If you are considering a new curriculum or learning approach, chances are someone has tried it or is currently using it. Getting support from others when considering or beginning a new curriculum can be very helpful indeed!
There are as many ways to homeschool as there are families homeschooling. One way that works best for one family/child may not work well for another family/child. Expect that it will take some trial and error to find what’s best for you and that what works best for you may change/evolve over time. Homeschooling is definitely not a one-size-fits-all proposition. There are many homeschooling methods to choose from.
Be leery of “pigeon-holing” your approach too soon. You need time to figure out which way(s) works best for your family. There is no right or wrong way to homeschool. If you can imagine it, you can try it!
School-at-home is the most direct approach and what most people probably think of when you say homeschool. It brings us images of children studying around the kitchen table using a boxed curriculum that comes with textbooks, study schedules, grades, and record keeping. Some families use the school-at-home approach but make up their own lesson plans and find their own learning materials.
Possible Disadvantages: May be expensive. May lead to burn-out if you try to follow the box curriculum exactly. Because they are modeled after traditional classroom teaching methods, textbook programs may not meet the needs of all learning styles. A child is often not in the same “grade level” in all subjects and box curriculum doesn’t take that into consideration. If you have taken a child out of school because it wasn’t working for that child, then recreating school-at-home may not be a good option.
Possible Advantages: The advantage of this style is that families know exactly what to teach and when to teach it. That can be a comfort when you are just starting out.
Unit/Immersion studies use your child’s interest to engage them in all subject areas like math, reading, spelling, science, art, and history. Unit studies can be anything from dolphins to Super Mario Brothers! Unit studies can last a week or a year!
Possible Disadvantages: Some topics may be challenging to find or create curriculum for.
Possible Advantages: Packaged unit studies are available on many popular topics and it is often easy to piece together unit studies yourself. Perhaps the biggest advantage of this homeschooling method is that it recognizes the fact that people learn best when they are interested in the topic.
Eclectic homeschooling uses a variety of homeschool approaches in order to piece together the best curriculum from various methods and philosophies that complement the academic and experiential learning of their child. This is probably the most used way to homeschool as you can bring in pieces from every approach as needed.
Possible Disadvantages: Possibly more effort needed by the parent to gather resources.
Possible Advantages: Easily tailored to each child’s needs and easy to switch paths as needed.
Unschoolers learn through life experiences and the interests of the child. Unschoolers believe this will result in the best sort of learning due to real interest and a natural flow.
Possible Disadvantages: There may be perceived gaps in the education. You may be juggling many balls at once as interests are added and changed.
Possible Advantages: The cost of learning in this way is completely flexible. You can spend a lot on classes and materials or very little. There is buy-in from the children since they are instrumental in creating the path.
Independent Study Programs, Distance Learning Programs, Virtual or Cyber Schools, Charter Schools, Learning Centers. What is offered via these schools varies widely. Some have very strict requirements and others are very minimal.
Possible Disadvantages: Some people do not consider this “homeschooling.” Some states do not legally recognize these programs. These schools may have strict guidelines you need to adhere to, including regular teacher meetings. This may feel stifling compared to not having someone to answer to.
Possible Advantages: Some provide transcripts. A family may feel they are on the right track with their child’s education if they know someone is “approving” it. Some offer extracurricular activities and classes.
Computer Based Home Education
The choices of software and online services to use for education are many and growing daily. A child could take live classes online with a teacher they can talk with in real-time or sign up for a course they work at their own pace and it grades as you go. You can pick and choose and piece together an entire course of study using computer-based learning.
Possible Disadvantages: Similar to “School-at-home” this inflexible complete package may not fit the needs of a single child. It is not uncommon to hear that a child “burns out” on this sort of program. Parent may feel disconnected from their child’s education.
Possible Advantages: Parents do not need to be as involved in this learning, which could be beneficial in some “busy parent” households. Children work independently. Correcting, grading of work and record keeping is automatically done. Some programs have regular virtual meetings with teachers.
There are many other options for homeschool: Classical, Charlotte Mason, Whole-Hearted Learning, Religious-based programs, Waldorf, Self-Learning/Independent Study, etc. A variety of homeschool articles and blogs are online and can help you learn more about all these homeschooling methods.