Learn about popular homeschool teaching methods so that you can decide which method is best for your family.
You’ve decided to start homeschooling and now you’re asking yourself, “Now exactly how am I supposed to do that?!”
When it comes to homeschooling, you have the freedom to teach your kids however you’d like. You can homeschool in the morning, in the afternoon, or even on the weekends. You can work your homeschool day around your life, as homeschooling is truly a lifestyle.
So how do you decide the best way to teach your kids? Below, you’ll find 8 of the most popular teaching methods and pros and cons to each. As you read through them, decide which one best fits your family’s needs right now. You’ll also find a special surprise at the end!
How do you decide what homeschool teaching methods would work best for your family? You could spend hours searching the Internet or devouring books about all the different homeschool teaching methods. Or you can get a general idea of the most popular types, decide which one best fits your family and go from there.
Here are 8 popular homeschool teaching methods for homeschooling families:
- Traditional/School at Home
- Charlotte Mason
- Unit Studies
1. Traditional/School at Home
The Traditional, or school at home, method is most similar to what you would see in a typical public school classroom. Many people are familiar with this method, as they may have been taught with it. Because of this, many parents new to homeschooling choose to follow a Traditional teaching method.
What does the Traditional method look like?
A Traditional teaching method may look like a school classroom, only at home. Children may sit at desks, using textbooks and workbooks for each subject. There may be charts and posters on the walls. A typical 9 A.M. – 3 P.M. schedule might be followed.
What are advantages and drawbacks to the Traditional, or School at Home, method?
There are benefits to using a Traditional teaching method, especially when starting out. The Traditional method is the easiest method to transition out of public school into homeschooling, or vice versa if your child will not be homeschooling through high school.
There is a lot of boxed curriculum available, which often is open and go. This curriculum often comes with daily lesson plans already written out. The curriculum supplies books for each child. Some curriculum companies also grade tests and issue report cards.
Additionally, many subjects allow children to work independently, especially as they move to higher grades. Subjects like handwriting, spelling, and reading and phonics in upper grades are usually self-explanatory and allow independence, which frees mom up to work with other children or on housework.
However, this method also has the highest burnout rate for homeschool parents. The textbooks can be boring, and the curriculum is often expensive. Since the lesson plans are already written out, there is not much room for flexibility.
2. Classical Education at Home
The Classical Education at Home method is a time-honored method, dating back to Ancient Greece and Rome. This method, at its core, seeks truth, goodness and beauty. Parents who use this method want their children to learn to think for themselves, so you will see critical thinking as a subject learned.
There are three main stages that make up Classical Education.
- Grammar Stage
- Logic Stage
- Rhetoric Stage
What does the Classical Method look like?
The grammar stage teaches children the building blocks of all learning. Children around grades 1-4 will memorize facts and collect and categorize information they learn. Parents will be a source of information for children in the grammar stage as they teach math facts and read from books.
The logic stage includes children around grades 5-8. If you’ve ever known anyone ages 10-14, you know they like to argue–a lot! In the logic stage, children will take the facts and information learned in the grammar stage and use it to analyze and draw their own conclusions from it. This knowledge learned will help them think critically.
The rhetoric stage includes high school students in grades 9-12. In this stage, young adults take the knowledge learned and analyzed in the first two stages to express their thoughts in persuasive writing and speaking.
What are advantages and drawbacks to the Classical Education method?
Of course, teaching children to seek truth, beauty and goodness is a wonderful way to educate. This method also teaches children to teach and think for themselves. It is a very solid education, evidenced by the centuries it has existed. The method is strong in literature and critical thinking. The chronological history teaches children the history of the world in the order it occurred.
However, there can be drawbacks to using the Classical Method of Education. The method can be very rigorous, which may not allow a child much free time to play. The method is also very heavy on reading, which is time-consuming, especially for a child not proficient in reading or has a dislike of reading. It also may not be as flexible as other teaching methods.
3. Charlotte Mason
Charlotte Mason was a British educator from the 19th century. She believed that children are born persons who should be treated like they have the ability to understand the world. Ms. Mason thought learning should be delightful.
What does the Charlotte Mason look like?
The Charlotte Mason method is often described as a feast. Parents teach many subjects to their children, with the children taking in what interests or delights them and leaving what doesn’t at the moment. The method stresses short lessons of around 20 minutes for younger students, moving up to 45 minutes or so in high school. Hours of outside time is encouraged, which can also include nature walks.
