Homeschooling- Choosing A Style

We made the decision to homeschool our 7 year old this year. It was a tough choice as right now it feels like there is no perfect option– but this one is the right one for us, in this time, right now. We started homeschooling last week and it really went pretty smoothly– but rewind for a minute back to the last few months as we were making this decision.

Have you ever gone car shopping and felt overwhelmed with the choices? You know, you usually some kind of criteria to begin with–

“I want a van…” or

“I want a small economical car…”

Usually you have some idea what you are looking for. Well, in the midst of pandemic when I decided to homeschool my 7 year old– I can honestly say I had no idea what I was looking for. So what does one do? Research. Research. Research.

The first thing I did was call one of my dearest friends who knows all about homeschooling because she homeschooled her three children for years. Actually this past year was the first year she put them into public school– and then pandemic hit and she was homeschooling again. Needless to say– she is back at the homeschooling game. She gave me some great advice right away.

“Research your state and what is required — first and foremost and see if they have an organization that helps you out. Then, decide what style of homeschooling you thing aligns with your values.”

Hmmmm. That was not the answer I was expecting. I was hoping there was a really clear answer…like “use one of these 5 well-researched choices and you will be good to go.” Nope. This was going to require more thinking and research on my part.

So I went to our state statutes and read up on homeschooling and found out that there is one organization in MN that accredits homeschools. Hmmm– did I want to be accredited? Is it necessary? I really didn’t know. So I called them (HBEAA) and they were fantastic. They gave me all kinds of information about different resources and an overview of how homeschooling works in MN. What amazing support. I also learned that while I didn’t need to accredit, I could and they would handle doing transcripts, contacting my district and that would exempt my homeschooler from state tests.

Then I started the online search. So it turns out there are around seven different really different styles of homeschooling (as I could find.) I will list them below– with the caveat that these are not exhaustive explanations of the styles. These are short, sweet and to-the-point explanations as I understood them– I am hoping it might help the parent looking to get the lay of the land in homeschooling (as I was!)

Classical: a model that takes a classical approach borrowing from Greece and Rome and Socratic method.

Charlotte Mason: Christian- based short periods of study paired with nature walks and outdoor education which is often (though not always) used for elementary students.

Montessori: Based on the Italian educator, Maria Montessori, this style uses indirect instruction and lots of manipulative.

Unschooling: Based on John Holt’s model, this type of homeschooling is free-form and individualized for the child. Systematic teaching the basics coupled with the ability to question everything about traditional schooling.

School-at-Home: This type of homeschooling is basically similar to what kids get in the school system– you are just implementing it at home.

Unit Study: In this style, kids are able to explore thematically related learning throughout the subject areas and really focus on an interest or passion.

Eclectic Education: This is a hybrid homeschooling model that allows for flexibility in style and shifting back and forth among the different options.

Many curricula that you can find are tied to one of these styles of homeschooling. And, it seems to me that each style has its benefits and drawbacks. So I started thinking about what my child needs for her to be successful in education, what I felt was really important to me and what my needs were in educating my child. I did what I often do when making a decision– I made a list. I know, I know…not super exciting but very helpful to my decision making process.

Knowing my daughter and her learning style, she needs consistency and to cover each subject a bit each day. She needs a strong curricula in writing and a spiral curricula in math. I was looking for something that ensures that that I cover everything that is needed for her grade level (since I am new to doing this) and I needed a curricula that had lesson plans that were pre-set as I am working and don’t have the time to make elaborate lesson plans. It was also important to me that the homeschooling curricula I chose was tied to a Christian base.

So, in looking at our needs and my choices– the school-at-home model met my needs for ensuring that I cover everything that she needs to learn, having ready-made lesson plans and touching each subject once a day. But, I really like the classical approach in some ways too, and the unit study as well. Unschooling seems exciting to me too.

So in short, I decided (for my rising third grader) to use a spine of a curricula that falls in the school-at-home category and to augment that as I can with elements from the other styles. In that way, I make sure to cover everything, and if I run out of time, the other pieces are just icing on the cake. For my little 5 year old (who I am not officially homeschooling) we are going to do mostly unit study. I believe I can get him to write, draw or practice anything as long as there is a dinosaur or superhero on the page. I think we will roll with that!

Thank goodness there are so many YouTube videos and blogs from homeschooling parents who know what they are doing. That makes me feel better. As I embark on this adventure, I feel gratitude for the learning from those who have gone before me, making the road a bit easier to navigate and providing their advice and learnings. I can tell in this adventure, my daughter and I will be teaching each other and there is something really beautiful about that.

For those of you that are homeschoolers–what style worked for your family? How did you make that decision? Was it clear to you– or something that you grappled with?

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