12 Homeschool Methods and Philosophies

Wow!  This past week has been a wonderful time of rejuvenation for me!  For that reason, I did not post last Friday and Tuesday as I normally do.  Sorry about that!  But I know I promised you more on the How To Homeschool Series so here it is!

 Homeschooling Methods

When I first looked into homeschooling, the first idea that came to mind were little desks or sitting around the kitchen table, basically the school set-up at home.  But as I researched I discovered there was so much more to it than that!  So here I will explain the different methods that I know of.  In this list there is bound to be one that will fit your family well.  If there are any that I have missed please let me know in the comments below!


Unit Studies

Motto: Capitalize on Interest!

I’ve always heard lots of great things about unit studies and for good reason.  Unit studies are a way to attach deep, systematic, trackable learning to your child’s interests in a fun way.  For instance, Roly is currently into trains.  So, if I wanted to use a unit study, I would take his interest and parlay that into reading living books and fact books to study the history of trains and its inventor, including the different train lines like B&O (Monopoly anyone?).  We could include math and physics by calculating the speed and distance of trains, learning about and calculating horsepower, the force generated in a Lego train crash (combining another interest) and compare it to a real crash, and the friction between the train and its rails.  Art (extra points for adding yet another interest) would include painting or drawing trains.  Creating a map of the railroad lines and noting the different land obstacle or lack thereof would encompass geography.  And lastly, he could build his own model train with or without a kit for engineering. 


Seems like a lot of fun!  Actually, it’s quite tempting to toss our current lessons and work on this!  The only thing that stops me is that I lack at least one of the traits necessary to make this work.  If you choose unit studies, your child will have a better chance of retaining the information learned because the facts have been attached to their life and to each other creating a schema that the brain can hold onto more effectively.  And since your child is interested, you won’t have to exert much nagging energy.  You can come up with your own unit study or there are plenty available free online or for purchase.


Requirements To Make This Work:

-You must be very organized in mind and life which will help you pull together all of the necessary materials and use them well.
-You must like the idea of child-led learning.
-If you plan to do this all of the time you must be okay with a go with the flow pace of life.
     -You must learn how to gauge your child’s enthusiasm so they won’t stop telling you their interests because if they do, you’ll be up a creek without a paddle searching frantically for a new method.


Eclectic or Relaxed

Motto: The Rules are Meant to Be Broken.


If you’re anything like me, you’re probably looking at some of these methods and saying, “I like that and that and that but that part isn’t good”.   If so, then this message is for you! The Eclectic method is highly customizable allowing you to teach, more thoroughly, specific topics which are very important to you yet giving your children freedom to learn in a more unschooling way in the rest of the subjects. This method can reduce the cookie cutter feeling of some curriculum, especially boxed curriculum, by allowing you to choose a little bit of this and a little bit of that without totally ditching the curriculum you just paid $500 for.  To be Eclectic you don’t necessarily have to choose one method and unschooling.  It could be Charlotte Mason and Classical, or Montessori and The Moore Formula, or even three or more different methods.  A great example of eclectic homeschooling is here http://harringtonharmonies.com/2012/06/eclectic-homeschooling.html


Requirements Needed To Make This Work

-Extra time to pull together materials if not using a set curriculum as a base.
-Being in tune with your child, their likes and dislikes, when it comes to learning.
– A go with the flow attitude.



Motto: Living is Naturally Learning


I’m not going to lie.  For me, Unschooling sounds freeing, yet terrifying.  But I know at least one person who has chosen this method for her family and it works for them. This method is very versatile in that it is led by the child’s interest and goes as deep as your child wants to. Therefore there is no threat of killing your child’s interests like there is with Unit Studies. Your child will have the time to research and become experts in any field they wish and they are free to use whatever they want to learn what they need. 


Requirements to make this work

-You need to have a questioning investigative mind that you use to instruct your children to question everything or just a free spirit.
-You need to be very flexible because your child’s interest can change like the wind, yet very patient because once he finds something he loves he may dig in and stay there.
-You should have a good idea of what your child is learning so you can help steer their interest ever so slightly to include some areas they may not have thought to learn about, challenge, or question.


