Homeschooling Styles

The Many Styles of Homeschooling

Did you know that the average family changes their style of homeschooling seven times in the first two years?

When deciding how to begin to homeschool, how to change what isn't working, or just how to keep up with your family's changing needs, you first need to identify your own family's unique needs.

We can't, as homeschoolers, walk into someone else's home and see how they 'do' homeschooling. First off, your very presence there will change the way people act, what people do and how they do it. Instead, we need to look to within ourselves and decide what will work best for us as individual families at this point in our lives.

Knowing the various learning styles of the members of your family, when people are at their best (do they wake up ready to go in the morning or do their brains not wake up until 4 in the afternoon?), their favorite topics, needs and philosophies all are important to finding the style of homeschooling that fits yoru family best.

An Overview of Styles

"Whatever an education is, it should make you a unique individual, not a conformist; it should furnish you with an original spirit with which to tackle the big challenges; it should allow you to find values which will be your road map through life; it should make you spiritually rich, a person who loves whatever you are doing, wherever you are, whomever you are with; it should teach you what is important, how to live and how to die."

-- From Dumbing us Down

by John Taylor Gatto

Does it really matter which style of homeschooling you choose?

No, as long as that style works for your family.

If you are unhappily homeschooling, burning out, or fighting with your kids every day I will heartily agree something isn't right. It probably isn't homeschooling that is wrong, it is probably the style you are trying to use. Just as you can't fit a square peg in a round hole, you can't make a family conform to a style that isn't right for them.



This, the most familiar of styles to those of us who attended schools ourselves. Generally it involves 4 or more subjects a day, taught during specific time periods. Generally this style uses prepackaged purchased curriculums, but certainly not always. This section doesn't need much detail because we all lived it for 13+ years.

Classical (Trivium)

Classical Education organizes education into three Biblical categories. These three categories are Grammar, Logic & Rhetoric. Or otherwise known as knowledge (learning the facts), understanding (organizes the facts into rational order), and wisdom (taking that knowledge and understanding and uses it in practical ways). This is the original liberal arts education. Memorization, dialogue, writing and languages are stressed.

Charlotte Mason

A Christian based philosophy of education that stresses good literature (rather than textbooks), copying of relevant materials, and dictation. Nature walks are stressed throughout. Structure is crucial and training of good habits begins in infancy. There is no standard curriculum. Many Classical and Charlotte Mason homeschoolers feel their two styles overlap in many areas - so you may want to look closely at the materials available for both.


is a non-Christian spiritually based program featuring delayed academics and a rich variety of music, arts and literature. The aim of Waldorf education is to educate the whole child -- head, heart and hands. The curriculum is geared to the child's stages of development and brings together all elements -- intellectual, artistic, spiritual and movement. The goal is to produce individuals who are able, in and of themselves, to impart meaning to their lives. Rituals of daily and seasonal life are strongly emphasized.


The original works of Maria Montessori have been gravely distorted here in America by a lack of copyrights on her name, but the original concept was to respect the child's inner desire to learn and allow him/her to make spontaneous and free choices within a carefully prepared environment (structure the environment, not the child). While this is frequently now limited to only the younger grades, Montessori principles work well through high school. The role of the adult is to observe and use brief teachable moments to introduce new concepts (usually by doing the activity quietly herself and waiting for a child to ask a question about it).

Unit Study Approach

Unit studies can be as flexible or structured as a family wants. They allow for a great deal of individual choice in both the choice of units to be done and in the materials used. It is usually an in-depth study of one specific topic (baseball, the planets, trees, puffins) that takes into account many areas of the topic, such as geography, science, history, art, etc. It is a complete immersion into the topic so that the student will see things as a "whole" instead of bits and pieces. They can be done very frugally using a wide variety of internet and library resources. You will find more links here than usual - because so many of them are available!


Unschooling is not how something is done, but why. Unschoolers use textbooks, movies, classrooms and correspondence courses, museums and magazines, jobs and volunteer positions (and the rest of the world) to learn, depending upon how they want to learn about the topic. Unschooling is the belief that all people, no matter how old or young, have a built in desire to learn (unless that desire has been crushed by outside forces). It is a belief that if you allow a person of any age to pursue their own interests throughout life they will end up gaining the knowledge they will need in order to pursue the life they want. Unschooling is not never saying no and letting the wolves raise your children. It is allowing them to learn without guilt and with educational freedom.


Most homeschoolers probably fit into this catagory more than the others. Eclectic homeschoolers don't pick any one style. They use a formal curriculm for a few subjects, use a literature approach for another, and enjoy long daily nature walks and copyrighting and journal keeping. They have taken what was right for them, and left the rest behind.

by Kathy Wentz