Homeschooling: Which Model Is Right for You?
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Many reports demonstrate that homeschool students outpace their peers in standardized tests, writing, reading, and reasoning. Other studies show that they perform better in college, and serve their communities.
But not all homeschooling is the same.
One of the key advantages of homeschooling is also among its biggest challenges: Options. Homeschooling is roughly as old as humanity, but according to the Coalition for Responsible Home Education, the modern homeschooling movement can trace its roots to John Holt’s writing on Unschooling back in the 1970’s. Later came the Christian homeschool movement in the 80’s and 90’s. By 1993, Homeschooling was legalized in all 50 states.
With the swelling ranks of homeschools came an influx of options. Homeschooling effectively set off an earthquake in the educational world. It triggered flooding in the market of school choices, with a veritable tsunami of methodologies, curricula, publishers, projects and what not. Today, newcomers and veterans alike may find the sea of options overwhelming.
To help you narrow down the search, we offer an overview of the leading homeschool styles. As you read over these summaries, think about what sounds most appealing to you and what would best suit your needs. Each summary includes resource links preceded by an informal assessment designed to help you determine whether or not a given style suits your needs.
Homeschooling can be as traditional as "school-at-home" programs where students study the same stuff at home as do their peers at the local school. Or homeschooling can be as radical as "Unschooling" education where the lessons are student-directed explorations devoid of homework and tests.
We hope this rundown helps you weigh your options and find the homeschool method best suits you.
There are roughly seven main approaches to homeschooling :
Classical, Charlotte Mason, Montessori, Unschooling, School-at-Home, Unit studies, and Eclectic education methods.
Each of these is introduced hereafter with considerations of the benefits and drawbacks. Following is a brief sample assessment describing the general personality best suited for each method. If that method really appeals to you, and it looks like it fits your personality, then you can dig deeper by using the resource lists, which links to pertinent teaching guides, curricula, and homeschooling networks.
Bear in mind, there is considerable overlap between many of these educational models. This means that there is plenty of room, if needed, to share and borrow ideas between styles. Homeschool teachers typically mix methods and materials liberally. But to avoid any unsavory creations, it’s probably best to get a good working knowledge of your teaching materials and methods before splicing them with others.
The Classical Method
The Classical method is one of the most popular homeschooling styles. It borrows the wisdom of time-tested educational practices dating from as far back as Ancient Greece and Rome. In the case of Biblical-Classical models (A.K.A., the "Principal Approach"), the roots trace back even further, to Hebrew concepts in the Old Testament. Typical classical homeschools employ "Great books" (Adler, Hutchins, and Van Doren) and an "Applied Trivium" framework (Wise-Bauer). That means, the "canon" of Great Books (classics and masterpieces) get top billing, as students learn facts and data in grammar school, logic and critical thinking in middle school, and rhetoric and self-expression in high school. The Classical method often incorporates Greek and Latin learning, though these are not required. Biblical-Classical education will also place a heavy emphasis on the Bible and biblical worldview training.
The subject areas are, as much as possible, interwoven into a chronological reading plan so that students are studying the various subject areas historically. In this way, students are equipped to understand the consequence over ideas over time. This method is distinct from conventional schooling and other homeschooling methods (Unschooling, Unit studies, School-at-Home), which tend to "jump around" from topic to topic, or which reserve history for a separate subject area.
Another prominent feature of Classical learning is the use of Socratic dialogues. Socratic dialogues foster robust discussion and debate through open-ended questions, encouraging students go beyond mere "comprehension" or "skill training" in order to achieve enriching understandings of self and world. See also, TheWellTrainedMind.com and "Definition for Classical Ed."
Classical education offers many benefits, making it one of the most popular homeschooling methods today. This method also has the reputation of being the most prestigious homeschool method, noted for producing little geniuses who are better readers than most adults. While that prestige comes at a cost (see "Drawbacks," below), it’s generally not as expensive as school-at-home (unless it’s a classical school-at-home).
- Well-proven: This is a time-tested and well-proven educational style having been used in various ways over thousands of years.
- Great-Books: The focus on Great Books lends a sense of prestige as students become familiar with some of the most influential ideas and most important conversations throughout history and across the globe. And they do all of this by studying books that should be on everyone’s reading list.
- Reading: Reading is a high priority in this method. Classical students are typically well-read, and familiar with key texts across the history of western civilization.
- Language learning: Depending on the brand of classical learning, space is carved out for different classical or modern languages. The Principle Approach (biblical classical education) may teach biblical Hebrew or Koine Greek. Traditional classical education trains students in Latin and classical Greek. And modern classical education may use any of these, as well as Spanish, French, German or another useful modern language.
- Logic & Critical Thinking: The trivium reinforces a special place for learning logic. Whether this is taught as classical Aristotelian logic, as critical thinking, or as lateral thinking and problem solving, the point is that classical education reinforces one of the life skills most often neglected in formal public, and even private schools: logic.
- Adaptable: This method can fit most any student, even students with dyslexia. compared to public and private schools, this method is far more adaptable. However, it isn’t as flexible as some of the other homeschool methods like Relaxed schooling or Unschooling.
- Rigorous & Systematic: while some methods are free-flowing and student-directed, classical education can incorporate those liberties while retaining a backbone of academic rigor and systematic scope. Teachers are not restricted to a "hands-off" and indirect approach, though they can use that strategy if they like. Instead, there are lots of clear texts, schedules, and learning plan recommendations so parent-teachers can make sure all the key competencies are covered.
- Choices: Because the classical method is so popular, there are lots of ready-to-use curricula and materials from which to choose.
- Networking: The classical method boasts some of the largest and most active homeschool networks, including groups, meet-ups and associations.
While the classical method has many strengths, no method is perfect. And there are some real trade-offs one should bear in mind before committing to the classical method. Also remember that each of these drawbacks can be mitigated or resolved with a little ingenuity on the part of the parent-teacher.
- Reading Trouble: Some students, and teachers, may find the amount of reading too difficult or counterproductive. For example, students may lose a love for reading because they are required to read faster and shallower than they’d like. Or teachers may be tempted to implement books that are written at the student’s reading level, but which are driven by themes and issues too sophisticated for the student to appreciate. Also, the amount of reading typical of classical schools poses a particular problem for students who struggle with reading. This problem may be overcome, but it’s still a problem.
- Time Tradeoffs: The heavy focus on books and reading takes away time from other areas of study. For some students, reading can be a time-consuming activity. And for students more gifted in other areas, their strengths might suffer and stagnate under the pressure of a heavy reading schedule.
- Inflexibility: Compared to conventional schooling, most any homeschool method is more adaptable, including the Classical method. But compared to other homeschooling methods the Classical method is generally less flexible. The Wise-Bauer classical method is built on a particular understanding of student development (the "applied trivium"), a classical recommendation for subject areas (the trivium and quadrivium), and a chronological curriculum. It would betray the principles of that method, for example, to teach history out of chronological order, or to teach logic to second graders.
