The homeschooling movement has skyrocketed in the last few years. In fact, research shows there are nearly four million homeschool students in the United States. It seems as if there are almost as many homeschooling styles, too! With so many homeschooling approaches, parents can easily feel overwhelmed. We’ll take you through a general overview of some of the most popular homeschooling styles and share tips on how to decide which one is right for your family.
What are homeschool styles?
The dictionary definition of style is a “manner of doing something.” It refers to a way, technique, or approach of how we do certain things. In reference to homeschooling, it simply means you choose how to implement homeschooling in your family. There is no “correct” way to homeschool; there are many viable, sound educational methods.
Is there a difference between homeschooling styles, types, methods, approaches, and models?
Not really. These are all terms that describe the way you choose to educate your children.
The Different Types of Homeschooling
Homeschooling is not a “one-size-fits-all” approach. Just as there are many different parenting styles, there are many different homeschooling styles. The one you choose will depend on several factors: your schedule, where you live, how many children you homeschool, your homeschooling goals, and your children’s learning needs. We have compiled a list of some of the most popular homeschooling methods along with each one’s pros and cons. Although this is by no means an exhaustive list, it can help you decide which one might work best for your family.
This is a more structured style that organizes learning into subjects. The main ones are math, reading, writing, social studies, and science. School lessons work through units or chapters and include daily assignments and unit or chapter tests. There are textbooks for every subject and usually parent guides as well. Parents who choose this method typically purchase an entire curriculum that includes either online or distance-learning classes, textbooks, prepared tests and lesson plans, teacher guides, and grade and record keeping. Students typically keep a daily lesson schedule and study in a designated school area. Parents are the teachers, although they don’t have to teach every lesson.
Some parents who use this approach will arrange their own lesson schedules and use a variety of textbooks and other materials. Many curriculum for traditional homeschooling are self-guided so the students can learn on their own. Online homeschooling programs often have video teachers. If courses are live, the teacher may also supervise assignments. If lessons are pre-recorded, a parent or guardian may need to be present. Parents can also keep track of their children’s grades and progress online.
The built-in structure can greatly aid a beginning homeschool family. Many children thrive in this kind of learning environment. It accommodates their learning style and personality and gives them a sense of security and accomplishment.
Children who don’t enjoy school as much can dislike the structured routine. It can lead to frustration and boredom and hinder their ability to learn.
Basically, this is the same as a local public or private school program; the main difference is that it’s done at home. Sometimes school-at-home is a public school offering that allows students to learn online from home. School-at-home is ideal for families who prefer conventional schooling. With many of these types of programs, parents do not have a choice on which curriculum they will use. Curriculum meets state and federal education standards.
Parents know exactly what, and when to teach their children, and there is less pressure on them to choose materials or do the teaching. This method is ideal for homeschoolers who prefer conventional schooling. It’s also a viable short-term schooling solution for situations such as moving or recovering from an injury.
Unless it’s through a free public school program, it can be just as expensive as private school. Since it mainly operates through a distance-learning or online venue, students cannot choose their own learning track or opt out of any subjects. School-at-home is also very time-consuming.
This is a popular choice for homeschoolers who want to teach their children to think for themselves. The classical approach is based on the five tools of learning known as the Trivium: Reason, Record, Research, Relate, and Rhetoric. Beginning students start with the preparing stage, where they learn straight data and facts. They progress to the grammar stage, which introduces critical thinking and logic. Next is the dialectic stage in which students pursue deeper study, reading and research. Everything culminates in the Rhetoric stage, which emphasizes communication and self-expression. Greek and Latin is often interwoven into learning but is not required.
Instead of jumping from topic to topic as many other schooling methods do, classical education teaches subjects in a chronological manner. Debate and discussion are encouraged through Socratic dialogues, which prompt students to ask open-ended questions. Homeschoolers of the classical style can find support from classical style websites, books, and classical homeschooling groups.
This is one of the most reliable schooling methods for producing exceptional readers and thinkers. In addition to Latin and Greek, students can thoroughly learn other languages such as Spanish, French, German, and other modern ones. Students acquire critical thinking, logic, and problem-solving skills.
Classical education stresses dictation, narration, and memorization. For some families, this can be challenging. History is a major theme of this style; and for those who do not enjoy history as much, it can become boring and frustrating. It also requires a lot of time and study commitment.
In this style, children are encouraged to create, play, and experience learning in real-life situations. Homeschoolers of this method learn geography, literature, and history from “living books.” These include any fiction or nonfiction books that engage the reader and reflect the author’s passion. Students learn art appreciation by studying the works of famous artists and listening to the music of well-known composers. Studying nature is also a large part of this schooling style, and it encourages children to spend a lot of time outdoors. They take daily nature walks and either write or draw what they observe in their nature notebook.
Charlotte Mason places great importance on teaching good habits such as kindness, respect, and honesty. Children will spend four to six weeks focusing on one specific habit they should practice. Daily lessons happen in the morning and tend to be short; in the afternoon, students are free to play. Instead of demonstrating their knowledge by taking tests, students share what they learn through discussion and narration.
Shorter lessons keep children’s interest and attention. Hands-on experiences seem to help children better retain what they learn. This method allows for much creativity and can be ideal for students who gravitate toward art, nature, and writing.
Since there is no type of testing, it may be difficult to accurately assess children’s learning progress and may make future education goals more difficult. Living books can be costly, and some parents are unsure whether their choice of books is appropriate for this style.
