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Home School Methods

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As a new home schooler one of the things I found frustrating was the so-called names given to various methods of home schooling. As a devotee to Charlotte Mason, I am asked all the time if we are teaching using a 'classical' approach or if we are 'unschoolers.' I am not an expert on home schooling methodology so I am just going to give a very brief definition of these forms and then you can go and research them yourself.

Classical Education / Classical Christian Education

Classical education depends on a three-part process of training the mind. The early years of school are spent in absorbing facts, systematically laying the foundations for advanced study. In the middle grades, students learn to think through arguments. In the high school years, they learn to express themselves. This classical pattern is called the Trivium.

Charlotte Mason (See Using AO - Help and Tips)

Charlotte Mason was a British educator who was born in 1842 and died in 1923. During that time she developed a Philosophy of Education that has proved very adaptable. Designed for homes, private schools, and home schools, her blend of practices (for she never claimed to have invented these, only to having adapted and combined them) includes Narration and copywork, Nature Notebooks, Fine Arts, Languages, a Literature based curriculum instead of textbooks, and real-life applications. She also did not claim to have finished or perfected her Philosophy. The complete title to her last book, Volume 6 of her Home Schooling Series, conveys this concept - "An Essay Towards a Philosophy of Education". She was constantly developing, refining, adding as she learned herself. Her practice was to stimulate others with ideas and suggestions.

Some methods that include aspects of Charlotte Mason but are not completely patterned after her methods and philosophies:


The term "unschooling" was coined by John Holt to mean not sending children to school. The term has been stretched and changed since then, and those of us who refuse the entire school model have taken the word "unschooling" for our own. Other terms associated with unschooling are natural learning, child-led learning, discovery learning, and child-directed learning. We don't divide our day into "school" parts and "non-school" parts, because there are no school parts. We live; we learn; we try new things; we go back to things we've loved a long time.

Unit Studies

The unit studies method intertwines hands-on experiences with the unit's reading and writing, locking the child's mind on the wavelength of the unit thereby increasing retention, since all subjects are interrelated.

There are many prepared Unit Studies available now -- see for a listing of some of the most popular ones!

Waldorf Method

Waldorf education is designed to address the whole child: the head the heart and the hands. It stimulates the mind with a full spectrum of traditional academic subjects; it nurtures healthy emotional development by conveying information experientially as well as academically; and it teachers the hands to be valued members of the child’s being through a broad range of artistic and physical activities.

Eclectic Home schooling

Eclectic home schoolers strive for a functional education that helps their children become people of great inner beauty and strength.

Traditional / School at Home

Traditional home schooling relies upon the foundation set by secular and Christian Schools. Key components to traditional home schooling include textbooks, workbooks and other materials to create a school environment at home. There are many excellent curriculum publishers who lean towards a traditional approach of schooling at home.

Methods that Don't Fit a Category

There are a number of curriculum publishers that don't really fit into any category. They often include methods and materials that cross boundaries. Many families will pick and choose curriculum and will use methods that seem to make sense to them or meets their children's needs. There is no "right or wrong" way to home school your child. It is vitally important to consider the needs of your child, your families dynamics and goals as well as your budget when choosing home schooling curriculum.


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