- Less Experiential/Interactive Learning: While classical homeschooling is liable to offer much more experiential and interactive learning than public or private schools, on average, this method typically employs more "desk work," reading, and rote learning than some other homeschool methods like Unschooling or Montessori.
- Impracticality: It may be argued that Greek and Latin languages aren’t very practical for modern students. Sure, there’s a counterargument to be made. But for classical homeschools committed to teaching Greek, Latin, or even Hebrew, they are trading in time that could have been spent learning Spanish, auto and home repair, keyboarding, computer programming, or SAT/ACT preparation.
Classical/Principle Approach might be for you if...
- You love the idea of studying the most influential books ever printed in English, the "Great Books."
- You are generally unimpressed with a lot of "new-fangled" learning methods, and child psychology theories, that aren’t very time-honored or well-proven.
- You prize logic and critical thinking to the extent that you want your student to have focused study on these subjects.
- You think history should be taught as a narrative and would like to see different subject areas aligned with chronological history.
- You want your student to learn foreign languages, even classical languages, like Greek and Latin.
- Instead of lots of tests and quizzes, you prefer guided intelligent dialogues and exercises in abstract thinking.
- You don’t want to "reinvent the wheel," you just want an educational model that works.
As mentioned above, there are oceans of information on classical education. Parent-teachers can find many curricula and networks to power their classical classrooms. Also, don’t be afraid to sample outside sources, from other methods, and non-classical publishers. Most "classical" homeschools are really eclectic homeschools in nature, simply with an emphasis classical methodology.
- Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise, The Well Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education, 3rd ed. (Norton, 2009).
The Well-Trained Mind materials from Susan Wise Bauer, coauthored with her mother Jessie Wise, are probably the best place to start, along with the accompanying website. It walks the reader through the basic theory of (modern) classical education, and gives straight-forward advice and recommendations for conducting a classical homeschool from pre-K to 12th grade. Each chapter has curricula and material recommendations most of which the authors have either created, or used extensively.
The site ClassicalChristianHomeschooling.org fully aligns with the Wise-Bauer method, but is more distinctly Christian in its framing and recommendations.
- Dorothy Sayers, "The Lost tools of Learning," [Speech] Oxford Univ., 1947.
- Robert Harris, "On the Purpose of Liberal Arts Education" by VirtualSalt [Online], 14 March 1991.
- Peter Kreeft, What is Classical Education? [Online] (Memoria Press, 2009).
- Ravi Jain and Kevin Clark, The Liberal Arts Tradition: A Philosophy of Christian Classical Education (Classical Academic Press, 2013).
For an article length treatment of Classical, see the landmark speech by Dorothy Sayers "The Lost tools of Learning." This article is cited all over the homeschooling world as a groundbreaking critique of modern conventional schooling and a call for homeschooling. This article answers conventional "factory style" education with a classical liberal arts emphasis. After that, you can read Robert Harris’s development of the liberal arts theme in his article, "On the Purpose of Liberal Arts Education." This 1991 article updates that conversation with a more modern answer to the problems Sayers saw in 1947. The book Liberal Arts Tradition, by Jain and Clark, advances beyond the Wise-Bauer method, utilizing a "holistic" and traditional liberal arts method. This text is recommended for parent-teachers who are familiar with the modern classical method but would like to gain a deeper and richer understanding of the underlying liberal arts tradition tracing back through the ancient and medieval eras.
Curricula and Teaching Materials
At the heart of the classical method is a list of Great Books. These great books are the time-honored, vetted texts which have proven to be important contributions to the great conversations across the history of Western and global civilizations. Both of these lists are arranged by chronological order, but the Wise-Bauer list is comprised of roughly 100 books while the Adler-VanDoren list is much longer. Most of these books are in the public domain or can be found free at libraries (or cheap at used books stores).
- Progeny Press
- Institute for Excellence in Writing
- Critical Thinking Company
Networks and Groups
Since many homeschool families use the classical method, there are lots of compatible homeschool networks to choose from, and quite likely one in your area. Two sites to help you find shared support are the Communities page at Classical Conversations and the Forums page at WellTrainedMind.
Charlotte Mason Method
Based on the teachings of 19th century homeschooling pioneer, Charlotte Mason, this Christian homeschool style utilizes short periods of study, typically 15-20 minutes maximum for elementary students, and 45 minutes maximum for high schoolers. These short periods are coupled with nature walks, nature journals, history portfolios, and lots of practice in observation, memorization, and narration. Reading plays a big role in CM homeschools, especially biographies, classics, and other "living books" (i.e., stories, with heroes, life-lessons, and important socio-ethical implications). This method sacrifices lectures and expertise, and in return gets a child-directed observational approach that is easy on the budget, fairly flexible, and which lets children discover and learn at their own pace. See also: SimpyCharlotteMason.com and Amblesideonline.org.
In some ways, the Charlotte Mason (CM) method borrows some of the best from the Classical method, Unit-studies, and even Unschooling methods to come up with a fairly-well proven yet student-directed methodology. Moreover, it’s generally less expensive than School-at-home or Classical homeschooling. Yet it’s more structured than Unschooling or Montessori. Charlotte Mason method has many distinctives, making it a popular option for contemporary homeschoolers.
- Nature Walks: Who says science learning has to be expensive and complicated? From elementary age up, CM has students learn observation, processing, recording, and creativity through nature walks. In this way, the heart of science is sustained through a love of nature and active exploration.
- Journaling: Students use journals and portfolios more than quizzes and tests.
- Time-Tested: While not as old as the Classical method, the Charlotte Mason method still has a rich and successful history, spanning more than 100 years.
- Low cost: Most Charlotte Mason materials are inexpensive, downloadable, or otherwise free. Indeed, the method was created by a full-time nanny and tutor seeking to empower other women, in the same position, to teach on a low budget.
- Christian-based: For homeschool families who are eager to implement solid biblical training, the Charlotte Mason method is a historically Christian learning model, and the websites and materials generally reflect a consciously Christian approach to learning. Bible studies, Bible stories, and Christian character formation are prominent features of CM education.
- Non-professionals: Some methods may seem too professional, essentially requiring a teaching certificate to be adequately implemented. This is true of Montessori schooling, for example. But Charlotte Mason methodology is well-suited to non-professional teachers, especially at the elementary and middle school levels.
- Elementary Oriented: The nature walks, and free-writing journals are well-suited to young students who learn in a lot of tactical, movement-oriented ways. In this way, the math and science components for CM are strongest with elementary students.
- Unit-Study & Classical Friendly: CM works well with Unit-Studies by thematically connecting subject areas where possible. For example, see SimplyCharlotteMason’s history workbooks, which are designed as whole-family study texts interlacing Bible, Geography, and History. CM is also very compatible with Classical Education. With a few tweaks, such as chronological reading plans, and an applied trivium framework, a Charlotte Mason homeschool can serve equally as a Classical homeschool, retaining the key features of both methods.
