Inside: Discover how different homeschooling styles can make or break your homeschool. Learn what each of them are and choose the one that’s right for your children.
Lynn is a busy mom. She works outside the home part of the day and homeschools in the afternoon. She doesn’t have the time to teach every single subject. However, she doesn’t want to send her son to public school. She enrolls him in an online school. This works great for her! The only problem, her son hates it and is miserable.
Jennifer is a former school teacher who decides to homeschool her children. She loves textbooks and anything that resembles formal education. Her children don’t seem to be thriving. They whine when called to the table to work, and it’s almost impossible to get them excited to do anything.
Carla didn’t know much about homeschooling when she started, but she knows she wants her children to love learning. She tries different activities and observes how her children respond. She realizes her oldest loves to do workbooks. The middle child enjoys doing lessons on the computer, and her youngest has a very short attention span and needs quick lessons. All of them get excited about nature study and science experiments.
By making little changes to how Carla presents information to her kids, she can keep them interested and not squelch their desire to learn.
What does your homeschool look like? Did you choose a style of homeschooling because it’s more convenient for you or how you like to learn, and as a result, see a lack of enthusiasm in your kids?
How you present information to your students can have a big effect on their love of learning and wreak havoc on your day.
Think about yourself. Are there certain ways you prefer to learn?
- Would you rather have an eyebrow wax than sit and read a textbook?
- Does the thought of having to sit in front of a computer for hours make you want to beat your head against a wall?
- Does the thought of reading stories give you a thrill and make you want to curl up in a comfy chair and get lost in a good book?
- Do things seem to make more sense when you use your hands?
Most parents favor a style that caters to their personality or what fits their needs, but that isn’t always what works best with your children.
Homeschooling Styles Are Categorized into Six Main Groups
The traditional or textbook homeschooler teaches much like a teacher in the school system would. Parents teach from traditional textbooks similar to what they use in a regular classroom. Some parents borrow the actual books from the school.
This method is very appealing to new homeschoolers in that it helps build confidence as they become more comfortable. Because it lays all the lessons out and there is a scope and sequence to follow, they don’t worry about missing skills.
Many traditional homeschoolers opt for a complete curriculum package, which can be pricey, but it’s a tradeoff when everything is thought out and planned for you.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, using the school system’s books is cheaper, however; you risk them not having enough leftover for your child, not getting the books to you until after the school year begins, or having to turn them in before you are finished. This is something to take into consideration.
If you plan to put your child back into the school system at some point, this may be the best route. He will be on the same track as his peers and be able to jump right back in.
A drawback to this method is it binds students to a set curriculum and they may not have time to explore other interests. They can also get bored quickly.
If you have a child who hates traditional learning, this method will fry his love of learning like a mosquito caught in a bug zapper on a hot summer night.
While textbook style learning can ease the transition from school to home when you’re just starting out, as you gain more experience, you might consider branching out to other approaches if your child isn’t thriving.
Charlotte Mason was a very respected British educator of the nineteenth century. She was a pioneer of her time. She believed in teaching to the whole child and that all learning should be delightful.
This methodology was designed to be child-led and includes observation with nature, picture studies, narration, memorization, art and music appreciation, poetry, and handicrafts. There is an emphasis put on reading literature from classics, living books, and biographies.
This method is easy to implement. Many parents who feel they aren’t qualified to teach a comprehensive curriculum find this approach more manageable. It allows for a lot of flexibility with the child’s interests and ability. It’s inexpensive and children can move along at their own pace.
Because this was developed in the nineteenth century for children who were taught by tutors or their nannies, it was primarily geared towards the elementary level. Parents may find as children reach high school age is it more difficult to attain the same level of education for today’s standards. Supplementing with other materials that are not Charlotte Mason influenced can be a solution. Science and math are also areas that are not focused on as heavily and parents may desire to add some supplemental materials for these as well.
This is a gentler homeschooling style that is more laid back and allows interest-led learning. The smaller time periods for learning are quite effective and keep students motivated. You’ll be surprised what your child can learn in short spurts.
Children who enjoy nature, the arts, hands-on learning and are more comfortable telling about what they’ve learned instead of writing will bloom in this environment.
The classical approach is a very popular method. It parallels a teaching style dating back to the Greeks and Romans. Children go through three stages of development, which they called the Trivium. There are also three stages in each subject called Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric, which correlate with the Trivium.
A lot of emphasis is placed on “great books” throughout each level. In the Grammar stage, which are the elementary years, students are engaged in learning facts, acquiring knowledge, and memorization. The Logic stage in the middle school years develops critical thinking and problem-solving. Rhetoric occurs during the high school years and is the communication phase where everything is brought together.
Subjects are taught in chronological order so they can overlap historically making events in history much easier to follow. In place of traditional workbooks, there is a lot of debate and discussion used.
Because this is such a prevalent way of teaching, there are many pre-packaged curricula choices available to homeschoolers giving you many options to choose from.
The downside to this method is it can be very time consuming for the student requiring a lot of reading and taking away from other potential activities. This is more thorough than an education from the school system but will also require more time and dedication.
