When I started homeschooling in 1981, I did not know about teaching methods. There was very little curriculum available for homeschoolers; and, since I had no one to tell me what a teaching method was, I had to come up with my own method - probably much like families did in early American history. I now know that the method I used is called "eclectic." I used real books (fiction, nonfiction, biographies, historical fiction), art supplies, science equipment, travel, nature study, and an occasional textbook/workbook as I found ones that were suitable.


Today, there is so much curriculum to choose from, it's hard to know what to buy, and we're all different! What works for one does not necessarily work for another.

Curriculum Fairs are brimming with vendors selling the newest products created especially for the homeschooled student. How do you choose? To help you in your quest, you might want to know a little about the teaching methods used by homeschoolers. Here are the major ones and a brief description. For more information, check out the resources listed with the method. At the end of the list, you will find a link to my Step-By-Step Guide for Choosing Curriculum. You might want to try that for more help in your decision making.

Charlotte Mason

    1. Focuses on outdoors and nature.
    2. Children learn through reading real books, narration (tell about what they just learned - oral not written), copywork (copy sections of good literature), and creating Nature Notebooks or lap books (also called notebooking).
    3. They study the fine arts and foreign Languages.
    4. Use few, if any, textbooks or workbooks.
    5. Instead, they read literature related to the topic of study.
    6. Quality is more important than quantity.
    7. Goal is to instill a love of learning.
    8. Charlotte Mason Resources:
      1. ABC's of Charlotte Mason.
      2. A Charlotte Mason Companion by Karen Andreola.
      3. The Charlotte Mason Study Guide by Penny Gardner
      4. For The Children's Sake: Foundations of Education for Home and School by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay.
      5. Learning Language Arts Through Literature, Grade 3, Yellow - curriculum based on Charlotte Mason.
  2.  Classical
    1. Focuses on the “trivium,” (grammar, logic, rhetoric)
    2. Formal instruction in logic, Greek, Latin, and the Great Works of Western Literature.
    3. Socratic method of teaching includes Public speaking, drill work, memorization, and a full day.
    4. Goal is to train future leaders and to teach them to think for themselves.
    5. Classical Resources:
      1. An Introduction to Classical Education by Kelly Allen
      2. Trivium Pursuit by Harvey and Laurie Bluedorn
      3. Classical Homeschooling - includes a complete scope and sequence.
      4. The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home, Revised and Updated Edition by Susan Wise Bauer
      5. The Story of the World: History for the Classical Child; Volume 1: Ancient Times & workbook by Susan Wise Bauer (curriculum based on Classical method)
      6. Early American and World History by Rea C. Berg (curriculum based on Classical)
      7. Greenleaf Guides- curriculum based on Classical
      8. Tapestry of Grace- curriculum based on Classical
      9. Covenant Home- Structured, distance learning based on Classical
      10. Veritas Press - offers scripted lesson plans or online classes
  3. Unit Studies
    1. Learning that is focused on a particular topic or time period
    2. Each child completes age-appropriate activities that relate to the topic
    3. Teach all ages of children at once
    4. Integrate social studies, science, fine arts, language arts, religion, and occasionally math.
    5. Based on a theme, historical event, science topic such as rainbows, a character trait such as honesty, a piece of literature, the life of a person, or a piece of artwork.
    6. Usually one on one teaching is done in the morning and afternoons are set aside for hands-on projects and field trips.
    7. The goal is to instill a love of learning.
    8. Unit Study Resources:
      1. Konos.
      2. Five in a Row by Jane Claire Lambert
      3. TRISMS.
      4. American Government Unit Study on CD-ROM and other resources by Amanda Bennett
      5. Oceans Thematic Unit and others by Teacher Created Materials
      6. Cindy Downes free unit studies.
      7. Stone Soup list of unit studies.
      8. Unit Studies Made Easy by Valerie Bendt
  4. Unschooling (also called natural learning)
    1. Focus on a child’s natural desire to learn as they experience life.