Charlotte Mason methodology is not without its drawbacks. Parent-teachers pursuing the CM method would do well to remember these concerns, and prepare to compensate, before these issues become problems in their own classrooms.
- Middle and High School: Since this method was originally designed in the 19th century by Charlotte Mason for Nannies and tutors to train primarily K-6th grade students, this method didn’t originally have much need for late-middle and high school level materials. Modern CM homeschools are typically strong in elementary and early-middle school, offering a wealth of resources, but are often weaker when approaching the high school level. For this reason, CM homeschools often outsource their high school materials, drawing from non-CM sources to cover this resource gap.
- Christian Framing: The Christian orientation of this method is a double-edged sword. The resources are aimed at a Christian homeschool demographic, and for Christian homeschool settings, it’s an asset to have resources and curricula that are already laced with Christian worldview and Bible study plans. But for non-Christian homeschools and expressly secular homeschools, the Charlotte Mason method may leave the parent-teacher struggling to find resources that are non-Christian or religiously neutral.
- Math and Science: Charlotte Mason is not so much "weak" on math and science as it is typically neutral on intermediate and advance study in these areas. To address this need, parent-teachers can utilize outside materials and adapt them to CM methodology (short time periods, narrative framing, with samples from "living" books), or they can embrace an eclectic method and just use non-CM materials in a non-CM way.
- Old-Fashioned: For some parent-teachers and students, this methodology might not seem contemporary or timely enough to suit their needs. Unlike classical school, CM is not a common framework for private or church schools, so there are fewer publishers producing modern CM material. You won’t find any mention of computers, cell phones, YouTube, online gaming, television, or screen-based modern technology in Charlotte Mason’s century-old journals and philosophy of education books. Of course, the individual teacher can update his or her materials, but these updates may feel like they are "tacked onto" antique methodology.
- You would rather have your student learn through stories, biographies, and other "living literature" than through textbooks.
- You want your student to study the Bible daily, and have regular Scripture memory
- You need to operate on a zero budget or close to it.
- You value nature walks and outdoor discovery time.
- You’d prefer for your student to have journals and portfolios rather than tests and quizzes.
- You want your student to have lots of choices about what and how to study.
- You value narration and want your student to retell stories, narrate their own stories, and enjoy narrative styles of learning.
- You believe that reading exercises should be done with "Great Books" as much as possible.
- Catherine Levison, Charlotte Mason Education, new edition, (Beverly Hills, CA: Champion Press, 2000).
- Catherine Levison, More Charlotte Mason Education (Beverley Hills, CA: Champion Press, Ltd., 2001).
- Karen Andreola, A Charlotte Mason Companion: Personal Reflections on the Gentle Art of Learning (Charlotte Mason Research and Supply Company, 1998).
- Simply Charlotte Mason Store
- Ambleside Online Curricula
- Simply Charlotte Mason Curriculum Guide
- Living Books Press
- Institute for Excellence in Writing
- Critical Thinking Company
- Elementary: Montessori method incorporates the findings of early child psychology and thus is readily adapted for young learners, who need to touch, move, and play in the course of their learning.
- Special Needs friendly: Montessori method was originally implemented in treating learning disabled and mentally handicapped children. Montessori found it so effective that she replicated the model for other students as well.
- Genius Friendly: Most every parent thinks their child is a genius, but the Montessori method enables those students who really are extraordinary in their abilities to work at their own pace and have their curricula adapt to their particular needs and interests. This allows the gifted student to move through material faster than would have been allowed in conventional classrooms.
- Physical: Montessori appeals to lots of parents and teachers because of the heavy use of tactile physical interaction. Not only is this approach beneficial for children generally, but some learners may prove more gifted when employing this particular learning style. Spatial and tactile intelligence are often are downplayed in the traditional classroom, but these virtues are celebrated in Montessori schools.
- Highly Adaptable: Because of the relatively "hands-off" approach of the Montessori teacher, students can choose from the teacher’s list of options. And they can pursue that study interest for long blocks of time or short blocks if they so desire.
- Fosters Art and Creativity: Since this method facilitates decision making, emphasizes physical-tactile interaction and is very adaptable in length, young artists may find Montessori classrooms the ideal context in which to develop their masterpieces. Creativity and ingenuity are assets here.
- Small Class Size: Even Montessori school houses ("conventional school") prize small class sizes, so they are naturally suited to homeschool applications where parent-teachers are expected to work with only a few students at a time, and to engage generously in one-on-one instruction time with each child.
- Teaching Certification: One of the most obvious drawbacks is that Montessori is an official teaching method complete with training classes and certification. Technically, before you can call your homeschool a "Montessori" school, you would need to get certified as a Montessori instructor. That said, this problem is relatively easy to solve. Parent-teachers can just ditch the official "Montessori" label and still use Montessori principles. It’s probably still best, however, to pursue Montessori certification to make sure you are doing it right.
- School-House Model: The Montessori method, so far, is not common among homeschools but is primarily a private-school and sometimes public school option. In other words, it’s still largely a "school house" option, rather than a "homeschool" one. This fact wouldn’t be a problem except that it translates into limited options for resources and networking.
- Middle-School and High-School: This method seems to work best for younger learners and is not generally used beyond elementary school.
- Unstructured: This open-ended methodology can feel unstructured, non-rigorous, and unstimulating to some students who crave external challenges, competition, rules, and imposed order.
- Humanism: This method is modeled on a humanistic view of children. If that’s not your view, or that approach doesn’t suit your student, then this model might not work for you.
- You see students as blank slates and you don’t want see them fitted into "cookie-cutter" molds favored by some traditional school.
- You are willing to get certified in Montessori method or utilize Montessori certified teachers to train you or to share your homeschooling duties.
- You have a student with moderate to serious learning differences, whether "gifted and talented" or a learning handicap.
- You trust your student, generally, to direct his or her learning, provided there’s a little structure and a lot of freedom.
- You want your student to have immersive, physical, and tactile learning opportunities.
- Maria Montessori, The Montessori Method (Frederick A. Stokes Company, 1912).
- Maria Montessori, An Absorbent Mind, Revised Ed. (Holt Paperbacks, 1995)
- Maria Montessori, Dr. Montessori’s Own Handbook (Frederick A. Stokes Company, 1914).
- Tim Seldin, How To Raise an Amazing Child The Montessori Way (DK, 2006).
- American Montessori Society – Family Support Materials
- Montessori-Pierson Publishing Company
- Michael Olaf – Montessori Store
- EdVid—Montessori Educational Videos
- JMJ Publishing & Livable Learning – Hope4ME printables
- Adaptability: This method is easily the most flexible methodology out there. Unschoolers might even be uncomfortable calling Unschool a "method" at all, because it’s so adaptable to the needs and interests of each unique student and teacher.
- Passion Driven: Unschooling allows students to academically explore their own passions—like skateboarding, whales, baking, gardening, medieval weaponry, African folklore, or mixed martial arts—so their study aligns with their interests.
- Loose Structure: Parent-teachers can direct education loosely, by providing minimal structure and an array of options from which students can choose their unique course of learning.
