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Approaches to Home Education: An Introduction

Updated on August 21, 2019
AuniceReed profile image

Aunice is a homeschooling mother with 15 years of homeschooling experience. She has graduated 2 children from high school.


Homeschooling methods are based upon educational philosophies developed by notable educational scholars, many of whom were teachers at one time. However, the founder of the home-schooling movement in general is considered to be Charlotte Mason, who is also founder of the Charlotte Mason Method, which suggests that the child's home environment is their "natural environment" for learning. Everything and everyone in the child's environment is to be considered as his or her curriculum. Other approaches include the following:

Unschooling - Developed by Boston school teacher John Holt in the 1960's. Emphasizes child's interests and what they want to learn. Less focus on rote-learning books. Encourages practical hands-on learning modes. The focus is more on people, places and things. It is a free-learning approach.

Classical Education - Thought to be academically rigorous, the classical approach holds to 3 stages of development called the "trivium": Grammar, Logic and Rhetoric. It places emphasis on learning through language, both spoken and written. Less focus on imagery (pictures, video). Covers preschool through high school. All students typically learn the classical languages: Latin, French or Greek. Logic and Rhetoric are also taught to older children.

Unit Studies Approach - Provides for general and specialized study within a particular theme. All subjects (Science, Social Studies, Language Arts, etc.) center around the chosen theme or topic.

Eclectic Approach - Places no particular emphasis on one approach, but instead combines several different ones. The best principles are culled, then mixed and matched with other educational produce an ideal approach for the student. Some parents may use a structured method for mathematics and unschooling for science, for example. Very popular approach among homeschooling families.

Structured - Akin to traditional, public schooling. Scope and sequence. Focus is primarily on the factual land rote earning. Families may enroll their children in a charter school independent study program, or just get the boxed curriculum and following it as it is. This is also referred to "school at home."

Reggio Amelia - The focus of this method is on helping the young child develop as an individual. Communication with others is important, as well as opportunities for expression and creative thinking. Learning is typically achieved through working on group projects derived from teacher observations of child play and expressed interests.

Waldorf - Rudolf Steiner developed this method in the 1920's. Incorporates a unit study approach lasting approximately 3 weeks at a time. Arts and movement are an important part of this method. It is used for all grade levels and is known to have the most adherents worldwide as compared to other approaches.

Montessori - Developed by Dr. Maria Montessori. Focuses on prepared environments and the sensitive periods of development. Commonly used in early childhood ages 2-6, but is also done with children through the high school years. However, older students work on more independent projects and are encouraged to work with younger children. This method is thought to be the most involved approach to commit to on the part of the teacher, as there are certifications to be obtained and courses to complete to ensure it is being done correctly.

The Moore Formula - Developed in the 1980's by Dr. Raymond and Dorothy Moore. Child-led learning up to 8 years of age, at which point formalized learning begins. It utilizes a self-teaching format and community service is emphasized.

Choosing Your Approach: A Fundamental Step to Home Education

Choosing your method is all part of planning and setting up your home education program. But before you begin buying materials and developing your curriculum, it is important to have in mind the kind of approach you will use. The method you choose should be largely determined by the type of learner you’ll be teaching, as it is essential to assess their learning style, interests and challenges. This will allow you to be able to set up your program already knowing where the most help will be needed. You will also be better able to budget your program when you know exactly what materials you will be needing ahead of time. Knowing your philosophy first, provides direction for the home education program.

Most essentially, the method you choose should be based largely upon your particular situation and family needs. Some of you are large families, single-parent families, teaching students with special needs, etc. As you research and learn about each approach, keep your unique family situation in mind.

Placing Your Student

Before purchasing Math and Language Arts/Reading materials, it is important to adequately place your student. This is especially necessary for a child coming from traditional, institutionalized schooling, as math curricula homeschoolers use tend to be further advanced. Some examples are Harold Jacobs, Miquon, Singapore and Saxon Math. Many companies provide free placement tests for you to give your child. If you will be teaching a kindergarten student, you will need to place them at that level and in a year or two give them a placement test. Many parents for-go the formal math program in the early years, simply teaching the basics in computational skills: addition, subtraction, division and multiplication. Once the child is familiar with all their math facts, numbers and shapes, they can typically be placed at a 3rd or 4th grade level in math in most cases. Robinson Curriculum users follow this suggestion; flash cards are all that is needed.

A program based upon your child’s needs and learning style is superior to any other education, as your student will have a customized program suited specifically to them. This is probably one of the most noted reasons many families decide to homeschool in the first place. They desire to provide the best education possible for their child.

Building a customized program from scratch takes some work, but it pays off in huge dividends later. Your student’s strengths become more pronounced, while areas of challenge are greatly improved upon. This is due in large part, to your ability to key in to your student’s learning style and pattern. Is your student a visual or more of an audio learner? Do they prefer a hands-on approach? You know your child better than anyone else does.

Waldorf Education is the Most Popular Approach Worldwide

There are now well over 1,000 Waldorf Schools in the world; 100 of them are in the United States.
There are now well over 1,000 Waldorf Schools in the world; 100 of them are in the United States. | Source

Which educational approach do you like?

See results

Further Help and Resources:

Waldorf-Inspired Learning - Comprehensive resource for the Waldorf approach.

Co-oping: The Single Parent Homeschooler's Guide

Incorporate Special Interests and Talents

Every human being on the face of the planet Earth has a unique gift or talent. It just may take some time discovering what it might be. Don't be afraid to explore. Try including interesting subject areas that are not typically taught in most public schools. This could be: animal husbandry, herbal gardening, Latin, Euclidean Geometry or even Shakespeare. Your options are endless!

Does your student demonstrate interest in a particular subject? Sometimes students have an identified talent such as studio art, martial arts, debate, theatre, ballet, athletic team sports, herbalism, field biology, chemistry and physics. Be sure and provide opportunities to nurture these interests.

Also, if your family adheres to a specific faith tradition, it is a good idea to include it as well. This might include incorporating such courses as: Meditation, Bible, Torah, Quran, Christian Living, Buddhism, Hebrew or Greek. These provide a basis and moral foundation for your learning program at home, which is likely to serve your children later as they move into adulthood and beyond.


© 2013 Aunice Yvonne Reed


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    • AuniceReed profile imageAUTHOR

      Aunice Yvonne Reed 

      6 years ago from Southern California

      Thank you! Yes. I agree that home schooling works. I graduated my 2 oldest a while ago and they thanked me when they got to college:) my youngest is at year around charter in 3rd grade. I after-school her, but now she wants to do home-school too!

    • JayeWisdom profile image

      Jaye Denman 

      6 years ago from Deep South, USA

      This is a very interesting hub about the various methods of homeschooling as well as the Montessori school.

      One of my grandsons spent a couple of early school years in a Montessori school, and I believe it fostered his artistic talents.

      A granddaughter homeschools her children now, and they each place higher in most subjects than other children their age. With the dangers children face in public schools these days (in the USA, anyway), I believe homeschooling is becoming an option for more parents. If I were rearing children now, it's certainly the route I would take.

      Voted Up++



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