What are the different types of homeschooling?

I stand by my overarching philosophy that there is no wrong way to homeschool. It’s important to explore the DIFFERENT TYPES OF HOMESCHOOLING to get a sense of where your family fits and what options are going to best serve the children in your home.

No two children are alike, and what works for one, may or may not work for another. As a parent, you know your child best, and as the years go by, you will get a deeper sense of what works and what doesn’t. You will adapt and make the necessary changes. You are never locked into one method over another or one curriculum over another! That’s the beauty of homeschooling. So as we explore the 6 major methods of Homeschooling keep in mind: There is no wrong way to homeschool.

School at Home

This type of homeschooling is also called traditional homeschooling and most closely resembles what looks like a typical school setting. Homeschooling using the School at Home model is most often utilized by charter schools and online public schools that offer a “homeschooling” program. Families can also set themselves up with a school at home model. This method of homeschooling often uses complete curriculum packages, and may arrange their schedule to align with the school year: August to June. 

School at home is a fantastic way for Families who are not looking to reinvent the wheel and like having a standards based curriculum. A School at Home program parallels public schools, making transitioning into classrooms easier when and if the need arises.

School at home is an excellent choice for short term homeschooling needs.

This method can be expensive due to the need for purchasing full curriculum including Teacher’s manuals. (Charter Schools offset this cost, which is why many families chose this route.)

Activities in this type of curriculum is geared for classrooms, not homes so it’s not always “ready” to teach and may need adapting, or to be skipped all together.

Using this type of curriculum helps guarantee state regulations are being met.

Popular choices that fit School at Home:

Abeka books

Sonlight Curriculum

Time 4 Learning

Classical Homeschooling Method

The type of homeschooling called “Classical Homeschooling” claims to be one of the most popular homeschooling methods. Classical education implements the educational practices going as far back as ancient Greece and Rome.

The subjects are interwoven into a reading plan using what the classical education method calls: GREAT BOOKS (classics and masterpieces). There is an order to the learning so children are experiencing ideas chronologically, vs jumping from concept to concept as they would in topic driven or interest led homeschooling methods.

An overarching concept of classical education is that students learn facts and data in grammar school, logic and critical thinking in middle school, and rhetoric and self-expression in high school.

Classical homeschools hold discussions using the Socratic method. Open ended questions and debate encourage critical thinking and a deeper understanding of self and the world.

Reading is a high priority in this type of homeschooling. This can be both a benefit, or something that takes away from other areas of a learners life such as sports or extra curricular activities.

Learners are often trained in classical Latin and Greek as well as any of the modern languages; Spanish, German, French and more.

The classical method has an order and more “typical” school-styled desk work than other methods.

Popular choices that fit a Classical Homeschooling:

Great Books List

Classical Curriculum List

Montessori Method

Maria Montessori was an early 20th century Italian physician and educator. Her educational methods are popular in both schools and homeschools. This student-based approach uses free movement, large blocks of unstructured time, multi-grade classes, combined with interest-based and individualized learning plans.

Teachers/ Parents instruct indirectly, children use tactile physical interaction, and the learner is given a variety of activities to chose from.

Montessori educators have developed manipulatives for learning and these are often the “curriculum” – how learners interact with the manipulatives being key.

Many believe this type of homeschooling is only for the young learner, however it is well suited for learners who like working at their own pace regardless of age.

The Montessori method is well known for it’s compatibility with children with special needs as well as with gifted students who move through material faster than they would be ‘allowed’ to in traditional classroom settings.

Creativity and decision making is fostered through many artistic endeavors and generous one-on-one instruction time with each child.

You can not identify as a “Montessori” school without having the proper certification, even as a homeschooler. Families simply use the principals to guide learning most of the time and avoid the official label.

There tends to be a lack of structure, and for some this method can be too open ended, lacking rules and order.

Popular choices that fit Montessori Homeschooling:

Tackle Box Montessori

American Montessori Society

Charlotte Mason Method

Charlotte Mason was a 19th century homeschooling pioneer, and the type of homeschooling she developed is now called: The Charlotte Mason Method. This Christian based method couples short lessons or periods of study with nature walks, nature journals, history portfolios, and lots of practice in observation, memorization, and narration.

A fundamental part of “CM” homeschooling are “living books”. These stories contain heroes and heroines, teach subtle life-lessons, and have important socio-ethical implications for the reader to explore.

CM homeschooling is considered student directed. Children show learning through journals and portfolios instead of quizzes or tests.

Learning is also communicated through narration, a method in which children tell you what they can recall from what has just been read (either to them or by them). The recall is done in the child’s own words and not a word for word repetition of the reading. Narrations begin orally and transition into other methods. My son’s favorite method of narration was to build a model for example.

Educational focus on observation and detail are fostered through as much time in nature as possible through nature studies.

