Which of these 7 Homeschooling Methods Will Work for You? (Plus 1 Bonus That Works for Everyone!)

How do you homeschool? 

It’s not an easy question, really. This is simply because everyone will have a different way of approaching homeschooling! There are really limitless variations to this form of education. However, sometimes this can be a little bit overwhelming.

Enter: your homeschooling method.

Your homeschooling method can be a guiding structure to your homeschool experience. And, as many different ways as there are to homeschool, there are some methods that seem to be most popular.  If you are thinking about homeschooling, are new to homeschooling, or looking to overhaul your old way of homeschooling, read on to learn more about some of the most popular homeschooling methods, so that you can decide which one is the best fit for you!

Other Resources for Prospective, New or Reforming Homeschool Parents:

If one of the above describes you, be sure to check out some of our other free resources from the Sparketh blog and Website:

Your Homeschooling Method: It’s Personal

One of the biggest reasons that parents choose to homeschool in the first place is the appeal of a personalized education. Among other things, some benefits of a personalized education are to:

  • Help a child pursue his/her dreams or interests (and actually integrate that into school).
  • Give children with special needs the one-on-one attention they need to thrive.
  • Incorporate moral, emotional and/or spiritual education as part of learning.
  • Provide children special attention in struggle-areas for them.
  • Challenge children to reach their potential in areas in which they are naturally gifted.
  • Make travel a part of your homeschool.
  • Prioritize family time as an integral part of your homeschool.
  • Educate on your own schedule.
  • Use more hands-on approaches to learning.
  • Approach education in a way that reflects your learning philosophy.
  • You can choose whatever homeschooling method suits you and your family best. 

This last point (in bold) has everything in the world to do with bullet points before it.  Choosing which homeschooling method fits you and your family the best is, and should be, a very personal thing.

Though there are numerous different homeschooling methods to choose from, the homeschooling method that you choose depends upon the education you envision for your child. That vision is unique for everyone. Here are 10 of the most popular methods that people use to homeschool their children.

1. The Classical Method

The classical method of homeschooling is one of the most popular.  The Classical education is perhaps the oldest form of structured education that exists in Western culture, and it is still highly valued by many prestigious colleges and universities around the world. Essentially, a Classical education involves studying ideas of the Great Books (Classics) of history, particularly those of Greek and Roman origin. Children are exposed to large, culture-shaping concepts and history from a very young age.

Education is framed by the ability to memorize/recite, then consider, and later discuss/argue/write about these great ideas. These stages of education are (respectively) referred to as: The Grammar Stage, the Logic Stage and the Rhetoric Stage.  Secular and Christian homeschooling families alike find themselves drawn to the Classic Method. However, a primary difference is that secular families may primarily explore Greek and Roman texts, whereas Christian families will also incorporate Biblical texts. Another thing that many people find appealing about this form of education is that, because it is so popular, there are many Classical education homeschool communities around the country.

A Classical Education May Be For You If:

  • You like structure and a time-tested approach.
  • You value the discussion of big ideas and historical movements.
  • You see homeschooling as an opportunity to hone your child’s logic/ critical thinking skills.
  • It’s important for you to have several relevant curricula options and an easy-to-find community of like-minded homeschoolers.

A Classical Education May NOT Be For You If:

  • Your primary reason for homeschooling involves making school more accessible/enjoyable for your student.
  • Your student struggles (or excels) in a particular subject that you would like to focus on.
  • You are not seeking a super structured mode of education.
  • You’d like to center your child’s homeschool education around something other than classical ideas and critical thinking (for instance, if you’d prefer to structure your child’s homeschool experience around hands on/real-world learning or the arts).

