There are plenty of methods out there, and many are all jazzed about their own way being the best and that anything else is garbage. Please don’t get waylaid by the propaganda. Almost anything will work if you stick to it (which I have obviously not done.) The goal is to find something that fits the values and personality of your family.
One style that you won’t see on here is “Eclectic.” It’s what everyone does who isn’t committed in entirety to one of the below styles. I am Eclectic (read: cobbled together hot mess of styles.) You can’t screw up being Eclectic, unless you are just one of those folks who really can’t help Following Someone’s Plan. I don’t know many of those folks, but I hear tell they exist.
- This is what you likely grew up with.
- Separate textbooks and workbooks for every subject required by the state.
- Good if you want your kids to study material in same order as their friends.
- Good if you and your children love workbooks.
For my family: I have minimum tolerance for time in the seat and maximum expectation for it’s efficiency. There’s no reason, in my opinion for writing, comprehension, spelling, grammar, and handwriting to be all separate subjects. It eats up too much time and puts too many things on my to do list. But most importantly, textbooks can be really boring and I only have so much DO THIS CAUSE I SAID in me. I prefer to use it sparingly. With this method there was LOTS of that. I screwed up this style of homeschooling with procrastination, rationalization, and hating the material more than my kids did. Sucks when they’re more mature than me.
- Child-led learning
- Parents provide information, books, and enrichment based on whatever the child has decided to pursue.
- Live and learn together, pursuing questions and interests as they arise.
- When questions arise, they may use traditional textbooks, literature, online schooling, or anything the parent chooses.
- This is the way we learn before formal school begins and after we leave school.
For my family: Before the Logic stage (~6th grade), this is how my family does science, world history, home ec, crafts, and art. My home is a museum of books, collections, and interesting projects. I grew up with a curious father who kept these things around, and I’m the same kind of parent. But, ain’t nobody up in here going to learn their times tables because they WANT to. I don’t have those kids. I can fail at this method daily by letting them pursue their own interests in hiding the hens under buckets and forgetting about the poor animals overnight, reading Ripley’s Believe it or Not for a week straight, and what about my oldest’s overriding interest in Halo 4? I think there’s a lot more to this method than meets the eye. In it’s best forms, I bet it works kind of like Montessori, where there’s a “prepared home environment” full of interesting smart-person stuff and NO awesome video games.
- Immersing the child in IDEAS
- Literature, not text books
- Narration, or retelling to encourage attention and develop oral skills
- Many books going at once
- Focused on good habits, nature study and a WIDE range of interests
For my family: This again, can be a pretty laidback approach to the 3R’s, which is not gonna fly in my house. Ideas are great. But, we already gots lots ’round here. My kids are natural explorers, questioners, all that. And I never stop reading and blabbing. So with this method, NONE of us got around to the 3R’s. And by reading lots of books, one chapter a week, you have to OWN them ALL. The library wants them back about 12 weeks before you are done with them. We still use the Mason booklists a lot, but we read ONE OR TWO AT A TIME, and only after we’ve done a few HOURS on the 3R’s. It’s our “treat”. This method was also hard for us since the book levels are really challenging. Even really good readers, which mine were not, may still not be reading their school books independently, even in fifth grade. So, with three kids, it was just too much to juggle for my poor brain, even trying to get them all on the same year in history, blah, blah. Too much! However, we do use retelling and prefer literature to text books. I screwed this method up by being addicted to books anyway and neglecting to spend sufficient time on reading, writing, ‘rithmetic. You can sum up the most popular Charlotte Mason booklists like this: “Use any math, handwriting schema, or phonics program you like….and now onto the lovely OTHER subjects! HURRAY!” I focused too much on the “other” subjects and my kids got behind in reading, handwriting, and math. My kids aren’t going to easily “pick up” the 3R’s before they’re ten, so this is not a great choice for us. Dang it.
- Follows the stage of brain development
- Memorization of facts is encouraged.
- Analyzing those facts is encouraged once the brain can do it.
- Sythesizing and expression one’s own ideas based on facts and analysis comes in high school.
For my Family: I HEART anything that respects child development. My master’s is in Counseling. I’m all over child development. It drives me crazy when people push developmentally inappropriate skills on children…witness the 10-yr-old in tears trying to do the required three-step, multi-operation word problem or analyze the plot and character development in Horton Hears a Who. Yikes. Anyway, apart from the structure I mentioned above, Classical education varies WIDELY. Some schools use textbooks, others use more literature. Most require Latin and memorization of facts, but the volume of material varies WIDELY. Laura Berquist’s version is much less intensive and, in my opinion, is much more respectful of the REAL age at which those developments happen. Some of them start the Logic Stage too early. There’s no way a fourth grader is analyzing anything. Also, the whole thing about studying the whole of human history in order every few years and using timelines isn’t necessarily classical either. A 2nd grader developmentally CANNOT grasp the breadth of all that and make those connections. It just doesn’t do for a grade schooler what it does for an 8th grader, or her mom. My school does go in order, but it’s mostly for convenience. And, it’s just American History over and over and over until sixth grade. Kids learn a person’s STORY in the grammar stage, not the order of events and who else was alive at the same time in China and what music they were listening to. Who is Daniel Boone? Tell me stories about Daniel Boone. We’ll evaluate his ideas and figure out if he was a contemporary of Galileo later. And, like I’ve said, we’re late bloomers on the reading. We often can’t go in order if I want them to read alone. Easy readers don’t progress in difficulty according to time period. So we read them in order of difficulty. We learn the people. We place them in history in 5th and up. I realized that forcing the order of history was pointless in early grades when after years of meticulously following the timeline, my third grader understood that George Washington wasn’t alive when I was a child, but wanted to know “how that cloud in the desert looked” when I was there with Moses.
