How to Choose a Homeschooling Style

When you imagine a homeschooling family, what image comes to mind? Is it a family who hand sews all of their clothes, churns their own butter and lives without the internet? Or maybe it’s a family that is completely free spirited, allowing their children to run around with snot encrusted nostrils, juice stained clothing and no regard for your personal bubble. Just like the diversity of the families I just described, there are several different homeschooling styles. If you are considering homeschooling to be an option, it is imperative to choose a style that works for you! There is no one size fits all approach here. Well, there could be… but you’d risk you and your family’s happiness in the process!

Just like picking out the right home or car for your family, choosing the right style of home education will help set you and your family up for success! You wouldn’t choose (if you had complete control over the decision) a car or house that is far too small, isolated from all other civilization or one that was unfit or unsafe for you and your family. So why choose a style of homeschooling that is just as unfit and destroy the peace within your household? I know from experience, when you choose the style that everyone else is doing, or the style that costs the most money or even the style that is most like the schooling that you remember… you’re setting yourself up for failure! There really isn’t any other way to find the best fit for your family without trying them on first. Shadow other homeschool families who are successful in the style that you are interested in. Watch YouTube videos, scour through Pinterest, read blogs, do as much research as you can before fully jumping in blind. Unfortunately, you may lose out on some time and money through these efforts. But I’m telling you, once you find the glass slipper of styles that fits your pretty little foot just right, it will all be worth it!!

From my own personal experience and research, I’ve found there are somewhere between 5-10 named homeschool styles. The most common being:

  • School at Home
  • Unschooling
  • Classical
  • Charlotte Mason
  • Eclectic

From its super mysterious title, you’ll learn that the School at Home style is exactly that, “School” at home. It is a very structured style, mimicking that of a typical public school classroom. It places emphasis on its core subjects, such as math and english and doesn’t stray from the lesson plan. There are textbooks and worksheets to be completed, tests and grades, deadlines and records. It is the most traditional style of homeschooling and probably the most expensive style as well. It is perfect for families who enjoy a tight schedule and repetition. It is probably not a good fit for families with children who have a hard time sitting still, who are more creative and who have a hard time with completing repetitive tasks.

Unschooling is everything that Schooling at Home is not. It is known to some, as the process of returning children to their once feral state. It is a child led approach, organically teaching through the child’s interests. As the child goes about their day exploring every day situations, they learn how things work, how to problem solve and whether they realize it or not, they are being educated through the process. Parents typically provide a plethora of books for researching, make frequent library trips and most common, allow the internet to answer the questions that may arise on a daily basis. This is a great style for those who believe that a child’s curiosity is enough to guide their education, and those who are only interested in gently helping along the way. This is probably not a great option if you plan to place your child in a school setting outside of the home in the future. Without requiring certain things to be learned through the years, the child may not preform well on standardized tests and could fall behind in a regular classroom setting.

The Classical approach originated in the Middle Ages and is rich in history. There are different stages of learning throughout the years, and in this style they believe- repetition is key! Children will do memory work, copy work, research and oral presentations. Classical Conversations is a well known co-op style group that offers weekly classes, reiterating the lessons learned at home, while giving children a platform to give their oral presentations. Typically there are paid teachers/’tutors’ who give the instruction and provide lessons for your children while attending the classes. Children will learn grammar rules, math concepts, geography, history, Latin and much, much more in this program. There is a lot more depth to this style that I even I haven’t been able to wrap my head around completely! What I have gathered, is that it is a great fit for families who enjoy rich history, who learn best from repetition (often by song), who enjoy the weekly co-op approach and who want a curriculum that is completely laid out for them. However, I don’t think it’s a fit for those who are uninterested in learning facts from the past that may not be applicable in this day and age, other than just for the sake of knowing them. Also, it is very meaty, so if you have a subject from an exterior curriculum that you are interested in using, chances are it will be overwhelming to add it in or it won’t flow correctly with the pre-set Classical curricula that are in place.