This method emphasizes highly individualized, interest-led learning. It encourages children to pursue their curiosity in various topics at their own pace. By playing with physical objects, children successfully learn abstract concepts. The main themes students learn are independence, coordination, order, and cooperation. Instead of sitting behind a desk listening to lessons for an entire class period, children roam around, play, and experiment with different items. This approach emphasizes an organized, uncluttered learning environment. It discourages computers and televisions, especially for younger children, and most Montessori homeschoolers prefer wooden toys over plastic ones. Whereas traditional schooling methods primarily focus on academics, the Montessori method also concentrates on practical, social, and life skills. By engaging in different kinds of hands-on activities, children become active participants in their education. This approach is ideal for younger students who don’t typically need testing or grades for an academic record.
Children have more freedom to learn according to their own interests in their own time. They get to play with colorful, interesting objects that help them learn intellectual concepts. Independent thinking is strongly encouraged.
Some parents may feel like their child has too much freedom in their education. They may also think there is not enough academic discipline since the program is not very structured. The approach isn’t suited to older students.
These are groups of hands-on learning activities connected to a theme. Students can delve deeper into subject matter that interests them while also covering all the basic subjects in a thematic way. Whatever unit the child is in, they will learn math, science, fine arts, social studies, reading and writing. The main difference is that unit studies can be adjusted to the child’s learning style, interests, and skill level. Thematic unit studies begin with a main subject such as science or literature. This main subject then advances from topic to topic in a systematic way.
All the subject areas are connected by engaging students in practical, hands-on exercises. In this way, students can draw significant conclusions and can connect the dots between the different subjects. Many homeschooling parents prefer this style because it streamlines their daily school schedule and doesn’t require multiple textbooks. Another plus is that students can learn the subject at their own pace and skill level.
Since parents can teach all their children at the same time, this style can be convenient for larger homeschool families. Families can study many different subjects in a short amount of time. Children learn critical thinking and research skills. They also learn how to work together as a family.
It requires a lot of time and effort to put together materials that address the topic and connect all the unit studies together. This method can also be taxing for a child who is having difficulty learning a particular subject.
Based on the work of Rudolf Steiner, this style emphasizes educating children in mind, body, and spirit. In this approach, young students focus on music, arts, crafts, nature, and movement. For older students, learning self-awareness and self-reasoning is key. Children learn practical skills for everyday life such as cooking, sewing, and gardening. Instead of merely memorizing facts, students learn by experience and hands-on activities. The Waldorf method doesn’t use traditional textbooks until sixth grade, and it uses end-of-year assessments instead of tests to gauge students’ progress. This program also strongly discourages the use of computers and television because of the potential damage to children’s creativity and overall health. Like the Montessori style, students spend a lot of time outdoors studying nature.
Children enjoy a lot of outdoor and playtime. They learn art and music appreciation and have many outlets to express their creativity. Real-life skills help prepare students for everyday situations.
More attention is given to the arts and nature than academics. Since computers are negatively viewed, students may not learn as many technological skills.
This is a “mix and match” approach to homeschooling that incorporates characteristics of various schooling styles and curricula. For example, parents may use a combination of different books for core subjects like math and reading. For other subjects such as science and history, eclectic homeschoolers may use an unschooling approach and rely more on experiences and activities. Mornings are designated for more structured learning and formal instruction. Afternoons are free for children to pursue hobbies and other projects. Instead of adhering to specific time increments for each subject, eclectic homeschoolers focus on meeting certain academic goals. Many families like the eclectic style because it affords more flexibility than other ones. Parents can tailor their curriculum to fit their children’s specific needs and interests. Core subjects can be thoroughly covered while still leaving plenty of time for other pursuits such as field trips and other extracurricular activities.
Parents have complete control over their family’s academic program and can customize the curriculum to fit their needs. They can choose how structured their school schedule is and adjust it as needed. Parents can get a successful eclectic education at a lower cost.
It can be overwhelming for new homeschooling parents to choose from so many different options. It can also be very time-consuming to compile a tailored curriculum for each child’s educational needs.
This approach is also known as child-led, interest-driven, natural learning. Instead of adhering to formal lessons and schedules, unschoolers encourage their children to learn naturally while following their curiosity and interest in different topics. They can learn at their own pace, unburdened by the pressure to keep moving on to the next subject or assignment. Proponents of unschooling claim that children’s natural curiosity can lead to formal learning even apart from formal instruction. Learning is largely dependent on the child’s learning style and personality. The role of the parent is to promote a supportive, nurturing environment that allows children to investigate their world. Unschoolers pursue learning in everyday life whether at home, the library, outdoors, the zoo, the store, etc. Instead of using textbooks and workbooks, children use the following tools to gather knowledge: places they visit, people they interact with, experiences with nature, and books they choose to read.
Parents can provide an individualized, tailored educational experience for their children. Since there is no testing or grading, children have less academic pressure and stress. They learn to develop good research abilities to expand their knowledge in subjects that interest them.
Children may not learn important information without a proper educational framework. Parents can face dilemmas regarding homeschool state laws, time, and personal management.
Choosing the Right Homeschooling Method
- Discuss your homeschool goals with your spouse. Which homeschooling style fits with your educational goals?
- Consider you and your children’s personalities, learning abilities, and needs. Do you have the time and ability to choose a style that will take a lot of time and effort for you to compile? Do they need more structure or more flexibility? Will the homeschooling styles you’re looking at allow for multisensory learning?
- Compare and contrast the homeschooling styles that most appeal to you. This can help you narrow down your choices.
- Examine your family’s schedule and daily routine. Which homeschooling method will best accommodate your calendar?
- If you need help planning out your curriculum, BJU Press materials and the Homeschool Hub are great resources to help you get started!
• • • • •Jennifer is a pastor’s wife and mom of two young girls and loves homeschooling them. During her own twelve years of being homeschooled, Jennifer developed a passion for reading and writing. She earned a bachelor’s degree in creative writing and relishes writing during her free time.