- Multi-Dimensional: While conventional schooling, and some of the other homeschooling methods, are two-dimensional, focusing almost exclusively on "flat" book learning and written words, Unschooling favors experiences, wholism, and interaction, all of which can facilitate richer learning. Unschooling typically incorporates lots of books, but adds a depth of experience through living encounters and access points for students with different learning styles (i.e., multiple intelligences).
- Dignifies Diversity: Unschooling treats each student as a unique and creative individual. Unschooling is to conventional schooling as freelance art is to factory production. Unschooling savors the individual creative expression over assembly line efficiency.
- Modified Parenting: Unschooling dovetails well with parenting. Both are typically free-form, both adapt to each child, and both invest in the child’s development according to their unique personality and gifts. Unschooling essentially adds an intentionally educational dimension to parenting.
- Reactionary: While Unschooling offers an exciting alternative to other schooling methods, the very term "Unschooling" is reactionary. That’s not surprising. If you read Unschooling books by John Holt or Clark Aldrich, you’ll note this connotation. Unschooling reacts against the limitations and failings of other school models. This fact isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It does however carry the risk of being negative in its most basic orientation, as if backing away from the mistakes of others is a safe guarantee against making parallel mistakes in the other direction. Parent-teachers need to be careful that they aren’t just reacting against conventional models and throwing out the proverbial baby with the bathwater.
- Lack of Structure: Students may need more structure and rigor than this (un)method provides. Unschooling allows for facilitators to implement added structure where needed, but it may not be sufficient order or oversight for some students.
- Humanism: Underneath a great deal of Unschooling theory is a broadly humanistic view of children. This humanism can be a good corrective against overly mechanistic and industrial models of education. But if you don’t agree with that psychological theory, then you may find yourself questioning the wisdom of such a "free-flowing" and "student-directed" education.
- Knowledge Gaps: Unschooling can be sporadic and un-systematic in covering content. This pattern permits knowledge gaps for students and can leave them without important core competencies which they may need down the road.
- Redundancy: Parent-teachers can be left "reinventing the wheel." By rejecting schooling generally, one is left trying to remake ways to address the same timeless problems which school used to address. Sometimes, the "old-fashioned" way actually represents proven wisdom, not to be discarded lightly.
- You are pretty cynical towards conventional/traditional schooling.
- You think classrooms basically teach kids how to be in a classroom.
- You believe that most of what we learn in school is useless information, soon forgotten.
- You believe learning is richer, better, and more indelible when it’s aligned with our immediate needs and interests.
- You trust your student, generally, to know what’s best for him or her, provided there’s a little structure and a lot of freedom.
- You or your student tend to think like entrepreneurs, try new things, learn about distant and often unrelated subjects, and you like to invent things from scratch.
- Your student already tends to create learning projects for himself or herself such as learning all the dinosaur names, memorizing baseball statistics, doing crossword puzzles, or cooking casseroles.
- John Holt & Pat Farenga, Teach Your Own: The John Holt Book of Homeschooling, 1st Paperback Ed. (De Capo Press, 2003).
- Clark Aldrich, Unschooling Rules: 55 Ways to Unlearn What We Know About Schools and Rediscover Education (Greenleaf Book Group, 2011).
- Mary Griffith, The Unschooling Handbook: How To Use The Whole World As Your Child’s Classroom, 2d ed. (Three Rivers Press, 1998).
- Oliver Demille, A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century. TJedOnline.com 2009.
- "The Master List of Unschooling Resources" by WeedemAndReap
- JohnHoltGWS.com – List of Unschooling Blogs
- Unschoolers.com – Free Resources
- Thomas Jefferson Education
- Conventional: School-at-Home education is easily understood in terms of conventional school. Not everyone who is looking at homeschooling is interested in "revolutionizing" the entire educational system, or willing to throw out all the methods and strategies of a conventional classroom. School-at-Home education is fairly conventional in this way, so it can attract families who have no desire to "reinvent the wheel" (of education).
- Formal Standards: School-at-Home curricula and classes are typically aligned with federal and state learning standards (including Common Core). In this way, parents already know what they are getting, oftentimes in measurable and standardized categories that translate well into college admission essays and scholarship applications.
- Choices: There are lots of prepackaged, grade-by-grade, ready-to-use curricula to choose from. And the educational market is loaded with schools vying for more students through distance and online programs. This means competition, which means a wide selection for you to choose from.
- Parallels Public or Private Schools: Students can stay on roughly the same pace with peers at the local public or private school. By conforming to state and federal standards, homeschool students can be reassured that their education is comparable to that of their conventionally schooled peers. Using the School-at-Home model, parents can even acquire and use the exact textbooks from their local private or public school.
- Short-Term Friendly: Some homeschool needs are short term, with students reentering traditional school after a season at home. This short-term may occur when students are in unsettled locations or experiencing unusual living situations, as a consequence of a demanding work schedule (such as tennis, or acting, etc.), or perhaps as the result of an extended injury or illness. School-at-Home education allows the impacted student to spend a semester or a year out of the classroom, then to return, without missing a step.
- Expensive: While there are some inexpensive and even free options with this method, typically School-at-Home education is just as expensive as private school. These sorts of curricula are typically designed to be sold in packages and interwoven across strictly preplanned courses of study spanning grades K-12. So, for example, the textbook is useless without the teacher’s guide and answer key; and none of those will work unless students have already studied the recommended subjects and topics from the prior years.
- Locked-In: Since School-at-home learning often works through off-site school houses in online and distance learning classrooms, homeschoolers are locked into whatever learning track that school has. One can’t "opt-out" of a subject area, an exercise, or a lesson. This objection can be mitigated somewhat if the parent-teacher and the school fully agree on the course of study.
- Burn-Out: School-at-Home parent-teachers often burn out. When parent-teachers aren’t willing (or able) to pay for an expensive home-based private school, they may try to replicate this model themselves, administering a complete school-at-home curriculum. But this option is daunting because this type of conventional education is typically carried out by 5-8 different teachers. In most cases, homeschool places the onus on just one person to cover this same breadth of subjects. Other parent-teachers burn out because they haven’t sectioned off enough time and energy to reinforce their child’s education when, it turns out, the online or distance program hasn’t effectively supplanted the experience of attending a traditional school. Simply put, parent-teachers still have a unique role to play in making home education work, even if they are using a "school in a box" (complete prepackaged curriculum) or working through an Online or Distance learning school.
- Bad Numbers: Conventional school classes may have up to 35 students. Where curricula are directly transferred from conventional classrooms to a homeschool setting, the parent-teacher is left trying to retrofit activities and exercises for a smaller number. This added workload can overwhelm the parent and erode the homeschooling advantage.
- Inflexible: With school at home, you are liable to find the materials too formulaic and inflexible since it is textbook-centered and not student-centered.
- Time-Suck: This method can be too time-consuming, consisting of 8-hour school days across five days a week, compared to the 4- or 5-hour days demanded by other homeschool methods.
