When you start researching home education, you may be shocked at how many educational theories exist. This is because most of us have only experienced traditional school methods during our time in school as a child.
Unless we went to an alternative type of school, we probably haven’t been introduced to other educational methods that work better in the home environment.
While not all styles will suit all homeschooling families, I believe we can learn many educational tips from studying different methods. We’ve looked at some of the different ways to homeschool here, but, I’ll cover these briefly below.
Charlotte Mason Education
The Charlotte Mason style of homeschooling is one of the best methods you can use in your home school. While most educational methods today were formulated for use in traditional school settings, CM’s philosophy of education was made to be used in the home setting.
Charlotte Mason was a Classical teacher, so tenets of her teaching style have parallels to classical education. However, Mason believed the classical style was a little too harsh on children and students would learn better with a gentler approach.
Some of the main tenets of CM education are:
- Short Lessons
- Nature Walks
- Perfect copywork
- Guided discovery
- Good habit training
- Teach using living books
- Grow the mind and grow the person
- Gentle learning a way of life rather than a curriculum
- Encouraging children (and parents) to ask God to help them with their education and teach them the things He wants
Because I’m a big fan of the Charlotte Mason method, I’ve written a considerable amount on her theories, philosophies and style of learning. You can find everything about CM on this page.
But, you don’t have to know a tremendous amount about CM to use her curriculum. Just get a pre-packed Charlotte Mason curriculum here and you’ll be on your way!
Classical education is another one of my favourite home education methods. This is mostly because it encourages children to wrestle with the facts they’ve been given and become well-thought-out young adults – an element that seems to be missing from many of our youth today.
A classical education will use the trivium (or quadrivium which includes four ‘art’ subjects – math, geometry, astronomy and music – the quadrivium also includes theology and philosophy) which comes in a set of three learning stages.
The youngest children do the grammar stage and learn the tools that we use in our education. In this stage, there’s plenty of memorization and singing songs (even learning Latin or Greek – see the video below to discover why learning Latin is a good idea) to get important concepts firmly embedded into the young and pliable minds of children.
In middle school, students progress to the logic stage where they develop a deeper understanding of the subjects they learned about in the first stage. They become more argumentative and wrestle with issues more. A classical education will encourage students to start debating ideas with each other at this point. This allows them to refine and get a deeper understanding of an issue they’re studying than merely reading it in a textbook.
When they are around 12, they progress to the rhetoric stage. By now students have become independent and are separating their ideas from their families and learning how to think autonomously. They do a lot of analysing and synthesizing of information learned in the two former stages and discover how to communicate in an effective and winning manner.
Again, you don’t have to know this method thoroughly to begin doing it with your children. You can easily get started with a Classical curriculum here.
The Eclectic Method
While most homeschools favour one method over another, they often use bits and pieces from different philosophies, picking and choosing the ones they like best, and the ones that suit their family best.
If you pick and choose your home education method (for example, you debate and learn Latin but also read many living books and go on plenty of nature walks), you would be said to have an eclectic homeschool.
The Montessori Method
Montessori education is a popular learning method that’s used predominately in families with young children. This way of homeschooling encourages children to be independent learners, able to do things themselves and clean up messes they’ve created.
It values orderly learning at a child’s own pace and interest-based education. Montessori environments are set-up to be ordered and beautiful places, appropriate for children. The learning environment is set up so it’s at a child’s physical level with child-size furniture, appliances and utensils (see an example here). Also, natural materials (for toys) like wood and stone are preferred over synthetic materials such as plastic.
Technology is discouraged, especially at the younger ages, so children tend to watch very little television and use the computer sparingly.
Advocates of unschooling claim children learn through life experiences and seek to learn something if it interests them.
For example, unschooling parents wouldn’t force their kids to start learning to read at age 6 (or the age everyone else around them is learning to read). Instead, they would wait until the child says, ‘I want to learn to read,’ and then they might facilitate that (if the child wants) or let the child learn to read by themselves.
With the age of the internet, many children can learn almost anything, so I believe the internet would be a significant source of learning for many unschoolers.
There are many eclectic home education families who would say they homeschool for part of the day and then unschool for the rest. But, with unschooling definitions, everything is a bit murky.
Some unschooling antagonists complain unschooling isn’t a good option as children don’t always make good choices. For example, most will choose Starbursts over salads or muffins over mathematics. I think there is something to be said for this although there is also something to be said for interest-based learning (which we will cover below).
Out of all the educational methods on this page, the Montessori learning method is the closest learning style to the Waldorf method. Many parents weigh up their local Montessori vs Waldorf school, preferring these options as they seem to encourage interest-based learning more than traditional school.
