Home » 5. What are the Different Methods of Homeschooling
There are many different methods of homeschooling. Here's what they are, how they work, and where to start with each method.

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JUNE: Let’s talk about the different methods, okay. And we’re not coming at this like we’ve tried it all, because we all three kind of have settled into our owns areas, but can I just list them?

CHRISTINA: Sure.

JUNE: And then if you feel like you know to define it.

MAGGIE: Sure.

JUNE: Yeah? Okay, so unit studies, driving your whole homeschooling, classical method of educating, Charlotte Mason, and then, you hear the phrase unschooling, right?

MAGGIE: Which I still don’t totally know what that means.

JUNE: I think it’s because who unschool don’t want to-

MAGGIE: Don’t want to define it.

JUNE: Spend the time to define it. So unschooling, and those are the main ones. I think there’s mixtures of that, so much.

CHRISTINA: School at home, like school in a box where we’re working through a tutorial.

JUNE: Yes. So let’s start at the end here, and see-

CHRISTINA: School at home?

MAGGIE: Sure.

JUNE: Define that, a tutorial method slash school in a box. So when you say school in a box, the curriculum all comes to you.

CHRISTINA: Right. Which is a really easy way to do it. You call-

MAGGIE: One hand.

CHRISTINA: Right, if it works for your child, but you might need a third grade math and a fourth grade writing, is that what you’re saying?

MAGGIE: Well, I guess I’m just thinking like, you know, all of us have multiple aged children. And when you get a box of curriculum, that is not necessarily going to say, okay, this year you’re studying American history and everyone’s studying American history, so you suddenly are having to facilitate, for lack of a better word, I mean, ’cause I don’t want to shortchange my friends who do it this way. I do think they’re very invested in their children’s education.

JUNE: Oh, yeah.

CHRISTINA: For sure.

MAGGIE: They’re very contentious parents. I think they are certainly doing it for discipleship reasons, but in terms of actual content of education, you’re looking for someone else to make those educational choices, and then you’re just basically following it.

JUNE: And so what you’re saying, it gets complicated.

MAGGIE: And so, what I’m saying is it gets complicated if you have a lot of different ages, and you’re not necessarily all learning the same thing. Like, your kids are always going to be in a different math, for sure.

CHRISTINA: Right.

JUNE: Yes, no matter.

MAGGIE: That will be for sure. You’re always going to be in a different math, or maybe have two in the same, but you know. You’re probably always going to have different ability of readers, right? So you as a parent are working alongside those readers at a different level as well. It just helped me so much to have certain central things that were the same, which was usually literature and history. But now we’re getting off to-

CHRISTINA: Which can be time-saving.

MAGGIE: Yes, yes.

CHRISTINA: So if you are doing school at home, and you order a curriculum, you must be careful to make sure you have time to do that with each of your children who are a different age.

MAGGIE: Yes, that you’re going to have to be facilitating different subject matter.

CHRISTINA: Right. If you only have one or two, that might work.

MAGGIE: Yeah, it might not be a big deal. CHRISTINA: But for me, I have had to combine subjects like literature, history.

MAGGIE: Science, even.

CHRISTINA: Science, all of that.

MAGGIE: Yes.

CHRISTINA: And found ways to do reading, or spelling, or math at the same time a child or two at the table.

MAGGIE: Yeah.

CHRISTINA: It’s just not always easy.

MAGGIE: It’s not always easy.

MAGGIE: Yeah.

CHRISTINA: But it’s fun. Sometimes.

MAGGIE: It’s worth it.

CHRISTINA: It is worth it. It’s worth it.

JUNE: And in our town, there’s a lot of tutorials that you can go to where you can go one or two days. There was a Sally Clarkson tutorial that people went to.

MAGGIE: Yes, that’s still going.

JUNE: There’s all kinds of tutorials, and that’s where you would, another teacher would pick out the curriculum, and then you go in for a day-

MAGGIE: Or two.

JUNE: Or two.

CHRISTINA: Bring your homework.

JUNE: You bring your homework, and then the mother decides how that’s parsed through the week, and how you incorporate.

MAGGIE: And certainly is helping the child. Like, there is some teaching that she’s doing.

CHRISTINA: Some teaching going on.

JUNE: Yes.

CHRISTINA: And making friends. It’s a nice way to see people.

MAGGIE: Yes, the community.

JUNE: It’s a community, yeah.

