ABCs of Homeschooling ~ Methods

In many ways, I’m a “black and white” kind of girl. It’s either hot OR cold, good OR bad, right OR wrong. But in other ways I’m a laid back kind of person who deals in generalizations, approximates and blurred lines. (I blame my left/right brain balancing act that keeps me always at war with myself.)

To that end there are many methods I use here in our homeschool, though none of them completely or perfectly. A little bit of this, a little bit of that… whatever is right and good for us can stay, whatever doesn’t work is outta here!

So what kinds of methods have I ended up keeping?

First and foremost I am undeniably Eclectic.

Mixing methods and ideas, I can’t really get around that one, can I? But also, more than just choosing not to use a boxed curriculum, being eclectic is about choosing pieces to find the right fit – for your child, and for your family. It may mean that children are using different curriculum for some subjects such as math, while passing down and sharing curriculum for other subjects such as grammar. It may mean choosing curriculum that appeals to your child’s learning style or interests, to group learning or individual initiative, or which aligns with your faith. Being eclectic is evolving and growing as your children grow, it’s being constantly refined as you learn more about your children and your own abilities, it is not being afraid to toss something that’s not working to try something new and not expecting everyone’s curriculum needs (or skills) to fit in a box or a checklist.

As an Eclectic Homeschooler, I pull from many methods – one of which is Classical.

Classical education typically includes a Christian world-view (yes,) follows the philosophy that children mature in 3 stages of learning (the Trivium-yes, makes sense to me,) and prefers to use “real” books for science and history which spirals through four years of study (LOVE. THIS. Can’t get enough of it.) Classical education is also often very strenuous with lots of memorization and also LATIN! This is not me.. I am not this diligent and (for lack of a better word) “strict.” My laid back side rebels against it. As much as I love the approach to history and science and everything else, I am just not fully “Classical.” I think perhaps because while I appreciate the benefits of a fully Classical education, something inside me doesn’t want to get too caught up in the book work and neglect to get in enough of the “non” textbook learning.

I like to include some Hands-On Learning, good old fashion “getting out in nature” and plenty of good literature–all of which appeal to a Charlotte Mason approach.

We don’t do nearly as much of this as I’d like to but I’ve been adding more in and have plans for even more next year. The goal of a Charlotte Mason approach is to create a love of learning in your children and it’s one of my top goals in our homeschool. I don’t want to just cram facts into their brains and see if they can repeat them back to me. I want them to *know* things, to be curious about things and want to know more. I want them to enjoy learning more about a subject of interest for the sheer thrill of discovering things you didn’t know. A Charlotte Mason approach also heavily promotes a significant amount of narration, diction and copywork  — which we use some but not to the same extent as a true Charlotte Mason teacher.  We also like to use, *gasp* workbooks! (Definitely not CM.)

A good workbook has it’s place on our bookcase, bring on the Workbook method:

In the beginning, workbooks comprised the majority of our curriculum selection. Princess warmed up to them, thrived on them. Enjoyed them. I think it was the thrill of completing a page, and another page, and another, and finally the entire workbook. She likes neat blanks to fill in and the ability to “cross them off her list” so to speak. It’s not unlike a To-Do list maker who thrives on crossing off projects once they are completed. Workbooks can’t be used for everything, though. Well, they *could* but then we wouldn’t be giving the kind of education that I’d like to give. I’d like a fair amount of discussion and projects and everything else, too. Still, a good workbook for extra practice is always welcome in our home, and probably always will be.

Last but not least, I like to use the Group method.

Okay, this isn’t really a true “method” but it works for us right now and I love it. I really enjoy teaching my children as much as I can as a group as opposed to individually. I like the open discussion. I like that we’re learning together. It also makes teaching those subjects a little bit easier and in some cases, saves money (which is always something to take in to consideration around here!) It’s always easy enough to simplify things for younger children, the trick is always to make sure you’re challenging the older children enough. A little bit of planning in that department will go a long way.

It’s true what the article above about Eclectic homeschooling said:

An eclectic “mix and match” approach to homeschooling obviously
requires more preparation time and more research effort on the part of
the homeschooling parent  than would be needed to follow a prescribed

Boy does it EVER!

But I actually quite love the planning process, the thrill of the hunt so-to-speak, and I’m getting better and better each year about the follow through on the “after planning” part. (Hello relaxed side, meet organized side, how do you do??)

In my dream of dreams, when I close my eyes, I would be a kind of teacher like “Mr. D” in “School of Life.” I would have an awesome class room like that, and my students, my children, would come RUNNING to learn because they knew that I was going to bring learning to life. Many years ago I envisioned a school room lined with living plants, many class pets, tons of books and every craft supply imaginable. I pictured an oasis of learning and fun overflowing with curiosity and wonder for God and His creation. (Hey, I was young.) But seriously — what’s stopping me? Many things, I suppose… but none of them insurmountable. I’m still working toward my dream, even if I forgot it for a little while.

All of these METHODS aren’t an end, they’re aren’t an answer – but they are a means to an end. And hopefully the right means to the right end! I really like the mix of methods we’ve settled on and now I just need to focus on building those and getting better at them. I’m very excited about what the new year holds in store for us, and I’m very hopeful that we may be able to make a few advances in the pursuit of my homeschooling dream.

What methods do you use to bring learning to life for your children?

This is part of the ABCs of Homeschooling series by Dawn @ 5 Kids and a Dog. You can find the rest of my ABC posts here:


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July 6, 2011 9:22 am

What a nice post and well fitting word! I am a bit like you. I am not a rigid person and I am learning to be more intentional. I would agree hoe being eclectic demands more work but with the years come proficiency. We do a bit of all of the ones you mentioned.

July 8, 2011 12:07 am
Reply to  Joelle

It does still require a lot of work, but I *am* getting more proficient at it as I go, so you’re right, in a way it gets easier. =)

July 6, 2011 10:26 am

I am eclectic all the way! I also lean towards classical method… but only in the sense that I really do think kids absorb history much better if it is taught chronologically. We hit the Middle Ages this past year, and we’re starting in on early US history this coming year, with modern history the following. We use hands-on and workbooks, oral and written, group and individual. All of those things and my propensity to wander aimlessly without a plan from time to time make us totally eclectic. Probably explains the state of my disorganized house too! 🙂 hehe

July 8, 2011 12:09 am
Reply to  Dawn

Propensity to wander aimlessly! Ha! ;0) Perhaps it explains my disorganized house, too? =)

July 8, 2011 6:57 am

I loved this post… we just did a week of homeschooling “styles” on a site I write for, Three Thinking Mothers. ( I would classify myself pretty much as you do… and I love the freedom to explore a little bit of everything. I also wanted to tell you I love your “about me” page. I can relate to the not blogging for money part. I blog because I love it and don’t want the stress of making it a job. I will be reviewing for The Old Schoolhouse this year because I was interested in the opportunities it could… Read more »

July 8, 2011 7:08 am
Reply to  Mary

Thanks, Mary! I’ll have to go check out the series on Three Thinking Mothers.. I’ve been over there before, several times lately, but I missed that.
Thanks for the compliments, too, I keep thinking I should change my About Me page because it’s been the same for so long but I keep making myself leave it alone! I like how you put it, “I don’t want the stress of making it a job.” Exactly!

July 12, 2011 6:29 am

Ahh…nice post. We follow pretty much the same homeschool style and I know it’s not for everyone, which makes homeschooling so appealing! I get a “high” from researching living books and adding them to the online library reserve feature. We are doing interest-led science this year {my son chose the Human Body} and use workbooks for math. Love all this flexibility!

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June 19, 2012 2:22 pm

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