If your student does the floss when the UPS man shows up at your door with a huge box of next year’s curriculum, you may have a classical learner on your hands and this style is right up her alley.
This is not so much a method as it is a mindset that if you provide a rich learning environment for your child in your everyday life, it will stimulate him to want to learn and discover on his own.
Unschoolers may vary from family to family, but they usually fall into one of the following categories: not using a packaged curriculum, using daily experiences to learn with some guidance, or letting the child be in charge with no formal schooling at all. All are child-led and can happen at home, in nature, at a store, or any other situation where learning opportunities may arise.
A typical school schedule is usually not followed because learning can take place any time anywhere depending on what the child is curious about at that moment.
Anti-homeschoolers think children must be in school to get an education. However, children learn everything they need from their parents in the first five years of life through the natural course of daily living. The unschooler believes this is the best way to continue the child’s education.
Not following a set schedule or specific materials allows the family to have the freedom to learn what they want in the way they want. It also frees up their time to explore specific interests.
The downside to this method is the child may not do as well as his school-aged peers when tested because he is learning skills at different times than the typical school schedule.
Who died and left the school system boss on the exact timeframe skills should be taught? Why does a child have to learn to make change in the third grade? What if he learns it while working with his parent at a garage sale in the fifth grade?
A standardized test may show he is behind at eight years old, because that skill wasn’t learned when someone said it was supposed to be. This could be a problem if he re-enters the school system, but as an adult, is it really going to matter? He still learned the skill, just not on the same time frame.
Some parents enroll their child in a free, all-inclusive online program run by their state or a private one they pay for. This is called cyber school.
The advantage of this type of schooling is there is not a lot of work involved for the parent because someone else is teaching for them. The student logs into the site, and the program directs the child as to what to do each day. The program records the progress and grades (usually). The parent only has to log into the parent account to check in and see what work he has done and if there are areas of concern. Some programs even have a built-in review for missed problems or areas needing more attention.
Bear in mind when registering with a state-provided program, they may hold you accountable to specific educational content you may or may not want your child to learn.
Another factor to consider is whether your child likes to do all his work sitting at a computer. If you have a child that loves technology, this approach may work well.
If you often find your child hanging upside down in the kitchen chair while making beat-boxing noises and using the underside of the table as his desk to write (true story), run while you can! You will regret this choice! This will be a slow and painful way to kill his love of learning.
These children need to move around and prefer illustrating or narrating answers. A computer program will not cater to this child’s learning style. That doesn’t mean you have to avoid it altogether. It could just be you need to limit it to one or two subjects and split them up with other methods in between.
The eclectic method is probably the most popular and easiest to do because it’s not one particular approach. It’s called eclectic because it’s a combination of the others. The parent may pick from several methods combining favorites parts from each.
This is another excellent technique to use when you are just starting out homeschooling, especially if you aren’t sure of the style you’d like to use. Try out some different materials and see which one resonates with your family or specific children.
You may love nature studies for science, a classical approach for history, cyber school for math (maybe because you’d rather have someone else teach this subject), traditional textbooks for reading, and letting your child lead and explore on his own for arts and creative activities. That’s what eclectic is all about.
I have been homeschooling for over 15 years now, and we are definitely the eclectic homeschooling style in my household. Between the three of my children, I have visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learning styles. One homeschooling style would not have worked with all of them.
It became very obvious early on that I needed to individualize the materials for each of them. This does not mean the curriculum needs thrown out. It may simply need some tweaking. If you bought a traditional textbook for a child one year and want to use it with another child who does better with a Charlotte Mason style, one example of a change would be to have the child narrate answers back to you instead writing everything down. There are tons of ways to change up materials. It’s okay to do that!
Not sure what your child’s learning style is? Read my article on different learning styles. You’ll thank me later.
Why Homeschooling Is So Great?
Understanding there are different styles homeschoolers many options to choose from. If the first one you try doesn’t work, you can try something else. Your child doesn’t have to struggle like some do in a classroom of 25 kids using one method. There’s a better approach for him, and you have the freedom to find it.
I know it may seem like a lot to try different styles but be brave and give each one a shot at some point, even if it’s just for a nine weeks period. You will not ruin your child, and you may find a way of teaching which works really well that your child absolutely loves!
How to Handle Different Homeschooling Styles Without Losing Your Mind?
If you’re wondering how you can teach using different homeschooling styles with different children and not lose your mind, the answer is independent learning.
When your children can learn to complete some or all of their subjects by themselves, you are not only saving your sanity, but they are learning valuable life lessons in the process.
If you struggle with keeping up with everything that needs taught each day, have multiple children, and some that still need your complete attention, it’s time to start training your capable children to do their work themselves.
I have taught all of my children to do this with great success and it has completely changed my day! If you would like to learn how to teach your kids to work indepdendently, you can use this simple tool to train them.
Remember those different moms I described at the beginning? You can be a Carla too! Don’t be afraid to branch out and try new things. You don’t need experience, just a desire to give your kids an education that resonates with them.
You won’t hurt them by experimenting with homeschooling styles and finding the best way they learn. They will stay interested, your days will be smoother, and you’ll keep that spark alive!