- Child-led approach, with child-size materials
- Really neato manipulatives for every subject under the sun
- Teaches the child to be independent
- Develops concentration
For my family: I LOVE this stuff. Again, it’s all about child development. Maria Montessori is amazing. I spend hundreds of dollars on Montessori Materials, only to find that my kids had pretty much already out grown them. But most importantly, this style has revolutionized how I run my home. I realize now that at almost every age, kids are internally motivated to practice something that they perceive as for “big people.” A two-year-old will load and unload the dryer ten times in a row, just like the five-year-old will crack 3 dozen eggs in a row, and the ten year old will whittle every stick in the yard. I’ve learned that “Hey, who want’s to learn to clean the oven?” is met with applause and “Who wants to learn to use the food processor?” can cause a stampede. And I will never repay the Montessorians for teaching me how to present lessons and make new information stick. But, apart from the base ten bead set and the US and North America puzzles, I bought a lot of stuff I didn’t really need. And again, my kids didn’t naturally CHOOSE to learn to read and add. They went for the science and practical life activities. Maybe if I had started at 3 years old, we’d have time for them to get around to it, but we didn’t have that kind of time.
- Central theme
- Other subjects organized around that theme
- Art projects, music, writing activities, field trips, and science experiments all about that theme.
I can fail at this method without even starting it. I am not artsy. I despise all things made of construction paper. Anything that ends with a poster board shield, a festive cookie recipe, and a field trip to the metalworks is a special hell for me.
- Computer teaches child one or more subjects
- Recorded explanations, activities
- Could include live web classes
- Automatic grading and evaluation
My husband works for Compass Learning, so we have access to the learning activities and program. In its civilian form, the activities are available at www.Time4learning.com. There is cartoon teaching, practice, and testing. I use it for math (and if their written narrations show a major grammar gap.) If they run out of computer activities on the site and are still “not getting it”, I use Math Mammoth workbooks, which are correlated to the Common Core, to target the troublesome standard. I haven’t really messed this up yet except I lose faith in it periodically and fall back on worksheets. My kids grind to a halt. I get bored. They get bored. We all cry…
Old School Self-Teaching:
- Often uses 100 year old texts (which are really awesome, BTW)
- Children do all the reading themselves after about 2nd grade.
- Children progress through the materials in an order, but not necessarily by grades
- 3R’s and no fooling around!
I love, love, love this stuff! Robinson curriculum, Accelerate Achievement, and all the old manuals from the late 1800’s telling teachers how to run their classes? LOVE. We do it this way: one hour math, one hour reading, one hour writing, and one hour reciting (memory work). Since my school does American History over and over until 6th, I use this method for history, bible, and literature. I read aloud to K-2, but once we’re reading at a 2.0 grade level, it’s on to the reading lists! I have them go through American History, Literature, and Bible in Easy Readers, then Early Chapter books, then novels. Around and around we go! They read through the summer; they read through the fall. However, like all the other methods, I have to tinker with it and mess it up. First, we bombed out of McGuffey’s Readers AND Saxon Math. Terrible reactions from both child AND parent. We both avoided it. And I have lots and lots of must-read books on my list that were written less than 50 years ago. But, since I’m an old school marm at heart, I do follow the general daily routine, philosophy of “go read it yourself and report back in an hour,” and the general disdain for mental laziness. Now, this method can be adapted to several schools of thought, but we use the resources and courses from my classical school. I just rearrange it to fit a school marm routine.
So, in the end, here’s our hot mess:
- We don’t do traditional schooling or unit studies.
- My home is a rich environment as long as I ban the TV, so proponents would probably say that we unschool or Montessori art, crafts, science, world history, and home ec until 5th-6th.
- I use Charlotte Mason and other literature-based methods to generate book lists, but we read them in series, not simultaneously. We narrate daily.
- We use the Classical Method to structure our course of study and developmental expectations.
- Montessori has changed the way I interact with anyone under that age of 8. I teach different. I play different. I talk different to them. Love her.
- Computer schooling has taken the yelling out of math class. I tutored math for 15 years. Now I still do. I’m not the primary teacher. I drill and I help when Mr. Computer drops the ball. Sweet.
- Old Schooling has taken out the chaos. Everything we do has to fit into one of four boxes: reading, writing, ‘rithmetic, or reciting. Kids work through a natural progression of those things, whether they are ahead or behind according to grade level. But, I don’t think we use a single one of their recommended books.
Old School organization, Classical expectations, Mason booklists, Computer School math, Montessori attitude.