Guide to Homeschool Styles
If you are shopping for homeschooling curriculum, you have probably seen the same buzz words occur over and over in product descriptions. You may be wondering who on earth Charlotte Mason is or why classical education is so popular. The following summary will help you understand some of the common homeschool styles used today.
This style mimics the brick-and-mortar classroom, relying heavily on textbooks and grouping students by grade and subject. The traditional style of homeschooling is sometimes called “school at home.” It is often used by parents who plan to send their students back to a conventional school in a year or two.
A strong emphasis on literature, history, grammar, and logic is at the heart of this approach. Students are encouraged to memorize basic information in the early grades, reason logically in the middle grades, and express their ideas skillfully in the upper grades. Classical education is modeled on methods of education used in Europe for hundreds of years.
Charlotte was a British educator who was born in the 19th century. She is particularly noted for recommending the use of “living books” instead of textbooks. A living book may be fiction or non-fiction, but it is always well-written by an author with a love for the subject, rather than by a textbook committee. Students “narrate” what they have learned from their reading instead of answering questions. History, literature, nature study, and the arts are emphasized. Homeschoolers re-discovered Charlotte Mason in the 1980s, and many companies now use her ideas in their programs.
Rather than offering subjects separately, unit studies combine several subject areas, such as history, literature, art, or music, around a single theme. Many unit studies include hands-on activities and can be used to teach children of different ages at the same time. The best unit studies help children see the real-life connections between different subjects.
Parents who practice this style of homeschooling believe that children will learn what is important when it is important to them. Parents take the responsibility to surround children with tools of learning and facilitate the process according to the student’s timetable. The book How Children Fail, by John Holt (1964), helped to launch the modern unschooling movement. Holt believed that children have an innate desire to learn that is often stifled by conventional schooling.
Home educators who are not comfortable with a total reliance on unschooling often choose this style. There is more parental involvement combined with an openness to unconventional ways of learning. The curriculum tends to follow the student’s interests and to take advantage of teachable moments.
Online or Cyber Schools
As technology use exploded in recent years, the options for conducting some or all of a student’s schooling online have increased dramatically. Students may take a single course online, or they may utilize a cyber school for their entire curriculum. Some online courses are sponsored by private schools or curriculum publishers, while others are publicly-funded charter schools that use a curriculum meeting the standards of the state in which it is offered.
This approach to home education is what most parents follow in real life! They use a combination of methods for different subjects, different children, or different times in the educational process. Many well-known curriculum providers use ideas from several homeschooling styles in their materials.
An online search will provide more details about each style of homeschooling as well as the publishers who support that style. Once you have decided which approach best meets your goals for your family, use this information to narrow down your curriculum choices. Keep in mind that many companies use elements of several different approaches. The needs of students may also vary at different times or stages of their education.