    2. Quote from website: “What it isn’t: Unschooling isn't a recipe, and therefore it can't be explained in recipe terms. Unschooling isn't a method, it is a way of looking at children and at life. It is based on trust that parents and children will find the paths that work best for them - without depending on educational institutions, publishing companies, or experts to tell them what to do. Unschooling does not mean that parents can never teach anything to their children, or that children should learn about life entirely on their own without the help and guidance of their parents. Unschooling does not mean that parents give up active participation in the education and development of their children and simply hope that something good will happen. Finally, since many unschooling families have definite plans for college, unschooling does not even mean that children will never take a course in any kind of a school. Quote: Our son has never had an academic lesson, has never been told to read or to learn mathematics, science, or history. Nobody has told him about phonics. He has never taken a test or has been asked to study or memorize anything. When people ask, "What do you do?" My answer is that we follow our interests - and our interests inevitably lead to science, literature, history, mathematics, music - all the things that have interested people before anybody thought of them as "subjects".
    3. The goal is to teach them to think for themselves, train them in practical life skills and allow them to be self-educating.
    4. Steve Wozniak, inventor of the Apple Computer, once said: "Do what you love, and learn to do it very, very well, and some day someone will pay you very, very well to do it for them!" I think this goes very well with the unschooler's philosophy.
    5. Unschooling Resources
      1. Unschooling by Sandra Dodd. Lots of good information here!
      2. I am Learning All the Time- a children's book about unschooling. 
  5. Robinson Self-Teaching Curriculum
    1. Focus on the 3 Rs, adding other subjects only if needed.
    2. Lots of reading
    3. Saxon math
    4. College-level science
    5. A full school day
    6. No TV, no sugar,
    7. No calculators until after calculus is mastered.
    8. The goal is to move them to be self-educating as soon as possible. 
    9. Robinson Resources.
  6. Montessori
    1. Learn from real life
    2. Instructor’s main job is to observe and mentor, no planned lessons or homework
    3. Allows child to follow his own interests in choosing what to learn (math is taught in a somewhat more structured manner)
    4. Maintain an enriched, uncluttered learning environment, large family library, art & music supplies, science equipment, no junk food, no TV or computer
    5. Self-correcting teaching tools
    6. Goal is to instill a love of learning and teach life skills. 
    7. Montessori Resources.
  7. Principle Approach
    1. Focus on the worldview of America’s founding fathers.
    2. Teach using classical, pro-liberty literature
    3. primary documents
    4. vocabulary from Noah Webster’s 1828 dictionary
    5. Use the Notebook method (Research, Reason, Relate, Record)
    6. Colonial-style math and reading
    7. Lectures
    8. Lots of writing
    9. Memorization
    10. Full school day
    11. Goal is to Implant Christian character, virtuous leadership and a Biblical worldview
    12. Principle Approach Resources:
      1. The Christian History of the American Revolution: Consider and Ponder
      2. Principal Approach Website
  8. Traditional
    1. Focus is on the national (or private institution’s) standards
    2. Involves lectures, grade-level textbooks, workbooks, drill and memorization, practice problems and review, testing, and grades
    3. Lots of reading and writing
    4. Full school day
    5. Goal is to learn what is required for graduation and to produce good citizens
    6. Traditional Resources
      1. A Beka  
      2. Bob Jones University Press  
      3. Seton Home Study School  
      4. Calvert
      5. Laurel Springs
      6. Rod and Staff - no website.
      7. Christian Light Education
      8. School of Tomorrow
      9. Alpha Omega  
  9. Eclectic
    1. As you continue homeschooling, you may move from one method to another until you find one you are comfortable with.
    2. Most homeschoolers use a variety of teaching methods, depending on their needs and resources. This is called the Eclectic method.
    3. Resources: The Checklist is perfect for the eclectic homeschool.
  10. Use my free Step-by-Step Guide for Choosing Curriculum widget and the Checklist Assistant to help you decide which type of curriculum to buy.