MAGGIE: I think kids who come from only child families, it’s a great option, because I do think that’s really tough to have an only child.

JUNE: Yeah.

MAGGIE: And not have those siblings to break up the day.

CHRISTINA: It can give the parent some time off, too. That’s a benefit.

MAGGIE: Yes.

JUNE: Yeah.

CHRISTINA: If the parent needs rest, or other kids.

JUNE: Although, some of the tutorials, the parents have to stay. But that’s great, too.

MAGGIE: Yes, they do. That’s true. Then that they get that community.

CHRISTINA: That would be more of a co-op, I guess, maybe.

MAGGIE: A co-op, yeah, ’cause the moms are all teaching it, they’re not hiring people necessarily. It’s usually the moms that are teaching in that co-op, or the tutorial that you and I think are talking about, where you stay.

JUNE: Well, there’s probably three totally different kinds that I’ve seen.

CHRISTINA: Yeah, lots of options.

JUNE: Lots of options. I’ll speak quickly to unschooling. So, unschooling is child-led learning. I think that it’s where a parent sees a child who’s interested in engineering, or interested in botany, or interested in cooking, and that child is leading the way. Those parents are going to have a bit of a different worldview, in the sense that, I don’t always think my child is wise. I think the folly is bound up in the heart of a child.

MAGGIE: In the heart of a child, yep.

JUNE: And so, I think that sometimes my kids interests, they do drive us. Like, I know my son loves to build things, and I am going to gravitate towards those kind of things, but a parent is more seen as the facilitator in unschooling.

MAGGIE: One thing I was going to say, I remember what it was, I think for parents who maybe want to pull their kid, maybe they’re really realizing they want to pull their kids out of school. Like, maybe this time has shown them that they enjoy being home with their children, or why are they paying all that money, if it’s private education, or why is their child gone eight hours a day when they can maybe be doing some of these things at home? I wonder if that tutorial, you know, a box of curriculum, those things where you’re more of a facilitator, may be a good launching pad? I mean, I’m just-

CHRISTINA: It might be a good place to start.

MAGGIE: A good place to start.

CHRISTINA: See how it works

MAGGIE: because as you and I were talking about earlier, it did take me several years, really, to find my groove, and why are these the books that we have out? This was not like, I read this and there was nothing else. I fumbled along for at least two or three years before I found my feet homeschooling. And I think people who maybe are in that situation, I had written down on some of my notes the question of avoidance. I think sometimes people make a decision to homeschool ’cause they’re avoiding this, and I don’t necessarily think that’s bad, I would just say, why are you wanting to avoid, if you like your children better when they’re not around 30 other eighth graders, or eight year olds.

CHRISTINA: You’re right, what’s behind that?

MAGGIE: What’s behind that? What is different about you keeping them at home, and why would you think if you put them back in that it’s going to be any different?

JUNE: Yeah.

MAGGIE: These books that we have out really helped flesh out the answers to some of those deeper questions, so.

CHRISTINA: Right. I do think it’s important to figure out why you want to homeschool, because that’s going to inform all your decisions about curriculum, how you spend your time, how you discipline your children during the day. Just what your whole homeschool looks like.

MAGGIE: Well, like you were saying earlier, if the reason you’re homeschooling is so your child can focus 10 hours a day on sports, your homeschooling is going to look really different. And that’s okay, like, again, this is not meant to be like a chiding, it’s just, our vision for homeschooling was intentional from the beginning, and not necessarily a reaction to, or because I want my child to have more time to do thus and so.

CHRISTINA: But I think that’s what is so great about homeschooling, because it is going to look so different.

MAGGIE: For everybody.

CHRISTINA: As similar as our philosophy of education is, it looks very different in all of our families.

MAGGIE: In each of our homes, yes.

JUNE: Well, so let’s take that and launch into a couple of the other methods.

MAGGIE: So let’s talk about classical. I met my husband, well, I didn’t meet him that way, but he hired me to teach in a classical school, which is kind of a joke. Not that the school was a joke, but I knew very little about it, and I feel like I still know a little about it.

CHRISTINA: We think you know.

MAGGIE: No, I don’t. I know a few things about it. It’s a great education, like, the body of information that your children are going to be working through is just, it’s worthy.

CHRISTINA: Very thorough.

MAGGIE: Yes, and it’s worthy of learning.

JUNE: So, the classical grade emphasis on the treasures of Western Civilization, that in the general education have just been washed away.