Traditional or School-at-Home

Motto: Preset is Most Reassurring

This method is probably the one that most homeschoolers start out with in some way because it is what most of us know.  But few families stick with it due to the amount of time it places on the parent among other issues.  School-at-Home provides a preset path and routine that some really thrive on because of its high structure.  I have discovered that a lot of larger families do rely on this method heavily which seems to suggest that this method, in theory, could allow for increased independent learning depending on the textbooks selected.  But, because the majority of textbooks available were made for a classroom teacher-centered setting, most require more intense time from the parents.  If your family thrives on high structure and set routines or you would like to keep a school like setting your child, then this is for you.


Requirements Needed To Make This Method Work

-Money.  Lots of money for the textbooks and the accompanying workbooks.
-Lots of time to devote to your child on a one-on-one basis.
-A love of structure.



Motto: Developmentally Appropriate Learning

Does your child love to journal, draw, or be crafty?  Then the Waldorf Method may be a good fit. This method is more teacher-centered and relies on experiencing developmentally appropriate topics. Since it was originally designed for a small classroom it has been adapted to the homeschool. This method takes topics based on 7-year developmental cycles and introduces each through an experience. The topic is then explored by your child through your guidance and after that there is a discussion.  Waldorf is about the mind-body-spirit connection, educating the whole child not just the mind.  And from the pictures I saw at Bending Birches, it looks very much like the environment plays a very important part in this education, very peaceful. This method also discourages the use of TVs and computers because they believe these items are bad for your child’s reasoning and creativity skills.


Requirements Needed To Make This Work

-A crafty, artsy outlook on life.
-An agreement on the harms of TV and other electronic media.
-A “better late than early, but not too late” educational attitude.
– A love of natural, non-competitive atmospheres.


Thomas Jefferson Education

Motto: Mentorship, Friendship, Excellence, Life


If you would like to develop leaders and try something tried-and-true this method is based on the methods used by George Wythe, who educated and mentored Jefferson in his late youth, and who just happened to have educated 19 more of our nation’s founding fathers.  An attitude of excellence and ingenuity is developed in your child through reading, writing, and family discussions of the classics with lots of independent study time to pursue  her personal interests. Deep and wide is the name of this learning game. As the parent, you become a mentor, instead of a teacher, to help your child achieve their goals and become even better than they had imagined. 


Requirements Needed To Make This Method Work

-A mentoring walk alongside attitude.
-Your child should be self-motivated.
-Your child should have a set career goal in mind.
You need to keep in mind that the goal is to create a true love of learning.



Motto: Thoughtfully Prepared Environment, Individualized Guidance


Developed by Maria Montessori this method provides a gentle error-free way of learning. For instance, if you are learning about a frog’s life cycle then you would have printables with pictures or drawings of the frogs at various stages of its development along with the name of that stage underneath the picture. Then you have pictures of the Frog separate from the printed life stage name and you use the four principles as a guide to match up the separate pictures and life stage names correctly or without error. The same goes for maps, periodic tables, shapes, Etc.  Most homeschoolers who use this method usually stick with it until the middle and high school years, although there are others who continue all the way through. There is an emphasis on using wooden manipulatives and “toys” and there is no TV or computers allowed. What I find cool about this method is the children learn how to really do life skills as part of their everyday learning. For example, he uses a dish, then he washes it and puts it away properly.


Requirements Needed To Make This Work

-Money to buy or the ingenuity and skills to make your own manipulatives and printables
-An ability to organize well
-A willingness to let your child lead
-Time to demonstrate an activity to your child



Motto: Global, Cultural, Developmental Immersion


A United Nations community of acceptance and love. Enriching the body, heart, and mind is the central goal of Enki. Developed by Beth Sutton M.Ed., It pulls from the Waldorf and Montessori ideas by combining the methods in different ways throughout the day and years. It has the adult-led learning of Waldorf at the beginning of the day, the Montessori independent learning at certain parts of the day, and cooperative project learning where your child works with her siblings each week. The premise is that learning is like breathing, an In-Out-Rest cycle, in which every topic is first introduced through the Arts.  You as the parent will be a facilitator of learning but, also a respected elder, who has wisdom and knowledge and is a model of your child’s potential, of who they could look forward to becoming. To me that puts a lot of pressure on the adults but I may be wrong. It is built with a non-hierarchical multiculturalism that is meant to promote acceptance of many cultures and ideas leading to seeking wisdom wherever it is found. 


