Once your child’s learning style is discovered, it’s much easier to determine how he or she should be taught. A teaching method may suit all or one child, be rigorous or laid-back, and reflect your learning goals or philosophies. Identifying this is important so that, ultimately, your goals come to fruition.
Charlotte Mason was a British educator who lived from 1842-1923. She envisioned a world where all children were given a broad-based education regardless of their wealth or class. The Charlotte Mason method has at its core the belief that children deserve to be respected and that they learn best from real-life situations. According to Charlotte Mason, children should be given time to play, create and be involved in real-life situations from which they can learn. Students of the Charlotte Mason method take nature walks, visit art museums, and learn geography, history and literature from ‘living books’; books that make these subjects come alive. Students also show what they know, not by taking tests, but via narration and discussion.
The classical model of homeschooling was used by many of the great thinkers of the past, such as Aristotle, Plato, C.S. Lewis, and Thomas Jefferson. One main differentiation between classical homeschooling and the other main styles is that it separates learning into three stages, collectively called the Trivium: grammar, logic (or dialectic), and rhetoric. Originally featured in Plato’s writings and used extensively in ancient Greece, these were only named the Trivium in the Middle Ages. Trivium means “the place where the roads meet” in Latin. The stepping stones are to teach children the mechanics of language and to use their own five senses (grammar), use complex thought and analysis (logic), and finally to instruct and persuade others with that gained wisdom (rhetoric). Classical education’s main goal is to cultivate a passion for lifelong learning, to seek sound logic over chaos, and to focus on depth of learning over breadth.
Montessori environments emphasize kinesthetic and sensory learning materials that teach children how to function in real-life situations, closely tying movement to creativity and brain development. Philosophically, the Montessori method places importance on giving children the opportunity to choose their schedules, books, snacks, and so on. By making choices early on, children gain a sense of mastery over their lives, which prepares them for the challenges of adulthood. Montessori homeschooling also discourages giving children extensive rewards for desired behaviors (like money for doing well on a test)—because, according to its proponents, the child may become dependent on rewards to get the validating feeling that comes with success.
Unit studies are another popular homeschooling style. The home educator takes a subject that the student finds interesting and integrates that into multiple learning subjects. They live with that theme until the topic is fully explored. For example, a unit on farming might include a read-aloud of “Charlotte’s Web” by E.B. White, a construction paper shadow box of farm animals, a field trip to a farm or petting zoo, learning about the science of classifying farm animals, writing a poem from the point of view of being a farmer, and learning about how farm-based products are produced. Unit studies benefit families with multiple children in different age ranges: they can learn about a subject together yet have flexibility to be customizable to their own learning levels.
The school-at-home approach mirrors a public school or private school experience inside the home. For example, households have a dedicated school room stocked with a bulletin board, a dry erase board or chalkboard. School-at-home is the most structured of the seven styles, incorporating a daily schedule based on traditional school hours and holiday schedules. Families also might choose to use an online public school in order for kids to do exactly what their public school counterparts are doing (including taking part in state testing) in order to make sure their students do not lag behind.
Eclectic homeschooling is a broad term that merely means a style of homeschool that mixes and matches from various resources to create one whole learning environment. Math may be from one publisher, reading from another, and science from another—none are necessarily related in style, learning approaches, or grade levels. Eclectic does not mean unorganized or chaotic but is a highly specific and deliberate plan created for the learners by their home educating parents. Eclectic homeschooling is also not related to unschooling—eclectic homeschoolers commonly use definite curriculum resources.
Unschooling is not a specific method of teaching or set of curriculum tools, but rather a philosophy of living that encourages the unschooling parent to avoid too much structure in their home environment in order to let learning occur naturally. Ideological founder, John Holt, believed that children did not need to be coerced into learning; they would learn naturally if given the freedom to follow their own interests and a rich assortment of resources. This line of thought became known as unschooling.
Information from homeeducator.com