how to homeschool

6 Different Approaches To Home-Education

Where Do I Start?

When I began dipping my toes into the world of home-education twelve or so years ago, the internet wasn’t the first port of call in my search for information as it would be for most people today. Facebook had only just come to my attention and I don’t think I had heard of Google.

I went to the library, found a couple of books to read. Then, by a stroke of extreme good fortune, I realised that a group of home-schoolers ran a regular meet-up around the corner from my house. I met some people there who introduced me to other books and ideas, which inspired more inquiries, and so it went.

In retrospect, I’m grateful that I wasn’t bombarded with the information one can access with a few clicks these days. It must be overwhelming!

My introduction to the world of home-education was more of a drip-feed experience. I read about and absorbed one philosophy or idea before finding information on the next. Like most people who home-school, I started out knowing very little but eventually got to grips with the various approaches and the accompanying jargon.

Now, a quick Google-search of ‘ways to home-school’ brings up a seemingly endless list of lists. Any of these will introduce you to the most common approaches to home-education: Classical, Charlotte Mason, Natural Learning/Unschooling, Unit Studies, School-At-Home or Distance Learning, and Eclectic.

Most home-educating families fall into one of these categories. And yet, every family has their own way of home-schooling. There are as many ways to home-school as there are families who do it.

There Are No Rules…

In all our years of home-educating, I’ve never met two families who do things the same way, even if they follow the same philosophy, and I’ve rarely met a family who’ve stuck rigidly with one approach.

Most of us try things out, adapting, changing, tweaking as necessary depending on our children’s or family’s needs.

And now, to add to that long list on Google, here’s an introduction to the most popular approaches to home-education, in a nutshell. You’ll find links to books, websites, blogs, and podcasts so you can delve deeper into whatever appeals to you.

1. Classical Home-Schooling

Classical home-education is an approach that’s based on three stages of learning which children progress through as they mature. These are known as the trivium.

This approach harks back to Ancient Greece and is the foundation of a liberal arts education. There are varying schools of thought within, and about, the classical model. Some people focus on the classical methods, others on classical content, and many people like to blend both with modern resources.

The three stages of the trivium are as follows:

  • The Grammar Stage, roughly age 4-11, is a time for acquiring knowledge through memorization (think times tables, definitions of parts of speech, etc.), and skills through practice (think handwriting). This may sound tedious to an adult, but consider how easily children of this age absorb information; my son had an encyclopaedic knowledge of Aussie Rules football statistics at this stage, and was happy to spend entire days creating animals out of loom bands, practicing until he perfected his skills.
  • The Logic/Dialectic Stage, roughly age 11-14, is when the child learns to reason and to analyse information, to compose arguments and debate intelligently. Again, developmentally, this is an age where children are naturally inclined to challenge all kinds of rules and assumptions.
  • The Rhetoric Stage, roughly age 14-18, is a time for applying the knowledge (grammar) which is by now well understood (logic) to the world at large (what we call wisdom). During this stage, the young adult is learning to communicate ideas and information with authority, both in writing and verbally.

A classical education will have an emphasis on literature, languages, history, and the arts (although not to the exclusion of other subjects). Reading, writing, and speaking are very important.

In very general terms, the goals are to absorb (grammar), understand (logic), and apply (rhetoric) knowledge. Of course, in real life there is overlap between ages and stages and not everything is so clearly defined.

The aim of a classical education is to create a person who appreciates truth, goodness, and beauty and who will continue to learn throughout their life.

Useful Resources

*A little note – most of the classical home-education resources available assume a Christian world view. The links below are to resources that I’ve found useful and interesting, while using my own discretion when it comes to adapting content to suit my family.

Over To You….

So, there you have it – the most common approaches to home-education, in a nutshell.

Home-school is whatever you choose to make it. That is an awesome responsibility, but it’s also an awesome opportunity.

You get to choose what works for your family.

Be open to new ideas, be flexible, be humble, laugh together, read together (a lot), listen to your child. These are the things I remind myself of daily.

Enjoy the journey!

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