6. Decide Method
There are a number of different main approaches or methods you can use for home schooling, and many families use a combination of different methods.
You will need to decide your general approach (method) before you start, however, many people change their methods, once they have some experience (even just a few months), and once they see what works, or doesn't work, with their children.
Here are a few home schooling methods to help you get started, but always remember to do what works for you and your children.
Contents of This Page
School at Home
School at home means teaching your children at home, and doing it the same way it is done in schools, using the same methods, workbooks, texts, worksheets, etc. that typical schools use. It's really like setting up a small classroom at home, for you and your children, but you still get the social benefits, higher academic benefits, etc. of home schooling.
School at home is also called a "more structured" approach.
If you are going to do this, it is best to get "home school" curriculums rather than use programs designed for schools. A good home school curriculum will explain to you as a parent, what and how to teach that day's material, and should have more hands-on exercises that are better suited to a home environment.
Often when parents first start home schooling, they do the school at home approach because they went to a regular school and that is what they know. Hopefully this page will give you an idea of some of the other possibilities, however, if the school at home method works best for you and your children, do it.
Classical Home Schooling
"Classical home schooling" means using the classics of literature, philosophy, and other areas, as texts for their curriculums. You can also buy complete classical curriculums. This method is closer to "school at home" than other methods, but depending on the interests of the children and the parents, this can be a very good method.
Special Interests Programs
Using the classics of literature and philosophy is also a good example of how you can customize a program for your child. A customized program could focus on science, sports, drama, ballet, or what ever you want to focus on. This type of approach is more suitable for older children.
Special interest programs can help you keep your child interested in learning and growing to a healthy capable adult.
Eclectic Home Schooling
Eclectic home schooling means choosing what works from a variety of resources and methods. Eclectic home schoolers typically use some purchased home school curriculums, some outside classes (like physical education or music), and for some subjects they make their own curriculums from books, kits, and other resources. And they may choose to use an unschooling approach (see Unschooling below) for some subjects or at some times (of the day, week, month, or year).
Again, when you are going to use purchased curriculums, it is best to get "home school" curriculums rather than use programs designed for schools.
"Unschooling" usually means "child led learning." Most people recognize that children need to be "ready" before you teach something to them, or else either they won't be able to learn it, or they will have a lot of difficulty learning it. With unschooling, the idea is that you wait until the child "wants" to learn something before you teach it to them.
Some people see this as waiting until the child "asks" to learn a particular thing. Other people see this as following the child's "interests" (i.e. even when they are not asking). And you may run into people who have other definitions for the word "unschooling."
The purpose of unschooling is to make sure you are not trying to force things down their throat, which generally doesn't produce much learning, it can cause the student to loose interest in a subject, and it decreases their confidence in their ability.
To do unschooling well, you will have to provide a rich environment, with lots of things to get them "interested" in learning (educational toys, books, field trips, etc.).
This is also called "pure" unschooling. Some people do a lot of unschooling, but mix other methods in as well, but still call themselves unschoolers.
Some people say pure unschooling is more effective in the lower grades (below about grade 5 or 6), and less suitable for the higher grades, however others disagree on this point.
Unschooling is the most unique method of home schooling, and the farthest from school at home, and from institutional school. As such, it is more controversial than other methods of home schooling.
I have met families that have been quite successful with unschooling, but some people get a lot better results than others. If you are interested in unschooling, study unschooling further. Read books and Internet sites on unschooling. Join an unschooling e-mail discussion group. And make sure you meet some "unschooling" parents.
One mom I know starts off with lots of structure in September, using packaged curriculums, and gradually changes to a more unschool approach, especially as spring approaches. Then they take the summer off, and in the fall they start with structured curriculums again. She says the variety keeps her children more interested and learning more.
Many home schoolers do not take the summer off. Some people find that it is a lot of work to get their children going again after stopping for two months. Others believe in life time learning - that we should all be learning all the time. Often people will slow down in the summer, or do less formal activities (e.g. more field trips and fewer workbook type activities).
Another family I know, focuses on science during the summer, with lots of hands-on experiments, and less formal curriculum work. Their child is in grade 3. Lots of methods, like this, work well in the lower grades (up to grade 6), but may need to be adjusted for the older grades.
De-schooling - For Children Who Have Been in a School
Many times, when families switch to home schooling after their children are in school, they do so because of a major problem, that has had a very negative impact on their child. If you are in this situation, I strongly suggest you consider de-schooling for a while.
De-schooling is where you let your child just play for a while, and you do no formal educational things. This is to give them time to forget the negative experience, and to build their self confidence back, and so they can re-discover the joy of learning, before getting back to more formal learning.
Let them relax and enjoy life to heal. It's like unschooling for a period of time.
Normally you should do this for at least a month or two. Some parents do this for up to eight months, with good results.
However, while de-schooling is usually very good for the child, it can be quite stressful on the parents, because they worry that their child is getting behind, which is completely understandable, and often these children are already behind, from the problem they had in the institutional school.
I have met children who were 1 to 3 years behind, but with home schooling they were able to catch up within a year or two, and shine.
If you are going to de-school, remember that home schooling, because it is one-on-one training, is much more efficient than learning in a large classroom, with one adult and 20 to 30 children. The children learn so much faster, that catching up is usually not a problem. Also, while playing, your child will continue to learn. Even though your child is learning different things, these things will still be useful to them in their life.
This "de-toxification" period, will make your child much more open to learning, and a much stronger happier person.
It's also a good idea to get emotional support from experienced home schooling parents, for yourself, especially when de-schooling, because it is a new and unfamiliar experience to most of us.
And remember, you are the one living with your child, and you will know them best. You are the best judge of whether to de-school, and for how long. Don't let societal norms, or home schoolers, throw you off. Do what you think is best for your child. After all, this is why we home school in the first place, to do what is best for our children.
Home School Methods Are on a Spectrum
Home schooling methods vary across a spectrum from school-at-home to pure unschooling. There are people at both ends of the spectrum and a lot of people somewhere in the middle.
Stay Flexible With Your Method
Don't get too committed to a particular method. Your goal should be to give your child the best education possible, that prepares them for all areas of life. If a method works, use it. If a method, or book, or course, or curriculum, stops giving you the results you want, stop using it.
What works at age 7 may not work at age 10. Your child may just need a change. (Or maybe you will need a change - you have to look after yourself, too, to be able to look after them well.)
Home School Curriculums
Also, see our "Curriculums" section for more information on this.
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