More Information about the Classical Method for Homeschooling:

2. The Charlotte Mason Method

The Charlotte Mason Method is another very popular form of homeschooling education. It shares some things in common with the Classical Approach: a love of classic works and historical themes. However, the way the Charlotte Mason Method approaches these books is very different and often referred to as a “gentler,” more accessible approach.  This method involves engaging children through “living books,” that prompt learning about history, the world, and human nature. Children learn through short, structured lessons, through engaging discussions with their parents, and through exploration of art and nature. The Charlotte Mason method does not emphasize memorization/recitation the way the Classical method does. Instead it seeks to education in a way that incorporates a child’s atmosphere, habits and life-learning.

The Charlotte Mason Method May Be For You If:

  • You are a new homeschooling parent looking to engage and excite young children about learning.
  • It is one of your homeschooling priorities to cultivate habits and morals as much as academics.
  • You are able and willing to spend a good deal of quality time actively teaching your children (in life, academics, art and nature).
  • You are willing to make changes in your home-life so it becomes a desirable learning atmosphere.
  • The idea of learning from great literature and short, structured, lessons is appealing.

The Charlotte Mason Method May NOT Be For You If:

  • You aren’t able to offer the amount of quality time/active teaching time that you feel you’d need for this approach.
  • You have older children who need more specific preparations for a college or vocational goal.
  • Your child needs more (or less) structure—Charlotte Mason is moderate in terms of structure.

More information about the Charlotte Mason Method:

3. The School-at-Home Approach

There’s some definition required between the terms “school at home,” and “homeschooling.” Whereas the term “homeschooling,” often implies doing school differently than the public school system, “school at home” is a form of homeschooling that does education as similarly as possible to public school…just, you know, from home.

This form of homeschooling is highly structured and often involves sticking to a selected curriculum (either physical or online) for all learning. Learning also typically takes place at a table or desk, following similar hours to a public school schedule. Detours, creative projects, hands-on learning, or other approaches to learning may not be used as much. It makes sense that many new homeschooling parents choose this approach to start with: the structure is completely built in. The issue with the “school at home” approach is that it misses out a lot of the creativity, personalization, and flexibility that many other homeschooling methods thrive upon.   If you stick too closely to this method for too long, you may end up with some unhappy, resistant learners on your hands.

The School-at-Home Approach May Be for You If:

  • You are primarily looking for an alternative to public school that won’t involve much change for your or your student’s schedule.
  • Your child is taking a brief hiatus from public school but planning to return as soon as possible.
  • You are looking for a way to quickly transition into homeschooling (hopefully with plans to expand your approach, later).

The School-at-Home Approach May NOT Be for You If:

  • You decided to homeschool to increase your child’s learning engagement/enjoyment.
  • Your learning philosophy is different from that of the public school system.
  • You believe in hands-on and creative learning.
  • You’d like to add more flexibility to your and your child’s days via homeschooling.

4. Attending a Homeschool…School.

It’s not uncommon for communities of homeschoolers to create their own sort of “school.” Active learning communities for homeschoolers come in many forms:  co-ops, arts-based learning centers–even charter schools or  “university-model” schools.  Being actively involved in these communities can become it’s own sort of homeschooling method. These options present a good way to connect with other homeschoolers and provide students with a more traditional “school” experience, all while keeping some of the things that are important to you about homeschooling.  There is a lot of variety to be found among these communities. Many of them even embrace specific learning philosophies/methodologies that may (or may not) align with yours.

For example, when I was a homeschooler, my parents enrolled me in a once-a-week academic program to meet up with other kids and learn about the arts. On meet-up day, students would attend classes in: art, music, drama and interactive history. We’d have assignments to complete for these classes throughout the week (other subjects were left up to parents.) Looking back at this experience, I’d say it was creative, flexibly structured, and fairly in line with the Charlotte Mason approach.

For my last two years of high school, I attended a much more structured, “university model” homeschool/private school hybrid. This school met three days a week and included classes in all academic courses. Numerous assignments were given for the other days of the week. In terms of methodologies, this one was closer to the “School at Home” approach and the “Classical Education,” approach. Both of these experiences were very different (and obviously one felt much more like “homeschooling,” than the other.) However, both had their advantages and disadvantages. It’s worth noting that involvement in these communities is usually not cheap. That said, there are often options for homeschool parents to teach a class (or help in some other way) in exchange for tuition costs. (In both of the situations I mentioned, my mom taught classes in exchange for my tuition.)

