Homeschooling does not have to look like school at home. You have choices. Yes, there are certain subjects that you want to make sure you teach, but how you teach is up to you. You’ll find mainly these five styles used by homeschoolers.
Traditional homeschooling is probably what you grew up with in the classroom. It usually has separate textbooks and workbooks for the various school subjects. You read the assigned chapter in the textbook and answer the questions about the content. Usually the workbooks contain fill-in-the-blank and multiple-choice questions. This style might sound the most familiar, but it is not the only option you have. There are other styles you may not have heard of yet.
Classical homeschooling is based on teaching children in three stages, called the Trivium. The Grammar Stage (ages 6-10) focuses on absorbing information and memorizing the rules of phonics, spelling, grammar, foreign language, history, science, math, etc. The Dialectic Stage (ages 10–12) emphasizes logical discussion, debate, drawing correct conclusions, algebra, thesis writing, and determining the why’s behind the information. The Rhetoric Stage (ages 13–18) continues the systematic, rigorous studies and seeks to develop a clear, forceful, and persuasive use of language.
This style can go by many names, but we’ll call it “unschooling” here. Unschooling basically goes with the interests of the child. There is no set curriculum. If a child is interested in butterflies, you research and learn about them until the child is satisfied. If he develops an interest in race cars, you give him information on race cars.
Unit studies take a theme or topic and incorporate all the school subjects (language arts, history, science, music, art, etc.) into that topic. For example, when you study Ancient Egypt, you read books about Egypt (history), make a salt dough map of Egypt (geography), determine how to calculate the height of a pyramid (math), explore how Egyptians irrigated their farm land from the Nile (science), read a historical fiction book set in Ancient Egypt (literature), build sugar cube pyramids (art), learn how to spell “pyramid” (language arts), etc.
The Charlotte Mason style of homeschooling uses rich literature and “living books” rather than textbooks or dumbed-down twaddle. Instead of worksheets or answering questions in the back of the book, this style asks the student to retell, or “narrate,” everything he can remember from the reading. It also includes a wide variety of subjects spread over the week in short, interesting lessons.
Charlotte was a British educator in the late 1800s and early 1900s who emphasized respecting each child as a person and giving him a broad education. Her approach works with the way children naturally learn and presents a generous curriculum, including nature study, art and music appreciation, and handicrafts, as well as the usual academic subjects. It seeks to “spread a feast” before the child and let him digest what is appropriate for him at the time. And it uses methods that will nurture a love for learning and reinforce good lifelong habits, not just present a body of information.
So there you have it: the five main homeschooling styles. One of the greatest blessings of homeschooling is having the freedom to select the style that works best for you and your children. For more on the five styles, grab a copy of our free e-book, Getting Started in Homeschooling to dig deeper in comparing the five styles.
Interested in the Charlotte Mason style? Here’s more about Charlotte Mason and her methods.
Note: No matter which style you decide on, you will want to be sure to check the laws of your state or province to make sure you fulfill any legal requirements for homeschooling. Laws vary from region to region, so check with the Home School Legal Defense Association to find out what is required in your area.