Narration is a big component for assessment of the child’s learning. After reading about a subject, such as science, history, or a literature book, children will tell what they remember from their reading. Younger children often do this orally, while older children write their narrations down, increasing in length as they age.
What are the advantages and drawbacks of the Charlotte Mason method?
The Charlotte Mason method has several advantages. Great and classic literature, often referred to as “living books,” is available for the child, both for the child to read and be read to. There is an emphasis on the arts: composer and picture studies and poetry. Children narrate back what they recall from their reading as an alternative to tests for assessment.
In contrast, the Charlotte Mason method can make grading more difficult as it is more subjective. Planning the many subjects offered for the feast can be more challenging and time-consuming than some other methods. The method is also not quite as strong in math and science, outside of nature studies, in the elementary grades.
4. Unit Studies
Unit Studies is a teaching method that integrates all subjects around particular topics, such as the rain forest or railroads, and shows how that topic works as a whole. Similarly, Unit Studies can also be termed Thematic Units or Integrated Studies.
What does the Unit Studies method look like?
The Unit Studies approach will look different for each family, but there are some similarities. A topic of study is chosen and then each subject will be based on that topic. Perhaps the topic chosen is farms. Science could include the study of farm animals. Similarly, the history of farms or the different types of farms in the United States could cover the subject of history. A math lesson could cover how to find the area and perimeter of a field. Lastly, a visit to a local farm would make a great field trip to finish out the study.
Does the unit study approach sound fascinating, but you aren’t sure you can come up with enough topics for your studies? Charlotte over at My Little Homeschool has you covered! You’ll find 52 ideas for unit studies in your homeschool. That’s enough unit studies to cover one each week for an entire year!
What are the advantages and drawbacks to the Unit Studies method?
To begin, Unit Studies allow the entire family to learn together at their level. Unit Studies are beneficial for teaching more than one child. For example, all the children will cover the same topic, but younger students will do activities at their level while older children will do more in-depth activities.
Older students can also help the younger students, which allows for more learning as well. The topic of the study can follow the interests of the kids, which can make for a very enjoyable experience. Moreover, the lessons are most often hands-on, which is quite effective for learning.
A big drawback for this method is that it can create learning gaps. Some topics don’t lend themselves as well to integrated learning. Also, there may be topics that do not interest your kids, and that can cause some gaps as well.
Related post: How to Homeschool Multiple Ages with Ease
Unschooling consists of child-led, interest-led learning. This method is also sometimes referred to as Relaxed Learning. The method uses life experiences to teach children. In fact, Unschooling is more a lifestyle than a teaching method. Unschooling parents usually do not use a curriculum to teach their children. They allow their children to guide their learning through what interests them.
What does the Unschooling method look like?
The Unschooling method will look different for each family. It focuses on learning the way that is best for each child. For some topics studied, the method may look like reading books on the topic or exploring the outdoors. It may look like playing or cooking. Science experiments may be involved.
There is no schedule followed in Unschooling, which allows each child to learn at his/her pace. This method is going to integrate seamlessly with the rest of the child’s day, as again, it is more a lifestyle than a teaching method. It is a family-centered method where critical thinking and problem-solving are encouraged.
If you would like more information about unschooling, Katrina from Rule this Roost has a post you’ll definitely want to check out! She covers it all in her post on unschooling: what is unschooling, why and how to get started, tips on organization and more. I learned so much about unschooling from it.
What are the advantages and drawbacks of the Unschooling method?
Obviously, children who choose their learning will be self-motivated to learn. They are given time to explore these interests. There is also a lot of flexibility in this method, as there is no curriculum you must follow. In contrast, schools can put so much pressure on students to learn at a pace for which, perhaps, they are not ready. As parents, we want our children to find joy in learning, so letting them choose what they learn seems a natural answer.
However, this method can create learning gaps as children are not forced to learn what does not interest them. They may have trouble if entering the school system in the future. A lack of structure in their learning can be a drawback to some families. Additionally, this is not a common approach to schooling, so it can be difficult to find ideas on how to implement it when first starting out.
The Montessori teaching method is named after an Italian educator from the early 20th century, Maria Montessori. The method is based on the idea that children will learn best when they are in an environment that allows them to explore their natural tendency for knowledge.
What does the Montessori method look like?
Parents using the Montessori method mainly observe and guide their children. They give their children unstructured blocks of time to use real tools and hands-on learning. This is a child-led method.