Waldorf education, designed by Rudolf Steiner, is a well-thought-out learning method where children study in groups and learn practical skills together, such as cooking and gardening. Like Montessori schools, Waldorf schools like working with natural materials.
One of the things I like about Waldorf education is that they value children of different ages learning together. They usually only have three age classes, so children can work with other students who are up to three years older or younger than themselves.
They also have something called the Main Lesson which is like having a monthly homeschooling theme. This means they can spend a decent amount of time learning about themes over a substantial period, rather than just learning about it for a short time and moving on – some subjects deserve more time than others.
When we refer to the traditional home education method, we’re referring to the school-at-home approach where you buy a pre-packaged curriculum (which are often made for schools) and sit your children down for a few hours until the work is finished.
Many of the Christian curriculum packages at this link use traditional education models as they were, in some cases, made for use in Christian schools as well as home schools (Abeka is an example of this).
While not a complete educational paradigm, the Multiple Intelligences theory teaches us how our brains work and about the different strengths people have in comparison to others. If you don’t know anything about MI, check out the linked page above.
The Problem-Based Learning Model
The problem-based learning (PBL) model is a method I saw used in my first year of medical school. In many medical schools, before you learn about an anatomical system, the lecturer presents a person or a medical case that fits that anatomical system. I explain how this works here:
In my university, the lecturers asked actors or people with genuine medical diseases to come and present the signs and symptoms of their complaints. This was done for about half an hour and the lecturer asked the person questions about their disease.
After a while, the person was sent out and we discussed different diagnoses that might fit the patient. We then discussed what tests we wanted to order – everything from pathology to medical imaging.
In the first year and a half of our medical degree, we went through this process every two weeks as we moved onto different body systems or organs.
PBL is much more interactive than simply studying different systems out of a textbook. It asks questions first, then requires students to find answers through lectures and self-directed study. If you can, it’s a great model to try at home, especially if you’re interested in medicine or engineering where it is used widely.
Have you ever noticed how much more excited you are to learn about something that interests you? On the other hand, have you noticed how much you drag your feet when you’re forced to learn about something you think is boring, or something that holds no interest for you?
This is the foundation of interest-based learning; that is, that children will learn more if they’re attracted to the topics they’re studying.
If you tailor a child’s education to their interests, they will like learning more and lack of motivation will cease to become a big issue. An added benefit of IBL is that students become lifelong learners who are able to motivate themselves to study even when they graduate high school, enter college or get involved in an entrepreneurial line of business.
But, how do you get children interested in mathematics if they’re not naturally inclined towards that direction? One way is to get them to study with ideas, places or games that interest your student. For example:
- make it fun with cool math games (i.e. play math ‘bingo’)
- learn addition and subtraction at the grocery store. The high level of application to their lives makes it more interesting than just learning arithmetic out of a book
- sometimes you can use Charlotte Mason living books to teach children math
Of course, you won’t always be able to make children interested in everything in every subject, but with a little bit of thinking, you can easily make it less boring!
Productive work vs busywork
If interest-based learning is the best lover of learning, busywork is its murderer. Busywork is all that fluff that curricula or teachers (especially substitute teachers) make children do when they don’t have any productive work left.
It’s called busywork as it keeps them busy, but students don’t learn anything from what they’re doing (if they did, it would be called productive work). Unfortunately, premade curricula – especially those that follow the traditional educational model – tend to have a significant amount of busywork.
Parents can either cross out the busywork in the program or find a curriculum that doesn’t have this. A Charlotte Mason curriculum is a good option here.
The Deschooling Process
Deschooling should be one of the first thing you do when you start home education. Fortunately, the deschooling process is one of the most enjoyable things you will do as it is about relaxing your educational mindsets and reconnecting with your children. Check it out in more detail here.
Homeschooling 2 hours a day
Another common question people ask is if you can educate homeschoolers effectively if they’re doing only 2 hours of formal learning a day.
The short answer is yes, although this will depend highly on circumstances like the curriculum you choose and the age of your children. A five-year-old can get away with two hours (many parents would do much less at this age), but two hours may be a little short for teenagers. Read this article to find out more.
Schedules and Routines
When people refer to a schedule in this situation, they often mean what subjects will be studied at what time of day (see here for example). However, when they refer to their routine, it often has their plan of the day’s events, including the schedule (see this link for example).
Many curricula come with set schedules, although it’s often up to parents to decide what the routine will look like for the day. And this is where homeschooling is wonderful as the world is your oyster and you can be as flexible as you wish!