- You have no interest in "reinventing the wheel." You are fine using the tools and methods of conventional schooling even if the local public or private school isn’t quite right for your student.
- You prefer working with curricula that are certified by experts in education, preferably veteran school teachers and accreditation boards.
- You prefer curricula and resources that are guaranteed to cover all Federal and State standards.
- You would rather not construct your own curricula piecemeal. Instead you prefer prepackaged sets, with a whole year’s worth of materials at a time, even if these complete sets are more expensive.
- You are willing to put a lot of time and resources (including money) into educating your student.
- You plan to reintroduce your student into a conventional school in the future.
- You want to ease your student out of conventional school by aligning closely with their previous school experience.
- Homeschooling 911 – School-At-Home Method
- Public School Review – Homeschooling Compared with Public Schooling.
- Abeka books
- Saxon Curricula
- Houghton Mifflin - Homeschool
- Rod and Staff Bible Based Curricula
- Sonlight Curriculum
- Institute for Excellence in Writing
- Fun: Unit studies make learning fun. Instead of studying the Civil War as a list of dates and names, students can try their hand at picking crops manually, play a Civil War-based board game, perform skits, plays, and reenactments, and engage in Socratic dialogues over Civil War era letters and documents. The opportunities are endless.
- Student-Directed: Unit studies lend well to student-directed learning plans, thus teaching students responsibility and self-awareness through the course of their own education.
- Wholism: By approaching learning as a wholistic tapestry of different interwoven subjects, students can grown a more "connected" sense of knowledge.
- Bolsters Weaker Subjects: Using this method, parent-teachers can incorporate subject areas that would otherwise repel students. In this way, Unit studies empower students to work in and enjoy their weaker subject areas by leveraging their strengths in other subject areas.
- Partnering: This method partners well with other methods like Charlotte-Mason, Classical, and Unschooling.
- Incomplete: The term "Unit studies" tends to refer to curricula more than to a complete and singular educational philosophy. There is no unified set of ideas explaining the "big picture" for this approach. What are the goals? How are the areas of study linked and laid out so that everything important is addressed? What core competencies are addressed and in what order? There’s not a clear single source for answering these sorts of questions. Thus, parent-teachers are left to "figure it out" on their own.
- Curriculum-Dependent: Unit studies can be very curriculum-dependent. More than with other methods, the Unit studies methodology has no overall, universal model that guarantees coverage of all the important subjects. Therefore, a Unit studies education can vary widely by curriculum, moreso than with other methods. And some Unit study curricula might skip over whole subject areas, thus leaving the parent-teacher to anticipate and compensate for gap.
- Knowledge gaps: Unit studies are notorious for leaving major knowledge gaps. By thematically joining subject areas according to objects and events, the constant risk is that one of the subject areas (like Math, or Chemistry) is insufficiently addressed or entirely ignored.
- Internal Logic: Another objection comes from Susan Wise Bauer. She contends that Unit studies are conflicted because each subject has its own "internal logic" and different logics might not work together. The humanities like English, History, Philosophy, Geography, or Foreign languages work wonderfully in unit studies, but Math and Science may pull the learner in a different direction. These latter subjects build on a growing bed of systematic, prerequisite knowledge. Skipping around or using a historical-chronological framework might work fine in the humanities but would be a death knell for Math competency. In this way, Unit studies might work better in tandem with systematic study, thus ensuring that no subject areas are sold short.
- Dependent: Because this method is incomplete (see above), it needs a supporting framework of education theory, say from the Classical, Unschooling, or Charlotte Mason methods.
- It bothers that teachers and schools tend to keep subject areas separate, when in the real world, different subject areas are all knotted together like spaghetti.
- You want your student to see how ideas look from different perspectives.
- You prefer depth of understanding, over breadth of information.
- You are intrigued by the idea of studying the same event across different subject areas.
- You are willing to construct your child’s curriculum from scratch if that’s what it takes.
- You want freedom for you and your student to choose what to study.
- Homehearts – The Unit Study Approach
- Lori Pickert, Project Based Homeschooling: Mentoring Self-Directed Learners (CreateSpace, 2012).
- Valerie Bendt, Unit Studies Made Easy (Bendt Family Ministries, 2004).
- Susan Wise Bauer, "Thoughts on Unit Studies" (WellTrainedMind, N.D.).
- Gail Kappenman, "What is a Unit-Study?" (Crosswalk.com, 2009).
- Unit Studies by Amanda Bennet
- DIY Homeschooler – Free Unit Studies
- Eclectic Homeschool Online – Create Your Own Unit Studies
- Donna Young – Unit Study Planner
- Well-suited to Mature Educators: You don’t have to be an expert teacher to understand what works and what does not work for your student. This method allows you to make adjustments as you see fit, like a mature educator. To make those adjustments takes a little wisdom coupled with the flexible integrity needed to shift where necessary and hold your ground on the non-negotiables.
- Flexibility: As stated above, this is the most flexible homeschool method there is. It allows you to mix and match the best parts of different methods for whatever suits the needs of you and your student.
- Resources: Eclectic method has the most resources available since most materials for other methods will also be pertinent to this model.
- Popularity: This method is a common default option. As a result, it’s not hard to find networks, groups, or meetups to walk with you through your homeschooling journey.
- Too Many Options: Having the most flexibility and the most resources means the Eclectic method can feel too open-ended, overwhelming you with options.
- Bad Mixes: Just because you can mix ice cream and mustard doesn’t mean you should. Not all homeschool materials and methods mix well.
- Worst of Both Worlds: Blending conflicting educational theories may render the "best of both worlds," but if it’s not done right, you can get the "worst of both worlds" instead.
- Too Hasty: Eclectic homeschool teachers risk disposing of well-planned educational strategies before understanding why certain methodologies function the way they do. Good Eclectic teachers need a solid understanding of all methodologies they employ so they don’t waste good resources by discarding them too quickly.
- You are likely to mix and match different styles.
- You are a "learn as you go" kind of person, and you are comfortable with the responsibility of bringing different curricula together into the same learning plan.
- You just can’t decide between two or more methods.
- You’d feel "trapped" if you had to stick to just one homeschooling style.
- You have found at least two different curricula or resources that you are eager to try, but they don’t fit together under one homeschooling style.
- You are suspicious of methods that seem perfectly sound, in theory, because you think they probably won’t work in the real world without significant outside support.
- TheHomeschoolMom.com – Eclectic Method
- Jeanne Faulkner, "Instead of Curriculum," (TheHomeschoolMom.com, 2013)
- Amber Oliver, The Relaxed Art of Eclectic Homeschooling (Self-published, 2012).
- Kelly Crawford, Think Outside the Classroom: A Practical Approach to Relaxed Homeschooling (CreateSpace, 2014).
- A2Z Homes Cool
- Learning Style Test
- Time4Learning – Eclectic Homeschool Page
- The Great Courses
- Eclectic-Homeschool.com – Reading List
Charlotte Mason Education might be for you if...