Especially in the younger years, parents set up areas around the home that the children can use. They are usually child-sized. To begin with, parents model to children the procedure for each activity, including clean-up, before allowing the child to use it independently. The learning is child-led as the child can choose what to work on, but it is also guided by the parent as the parent decides what to put out as a choice.
What are advantages and drawbacks to the Montessori method?
An advantage of the Montessori method is that it looks at the child as a whole. It allows children to learn in a way that helps them best and at the pace they need. This method is great for multi-age learning. Futhermore, it allows children to work individually or with others, as they wish.
On the other hand, it can become quite expensive buying the real tools in a child-size necessary to follow this method. Math is a subject that can be difficult to learn through this method. It can also be difficult for a child to adjust to a different type of learning environment, like a traditional school.
The Waldorf method was created by Rudolf Steiner in the early 20th century. The Waldorf method encourages imagination and creativity in children to learn at their own pace. In this method, learning is done for the sake of learning, not for a test.
What does the Waldorf method look like?
There are three stages of learning in this method, early childhood, elementary, and secondary.
The early childhood stage emphasizes creative play and hands-on learning. No textbooks are used in this stage.
Next is the elementary stage. This is when children will begin academic instruction, including learning to read. There are no formal grades in Waldorf education. Main subjects are taught in blocks of 3-6 weeks.
Finally, the secondary stage completes the Waldorf stages of learning. This stage teaches critical thinking. Children are also encouraged to help in their communities. The use of technology begins in this stage.
What are the advantages and drawbacks of the Waldorf method?
There are advantages to teaching in the Waldorf method. This method places an emphasis in the arts: music, art and handwork. Also, there is integration with the natural world. A balance of different learning activities helps all learning styles. Additionally, this method encourages creativity and free-thinking.
In contrast, there can be drawbacks to teaching this method. Parents may believe that technology should be introduced to younger children. Parents may need special training to fully understand this method. Futhermore, transitioning to a traditional school can be difficult when this method is used.
The Eclectic teaching method is not a method on its own, per se, but more an integration of two or more teaching methods I listed above. As you noticed in the descriptions of the other methods, there are advantages and drawbacks to any method.
What does the Eclectic method look like?
The Eclectic method will likely look different for every family. As each family can choose to combine the methods that work best for them, every family will incorporate these in a variety of ways. Some families may combine some traditional methods for handwriting and spelling, while using the Charlotte Mason method for the arts and Classical for history. Alternatively, other families may choose one method for the school year, and allow for Unschooling or Unit Studies in the summer.
What are advantages and drawbacks to the Eclectic method?
In a positive way, the Eclectic method allows parents to choose the benefits of certain homeschool teaching methods, while discarding the drawbacks. Parents may choose to use the idea of short lessons and lots of outdoor time from Charlotte Mason, but also choose to use workbooks from the Traditional Method. Charlotte Mason integrates well with the Classical or Unit Studies methods.
The Eclectic method can use the strengths and needs of children, or the family’s strengths and needs, choosing the methods that align best with these. There is much flexibility for the parent in choosing curriculum or teaching style. This method easily allows use with multiple ages.
On the other hand, the Eclectic method has its own drawbacks as well. Too many choices offered by following this method can lead to decision fatigue. Parents may be unsure what to choose from each method or how to combine methods. Also, this can lead to doing too much in your homeschool. Children need time to relax and time to play.
Related post: The Ultimate Guide to Successful Homeschooling
When you join the Homeschooling in Progress Community, you’ll learn how to simplify your homeschool for manageable and enjoyable days. PLUS, you’ll receive a condensed, printable guide to popular homeschool teaching methods to help you decide which fits your family’s needs best.
To sum up, there are many choices when it comes to homeschool teaching methods. Parents don’t even have to focus on just one. So as you begin to plan your homeschool year, think about what method(s) would work best in your family.
Maybe for your family, that means you follow a Classical Method for the main subjects and a Charlotte Mason style for the enrichment studies. Perhaps in the summer you pursue Unit Studies or allow your children to use an Unschooling approach.
Remember, though, not to tie yourself down to any certain method. These homeschool teaching methods and the curriculum you choose to help you teach are a guide for your homeschooling; they should not overtake it. If something isn’t working, feel free to explore a different way of teaching. You want to choose a method that your children can thrive in, and one you love to teach.
Among the homeschool teaching methods above, is there one that resonates with you more than the others? Do you already follow a teaching method that you love? Please share in the comments. I’d love to hear from you!