Homeschooling in Community Might be for You If:

  • You’d rather do things in a community instead of independently.
  • Your child misses the social aspect of public/private school.
  • Dynamic-wise, it would benefit your children to have some teachers who aren’t, well, you.
  • You’d like to add extra enrichment in a particular area (for example, through an arts or sciences program).
  • You have room in your budget to add this, or you are able to trade teaching services with the community.

Homeschooling in Community Might NOT be for You If:

  • You enjoy the independence and freedom of running 100% of your homeschool.
  • You travel frequently.
  • You don’t have local homeschooling community that aligns with your learning philosophy/preferred methodology.
  • You don’t have room in your budget and/or aren’t able to barter teaching services for tuition.

5. The Multiple Intelligences Method

This method is based around the research-based concept of “multiple intelligences” which essentially  proposes that there are many different types of intelligence and ways of processing information. The theory of multiple intelligence is based upon the work of Harvard developmental psychologist and professor, Howard Gardner.

Garden’s proposal mentions 8 different types of intelligence (summary below is taken from this resource).

  • Verbal-linguistic (or Word Smart)

  • Logical-mathematical (or Logic Smart)

  • Naturalistic (or Nature Smart)

  • Interpersonal (or People Smart)

  • Intrapersonal (or Self Smart)

  • Visual-spatial (or Picture Smart)

  • Bodily-kinesthetic (or Body Smart)

  • Musical-rhythmic (or Music Smart)

Homeschooling parents who strongly utilize this theory in their homeschooling methods may do so in a number of ways. For instance, they can boost their child’s self esteem (and foster their natural skills and interests) by pushing them in their area (or areas) of intelligence.  However, parents can also utilize an area of intelligence to help teach a child a particular skill that does not come naturally. For instance, if a child is Body Smart, a parent might use hands on, kinesthetic techniques to teach reading (through manipulative tiles or blocks) in a more accessible way. To some extent, I think most all homeschooling parents use the multiple intelligence method, often without even realizing it.

Note: One of the benefits of being a homeschooling parent is that you probably already where how your child thinks and learns, and you likely already teach them with this in mind. Therefore, the below is really referring to using the Multiple Intelligences Approach in a very intentional and primary way.

Utilizing the Multiple Intelligences Approach May Be For You If:

  • It is a primary goal to help your child gain self-esteem and/or nurture his/her unique strengths.
  • You are creative and flexible.
  • You are willing to put structure on the back-burner as  you experiment with your child’s unique education.

Utilizing the Multiple Intelligences Approach May NOT Be For You If:

  • Structure is paramount in your homeschool.
  • Homeschooling is only feasible for you if you can use a pre-designed course/materials.

6. Deschooling (and Unschooling)

Whenever we talk about homeschooling methods, there is generally some overlap between them.  In the family of homeschooling methods, however, Deschooling and Unschooling are the eccentric cousins that stand out from the rest.

If you are new to homeschooling, or thinking about starting to homeschool, then you will likely come across the word “deschooling.” Deschooling means exactly what it sounds like it does. It’s a method of homeschooling that is primarily used when you are transitioning your (previously public or private schooled children) into homeschooling. Deschooling is all about getting kids (and parents) comfortable with learning non-traditionally: through play, life experiences, responsibilities, etc.

Deschooling is usually a temporary method used for transitional into the homeschool lifestyle (usually replaced by a different homeschool method).  However, some homeschool parents continue to use this approach more permanently. When used permanently, this approach is referred to as the unschooling method.