Charlotte Mason methodology is very popular and has quite a few subscribers. These three sites, and especially the first and second of these, are the most prolific and comprehensive of their kind. Charlotte Mason educators must stay in close contact with AmblesideOnline and SimplyCharlotteMason to remain current on developments in modeling and implementation. Compared to SimplyCharlotteMason, the AmblesideOnline site appears to be geared towards the zero-budget CM homeschool.
Several guidebooks would serve well to orient you to the Charlotte Mason Method. The first two listed should be read in order. First, read Charlotte Mason Education, and then More Charlotte Mason Education. The first of these is short and sweet, at 104 pages, and serves as a great starting point. The second text is longer (at 208 pages), more in depth, and instructive in answering any follow-up questions you might have after starting this method. The next book, by Karen Andreola, offers another voice for the same cause, and is even more in depth (384 pages). Of course, you can get a condensed account of the method by scanning the websites above for articles like "What is the Charlotte Mason method?" at SimplyCharlotteMason.
Curricula and Teaching Materials
SimplyCharlotteMason and Ambleside both offer CM curricula, but they also offer schedules, planning materials, printables for the classroom, and curriculum guides to cover the many intricacies of teaching. Living Books Press is primarily a Charlotte Mason publisher. And Institute for Excellence in Writing is another commendable resource well-suited to Classical, CM, and even School-at-Home settings. The Critical Thinking Company is a good source for math and logic materials and most everything they offer can be divided into 15-20 minute segments, suitable for Charlotte Mason class periods.
Networks and Groups
Besides the forums at SimplyCharlotteMason there is also Charlotte Mason In Community, a nationwide network of Charlotte Mason parent-teachers sharing tips and resources to make homeschooling work for you.
Coined by early 20th century Italian physician and educator, Maria Montessori (1870-1952), this method grew out of her psychology work with special-needs children. This method is a humanistic student-based approach utilizing free movement, large-unstructured time blocks (up to 3 hours), multi-grade classes,c and interest-based and individualized learning plans. Teachers instruct only indirectly, using lots of manipulatives (tactile objects like tools and toys), and by giving the student a range of options from which to choose. See: Montessori.edu and AmericanMontessoriSociety.
This method is perhaps the most questionable inclusion in this list, not because of its effectiveness. This method is well-proven as a child-friendly humanistic educational model. The problem is that Montessori schooling is often overlooked as a homeschool method. Montessori schools often incorporate lots of furniture, constructs, and tactiles, to make their classrooms inventive playgrounds for young learners. Ironically, in Maria Montessori’s own journals, she describes a planned classroom which in many ways mirrors a normal working home. In this way, the Montessori method is tailor fit for homeschooling. Nevertheless, many articles listing the different homeschool methods leave out Montessori entirely. Montessori, nevertheless, merits inclusion as a child-centered model for young learners, even if it has not reached the level of popularity as other homeschool models.
Montessori is well-suited for many students, but it has a few drawbacks.
Montessori Education might be right for you if...
For Montessori education, aspiring educators can go straight to the source. Maria Montessori has several guidebooks from which to choose. Tim Seldin also has a popular, and contemporary book on Montessori homeschool education. Seldin’s book might be the more important written resource since it’s aimed specifically at homeschool use and is more current. Maria Montessori’s books are authoritative reference works, but can seem out of date, for example, when she discusses child-psychology likes it’s a strange new field of study, as it was in her day.
The American Montessori Society Headquarters is a great place to dig into Montessori education. It’s not just filled with articles and links to Montessori materials, but you can also become a member of the society and earn teacher certification through their courses and conferences. The International Montessori Index has more tools and resources, but has the added benefit of indexing most every Montessori School in the world. You can use contact information to find a Montessori school where you can observe, inquire, and learn more from actual Montessori educators and administrators. Living Montessori Now is a personal website from Deb Chitwood, a veteran of Montessori education. She offers lots of practical and non-technical resources for orienting you into this method.
Curricula and Materials
There are many Montessori publishers to choose from. But be aware that since Montessori is still primarily a school-house educational model (i.e., public and private schools), the resources may be priced accordingly. They can be fairly expensive on an item-by-item basis. You may have to do some research or get creative (i.e., make your own) to find comparable materials suited to a homeschooling budget. Fortunately, even within conventional Montessori schools, however, there are many recommended materials for use at home. It is thus that the Montessori method has always overlapped heavily with homeschooling. The Hope4Me printables are a great place to start your own library of free Montessori materials. JMJ publishing/Livable Learning have other materials for purchase as well. EdVid is unique for offering primarily video-based materials.
Networks and Groups
So long as you are willing to network with school-house educators in the Montessori tradition, there are lots of groups and networks to choose from. These two sites, the North American Montessori Teachers Association and the Local Groups at American Montessori Society are good doorways into the Montessori community.
Based largely on the work of homeschooling pioneer John Holt, Unschooling is a free-form learning model which is student-centered, unconventional, and individualistic. Learning plans and study projects focus largely on the student’s interests but with high priority on experiential, activity based, and learn-as-you-go education. Unschooling will consist of some systematic and rigorous teaching when it comes to basic skills like reading, writing, and arithmetic, but this is often administered with a variety of technology and materials, and typically without conventional testing/evaluation. Unschooling allows homeschool parent-teachers to question most everything about conventional schooling whether public, private, or homeschooling. In this model, parent-teachers tend to be facilitators rather than lecturers, instructors or otherwise "conventional" teachers. See also: JohnHoltGWS.com and Unschoolrules.com.
Unschooling is probably the most unique homeschooling option in the bunch. And since it veers widely from School-at-Home and Classical models, it can appear strange and impractical. However, with an open mind and a sense of adventure, Parent-teachers can find great benefits in this style and just might find it to be the most organic fit for their parenting style and their child’s personality.
The drawbacks are essentially the "flip side" of the benefits. Parent-teachers who Unschool will find that this method can challenge their expectations. Some may be required to make on-the-go adjustments to ensure the adaptive flexibility of Unschooling doesn’t unravel into a formless educational experience.
Unschooling might be right for you if...
Unschooling is liable to be the most confusing and unfamiliar method for parent-teachers to use. That said, Unschooling isn’t terribly complicated. It’s just a different philosophy of education as compared to our typical idea of "school." Before diving deep into this method, parent-teachers would do well to secure a copy of John Holt’s Teach Your Own and Clark Aldrich’s Unschooling Rules. Holt explains the theory behind Unschooling and Aldrich offers short and sweet axioms to help shape your Unschooling outlook. Other sources and sites listed can help fill your operating knowledge of this method. The last book listed, Thomas Jefferson Education, is a popular recommendation inside and outside of Unschooling. This text uses the educational practices of Thomas Jefferson as a model for Unschooled leadership training. The key principles are "lead by example" and "inspire, not require," which together create a character-oriented, example-based model of learning.
