If you’re newer to the world of homeschooling, you’re probably hearing lingo that’s unfamiliar to you – jargon that leaves you wondering, “Who the heck is Charlotte Mason, and why in the world would anyone want to ‘unschool’ their child?!”
Or you could just be assuming that all homeschool families choose a curriculum, purchase it and begin the text books with their children each fall.
That’s not the case. There are many, many APPROACHES to homeschooling, and you have the freedom to choose the approach that works best for you and your family!
Hopefully you’ve had a chance to go through and read the previous articles on this blog about choosing your curriculum because who you are as a teacher, your family culture and priorities, and the learning style of your student are all foundational to choosing the right approach for your family’s homeschool.
Now, get ready! I’m going to break down some of the most popular approaches to homeschooling. I want to keep my descriptions as brief as possible, so forgive me if you feel like I don’t fully explain a specific approach.
1.) School at Home – Text Book Learning
Basically this format for homeschooling involves using a standard workbook as the basis for learning.
Pros: The curriculum is designed for you, has a clear progression of learning, and is often straight forward to use. Students who enjoy workbooks and quiet learning could thrive with this format.
Cons: This approach tends to be less conducive to many learning styles. I think it’s key to make sure it matches the learning styles of your children, and, if it doesn’t, that you consider supplementing instruction that uses other approaches to learning if you choose the school at home approach.
Example: Abeka Curriculum (You can also get preschool workbooks from stores like Dollar Tree or Walmart)
2.) Unit Studies – Topic Based Learning
Unit studies take a specific topic and build in learning through books, activities, and other resources connected to this particular topic.
Pros: Learning, life, and interests can be integrated into a curriculum and tailored to your children’s needs and abilities.
Cons: This approach involves a huge amount of work in researching, gathering and organizing material if you don’t to purchase unit study curriculum. It can also run the risk of being disjointed and miss critical building blocks for learning.
ABC Jesus Loves Me (Bible Unit Based Learning) FREE
My Little Trees Preschool Learning (Science and Bible Unit Based Learning) FREE
My Father’s World (Full Curriculum)
3.) DVD/Video Schooling/Internet – Learning through Media
This type of homeschooling could describe a few different methods for instruction. A) Video school provides a classroom type lecture for students to watch with accompanying homework – just as if they were attending a class. B) Another option is using various videos to teach the subject matter of your choice. C) Internet learning can use both/either games and lectures to provide instruction.
- Students could have the benefit of lectures from a trained teacher and possibly access to an instructor through a distance course option.
- Students can learn through engaging films/stories.
- Learning on the internet often provides access to an instructor who is available to answer student’s questions. Learning through internet games or online interactions with others can be fun and memorable.
Cons: This approach requires students to be inactive for extended periods of time. It also could distance learning from family and life experiences. This approach would not connect with every student’s learning style but could work very well for some learning styles.
Switched on School House (Classes Online)
A Beka Academy (Video Classroom)
ABCMouse.com (Online Learning Activities)
PBSkids.org (Online Learning Videos and Games) FREE
4.) Unschooling – Student Lead Learning
Unschooling allows life circumstances, experiences and children’s interests dictate learning. Instead of the parent leading the learning, students are allowed to explore and learn independently. Formal instruction isn’t encouraged in unschooling.
Pros: Students get to learn what they’re interested in – encouraging independent curiosity and exploration.
Cons: Without a specific structure to learning, it may be more difficult for students to achieve the learning benchmarks of their peers.
5.) Charlotte Mason – Life Experience and Living Books for Learning
The Charlotte Mason approach emphasizes life experiences but does not discourage the teacher from guiding that learning. It encourages creativity, play and “living books” (books other than text books) to facilitate learning. This approach discourages testing as a method for assessing learning and focuses instead on having student demonstrate learning.
Pros: Learning, life and interests can be integrated into a curriculum that fits your family’s interests and your children’s needs.
Cons: If your kids aren’t excited about reading, this would be a more challenging approach to teaching. It also requires preparation from the mom that other methods might not require as much. This approach can also run the risk of being disjointed and miss critical building blocks for learning.
Sonlight (While maybe not technically Charlotte Mason, this is pretty close to the same instructional method in my opinion.)
My Father’s World (This probably fits somewhere between Charlotte Mason, School at Home, and Unit Studies – It’s a little bit of everything, which is probably why it’s so popular!)
Without getting into all the details, classical instruction is a method for teaching that began in the Middle Ages. It is said to be based on the abilities of students to learn different information at different ages – beginning with rote memorization of facts, then developing a better understanding of those facts, and finally learning how to communicate those facts.
Pros: Classical curriculum can be very thought out and purposeful curricula with a biblical emphases.
Cons: This type of curricula may be more difficult to use with children of certain personalities, gifting and learning styles.
Example: Classical Conversations
Montessory methods use a lot of hands-on, experiential learning with limited guidance from an instructor. Instead, the materials are set up and the students allowed to learn through utilizing the materials rather than through a lot of direct instruction. There are lots of Montessori preschool learning activity ideas on Pinterest.
Pros: This could be a great option for some hands-on learners. Curiosity is encouraged and facilitated.
Cons: Some students don’t thrive on hands-on learning and are frustrated by the lack of instruction. There is a lot of preparation involved as with some of the other approaches to teaching as well as the cost of gathering the supplies for learning. It also could be more difficult/time consuming to assess learning and to make sure building blocks for learning are understood.
Busy Bags (some busy bags are specifically designed for Montessori style learning, but the concept of all educational busy bags is that kids would learn through an independent activity – which aligns with Montessori philosophy).
8.) Integrated Classroom and Homeschool Instruction – Learning through Classroom and Home
This type of homeschooling is becoming more and more popular. Some private schools, public schools, and homeschool programs are offering students a part time classroom and homeschool experience. Students attend “school” one or more days a week. Curriculum is given to these part-time classroom students, and they complete the curriculum at home during the days they are not in the classroom.
Parents of preschoolers could also paste together their own “Integrated Classroom and Homeschool Instruction” by choosing from various community classes and building their home learning experiences around these courses.
Pros: Students have the benefit of learning to function in a classroom setting, build relationships with peers and have access to a teacher who can answer questions. This often involves much less preparation than other formats for homeschooling.
Cons: There may be less of an ability to tailor the curriculum to the needs, learning style, and interests of your child. The curriculum may not cover what you would like it to cover and students may have some of the negative classroom experiences that homeschool families are often trying to avoid. There will also be less time spent building family relationships.
YMCA Lansing Classes
Are you overwhelmed yet?!
There are lots of fun ways to do this homeschool thing! But don’t worry; even when you choose an approach to use for one year, you’re not committing to it for forever! You can always test something out to see if it works and change your approach later on.
The reason I posted the 3 previous articles on choosing your curriculum is that this is a lot of material to navigate as a new homeschool mom! If you haven’t read them, I’d again encourage you to go back and check those out.
Choose the approach to homeschooling that best fits YOU as a teacher, YOUR FAMILY’S priorities, and YOUR child as a learner. Be prayerful. And what you choose for one season of life may not fit for another season of life, so also be open to changing your approach as time goes on.