of a family lifestyle then a system of education.  To do it well, it would be a very full-time, hands-on for parents.  Children can learn and retain more by diving into subjects that peak their interest, but parents must take great care to expose children to a diverse field of interests to lead their studies. Children must have constant access to things that interest them.  Unschooling is the least structured and least formal of all methods.
  • Gather materials from just about anywhere. Check libraries, book stores, and online sites dedicated to your current study

E-Schooling Methods

Computer Based Home-schooling...  This online option allows students to take a course or their entire schooling via internet.  Working parents and working students appreciate that the student may work independently on their own schedule, but parents must regularly check the child's progress, to ensure they're staying on task.  Students must be very self-disciplined, self motivated, and be able to learn by primarily reading!  This is not ideal for hands-on learners, and may lack in the areas of creativity and discovery. 

Virtual Schools...  This is public schooling, done at home. This is NOT HOMESCHOOLING. I'm listing it here because it's often referred to as homeschooling, which can be confusing to newbies. Virtual Schools (sometimes referred to as charter schools) give children a public school education & diploma, with free curriculum and materials, in their own home. Each child is assigned to a teacher who regularly checks their work and progress, and parents must carry out the teacher's decisions.  Parents are subject to government oversight and perhaps interviews with school officials.  If you leave virtual schooling to independently home school, (as many families have feeling choked by the growing restrictions) you may even be investigated.  Student academics are less then those of students who attend regular public school.  Overall, this method negatively affects the home schooling community, and if used wide-spread it may jeopardize home schooling freedoms in the future! If you're considering this method, or just want to understand it better, click here

Ecclectic Method

Eclectic Home-schooling...  Whether you're indecisive or just want to use bits of each method at once, this approach is for parents who are flexible and want to choose methods and curriculum to meet the needs of their child.  Most parents purchase a base curriculum then supplement it to meet their child's particular needs, and some write their own curriculum. If a curriculum is ineffective, it is dropped. This approach  blends the various methods to meet the educational needs and learning style of the student.
  • Eclectic Home Schooling Online... an online magazine for creative home schoolers 
  • Click Schooling... daily curriculum ideas 
  • Curr Click  is a formerly home school e-store... it sells all e-format resources, and every week they offer a freebie!  Here is their freebie page.  Sometimes they give away lapbooking or notebooking kits (either of which could be adapted for other uses too) 

How did we get so many methods?

Unfortunately for those home schooling thirty years ago, there were very little resources and information available on the subject.  They were pioneering into a great unknown, determined to improve the educational experience for their children.  The only problem was they only had their own experience to draw from.  So, they generally adhered to a strictly traditional method using textbooks and workbooks, which, by the way, were difficult for many to even get their hands on.  So, many did their best to imitate the school system, bringing it home

As home schooling expanded and people learned through trial and error, they tried to get away from the "school at home" mentality.  They learned the hard way that this approach is less-than-ideal.  This lead to the less traditional and less structured methods.         

When people consider home schooling today, the traditional textbook/workbook approach is still usually the first method they consider, because it's familiar.  But, if you aren't putting your children in public school, why would you want to imitate it at home?    

Lucky Us!

Thankfully, home schooling has come a long way.  We now have experienced home school teachers to learn from, so we don't have to repeat all of their frustrations and mistakes.  Our natural tendencies will lead us to repeat their mistakes.  Save yourself unneeded difficulty and do your homework before jumping in!  I'd recommend reading the advice of veteran home schoolers, since they've already been where you're headed.  Here is my recommended reading page of book suggestions.

I've tried to make note of helpful information as I come across it.  You can read what I've learned in researching home schooling by making your way through this site.  The more I learn from veteran home schoolers, the more I see that so many diverse people independently arrived at similar conclusions on many topics.  A couple of these topics are home school vs. school at home, and maintaining balance.  Learn more by visiting my home school page


Wow, that was a lot of information to take in. Maybe you connected with one or two methods, or maybe you thought most all of them had aspects you'd like to incorporate. Where do you go from here? The most important thing to take away from these methods is that you have options to personalize your home school, so you don't have to settle for a one-size-fits-all approach like schools do.              

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