Curricula and Teaching Resources
Unschooling resources vary widely because Unschoolers can use most anything in their learning plan. This method enables parent-teachers to find learning opportunities where others might have thought the topic too trivial or non-academic to be worth studying. Unschoolers can use conventional curriculum in unconventional ways, or derive lessons and learning projects from otherwise extra-curricular activities. That said, since Unschooling can be so unconventional and counterintuitive, one is advised to dig into the teacher guides (above) to become familiar with this model. Few people were raised to think of education in terms of Unschooling. So your instincts may pull you back into conventional models. Fortunately, a host of Unschooling sites offer a generous array of resources, often at low or no cost, and can provide some informal coaching on how to make the world your classroom.
Networks and Groups
Working with a team is important in most major ventures, and so it is with Unschooling. There are numerous Unschooling groups in circulation. Feel free to sample from different ones. Unschoolers are sometimes known to be individualistic so you may need to experiment before settling into a single Unschooling group or meetup. Each of these four sites offers a range of options for you: Family Unschoolers Network, Unschoolers.com – Support Groups, Unschooling in the World, and Unschool Meetups.
Another popular model of homeschooling is School-at-home or "Traditional" Homeschool. The polar opposite of Unschooling, School-at-Home is basically the same as your local public or private school classroom, but it’s implemented at home. School-at-Home education is typically organized around complete curriculum packages, often arranged by school year, and might even be the same curriculum your local public or private school uses. School-at-Home education can be done independently and administered entirely by a parent-teacher. However, often it is a complete teacher-facilitated school administered online, either as a public or a (paid) private school such as K12.com. While this method tends to be expensive-accompanied as it is with prepackaged curriculum sets-parent-teachers can construct much of the curriculum for free using open-courseware like: Tufts or the Open Education Consortium. See also: HomeSchoolDiner.com and K12.com.
The benefits for School-at-Home tend to revolve around its conventionality and ease-of-access. While Unschooling or Montessori can diverge from our traditional educational expectations, School-at-Home education allows the homeschool family to share in the time-honored strengths of a traditional education model that nonetheless boasts many of the benefits of home-based education.
If School-at-Home shares its strengths with conventional school, it also shares its weaknesses.
School-at-Home might be right for you if...
Because this method is largely a prefabricated school room imported into your home, it might not need as much "guidance" as other methods might. The philosophy of education will be specific to each curricula or school, so you would do well to study up on any school or curricula you are considering. That said, it wouldn’t hurt to get a brief introduction into this methodology. The two links here above are a good place to start.
Curricula and Teaching Materials
The greatest strength of the School-at-Home method is here, in the variety of top-tier prepackaged curricula options available. Many more options could be listed besides these. This selection is a good example of the wealth of material out there for Traditional homeschools.
Networks and Groups
The Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HLDA) has links to HLDA approved Homeschool Support Groups. HLDA is one of the best sources for tracking down support networks in your area. Also, remember that online and distance learning schools often have parent groups, forums, parent-teacher conferencing, and various experts you can consult with as you approach your child’s education.
Unit studies are thematically related learning plans where students will study the same event or object from the perspective of each subject area. For example, students might study Egypt in Geography, the book of Exodus in Reading class, "out of Egypt" theories of human origins in Science class, and pyramids and triangles in Geometry-Trigonometry. These subject areas can be addressed separately or together. Unit-studies can be thought of as an instrument for use within other, more comprehensive, educational methodologies via the Eclectic method (see the model section for Eclectic education hereafter). For this reason, Unit studies are common within Charlotte Mason, Unschooling, and sometimes Classical Schooling, See also: http://unitstudy.com/ and "Unit Study Approach"
Unit studies generally don’t demand much more than overlapping subjects. In that way, Unit studies afford great versatility to transform lessons into multifaceted projects and integrative exercises that engage different student interests and learning styles.
Unit studies methodology has many benefits, but with these come some tradeoffs. Most of these tradeoffs can be resolved by using this methodology within the larger context of an Eclectic model, joining, for instance, Charlotte Mason and Unit-Studies into a single course of study.
Unit studies might be right for you if...
Unit studies are a popular part of many homeschools, whether as a primary method or as a component in Eclectic schooling (see section below). Teacher’s guides for this method are generally "how-to" manuals for making your own Unit studies program and for selecting the appropriate Unit study materials. Do not expect elaborate explanations for Unit studies as a comprehensive teaching method. This model is primarily a curriculum model, not a fully-formed educational method. Nevertheless, it’s a good idea for most any homeschool parent-teacher (regardless of homeschooling method) to pick up a copy of Bendt’s, Unit Studies made Easy, or Pickert’s Project Based Homeschooling. These manuals are a powerful supplement to most any homeschool.
Curricula and Teaching Materials
Unit studies vary from the elaborate prepackaged series to the free Do-it-Yourself online kits. Unit studies are truly distinct from traditional schooling in this way, since parents can literally construct an entire curriculum from everyday experiences, local attractions, and household materials. For some people, this openness is terrifying, but for others, it is the adventurous outlook that makes homeschool great. Pioneering independent spirits will like the DIY Homeschooler for its free unit studies as well as the article "Create your Own Unit Studies." Those who put more trust in paid resources should check out Amanda Bennet’s premade Unit Studies or the Konos Unit studies.
Networks and Groups
Unit studies are often compatible with other homeschool styles so you can sample those networks through the links above, in Charlotte Mason, Unschooling, Classical, etc. You can also find some fans of Unit studies through Eclectic networks (listed in the section hereafter). If all else fails, you should be able to find a network, group, or meetup through the Homeschool Legal Defense Association – Homeschool Support Groups.
Eclectic homeschooling, also called "Relaxed" homeschooling, is the most popular method of homeschooling. The reason for its popularity is obvious. Homeschool parents love to share ideas and resources across different methodologies because their key focus is not in propping up a method, or touting some favored curriculum. Their main objective is educating their child and each child is unique. Eclectic homeschooling is typically child-directed, resourceful, and non-curriculum based. It has no built-in loyalties to a particular method and tends to treat curriculum options like a buffet instead of a set meal plan. Parent-teachers can sample from any combination of other homeschooling methods, or resources. This model is the most flexible of all methods. You may prefer a Classical classroom for a few days out of the week while reserving the rest for Charlotte Mason-based activities like nature walks. Or you might adhere to the ideologies of Unschooling for the liberal arts, while engaging simultaneously in a rigorous School-at-Home calculus class. One of the growing brands of Eclectic schooling is "hybrid" homeschool, which combines part homeschooling and part traditional schooling (public or private). See also Eclectic-Homeschool.com and EclecticHomeschool.org.
In simple terms, when you implement Eclectic homeschooling well, you can enjoy the unique benefits of each method you consult.
The benefits of this method are many, but whenever you combine different methods or resources together, there is always the risk of importing their drawbacks or even synergizing new problems. If the Eclectic method is looking like a strong option for you, make sure you read over the other methods above so you have a sense of what strengths and weaknesses might accompany each. This method needs to be used tactfully.
Eclectic might be right for you if...