MAGGIE: Yes.

JUNE: Okay.

MAGGIE: So preemptively here, I’m going to say, I think that that’s what we also have focused on in our version of education, even though it has not been totally classical.

CHRISTINA: In methodology.

MAGGIE: In methodology. So the methodology of classical education would be more memorization focused, emphasis on the trivium, which if you don’t know what that is, it’s just different pedagogical stages of learning. And I, as an educator, I don’t disagree with that. You do memorize better when you’re younger, you do get to an age where you really want to debate. You do get to an age where you are ready then to present that knowledge, and so I think those are important, but I think they can be incorporated in everybody’s type of homeschooling differently, but classical’s going to really structure it that way. So you are going to memorize, memorize, memorize. That knowledge is something that you will pull from in these other two stages. So maybe you’re not learning about what you’re memorizing, you’re just learning the facts.

CHRISTINA: The facts.

MAGGIE: So, you may be learning the elements.

JUNE: Of the periodic table.

MAGGIE: Periodic table, way before you’re going to necessarily interact with them. JUNE: Yeah, yeah.

CHRISTINA: Or be able to understand.

MAGGIE: Or be able to understand what they are.

CHRISTINA: A lot of Latin?

MAGGIE: A lot of Latin, a lot of early grammar. But the richness of what is studied is worth. And we were talking about-

JUNE: And then there’s just a huge difference between what’s happening in a classical school-

MAGGIE: Oh, huge.

JUNE: Than either a government school, or even just general Christian schools.

MAGGIE: Or even in regular Christian schools, for sure.

JUNE: Very different.

MAGGIE: The approach is going to be different, the emphasis is going to be different. I think if that appeals to you, “Well-Trained Mind” written by The Bauers, or is just one? It’s a mother daughter, I think.

JUNE: Susan wise.

MAGGIE: Susan Wise Bauer, predominately did that, and I think she refers to recovering the lost tools of learning, so there is some harkening back to Dorothy Sayers-

JUNE: Dorothy Sayers’s book.

JUNE: So, let’s stay in England, and go back.

MAGGIE: Okay, let’s stay in England.

JUNE: And go back some decades to Charlotte Mason.

CHRISTINA: Right.

JUNE: Tell me a little bit about Charlotte Mason, Christina.

CHRISTINA: Charlotte Mason was an educator in England who emphasized a child being a person, building relationships with children, living books is something you hear about a lot in her writing. Spreading a feast for children of beautiful ideas, and music, and art, and nature, and literature, and history, and then just kind of learning alongside them. She emphasized short lessons, so her students would be finished by noon and then be out romping through the countryside the rest of the day.

MAGGIE: When you say living books, tell me what you think that means? I always have a hard time defining that.

CHRISTINA: It’s hard to put your finger on.

MAGGIE: It really is.

JUNE: In the living books, getting this concept early on is one of the biggest things in your homeschooling being alive.

MAGGIE: You’re setting your child’s literary taste buds.

JUNE: Right.

MAGGIE: And so if they are early on being exposed to really wonderful storytelling, and even illustrations play hugely into that, I mean, look at the little Beatrix Potter books, I mean, it’s just like, that’s what you’re looking for right there.

CHRISTINA: You can’t beat it, yeah.

MAGGIE: Parents enjoy it, children enjoy it, you have beautiful art.

CHRISTINA: Well, that’s something.

JUNE: Beautiful art.

MAGGIE: Something that’s stood the test of time, maybe.

CHRISTINA: Right. I think something that’s well-written, and that just sparks something inside your child where their eyes light up, they want to talk about the story after you finish reading it, or they want to act it out and pretend.

MAGGIE: Yes.

CHRISTINA: Or they keep thinking about it for a couple of days, or they want to read more and more.

MAGGIE: Quote it.

CHRISTINA: Yeah, I think something that just becomes part of your family’s life, because you all can enjoy it together, everybody at a different age. I don’t know about living books.

JUNE: Yeah, there’s just a taste and a smell to it that-

CHRISTINA: It’s hard to define.

JUNE: And on both sides of a living book, there’s the ditch of just didactic, or just trash, trite, there’s so much. To a young mom right now, this is just aside, ’cause I feel like we’re never going to get together, the three of us, and not talk about books, or what a living book is, even if we’re not saying that. But I will say that the literature that’s coming out in the last 20 years, I mean, if Dorothy Sayers was sad in 1940. You all, it’s justAnd you know, if you’re a mom that has trouble, like, I’ve had a child that has been a lot slower to read, and if I just started throwing at him, and I hate to name names, but you could fill in the blank with a hundred things-

MAGGIE: I know.