Charlotte Mason was born in the United Kingdom in the 1800’s. She believed that children learn best by being involved in day to day tasks, being outdoors, and reading “living books”. The term living book, refers to the stories where lessons taught by bringing them to life. Think, The Tortoise and the Hare. It is a narrative that teach the lessons of patience and humility in a real life setting. (Ok, maybe not REAL life in that case.. but hopefully you catch my drift) The Charlotte Mason style utilizes literature to teach a broad array of subjects. Mrs. Mason also believed that children weren’t designed to sit at a desk all day long. She taught on the importance of spending time in nature every single day, and taking the time to really observe and learn something from it. She also encouraged having the children involved in house work, such as cooking and cleaning, as well as learning how to do every day (at the time) tasks such as sew, knit, crochet and other handicrafts. An emphasis is also placed on some of the finer things in life, such as art, poetry, composers and theater appreciation. This style is fairly flexible as far as curriculum selections. You could potentially find all of the materials that you need online and in the library. So this style is compatible with those who are a little more relaxed, yet appreciative of some of the lost arts in education. It is great for those who enjoy spending time outdoors and are curious about the world around us. It can be as cost effective or as expensive as you choose. It is a “living education” which means it can change day to day depending on what your family are enjoying at the moment. The only disadvantages that I find with this style is that it may still be too classical for some. The emphasis on literature may be too dry for those who don’t enjoy their noses to be stuck in a book. And if you choose not to purchase one of the many pre-planned curricula with lesson plans that are available out there, you will spend hours of your week trying to wrangle a library list of books and formulating a plan that will teach your kiddos all it is they need to learn.

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And finally, the Eclectic homeschooling style. This is basically a hodge podge method that is completely pieced together by the family at hand. You may have read through the previously mentioned styles and thought, “I like and dislike something about each of these.” You, my friend, will most likely fit well into the Eclectic category. It is the most versatile style, as you can pick and choose what works best for your family. You may notice that your child does best with a School at Home approach to language and history, but requires a more hands on, living education style for math that is offered by the Charlotte Mason approach. Your family may thrive from an interest based science, where the child discovers a line of ants and wants to know exactly why they march the way they do. So you gather books and resources on ants and study them until the next topic arises. This is the most flexible style of homeschooling that there is. It is probably the most successful as well. You can imagine the benefits of being in control of what your child learns and exactly how they will learn it. It offers more variety day to day, keeping you and your child excited to see what the next day has to hold. The only down side to this method would be for those who don’t have the time or energy to put into tracking down the right curricula to cover each subject. It can be much easier to find a brand and order all of their subjects and call it a day. Also, if you’re like me, you may have a slight obsession with books and may spend (too much) money trying to squeeze in so many different resources.

But they all just look so darn fun!

Of course, there are branches of each of these styles that I haven’t touched on, such as the Montessori method, the Waldorf method and many others that would take forever to list. But this is a comprehensive list of the 5 typical styles that are in the homeschool world today.

Our family has dabbled into all of these methods throughout the years and have found that there are bits and pieces of each that we love and enjoy using. So that places us into the Eclectic style. We like the flexibility of combining different curriculum resources. I enjoy a well laid out program that allows me to open the book and teach, spur of the moment. And I also enjoy spending hours thumbing through Pinterest creating boards full of great ideas and piecing together our own unit studies. If the program we’re following has us learning about South America.. Great! Let’s do it! If Raygan watches a movie filmed in Africa and has questions about its climate, flora and fauna or the culture of its people… let’s hit up the library, we’re going to Africa! Some days we hop out of bed, complete our morning routine and start school promptly at 8:30 a.m. Other days we lounge in our pajamas, do housework, meet with friends, or just take the day off (if needed) and call it good!

Raygan has benefited from a hands on learning style since she was little. We’ve always tried to have her involved with house work, cooking, problem solving etc.. A math program that requires daily worksheets, weekly tests, drills and a piece of scratch paper to neatly display all of her work, is not a great fit for us. We have chosen math programs that involve manipulatives. We have her count money, tell time, measure ingredients… she is learning through experience. A combination of methods has formed her into a well rounded student who loves to learn and also preforms well on standardized tests. (Which is recommended by our state to keep track of grade completion)

Just because the Eclectic style works so well in our household, it may not be for you. Like I mentioned before, do your own research! Ask around. “Hey Google”. Let this article simply be a guide in your process to finding which style suits your household best. If you’ve tried homeschooling in the past and found it cumbersome, monotonous and overall incompatible with your family.. or maybe you’ve considered homeschooling but have no idea how to get started. I would recommend trying the style that sounds like it would fit in with the flow of your family. And remember, every homeschool looks different than the next. This is your baby. You get to decide here. You are the principal, the teacher and all of the administration. Make it look how you want it to. Don’t suck the joy out the process by trying to fit the mold that other homeschool families have created and pressure you into. You know what’s best for your family.. so make it happen! I’ll be here cheering you on and providing moral support as needed!

If you have any questions about our homeschooling style, curriculum or daily schedule.. Please comment in the section below. Let me know which style sounds like it would fit your family best if you’re considering homeschool in the future. Also, if you’re a current homeschool family and have found the style that works best for your household, share it with us so we can celebrate with you!

Stay tuned for a more in depth look into our homeschool day, which curricula we are using this year and why. Also, be sure to check out what lead us to choose homeschooling in the first place HERE:

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