The Different Types of Homeschooling Methods Explained

Just stepping your toes into the world of homeschooling? Wondering what the different types of homeschooling are and which one is the best fit for your family?

Choosing a homeschool style can seem daunting and overwhelming at first, but taking the time initially to learn all the different methods will help you to understand what you want your children to learn and value, how they learn, and which approach you think is best for your family. 

In this post, we’ll cover 8 different types of homeschooling methods and help you decide which route is right for your family.

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8 Different Types of Homeschool Methods

There are many different types and styles of homeschooling out there, but today we’re just going to cover the 8 main types that I see used most often.

Traditional

The traditional method is what you typically think of when you think of school. It’s commonly referred to as the “school-at-home,” method. 

Traditional schooling uses textbooks, workbooks, and spiral lessons that add on top of one another. You have a set curriculum that you’re using each year and tests and quizzes to help determine learning and retention. 

Traditional homeschoolers typically follow a traditional yearly schedule as well, teaching in the fall, winter, and spring and taking the entire summer off. 

Classical

Classical education is what all schools taught up until the early part of the 20th century. 

Unlike education today that focuses on quick learning and good test scores, classical education is based on ancient methods that aimed at molding virtuous, wise, and curious students. The goal was to create lifelong learners that had good character and were filled with wisdom

The basis of a classical curriculum is formed with the best writers and thinkers in history. 

Classical schooling also follows a child’s natural development and teaches them what they need to know, when they need to know it. 

It emphasizes on the following intellectual skills as the child grows:

  • Grammar: Grades 1-4
  • Logic: Grades 5-8
  • Rhetoric: Grades 9-12

By following a child’s natural development and using great historical authors, you’ll be setting your child up to distinguish the good from the bad, true from false, and beautiful from ugly.

Lastly, classical schooling aims at passing on our culture of Christian life to our children. Showing them the Glory of God. 

Learn more about classical homeschooling over at Classical Conversations.  

Unit Studies

In traditional schooling, everything is broken up into separate, unrelated subjects. You go from science to history to art to government, and nothing is connected. 

With unit studies, you choose a topic and incorporate all of the different subjects into that one topic.

For example, say your topic is “green sea turtles”; You’re obviously going to be learning about zoology, but you can also include geography by talking about where they live, government by which laws they’re protected by and how those laws were set in place, and you could also incorporate some art by having your child sketch a green sea turtle. 

This style of homeschool is nice because you can base your topics on your child’s current interests, which gets them more enthused about learning. This method has also been shown to improve understanding and comprehension

There’s no jumping around and having to stop and start something brand new all the time. Everything is all interrelated

There’s also no need for separate textbooks. 

Many unit study homeschoolers do use a separate math and language arts curriculum, but all the other subjects are pretty much covered in your unit studies. 

Montessori

Montessori has become quite appealing and popular in recent years, even though the practice has been used for over 100 years in various parts of the world. The Montessori method was designed by historical educator, Dr. Maria Montessori.

Montessori is all about nurturing each child’s individual strengths and interests. It’s a self-directed type of education where children are allowed to make creative choices in their learning while the parent/teacher provides age-appropriate activities to help guide this process.

The Montessori philosophy is all about acknowledging the fact that children are completely capable of initiating learning as long as we provide them with a well-thought out environment. Montessori aims to strengthen children physically, emotionally, socially, and cognitively. It also emphasizes on practical life skills. 

You can find a Montessori Homeschool Guide over on Living Montessori Now.

Charlotte Mason

The Charlotte Mason method is simple and down to earth. I think many homeschool parents can resonate with Miss Mason’s philosophy. 

This style implements living books instead of textbooks, using first hand stories and knowledge to teach. Charolette Mason believes that children should be provided with great literature and not dumb-downed, “twaddle” books.

Another large part of this homeschooling style is nature studies. It stresses on the importance of getting out in nature and learning about the natural environment. 

Other main points of the Charlotte Mason strategy include:

  • Narration
  • Habits
  • Short lessons Copywork
  • Picture study (art and art history)
  • Hymns
  • Shakespeare
  • Foreign language

Learn more about the Charlotte Mason method over at Simply Charlotte Mason

Waldorf

The Waldorf method is based on the work of Rudolph Steiner and emphasizes on the importance of educating the child as a whole; mind, body, and soul

There’s a lot that goes into this method, but here are a few things that make it unique: 

  • Non-academic preschool: Until age 6, Waldorf schooling is mainly done through play. Children learn pre-reading and pre-math skills through hearing books and poetry, singing songs, and just playing. 
  • Storytelling: Waldorf educators memorize stories and tell them to their student by heart. This really helps subjects to come alive, as you can make eye-to-eye contact with your child and use fun facial expressions and hand gestures. 
  • Integrated Arts: Rather than having the arts as a separate subject, they are integrated into every other subject of schooling. For example, you could teach animal lifecycles through movement or history lessons through art projects. 
  • No textbooks: There are no textbooks in Waldorf education. Instead, the students create their own books, called Main Lesson Books. Your students will learn about one subject for an extended period of time, and after each lesson he/she will illustrate what they learned in their own “textbooks.” 
  • Screens discouraged:  Steiner believed that screens lead to poor health and minimal creativity for kids, so their strongly discouraged in the Waldorf world. 

