For many people, homeschooling may call to mind the picture of two or three children sitting at a table and writing feverishly in their workbooks, while mom or dad stands nearby. This is not entirely accurate. There are many different homeschool styles and methods, and the one you choose will decide the curriculum and your style of teaching. In this article, we’ll cover some of the most influential and popular homeschooling methods.
The Charlotte Mason method
Charlotte Mason is known as the founder of the homeschooling movement. A homeschooler herself, she was passionate about laying the foundations for an effective and complete homeschooling program that is meant to be fun and educational at the same time. This homeschool method focuses on all the core subjects with emphasis placed on classical literature, poetry, fine arts, classical music and craft. Mason used a variety of books from classical literature, which she called ‘Living Books’. Since this method encourages a passionate awareness of literature and a focus on thoughts and ideas rather than just facts. Typically with this approach, an adult would read to a child, followed by asking the child to narrate in their own words what they’d just heard. This process begins at the age of six, and by ten the child is expected to write their narration. Mason also advocated the use of ‘Nature Diaries’. After each short and interesting lesson, the child is asked to go out into nature and draw observations from the experience, encouraging the child to gain a sense of respect for their environment. Mason believed that development of good character, habits and behavior within the homeschooling curriculum was essential to the complete development of the child.
This is a mixture of various homeschool styles and methods. Here, innovative parents trust their own judgment and pick out the topics and approaches that make the best curriculum for their child. This approach encourages continuously looking out for the products that will best meet the needs of the homeschoolers. Most Eclectic homeschooling curriculums are improvised. This means that parents would typically start from a basic, ready-made curriculum, then make changes to accommodate the individual needs and interests of their child.
The child’s gifts, temperament, learning style and interests dictate the curriculum. Eclectic programs typically include plenty of visits to museums, parks, libraries and various workplaces. Eclectic programs are intended to be flexible, adaptable and not confined to a specific set of rules.
A Boston public educator named John Holt laid the beginnings of the unschooling method. He believed that children learn best when they are free to do so at their own pace and when they are guided by their own interests. His message was to ‘unschool’ the child. This homeschool method is a hands-on approach to learning, where the parent acts as a facilitator, taking cues from the child to guide their child through the learning. There is no definite curriculum, schedules or materials. Parents provide resources and some direction as it relates to helping the child develop and implement their own learning goals for the near and long term based on their curiosity and interests.
The Montessori Method
This homeschool style was developed by Maria Montessori in the early 1900s. Teachers (or parents) encourage independence and inspire children to choose what to learn. The Montessori method depends on a prepared environment with various stations to facilitate learning and focuses on self-directed activity, hands-on learning and collaborative play.
Created by Rudolf Steiner in 1919, he believed that learning should include all aspects of the child, from their mind, their heart and their hands. This method focuses heavily on the arts, folklore, mythology and nature. Textbooks aren’t typically used until a child is older and even then, sporadically. Subjects are typically not separated from each other and education is focused on activities and experiences. Encouraging the role of imagination is key to developing creative and analytical thinking. The Waldorf method has many similarities with the Moore Formula.
Some might call the Moore Formula a type of unschooling given that it reinforces stress-free and creative approaches to homeschooling. It does however provide several principles or “formula” to follow when applying the approach. The Moore Foundation outlines the formula in three main principles as follows
Study a few minutes to several hours a day depending on the child’s maturity
Manual work as much as, or more than studying
Do home or community service for about 1 hour a day. This should center around the kid’ interests and needs.
Founded by Dr. Raymond Moore and his wife Dorothy Moore, both education professionals, over 50 years ago, the Moore Formula is a low-cost, low stress child-focused approach to homeschooling.
Like many of the other homeschooling styles, the classical approach uses a 3-stage process.
- The Grammar Stage: This stage focuses on memorization and repetition within the core areas of math, science, social studies and the language arts
- The Logic (or Dialectic) Stage: This stage typically starts around the 5th grade and introduces the child to logic. Helping them to ask their own questions to arrive at logical conclusions.
- The Rhetoric Stage: The final stage, building on the other two, combines the foundational knowledge from the elementary school years with their middle school critical thinking skills enabling them to convey opinions and conclusions verbally and via persuasive writing. This stage is about essay writing, public speaking and adding foundational knowledge in accounting, economics, accounting and engineering.
Relaxed Homeschooling is one of the more frequently used terms thrown around when it comes to homeschool styles and methods. To be clear, we’re talking about the approach first coined as “relaxed homeschooling” by author Dr. Mary Hood. Relaxed homeschooling focuses on learning experiences guided by parental goals and the interests and personality of the child. Relaxed homeschooling differs from unschooling in the sense that relaxed homeschooling is still mainly parent directed.
As you can see, there are many homeschool styles and methods and many more flavors when you combine them. The key thing is to do your research and try what you think will be right for you and your child. Also, don’t be afraid to change things that aren’t working. Regardless of which approach you take, there are a myriad of resources out there to help support whatever homeschool approach you take. Check out 2cool4school’s easy-to-use platform, with hundreds of entertaining learning videos, organized by grade. It’s based on the Common Core State Standards curriculum, and you can pick and choose what you want to use as instructional support for you and your child.
There is some great information on Wikipedia for anyone wanting to ready up on the surprisingly long history of homeschooling.