Requirements Needed To Make This Method Work

-An open mind to other cultures and religions.
-A willingness to be immersed in any given culture for 2-4 months at a time.
-A love of stories and storytelling.
-The ability to move between a teacher-centered and student-led approach.


Classical or The Socratic Method

Motto: Using Developmental Stages to Our Advantage


Used since the Middle Ages the goal of the Classical method is to learn and think for yourself.  This is accomplished by utilizing the Trivium, a three-part method based on the developmental stages of the mind.  The first stage, being Grammar, is taught in grade school as it is believed to be the best time for a child to think concretely and memorize facts in reading, writing, and arithmetic. Dialectic is the second stage and it begins in Middle School when logic, the science of right thinking, is taught.  Rhetoric is the last stage when verbal and written expression is taught to the high school ages.


Requirements Needed To Make This Method Work

-Time to learn the essentials of the Classical Method, as it is intensive and, in a sense, very different from what most of us know.
-A willingness to stick with topics until mastery is achieved.
-Time, because this can be parent intensive at times, unless your child is self-motivated.


Charlotte Mason

Motto: Education is an Atmosphere, a Discipline, a Life.


The Charlotte Mason method believes that children are persons and not empty vessels to be filled. Therefore children are to be respected by helping them develop good habits, feasting on really good yet challenging living books (not textbooks), and time outside in nature during walks and plenty of free play. There isn’t an emphasis on testing.   In fact, the exams conducted are only there to allow your child to tell you what she knows.  He won’t just learn to get good marks, but will learn because he loves it!  Foe instance, my children regularly ask if they can read ahead in their books because they can’t wait to see what happens next.  How many times can you say that about a textbook?  In the course of a week your child will learn science, geography, and history, will learn about the different cultures, and experience poetry, nature, and art all from living books and living life!  This method doesn’t leave any child behind.  If he doesn’t know how to read yet or is struggling with reading, then he learns everything else through the living books that are read to him which, in turn, spurs him on to work on his reading.


Requirements Needed To Make This Method Work

-Money to buy lots of books or the time to find them through your local library or free online
-A willingness to study Charlotte Mason’s principles
-Patience with yourself as you learn to put these principles into action.


The Moore Formula

Motto: Learning should be fun, low stress, and low cost.


A blending of work, study, and service this method employs the Delayed Instruction Philosophy in that the parents are encouraged to wait until their child is around 8 to 12 years old to start a more formal academic instruction. The reason being every child has their own set point when they are ready to start schooling.  According to brain research sited by the Moore Formula these extra no-school years, gives the brain enough time to mature thus allowing your child to learn more effectively when she is ready.  It follows the Montessori approach in that the Formula allows no toys, but does allow tools.  If you employ this method, whenever your child starts school, she will study for however long she can whether it is a few hours or a few minutes, and do manual work for the same amount of time then, they will perform home or community service for 1 hour.


Requirements Needed To Make This Method Work

– A great library or library system, where your child will find lots of books and magazines to start and complete their research on their interests.
-An ability to combine household chores with industry, such as earning money through a business.
-Time to provide service opportunities.


Multiple Intelligences

Motto: Learning in Your Own Way


Not really a stand-alone method as it is a method adaptation, Multiple Intelligences, also known as Learning Styles, this is probably the most widely known method of education.  It has been implemented in public, private and homeschools alike. Developed by Howard Gardner, it is believed that each child has their own way of thinking and learning and if you tap into the strength of your child, then he will learn more quickly.  Various intelligences include linguistic, bodily-kinesthetic, and logical-mathematical among others.


Requirements To Make This Work

-A willingness and ability to adapt the lesson to each child’s learning style.
-Money for multiple different resources.


Have you found one of these methods intriguing? Have I forgotten a method that you think needs an honorable mention?   Maybe you have information on a method that I didn’t discuss?  Let me know in the comment box below and feel free to leave links for additional information.   When you do, you will help other potential homeschoolers in their quest to find what will work for them!

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