Unschooling is a homeschool method wherein learning is completely child-driven, based on the child’s day-to-day activities, interests, etc.  Unschooling parents often make an effort to find learning that they can share with their child in every day activities such as

Even in homeschooling circles, Unschooling is a controversial method. Some believe it is the most holistic way possible to teach a child how to be a life-long learner. Others believe it is lazy parenting and teaching. Like the other homeschooling methods outlined here, it all comes back to your personal situation, the priorities of your homeschool, and how you employ your method of choice.

Deschooling/Unschooling Might be for You if:

  • You need a period of transition between leaving public school and starting homeschooling.
  • You are looking for a radical change from a failed, super structured educational approach.
  • Teaching your child how to enjoy learning is your primary goal of homeschooling.

Deschooling/Unschooling Might NOT be for You If:

  • You need to build your child’s academic strengths in a specific area/s.
  • You have an older child who has higher education goals (at the very least, documentation would be a problem).
  • A lack of structure results in chaos in your home.
  • After a trial basis, your kids begin to walk all over you.

Further Resources about Deschooling/Unschooling:

7. Online Schooling

I’m positive that the internet is one of the biggest reasons that homeschooling is becoming, and will continue to become, increasingly popular.  There are many excellent online programs and resources for homeschoolers: everything from full-blown curricula, to social communities, to free printables, to special-interest learning.

Most homeschooling families rely on online learning to some degree. However, some homeschooling parents rely primarily on online courses to provide the educational baseline for their students. The parents provide fun supplemental learning through field trips, hands on activities, ect. A heavy reliance on online learning tends to work best for students who are self-driven, independent learners, and/or in situations where both parents work.

Some homeschoolers use the internet as a way to get valuable instruction in a particular area, from the convenience of home. For instance, a homeschooler with an interest in learning a foreign language might Skype with students (or teachers) in other countries to learn that language. Likewise, a homeschooler with a passion for art might sign up for Sparketh, which offers online, professionally taught art courses for homeschoolers.

Note: Most homeschool parents will use the internet to help teach their students (at least a little bit). Therefore, the following lists refer to a homeschool that features primarily online learning.

The Online Homeschooling Method Might Be For You If:

  • Both parents work and want to spend limited homeschooling time together doing the supplementary (fun) parts of learning.
  • You have older, independent learners who are preparing for college.
  • You need easy-to-obtain records/documentation/accreditation (some online programs offer this).
  • Your student needs to learn a subject/s that you don’t know how to teach them.
  • You want to maintain high levels of structure in your homeschool but retain the ability to travel at will.

The Online Homeschooling Method Might NOT Be For You If:

  • It’s very important to you to play an active role in all aspects of your child’s homeschooling experience.
  • You’d like to teach via a method where a lot of the learning comes from conversations or experiences in nature (Classical or Charlotte Mason).
  • You primarily want a homeschool that addresses learning holistically: taking life skills, moral and emotional development into account.
  • Your primary goal for homeschooling is personalizing education by incorporating their natural intelligence, skills and interests.

More Resources for Online Learning:

8. Bonus: Eclectic Method

Now that you’ve read about these 7 popular homeschooling methods, you may still be unsure of which one fits you best. Maybe you like the idea of doing a course or two online, being part of a co-op and integrating the Multiple Intelligences method. Or maybe the learning-from-life part of Unschooling appeals to you, but you don’t want to let go of structure entirely.

Good news: now we’re going to discuss a method that works for everyone. The “bonus” method of today’s post is the Eclectic Method.

In decorating, the term “eclectic” means to pull together a variety of different design styles that you love and bring it together in a way that works. That’s exactly what the Eclectic Method means for too!

Part of the beautiful freedom of homeschooling is the ability to do it in the way that works for you. All of these methods (and many others) exist to help guide you on your journey, so take what works for you and leave what doesn’t.  If it works best for you to “follow the rules,” of a method, then do that. If it works for you create your own, original homeschool method, then maybe you’ll use some of these ideas as inspiration! The Eclectic Method truly works for everyone, and we hope you use it to success in your own homeschooling journey!

Written by Kathryn Gustafson