After choosing to homeschool in the first place, the second major decision homeschool parents face is selecting a homeschool method for their family to pursue. Many parents make this choice subconsciously, simply opting for the most compelling program or curriculum without diving into the philosophy of the homeschool style underneath it.
Of course, it’s not always necessary to research intensely which homeschool method to choose since parents are likely to choose a program that aligns with their family’s values and goals anyway. However, it can still be helpful to familiarize yourself with the following types of homeschooling to see how your own program’s style compares or what your family might be missing out on.
6 Different Types of Homeschooling
While there are undoubtedly other homeschool methods not on this list, the six mentioned here are generally understood to be the most common. If an approach on this list piques your interest, we recommend researching it further, because the descriptions here are generalized and brush over many techniques that could prove beneficial for your family.
So, this post is simply a brief overview of the more popular styles of homeschooling. With that said, let’s begin with the method most people tend to think of when they visualize families homeschooling — traditional homeschooling.
1. Traditional Homeschooling
First on this list of homeschool styles is traditional homeschooling. Also known as “school at home,” this method is comparable to the educational style found in traditional public and private schools in that traditional homeschoolers follow a complete grade-by-grade curriculum.
In sum, traditional homeschooling involves textbooks, well-organized lessons, and tests. Thus, this method naturally provides parents with a high level of structure and accountability.
Many traditional homeschool programs include weekly or daily schedules, so families know exactly when to work on lessons and subjects. If your family wishes to do online homeschooling, know that most online homeschool programs follow this traditional model.
While the high level of structure of traditional homeschooling can be appealing for some families, others can find this approach too restrictive. For example, traditional homeschoolers may struggle to find time for learning opportunities outside the home that come from experiences like going on field trips, taking art or music classes, or enrolling in classes at a homeschool co-op or community college. In addition, the intensity of this structure can cause families to burn out quickly.
On the opposite side of the spectrum is unschooling or child-led learning. Unschooling, as its name suggests, is a more relaxed homeschool method that emphasizes following a child’s interests, passions, and curiosities. Parents following an unschooling approach to homeschooling typically emphasize experience-based and hands-on learning.
While the immense flexibility and customization of unschooling can be freeing for some parents, this lack of structure may cause others to struggle to teach their students effectively. With all subjects, both homeschool parents and students can benefit from having some level of accountability, even when pursuing a more child-directed approach to education.
3. Unit Studies
Homeschool families pursuing a unit studies approach learn about subjects as they relate to a specific theme, switching each theme when completed. These can be historical events, geographical regions, ideologies, or other unifying concepts.
The primary benefit of this interdisciplinary approach is that it demonstrates to students that subjects aren’t confined boxes to be studied in isolation. This encourages students to view subjects in relation to each other, look at the world holistically, and make connections between what they learn.
While understanding how subjects are connected is important, families may find that this approach lacks clearly defined goals unless they follow a well-structured unit studies curriculum. As a result, parents may wonder how to assess students’ learning, what to study next, or whether students will develop the necessary skills to succeed in life.
Although it didn’t originate as a homeschool style, the Montessori method of education is worth consideration here since many homeschool parents find this style’s values, principles, and techniques attractive. With roots in early childhood psychology, the Montessori method emphasizes a physical, hands-on approach to learning by having children move, play, and touch.
Montessori schools have trained teachers and small class sizes to allow for individual attention. However, since parents need a certification to teach the Montessori method officially, many homeschool parents simply apply its techniques and principles to educating their children at home.
Because Montessori is intended more for younger children, homeschool parents following this approach may have to switch gears to a different program once their child enters middle or high school. So, this is a consideration to keep in mind when choosing the best style of homeschooling for your family, especially if you are currently a parent of little learners.
4. Charlotte Mason
Named after this method’s founder and visionary, the Charlotte Mason homeschool style emphasizes short study periods heavy on reading, primarily of classic literature. Charlotte Mason also encourages practicing skills like observation, memorization, and narration. Nature walks, fine art activities, and time spent learning outside the home are also common. And instead of tests, Charlotte Mason homeschoolers tend to rely on portfolios, journals, or parent-student discussions to assess learning.
The Charlotte Mason approach is also naturally built on a Christian worldview. So, Scripture reading is an essential component to a Charlotte Mason home-based education.
Like several other methods on this list, Charlotte Mason homeschooling has clear benefits for families (reading great literature, learning outside the home, and studying God’s Word). Still, it may intimidate parents with its flexible, less structured approach.
5. Classical Model
The final homeschool style on this list is the classical model of education. In this approach, parents teach students using a proven method that originated with the ancient Greeks. Referred to as the Trivium, this method emphasizes learning practical skills that help students succeed in all areas of life.
The Trivium consists of practicing three broad skills called grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric. An easy way to understand the Trivium is to think of practicing grammar as inputting data (i.e., memorization of vocabulary and ideas), dialectic as processing that data (i.e., asking questions and thinking logically), and rhetoric as outputting the processed data (i.e., expressing, explaining, or persuading others of ideas).
With an emphasis on the skill of grammar in their kindergarten years, dialectic in the middle and early high school years, and rhetoric in the late high school years, students following the classical model of education practice these skills by studying high-quality literature, resources, and content in important subjects.
The classical method of education has many benefits, from being a time-tested, proven approach to equipping students with the general knowledge and skills to succeed in all areas of life. While some might understand the classical homeschool programs to be too antiquated or work-intensive, the classical model is also highly adaptable, allowing parents the freedom to customize their education if necessary.
What Type of Homeschooling Is Classical Conversations?
Of course, our Classical Conversations® programs are rooted in the classical model of education. However, we recognize that many other homeschool styles listed here contain valuable techniques, practices, and approaches that can significantly benefit families. So, our programs don’t shy away from incorporating these practices, either by being built in naturally or by providing the flexibility for parents to include them if need be.
For example, our programs provide enough structure to keep families on track toward their goals, a technique characteristic of traditional homeschooling. At the same time, however, we leave room for flexibility, so parents have the freedom to customize an education to best suit their child’s needs or interests, similar to unschooling.
Likewise, we recognize the importance of teaching from a Christ-centered worldview, reading great literature, and seeking opportunities for learning outside the home — all elements shared with Charlotte Mason. And our weekly local communities of homeschool families consist of small groups to allow for individual student attention, much like Montessori schools.
And finally, while our Foundations, Essentials, and Challenge programs are built on the classical Trivium, we recognize that a one-size-fits-all approach to education isn’t realistic. Instead, we encourage parents to adapt our programs to fit their family’s preferences and needs best.
What Is the Best Homeschool Method?
This will come as no surprise, but Classical Conversations believes that the best homeschool style for families closely aligns with the classical model and is rooted in a Christ-centered worldview. But, as stated earlier, drawing on the structure, tactics, and values of other homeschool methods can be hugely beneficial for families.
If you’re interested in learning more about homeschooling using a classical, Christ-centered approach, click here.