So you want to homeschool, now what? Before diving into the overwhelming waters of curriculum, the first thing you need to do is figure out what style of homeschool you want to have.
There are a lot of homeschool curriculum to chose from, and knowing where to start can be very overwhelming. Fortunately, most curriculum fall into different styles or categories. So once you know what style you are looking for, it can quickly help you narrow down your search. Here’s a list of the main homeschool styles.
Traditional: This is the style that looks the most like public school at home. If you are using a traditional homeschool approach, you will have textbooks and workbooks for each subject. If you’re only planning to homeschool for one year, using a traditional approach may make for the easiest transition both into homeschool and back to public school when you plan to return. Popular traditional curriculum to look at are Abeca (religious), Spectrum, Saxon (math), IEW (language arts), and many more.
Classical: The classical homeschool approach is heavily focused on rhetoric and brings Latin into the core subjects taught very early. The idea is to teach children the way children were classically taught in the 1800. I don’t know very much about this style, but do know Classical Conversations is the most popular curriculum that uses this approach.
Charlotte Mason: Like the classical style, Charlotte Mason can seem old fashioned. Charlotte Mason was a teacher in the 1800’s who developed a new approach to education that many homeschoolers are still using today. The idea behind the Charlotte Mason approach is to teach with “Living Books” instead of text books. Basically, this homeschool style is very literature heavy and teaches things through engaging literature not textbooks. My oldest son loves to read, so I’ve done a lot of research into the Charlotte Mason style. Some of the most popular Charlotte Mason curriculum are Simply Charlotte Mason, Build Your Library, The Good and the Beautiful, Bookshark and Sonlight. You can also create your own literature based curriculum simply by giving finding books for your student to read on a given topic and then developing your own writing or narration assignments to go with the reading.
Unit Study: Instead of getting a full years curriculum, many homeschool families do unit studies. This style of diving deep into one topic for a few weeks or months before moving onto a new topic works well for many younger students. Depending upon the types of projects you do with your unit study, it can also be great for active hands on learners. Doing unit studies often requires a lot more prep work from the parent/teacher. Instead of using an open and go curriculum, you’ll need to do a lot of the prep work yourself and pull together various books and projects on your own. There are some curriculum that provide an easier jumping off point for unit studies. If you want to do unit studies with your kids, I suggest looking into Curiosity Chronicles, The Good and the Beautiful, and Blossom and Root. Since you could easily build your own unit studies by simply checking out a bunch of books from the public library on a given topic, this can be one of the more economical options if you don’t have lots of money to spend on curriculum.
Unschooling: The name unschooling makes this teaching style sound terrifying for many families. The basic idea behind this style is that children are naturally curious and if given the freedom to explore the world they will naturally educate themselves. Some unschooling families truly allow their kids to do whatever they want, but most unschooling families still guild their children and at least teach the basics of reading/writing/math. Allowing for more child lead learning that follow a students natural curriousities for topics like history, science, and art could still fall into the unschooling category. If you are interested in unschooling, you don’t need to buy any curriculum. Just fill your house with interesting books, lots of art supplies, encourage your kids to spend lots of time outside, and be ready to answer questions when your curious kids start asking them.
Virtual: Right now, pretty much every public school in the country is offering a virtual or distance learning option. In addition to the current public school distance learning situation, there are also many accredited charter schools and private schools that offer online options that can be a good way for “homeschooled” children to receive an accredited diploma. K-12 and Connections Academy are both well established accredited online programs. If you don’t want a full online education, but do want to include some aspects of online education in your homeschool here are a few more non-accredited online homeschool resources: Time for Learning, Teaching Textbooks (math only), Outschooling, Khan Academy, and Easy Peasy.
Eclectic: Most homeschool families categorize themselves as eclectic. Basically, this means they do their own thing and pull a little bit from several of the styles listed above. That is the beauty of homeschool, you don’t have to follow a rigid schedule or adhere perfectly to a set curriculum. Personally, I’m using a fairly traditional style with my youngest son and more of a Charlotte Mason style with my older son. My boys have different learning styles, and being able to find curriculum that works for them is what makes homeschool so great.
What style of homeschooler are you?