The CM method is often viewed as lacking in advanced Math and Scientific theory due to modern advances, and CM studies being based on classic books. It is easy to adapt and simply apply the principals of CM to modern material.

Popular choices that fit Charlotte Mason Homeschooling:

Ambelside Online

Simply Charlotte Mason

Charlotte Mason Companion

Unschooling

Often misunderstood, unschooling is a student centered type of homeschooling that relies on activity based learn-as-you-go methods. It’s not just: let the kids do whatever they want all day for school.

Unschoolers are taught to read, and write and do mathematical calculations, however it is done without the conventional testing and evaluation methods used in more traditional school / homeschool models. Parents tend to facilitate and guide education rather than drive learning in any particular direction.

Unschooling adapts to the unique needs of each child.

Unschooling allows students to explore their passions so what they study aligns with their interests from ballet to Lego and everything in between.

Learning is focused on experiences and interaction vs textbook learning and worksheets. Unschoolers often check out as many books as they can on a topic from the library to completely study the topic of interest vs read a summary provided in a text version.

Unschooling can lack structure for some children / families

Student centered learning can lead to knowledge gaps

Curriculum for Unschooling is determined based on student interest and often from homemade items and books from the library.

Popular references for parents are:

unschoolers.com – Free Resources

A Thomas Jefferson Education

Eclectic Homeschooling

This type of homeschooling can also be called the “this and that” method of homeschooling and is actually VERY POPULAR. I’m sure you have noticed by now Homeschoolers love to help each other and share ideas! The main objective is learning, not how you learn or what “method” you use… a good resource or idea is just that a GOOD RESOURCE and IDEA! Eclectic Homeschoolers are very child focused, but not quite unschoolers. Eclectic Homeschoolers treat curriculum as a closet full of outfits and not a school uniform! It is truly a mix of all methods and perfectly adapted to each child. You may “school at home” for Math and unschool science…and even that may change depending on the day.

This is the most flexible type of homeschooling. Resources from all models fit into this model. It’s easy to use, because you know your kids best.

A word of caution if you are thinking- I’ll just choose Eclectic!

Be sure you don’t just ‘fall into’ this method because you don’t want the work of another method, Don’t mistake Eclectic for “no plan”. Eclectic homeschooling comes with all the GOOD of each of the methods you use each day, but also the unintended consequences of them as well. Remember if it’s not working – make a change.

Eclectic homeschoolers are often making their own lessons and supplementing learning with fun activities (like the Holiday of the day!) or other materials found in Teacher marketplaces online.

Along with all the resources from the previously mentioned methods, other popular choices that fit Eclectic Homeschooling are:

Homeschool Holiday

The Great Courses

Outschool.com

My Homeschool Journey

The Gandara Bug Academy (Now called the Happy Hive Homeschool) was an Eclectic Homeschool filled with, honestly the best (and probably the worst!) of each of these methods…

I’m a teacher – fully credentialed in the State of California. School at Home is in my blood. I took what I loved about teaching and used it with my children. We had bulletin boards and a cool interactive calendar from the “school supply store” just to name a few of the things. When I found a text book that I liked, we used it. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.

I wanted my kids to read the “Great Books” and have order in their day. History happened…um in order. It made perfect sense that we study it the way it happened naturally and let the events build upon one another. You don’t get World War II without World War I, right? And at a basic level everyone should be reading the great books. It was a great time to fill in the gaps in my own education. (This is a big part of the Thomas Jefferson Educational Philosophy that is mentioned in Unschooling- you not them.) Even individual topics that incorporated timelines took on a bit of a Classical Education feel.

My Montessori methods were minimal, I will admit. I am a strong believer in hands on learning and allowing children time to explore versus having limits, yet when it was nap time, it was nap time and that was healthy for my three bug too. So we found balance between choosing how long we explored topics and when time was indeed up.

Charlotte Mason by far had the greatest impact on me as an educator, transforming my home, and later my classroom into a student centered safe place where learners were no longer “tested” but instead given the opportunity to “show what you know” through my own version of the CM narration. Using living books, my own “Homeschool Holiday” curriculum and Unit Studies turned the Gandara Bug Academy into the Happy Hive – a place where other children wanted to buzz around, to learn and grow.

The Unschooling facet comes into play in the form of what we called: Free Choice Learning, or a Passion Project. Learners under my guidance are mentored to follow their passions and explore at least one area they are MOST interested in and dive deep into learning everything they can about the topic. How they demonstrate that learning is up to them and varies based on the learner.


After you have researched and explored the different types of Homeschooling, you can decide how to address

the subjects you are required to, or want to teach based on your state’s regulations, and homeschooling style!

This will form your Curriculum!

Be sure to check out our thoughts on HOW TO CHOOSE THE PERFECT CURRICULUM!

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