The nature of Eclectic homeschooling incorporates all other guidebooks from other methods. But these different methods don’t always combine well, so it’s still important to dig into Eclectic homeschooling as its own distinct methodology. The top three websites are a good start. Jeanne Faulkner’s article, "Instead of Curriculum," immerses you in the free-form world of non-curricular learning (which is a lot like Unschooling). Amber Oliver’s and Kelly Crawford’s texts are also recommended reading.
Curricula and Teaching Materials
Eclectic educators often love to develop their own lessons from household materials, local sites, and real-world experiences, but they can also use formal curricula to make sure that all the important subjects are covered. To keep this flexibility from overwhelming you, it’s a good idea to administer the "Learning style test" so you can understand your student’s unique learning language. If he or she loves dance and music, for instance, these predilections can steer you search accordingly. You can also borrow the professional expertise of worldclass teachers through the The Great Courses program.
Networks and Groups
As an Eclectic educator, you would probably be able to find like-minded homeschool parents in most any of the above networking links. But these links cast a "wide net" for your purposes. After all, if you homeschool with a Classical and Unschool mix, you might want to frequent networks for both methods. Various networking options can be found at Homeschool.com – Support Groups and State Supported and Local Homeschool Networks.
At this point, you might be ready to dive into your own homeschool. If so, you can visit the "Start Here" page at the Homeschool Legal Defense Association to get going. Homeschooling rules differ by state, and the HLDA can keep you informed of your rights. You’ll also find plenty of enthusiasts who can walk you through the first steps. If you aren’t sure about homeschooling, that’s okay too. Most of the resources listed above can also be used in other contexts such as summer learning, adult education, or tutoring.
Homeschooling today is a growing voice in the educational world. Its booming message carries far beyond the walls of house and home, demanding that educators everywhere pay heed: Even amateur hands can make a great education.
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1. Coalition for Responsible Homeschool Education, "A Brief History of Homeschooling," (Coalition for Responsible Homeschool Education, N.P., N.D.), para. 1-5, accessed 7 June 2016 at: http://www.responsiblehomeschooling.org/homeschooling-101/a-brief-history-of-homeschooling/.
One method left off this list is the Waldorf Method. Based on the work of Rudolph Steiner, this student-directed and liberal arts method shuns textbooks and screens (television, computers, cell phones) while fostering wholistic education to nurture students in body, soul, and mind. Early education focuses on activities and experiences while the middle school years focus on discovery and the upper years focus on finding one’s place in the world. You can find out more about this method at: WaldorfHomeschoolers.com. While this method has a significant following, it is still less popular than the other methods mentioned above. Also, it’s founder is mired in religious and scientific controversy (an alleged "cult" leader) and this schooling method is heavily tied to the contentious philosophy of "anthroposophy". For these reasons it is not included in our list.
Other methods are left off this list because they are already included within other methods on the list. For example, Homeschool.com lists "multiple intelligences" as a separate homeschool method. This approach attempts to work within the individual student’s particular learning style and, perhaps, the teacher’s preferred teaching style. But most educational models are readily suited for that adaptation, with no compromise to their respective core principles. Indeed, most every parent-teacher would do well to learn about "multiple intelligences," so they can tailor their lessons to their students strengths.
Other "methods" sometimes mentioned are "DVD/Video Homeschooling," and "Internet Homeschooling". These aren’t included in the listed methods above because they are delivery systems, rather than distinct homeschool styles. A Classical education, for example, can be delivered through DVD-based curriculum, through Online classrooms, or in a home-based network of families, but it’s still a Classical education since there’s no need to adjust it core principles to accommodate delivery.
3. Classical education has a reputation of being for "gifted" students in elite college-prep learning tracks. It’s famous for its emphasis on "Great Books." That means lots of reading but dyslexic students are typically poor readers who can be discouraged at that prospect. Their love of learning is at risk of being crushed under a mountain of books. But home-based Classical learning admits great adaptability so the program can develop to the child’s abilities. That may mean the language arts expectations are adjusted utilizing more auditory, visual, and narrative elements and reducing any unduly discouraging exercises. It can be supplemented with specialized reading methods like the Orton-Gillingham approach. Many parent-teachers have found Classical education to work just fine for dyslexic students, provided they utilize reasonable accommodations for their student (just as any parent-teacher should do when homeschooling their child). One valuable resource for homeschooling dyslexic students is: HomeschoolingWithDyslexia.com. And there are many success stories to be found, such as this testimonial at SandboxToSocrates. One might also consider purchasing Simply Classical: A Beautiful Education for Any Child (2013); this book, penned by Cheryl Swope, is designed to invite most every child, especially special needs students, into classical education.
4. Before the modern classical movement sprang up, the "trivium" and "quadrivium" originally referred to three and four subject areas, respectively, within the seven classical liberal arts. These are for the trivium: grammar, logic, and rhetoric; and for the quadrivium: astronomy, geometry, music, and arithmetic. The trivium subjects were the precursors for studying the quadrivium. That is, one had to learn first how to read, write, think, and speak well before one was qualified to engage in the sciences (astronomy), the arts (music), mathematics (arithmetic), and engineering (geometry). While many of these terms and ideas can be traced back to Greek roots, it appears that this educational framework of liberal arts is more likely a product of the Middle Ages. See, Otto Willmann, "The Seven Liberal Arts." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 1 (Robert Appleton Company, 1907), accessed 9 June 2016 at http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01760a.htm.
Meanwhile, the modern classical movement as represented by Susan Wise-Bauer follows what can be called an "applied" trivium (See linked text, "Definition for Classical Education," para. 2). In the modern classical movement, the subjects of grammar, logic, and rhetoric are treated as the three learning stages of student development: the elementary grammar stage, the middle school logic stage, and the high school rhetoric stage. Interestingly, one could follow both of these Classical methods at the same time. The liberal arts trivium and the applied trivium are fully compatible so long as one is willing to squeeze a rhetoric class into elementary or middle school.
5. Here "humanistic" refers to Humanistic Psychology (i.e., Carl Rogers) which is concerned with the whole child and is deeply interested in the child’s perspective en route to his or her formation of a sense of "self." Humanistic psychology, applied to children, understands the child to be "basically good," having the latent capacities and built-in drive towards health, wholeness, and maturity. Teachers, in this tradition, are expected to heed the child’s expressed desires and interests as the child probably knows better than the teacher about what he or she is ready to learn or needs to be learning at the time. See, S.A. McLeod, S. A. "Humanism," (SimplyPsychology.org, 2015), Accessed 13 June 2016 at: from www.simplypsychology.org/humanistic.html
6. In articles describing the different homeschool methods, Montessori schooling is routinely excluded. See, for example, the following articles: "Five Homeschooling Styles" by SimplyCharlotteMason, "Five Different Approaches to Homeschool," by Heather Sanders, and "How to Homeschool," by Kris Bales. Other sites, however incorporate Montessori in their respective lists and articles including Homeschooling.com and Confessions Of A Homeschooler.
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