What are you Afraid of? Homeschooling Methods Explained

homeschool methods

Fear of the unknown is often the biggest roadblock to beginning the journey of homeschooling high school. Each of us had fears when we first started, but understanding the process and seeing that it can be done is half the battle… So, what are you afraid of?

We often encourage new homeschoolers to research the various methods of homeschooling. But what we mean when we talk about methods is simply the “how” of your homeschool approach. How do you get your child learning? Do you use a classical approach, an unschooling approach, or are you Charlotte Mason? Here we briefly cover the generally used “methods” of homeschooling, and hope this helps you ditch the fear of which method to use!

1.) Classical Homeschooling – Classical homeschooling involves teaching based on the three stages of learning: the Grammar stage, the Logic stage, and the Rhetoric stage. The Grammar stage involves learning facts, memorization, and knowledge gathering. The Logic stage is when reasoning and logic begin to be applied to the knowledge. The Rhetoric stage completes the Trivium and is when the student learns the skills of wisdom and judgment. Classical education was born in Greece and flourished for almost 1,000 years before the collapse of the Roman Empire. A revival of this style of homeschooling has developed into many common types of curricula such as Classical Conversations and The Well Trained Mind. There are several interpretations of how to implement this method and this article on Classical Education is very helpful.

2.) The Unit Study – The unit study is an educational method that encourages intensive study on a single topic (unit). This method fosters a “hands-on”, “project-based” approach while incorporating all subjects (math, LA, science, history, health, PE, and fine arts) into the study. This method typically appeals to the tactile (hands-on) learner. Because Language Arts and Math are both concept building subjects, many families use a core curriculum for these while they incorporate the other subjects into the “unit study.” Lapbooking and notebooking are ways that many homeschoolers track and compile their unit studies.

3.) Unschooling is an educational method and philosophy that advocates learner-chosen activities as a primary means for learning. Unschooling students learn through their natural life experiences including play, household responsibilities, personal interests and curiosity, internships and work experience, travel, books, elective classes, family, mentors, and social interaction. Many unschoolers choose  to supplement here and there with formal materials, but there are some (often referred to as radical unschoolers) that use NO formal curricula/worksheets/etc., unless their child wants to or requests it.

4. ) Online learning is a rapidly growing method of homeschooling. It is composed of several differing components including: a) online curricula (ex. Time4Learning)-an online based curricula where the parent is still the teacher of record, but uses online lessons, testing, and record keeping. b) online schools (ex. Liberty Academy) – are an online version of private school enrollment. Teachers are responsible for the student’s progress, grading, and record keeping. c) virtual schools (ex. K12) – are an online version of public school enrollment. Students use the curriculum the state chooses and follow the state’s school calendar. These are often free if available in your county.

5.) Montessori – The Montessori method of homeschooling encourages long periods of concentration on purposeful work (physical and mental and without distraction). The student is encouraged to discover and seek out what they prefer to learn. The parent acts as a guide.  As the child gets older, the parent suggests topics of study within math and L.A.; while the child seeks their own studies with the other subjects. The use of television and computer is discouraged. Most Montessori homeschoolers believe that a student can learn all the technology needed in the summer before college.

6.) Charlotte Mason – In homeschooling circles, Charlotte Mason homeschooling has become known by a few different names, including  “living books homeschooling” and “whole child learning.” CM teaches handwriting and spelling using passages from classic literature. It also encourages students to spend a significant time outdoors, interacting with nature and learning from it. Similar to classical education, CM puts a heavy focus on great artists and composers as well. Dictation and narration play a large part in CM homeschooling.

7.) Literature Based – Literature-based homeschooling simply means that the core of your curriculum is centered around fictional literature. While it has some overlap with Charlotte Mason homeschooling, it has been made most popular thanks to programs like Five-in-a-Row, Sonlight, and Moving Beyond the Page. With the exception of math, and sometimes science, quality fiction literature is used as a kick-off point for teaching subjects across the curriculum.

8.) Waldorf – Waldorf education became popular in the US in the late 60’s and early 70’s as an alternate to conventional structured education with a focus on developing the spirit of the child as well as the mind. It has morphed into a homeschooling approach with many of the same trademarks of private Waldorf schools such as avoidance of textbook-based instruction, a focus on hands-on experiential learning, and an appreciation for free-thinking. Programs like Oak Meadow and Christopherus aim themselves at families who value this approach.

9.) Eclectic Homeschooling – Eclectic Homeschooling is a method that combines many homeschooling methods and styles. In many cases, “experienced” homeschoolers tend to fall in this category. Their experience gives them the confidence to branch out to meet each individual child’s needs or strengths for each individual school subject. Several sources attest that this is the largest, most popular method of homeschooling.

Take a Homeschooling Methods Quiz to help you determine which styles you lean toward.

Not sure what type of learner your student is? Take this Learning Styles Quiz to help you find out which homeschooling method would support their learning style.


Jamie Gaddy, B.S., M.Ed., Ed.D. has been a college education professor for over 17 years. Education has been an integral part of her life in both the classroom and as a principal. Six children later found her dissatisfied with traditional schooling and homeschooling became the better fit. She is also a pastor’s wife, remote project manager, and entrepreneur who now homeschools four of her six children (ages 11-17) in southern Georgia. Jamie loves to share about her homeschool experience and help other homeschoolers find success. Connect with her at [email protected]

June 27, 2016


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