Eclectic homeschooling combines several different homeschooling methods. Parents gather curriculum and resources that work for their families from multiple different styles of homeschooling. Each curriculum has pros and cons, and the eclectic homeschooler isn’t afraid to leave behind what doesn’t work. Parents carefully consider what curriculum matches their children’s interests, abilities and learning styles all while keeping in mind what fits into their own schedule and budget. The eclectic homeschooler uses state content standards as a guide. They may also use a certain curriculum as a guide but change or supplement portions of it to fit their children better. It is an approach that works for the whole family because different materials may either be used for different grade levels or re-used for multiple children.
Traditional families use a charter school, umbrella school, online school, or complete curriculum (boxed curriculum) to teach their children. This approach is often best for families who are new to homeschooling and need more guidance to help assure them that they are meeting standards and learning objectives for their children. This is also a great approach for families who thrive on structure. Traditional homeschool curriculum usually has separate textbooks and workbooks for each subject. Children read the assigned section of the textbook and then respond to or answer questions in the workbooks. Boxed curriculum often contains schedules, lesson plans, and pacing guides to aid parents in planning their school year.
Often called “child-led learning,” unschooling uses natural life experiences such as play, chores, personal interests, curiosity, and social interaction to create meaningful learning experiences. Unschooling families don’t use standard grading methods and children don’t participate in standardized testing. They don’t use content standards, age, or grade level as a guide for learning. Parents sometimes use traditional curriculum and texts, but they decide with their children when and how a concept will be taught. Just as adults are free to learn and study about the things that interest them and become experts in whatever they wish to pursue, unschooling desires to give children the freedom to direct their own learning.
Classical Education teaches children to think and learn for themselves by using a three-part classical pattern of training called the trivium. The trivium consists of the grammar stage (elementary grades), the dialectic stage (junior high), and the rhetoric stage (high school). The grammar stage focuses on absorbing information and memorizing the rules of phonics, spelling, grammar, foreign language, history, science, math, etc. The Dialectic Stage emphasizes logical discussion, debate, drawing correct conclusions, algebra, thesis writing, and determining the why’s behind the information. The Rhetoric Stage continues the systematic, rigorous studies and seeks to develop a clear, forceful, and persuasive use of language.
The Well-Trained Mind, the most popular book on the classical approach, defines Classical Education as follows:
- It is language-intensive — not image focused. It demands that students use and understand words, not video images.
- It is history-intensive, providing students with a comprehensive view of human endeavor from the beginning until now.
- It trains the mind to analyze and draw conclusions.
- It produces literate, curious, intelligent students who have a wide range of interests and the ability to follow up on them.
The Charlotte Mason method respects the child as an individual and seeks to educate the whole child – physically, spiritually, and intellectually. This method uses “living books” instead of textbooks. Living books are high quality books that are written by one person who is passionate about the subject. Living books are written in a narrative style that make the subject come alive. This method emphasizes giving children time to play, create, and observe and enjoy nature. Lessons are short, lasting only 15-30 minutes in elementary grades and then extending in length the older the child gets. Children don’t show what they know by taking tests, but by through discussion and narration.
“Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life.” ~Charlotte Mason
Waldorf education is also based on educating the whole child – mind, body, and spirit. In the early grades, academics are not stressed. Instead, emphasis is placed on arts and crafts, music and movement, and nature. Instead of using textbooks, children create and read their own “lesson books” based on what they learn. The Waldorf method discourages the use of technology such as televisions and computers because they believe that computers are bad for children’s health and creativity.
The Montessori method seeks to provide children with exposure to experiences that will encourage learning. This method believes that children need freedom with limits. Children have the desire and ability to learn and grow to reach their full potential, they just need to be provided with the opportunity to do so. Materials are organized and readily accessible. The approach to learning is very laid back with no testing or grading. The Montessori method discourages televisions and computers. This method is used mainly for younger children, although materials are available for high school students. This method is very child-led and child paced. This method isn’t based on curriculum, but rather different beautiful and high-quality learning materials that create rich learning experiences.
Unit studies are collections of learning activities tied to a theme or rooted in a book. Unit studies are especially wonderful for homeschool families because the entire family can learn about a subject together. Many subjects can often be taught at the same time in a unit study. Unit studies can be tied into a child’s interest, which motivates a child to learn. Unit studies can be as simple or as complex as you would like to make them. They can be created by the parent or purchased. Ideas for unit studies abound on sites such as Pinterest and Teachers Pay Teachers.