The top four 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 and Homeschool.Com are two excellent sources. Look for additional homeschooling approaches in future editions of GSHE newsletters as well as on the Granite State Home Educators website.
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.
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.