If you want to tailor your children’s educational style, homeschooling is an amazing option that allows you tons of flexibility. There are many approaches or “styles” of education that you can choose from – here’s the lowdown on some of the most common ones, as well as a few questions to ask yourself as you plan your homeschool year. Considering these questions will help you choose which educational style (or styles!) is right for your family.
Classical – The classical approach to learning outlines three stages that students go through: Preparing, Grammar, and Dialectic. Teaching students how to learn for themselves is the focus in this method. What’s more, the classical style of learning has been used by some of the “great minds” throughout history. Five tools of learning, known as the Trivium, are emphasized in the classical method throughout each of the stages: they are reason, record, relate, research, and rhetoric.
Traditional – Parents who choose the traditional style of education try to mirror the experience of school at home. Textbooks, worksheets, tests and quizzes, and other “mainstream” learning tools are focused on in this approach. It’s not a common option among homeschooling families, but it’s a great option for families who want or need to stay in step with the school system for any reason.
Waldorf – The Waldorf approach to learning is based Rudolf Steiner’s viewpoints and teachings on education. This holistic style of learning aims to educate the child’s “body, mind, and spirit.” Textbook use, worksheets, and other traditional tools are not common, while music, the arts, and nature studies are more of a focus. As students advance, they are highly encouraged to use and develop reasoning skills. Literature is another key focus, while the use of electronics is discouraged, since it’s said to thwart creativity.
Unit Studies – Unit studies focus on one theme at a time and try to align all (or most) subjects around that theme. For example, a unit study about plants could look like this:
- Reading a story about a gardener or farmer
- A History lesson featuring traditional plant based foods
- Using large seeds in a math activity
- A Science lesson on plant anatomy
Montessori – The Montessori style of learning is typically used for children in younger grades. This style focuses on natural learning through play and “real life” activities. Tools that are made specifically for children, wooden toys, and clean, uncluttered spaces are highlighted in this approach.
Unschooling – Unschoolers use a child-led approach, choosing to base learning around the child’s interests. Parents provide resources for children to learn about what they’re interested in. It might not the best option for families who may utilize the school system at some point or for whom university is a goal, but it is a great choice for those who favor flexibility and freedom in education.
Charlotte Mason – Charlotte Mason was a British educator who favored nature, play, real-life learning situations and “living books.” Homeschoolers who follow this learning approach usually lean on literature. Living books are books that make the subject matter “come alive.” Also favored in this learning style is the practice of narration and essay writing to demonstrate knowledge and comprehension rather than test-taking.
Eclectic – Finally, an eclectic approach to homeschooling is a style in which families pick and choose elements from each style that fit their goals. This approach is very common, since most homeschoolers really value the freedom that educating at home affords them!
How to Choose the Style That’s Right For Your Family
Now that you know more about some of the different approaches to homeschooling, you might be wondering how to choose the one that’s right for your family. These questions can help you decide.
- Do you believe education should be teacher/parent-led or child-led? Classical education and the Charlotte Mason method favor teacher-led learning. Unschooling and the Waldorf methods are more child-led. The other styles discussed here can go either way.
- What are your main goals for your child’s education? If college is the ultimate goal, you’ll probably favor the traditional style, classical education, or your own rigorous version of unit studies. If creativity and the arts are important to you, unschooling or the Waldorf method could be a great fit. If practical, real-life skills are your priorities, the Charlotte Mason method and Montessori styles of learning are worth exploring.
- What special needs does your child have? If your child is a gifted reader, they’ll likely do well with one of the approaches that emphasizes great literature. If they learn better with more of a hands-on approach, the Montessori style might be right for you.
Don’t be afraid to experiment with different styles of learning as you begin your homeschool journey. As you get more experience, making choices about how to teach your children becomes less overwhelming!