Several common methods of homeschooling are listed below. Although each approach is broadly defined, the beauty of homeschooling is the flexibility to custom design learning to fit the needs of both child and parent. The same applies to the approach used; adapt, adjust, and alter whenever necessary. Regardless of the method chosen, modification is always an option and changes need not be restricted in any way. For more information on homeschool approaches, Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers, Homeschool.Com, and Fearless Homeschool are three excellent sources. There are numerous quizzes available online to help you identify which approach may be a good fit for your family; here's one from Eclectic Homeschooling. Another on TheBestSchools.org has a short quiz along with pros and cons of several major homeschool approaches; another quiz is at Homeschool On.
Once you determine the approach that is best for your child and family, you may wish to consider various curricula that fit that learning style. There are numerous reviews available online; this article reviews over 100 options for a place to start. CathyDuffyReviews.com is another excellent source for curriculum reviews. SEA Homeschoolers also have extensive curriculum reviews. Homeschool On reviewed 10 of the major math curricula with a handy chart comparing them by several features. Note that homeschoolers are not required to follow Common Core (aka College and Career Readiness) standards. You can find lists of which curricula are aligned here.
If you have a child with special needs, we've compiled curriculum suggestions that may be helpful to consider. We have more resources on our Developmental Testing & Counseling Services page as well as our Gifted & Talented page.
Many curricula providers have online tools to figure out the right placement level to begin your child's learning with their materials; check their websites for specifics. Some families use a standardized test, like those for year-end assessments, to gauge their child's learning levels across subjects. You can find more information about testing here. There are also several listed on Year Round Homeschooling.
Feel free to post questions or ask for information about various curriculum sources on our Facebook group. It's a great way to tap into the collective knowledge of your fellow NH homeschoolers. GSHE also has a Facebook group called GSHE Marketplace, to help bring buyers and sellers of homeschool material together.
The eclectic approach, which is also referred to as “relaxed” is the method most often used by home educators. Basically, eclectic homeschoolers use a little of this and a bit of that, relying on textbooks or workbooks for the core subjects of reading, spelling and math but apply more of the unschooling approach for the other subjects such as history or science. A typical eclectic approach might mean that mornings are often used for more formal learning and afternoons are used for hobbies and other special projects. There aren't specific times set for each subject, but instead the child is expected to meet certain educational goals. For guidelines, the eclectic homeschooler may rely on traditional school standards for their child's assessment. With this approach to learning - the basic or core subjects are being covered thoroughly – yet there is still plenty of flexibility allowing for field trips and enrichment classes that fulfill the child's needs and interests.
This approach is also known as “traditional”. A common assumption, when homeschooling is mentioned, is that replication of a conventional school setting has taken place and is visualized as a photo of children learning around the kitchen table. Most families who follow the school-at-home approach purchase boxed curriculum containing textbooks, study schedules, teacher answer guides with grades and record keeping journals. This approach might be a comfort to parents just starting out and can prevent “what to teach” anxiety, but can also restrict creativity. Some families use the school-at-home approach, but choose to create their own lesson plans and find their own learning materials. There is an abundance of worksheets and activities to be found on the internet as well as homeschool curriculum websites. School-at-Home can be an expensive method of homeschooling and can contribute to rapid burn-out for parents. Another point to consider is that prepackaged curriculum may be cut and dry in its materials with little flexibility; not all students learn at the same pace and adjustments may be required to fit the needs of the child.
Unschooling is also known as natural, interest-led, and child-led learning. Unschoolers learn from everyday life experiences and do not use school schedules or formal lessons. Instead, unschooled children follow their own interests and learn by pursuing that interest or curiosity. Unschooled children learn their math, science, reading and history in much the same way they learned to walk and talk; by doing. Unschooled children, with a very flexible schedule, use the benefit of time to passionately research and bolster abilities in order to become experts in the area of their interest. Keep in mind that since the unschooler does not follow any sort of school schedule or curriculum, unschooled children may be at a disadvantage with grade-level assessments or if re-entry into the school system is required. Additionally, documenting a child's learning progress is not easily described for the homeschooling portfolio. For a detailed look at Unschooling, John Holt, American author, teacher and founder of the unschooling movement, is an excellent resource for this approach. Kerry McDonald is another good author to follow. She hosts a Facebook page, Whole Family Learning, and is the author of Unschooled: Raising Curious, Well-Educated Children Outside the Conventional Classroom.
Unit Studies approach a theme topic from several angles, encouraging activity and love of learning as well as discipline and responsibility. Unit studies, sometimes called thematic units or integrated studies, are popular with homeschoolers and are typically based on topic of interest and are often a hands-on, literature-based program which typically encompass all of the scholastic subjects through the study of one topic. Since it is easier to teach different ages the same topics with multi-level unit studies, unit-studies are often used by parents who want to keep all of their children on similar topics at the same time. A wide variety of unit-study activities and “prepackaged” programs, with numerous resources, are available. The popularity of this approach offers the flexibility to tailor the curriculum to the child's interest. The downside for some is that unit-studies can require a great deal of a parent's time. It can also be an expensive approach and a child's interest may change before finishing a unit.
Multiple intelligences, as originally theorized by Howard Gardner, is a shift from the traditional view of learning. According to Moving Beyond the Page; Working through a Child's Strength: “Today's children will not thrive by simply mastering literacy and mathematics; they will need to be real-world problem solvers who understand how to access and manipulate all kinds of information in order to be productive. The multiple intelligences theory provides us with the tools to meet this challenge today.” Multiple Intelligence includes:
- Linguistic intelligence ("word smart"):
- Logical-mathematical intelligence ("number/reasoning smart")
- Spatial intelligence ("picture smart")
- Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence ("body smart")
- Musical intelligence ("music smart")
- Interpersonal intelligence ("people smart")
- Intrapersonal intelligence ("self smart")
- Naturalist intelligence ("nature smart")
This homeschool approach is entirely based upon Dr. Art Robinson's concept of self-teaching. The emphasis of this approach is in teaching a child good study habits and the provision of quality learning materials. The ultimate objective of the Robinson Method is the child learning to learn. It is interesting to note a large percentage of families this method are those who have been homeschooling for a long time. For a clear understanding of the Robinson Method, please visit The Robinson Curriculum.
The Principle Approach is the all-encompassing Biblical method of education which can be compared to the method followed in the Founding era and it is said to be effective in today's world just as it was then. According to the Foundation for American Christian Education, “The Principle Approach has been called reflective teaching and learning. It is America’s historic method of Biblical reasoning which places the Truths (or principles) of God’s Word at the heart of education.” The two websites listed below offer in-depth information about the Principle Approach: http://www.face.net/?page=principle_approach and http://www.homeschool.com/articles/ChristianEducation/default.asp
And the internet! This rapidly growing method of learning is now a feasible and sometimes popular approach for many homeschooling families, whether for one topic or class or several. From music and art to math and the sciences, all courses of study are “out” there. Many offer grading and transcript services as well as placement help. While we are all familiar with this option, the vastness of the on-line world of classes can be overwhelming. Word-of-mouth can be helpful when researching on-line programs and many of the learning websites have student and parent reviews. While many on-line classes are free of charge, some can be quite costly. It is advisable to research any company standings that require payment for any prolonged program. Be sure to check refund policies and guarantees. For some e-learning ideas, here are a few to get you started in your research: Global Student Network; Homeschool.com; HSLDA; Veritas Press; k12; Time4Learning; Keystone; the Virtual Learning Academy Charter School; Kahn Academy.