JUNE: That you really, like,

MAGGIE: I know.

JUNE: When we were kids you’re like, oh, I can’t believe that would be a title of a book that teachers are like, yay, you’re wearing that book character at school. I mean, it would have been shameful.

MAGGIE: Well, here’s what I always would hear too is, oh, but my child hates to read, but they love to read this.

JUNE: But they love, yeah.

MAGGIE: And I’m thinking, that’s like saying, well, my child hates to eat vegetables, so all I feed him is sugar.

CHRISTINA: Right.

JUNE: But I’m glad he’s eating.

MAGGIE: Yeah, I’m just glad he’s eating something.

JUNE: Well you’re like, he’s going to die in 10 years.

CHRISTINA: June.

MAGGIE: Do you know that leads to diabetes?

JUNE: Okay. But so, we want the life, and the soul, and the spirit of that child to be fed by these ideas. Okay, so the other ditch, is it more realistic this? No.

CHRISTINA: No.

JUNE: No, can’t handle that crap, no,

CHRISTINA: Yeah, the little sermonettes.

JUNE: No.

CHRISTINA: Or even of us getting in the way and explaining, stopping and explaining, and what’s the moral of the story? I think you just let them read the great book, and let the child do with it what they will.

JUNE: Yeah.

CHRISTINA: Really.

JUNE: So, Charlotte Mason, there’s a lot there that has fed us. There are incredible blogs out there. There is wonderful literature. If you got passionate about any of these and wanted to plow into classical, plow into Charlotte Mason, we’re the last people you need to go to if you decide that’s-

MAGGIE: I’m sure there’s a place you could plow into unschooling.

JUNE: Wonderful.

CHRISTINA: Yeah, lots of them.

MAGGIE: I mean, I’m sure there are a lot of resources out there.

JUNE: Absolutely. And let me just say, can I just aside real quick before we move on from methods, child-led learning, so when I said that and was like ha, ha, ha, you know, I have spent tons of time training my children to be child-led players. Do you know what I mean?

CHRISTINA: Right.

JUNE: That when our learning, of course learning never ends, but when they’ve completed the things that are for school, they are free as a bird to go and-

CHRISTINA: Invent their own play.

JUNE: Invent, make, play, mud, water, scissors, sewing, painting. So child-led learning is very, very important in our home, and very highly valued.

CHRISTINA: And that’s a great thing about homeschooling, having the time. If you’re in school all day long, you don’t have that much time to play unorganized things where you’re in charge as a child to decide what you want to play, and kind of process the learning that you’ve done in the morning, the books that you’ve read, kind of think through ’em, and talk about ’em.

MAGGIE: Let your imagination-

CHRISTINA: Yeah, sure.

JUNE: And then there’s unit studies. So a unit study is a family that takes an idea like the American Revolution, or you could even take your garden, and everything begins to revolve around that.

MAGGIE: So I did this a lot in school.

JUNE: Yes, you did.

MAGGIE: They are interesting, and I think there’s certain times that they even make a lot of sense, like if you’re applying it in the way for the Kindergarten where you have a letter of the alphabet, and your letter of the alphabet might be your unit study, so you’re going to study apples, and the science of apples. We’re going to look at the seeds, and the part of the apple, and we might learn-

CHRISTINA: That’s very sweet.

MAGGIE: A Bible verse that goes with A. I mean like, where everything is just very simple, and quickly makes those connections with a child.

JUNE: Yeah.

MAGGIE: But you know, I remember doing a unit study on ponds when I was teaching second grade, and you’ve got all kinds of things that come out of that.

I’m not really sure what the long-term trajectory was for that being an emphasis in the curriculum.

JUNE: Well, I think, when I used to teach in a school, there was wanting to tend toward unit studies so everything was not fractured, right?

MAGGIE: I was just going to say that. Now that I’m pulling that from the recesses of my mind, it was to have it not be disjointed.

JUNE: Right, which rather than saying, we’re going to do a little bit about ponds, and a little bit about American history, just having more unity.

MAGGIE: Yes.

JUNE: So, we do a bit of all of these things, right?

MAGGIE: Yep.

JUNE: And we’ll talk about that more as time goes on.

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