Before I dive in, I want to make an example about cookbooks because it makes so much sense to me. Imagine somebody comes to you and tells you they want to start cooking at home. Since you love cooking, which cookbook would you recommend? You immediately recommend your Italian cookbook because you love pizza, lasagna, and all the pasta dishes. Plus your grandmother was from Italy, so you have all the great childhood memories of her cooking the classic Italian dishes. You tell your friend she will love it, it’s the best cookbook out there!

Your friend says thank you so much, and you catch up with her a few months later and ask how is the cooking from the cookbook going?  Your friend gets a frown on her face and says she tried to cook from there a few times and gave up. The recipes took too long to make and there was too much wheat, sugar, and dairy required! They had to hire to a private chef to cook the kinds of meals they could eat.

Now imagine if BEFORE you recommended your Italian cookbook you asked your friend what kinds of foods do they eat as a family? How much time does she have to cook each day/week? What is their budget for food? And if you asked, you would have found out that your friend’s family was going on a strict Paleo diet, which means they have to avoid grains, sugar and dairy for a year. Budget and time was not a problem, the ingredients just had to be very specific. If you knew that, you would have recommended a Paleo cookbook set you had, and your friend would have had a more successful time with her cooking experience. 

This example can be applied to homeschooling. When a person considers homeschooling, they almost always ask for a curriculum option from somebody who homeschools. This curriculum can be successful or not depending on so many reasons: the season of life you are in (younger kids or older kids, how many), what is the timeframe you have available (all day, or balancing work), what’s the budget, what is your main reason for homeschooling, what do you want to accomplish, is this short-term or long-term? What style would fit your family at this time? Are you flexible to explore several options or do you want something very specific?

When people think of homeschooling, they typically assume the Traditional method. This means “school at home”, quite literally replicating everything from a school but at home. Textbook curriculum, hours at a table, one subject after another. But, that is only ONE of the homeschooling styles that exist, actually the most challenging one where it creates the most burnout for parents and least interesting for kids. Here are very brief overviews of some other styles, with longer posts coming later to explain each one more thoroughly. 

Classical: Creates a passion for a lifetime of deep learning; seeks logic out of chaos. Teaches students how to learn and think. It is a language-focused approach of the training of the mind. Also referred to as the trivium method – the elementary three.

Charlotte Mason: the main idea is that children learn best in real-life experiences, which means lots of playing, going places, and being creative. There is a focus on using rich literature sources, “live books”, which are more interesting books than textbooks. The child doesn’t just learn facts, but through the surroundings, having a discipline of good habits, and have plenty of living ideas (common human experiences and emotions which we can all relate and learn from). A major assessment tool is narration, where the child tells back what he or she just learned or read.

Montessori: a free unstructured type of education where children choose their schedules and books; child-led learning/playing rather than following a curriculum. Children have plenty of time to stay in whichever station/topic they choose. 

Unit studies: taking a topic of interest (example: space) and teaching it through several learning subjects (example: reading/writing/math/science/art all focus on the space unit). Convenient for families with children in different age ranges where the work can be done at their level.

University/Hybrid model: a hybrid homeschool where the child attends some school outside the home and then works on homework at home the rest of the time. 

Traditional: school setting with textbooks and curriculum but everything done at home.  

Unschooling: child-led learning, not following any curriculum. Takes a lot of intentional work on the parent’s part to pay attention to what the child is interested in, and to have the resources available to learn all about that topic.

Eclectic: using whichever style works best for the child, even different styles for different subjects. Parents tend to transition to this style after several years of homeschooling once they see which styles are best for which subjects. It could be a unit study on gardening for a month, and then traditional approach for math & language arts another month, and then back to Charlotte Mason for the rest of the school year, for example. 

Waldorf: Based on honoring the whole child: body, soul, and spirit.  No focus on academics in early childhood, age-appropriate learning; elementary years look at art, music, gardening, and foreign language, instead of formal textbooks; children are assessed by progress made. There are 3 distinct developmental stages: early childhood (mostly play and creativity), elementary education (formal learning begins to take place), and secondary education (specialist teachers for each subject studied). Earlier grades focus on restricting screen-time in order to promote child’s natural curiosity. 

To figure out which one fits your family best,  ask and answer these questions:

  • What are your personal values? 
    • Which things are important for you, character traits, religious views, relationship with child, the best way to live 
  • Your educational philosophy? 
    • What are your goals about education, what does education mean to you
  • How long do you want to homeschool? 
    • Temporary, for a year, forever
  • What are your educational goals? 
    • Individualized instruction, critical thinking skills, memorization, behavior or life skills, focus on a specific subject, emotional regulation, other skills
  • What are the family circumstances? 
    • Who is able to teach, is there somebody working, schedule, finances, living situation
  • How flexible are you?
    • Do you want something that’s easily planned out, do you want to experiment with different styles, do you know how your child learns best
  • Why do you want to homeschool?
    • Build strong relationship with your kids, teach at their pace, spend more time with them, instill your values, do more “life skills”, etc.

Something that is often recommended for parents before officially beginning homeschooling is to “de-school”. It’s taking a time off, maybe a week or so, and just hanging out with your kids, figuring out what they like, re-establishing a connection with them, before the “school” mode gets turned on. The purpose of it is to clear your brain of what you think school needs to look like, and to see your child for who he or she is. Once the connection is established, it’s easier to do “formal school” because you have better clarity that it’s more about the relationship than checking off points in a box. 

Do you have a homeschool style and how did you figure it out?

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