Learn more about the Waldorf method at Waldorf Education

Unschooling

I feel like unschooling often get a bad rap, but it can actually be a very successful style of learning when done with intention.

There’s no definitive definition for unschooling and it will look different for every family. There’s no set curriculum and no required textbooks. It doesn’t mean that you’re not actively participating in your child’s education.

Rather, unschooling means that the child is choosing what they want to learn. Your child gravitates towards their passions and they do real fascinating activities about that subject. 

Most often, your child’s interests inevitably lead to science, math, music, history, etc. All your typical “subjects.” 

This is why unschooling is often called “natural learning.” Because children have an innate sense of wonder and desire to learn

Your job as a parent and educator will be to teach them how to learn, how to be a good person, and how to be disciplined. 

If your child has an end goal in mind (a career), your job will be to help your child figure out which prerequisites your child will need to learn in order to make that happen.  

Unschooling doesn’t necessarily mean complete freedom (although it can). You can still enforce chores, bedtimes, manners, and requirement of learning and doing something.  

Learn more about unschooling over at Unschooling Mom 2 Mom

Eclectic

I like to refer to eclectic homeschooling as the “a-la-carte” method. It’s basically where you pull bits and pieces from the different methods listed above. You take what you like and leave the rest. 

Many moms like this method because each of their children may learn differently, or they may prefer to teach differently depending on the subject. 

You don’t have to only stick with one method of homeschooling. You can tailor your homeschool to your children’s’ passions, abilities, and struggles, and you can implement your family values that you hope to distill into your children. 

How Do I Know Which Style Is Right for My Family?

In order to determine which homeschool style(s) is right for your family, you’re going to need to figure out :

  • What your goals are
  • What your teaching style is
  • How your kid(s) learn best
  • Which values you want to instill in your children
  • What you’re lifestyle looks like (or want it to look like)

After you define your goals, it will be so much easier to sort through the different curriculums out there.  

And remember, you can always go the eclectic route and pull bits and pieces from different methods and leave the rest. 

And, if you’re still confused on which method to use and how to start homeschooling, then just start.

Just like everything else in parenting, you’ll figure it out along the way

The Method We're Using

This is just our first year of homeschooling, and I’m sure that things may change along the way. But for now, we’re looking at taking an eclectic approach with an emphasis on Montessori and Charlotte Mason and a touch of classical

Though unit studies and Waldorf are also intriguing to me.  

I’m all about following a child’s interests and skills, as I had known what I had wanted to do since I was 5 years old. I also think practical life skills are so important, yet often forgotten about. I want my children to become responsible individuals who go after what they want in life. 

We’ll have plenty of shelf work set up for our student to choose what she wants to learn that day. 

My preschooler is already in love with animals and nature, so we’re going to incorporate some nature studies and spending lots of time outdoors, as Charlotte Mason suggests. 

We plan to read tons of great literature (living books) and focus on forming good habits

We’re going to have a daily “morning time,” where we pray, read from our children’s bible, sing hymns and nursery rhymes, and read aloud. 

I love that the classical approach focuses on creating good character, presenting children with what they need to know when they need to know it, and passing down our culture of Christianity

The early preschool years are pretty laid back in all three of these methods. We’re certainly not going to be pushing anything this year, and it will be mostly play-based

And, if all she wants to do is play one day, then that is what we’ll do. After all, that is the best way for children to learn! 

However, if I notice that my preschooler is eager to learn more, then I will certainly follow her lead. Honestly, she’s already shown quite a great interest in learning! 

Find Your Style

I hope this post gave you some insight on the different homeschool methods and how to figure out which one(s) is right for your family

Maybe you’ve already chosen a method after reading this post, but if you haven’t, no need to fret. 

Just start trying out a few different methods, and take note of how your children learn best, how you teach best, and what you like/dislike about each method. 

Your family will find your style (or styles!). 

What About You?

What type of homeschooling method does your family use? What do you like or dislike about it? Share your experiences in the comments below and be sure to share this post with other new homeschool families.