What is Eclectic Homeschooling?
"Eclectic Homeschooling" is not really a homeschooling philosophy of its own, like Classical or Charlotte Mason. Being Eclectic just means picking and choosing the best and most helpful elements of whatever homeschooling resources you can find.
What Does Eclectic Homeschooling Look Like?
The beauty of Eclectic Homeschooling is that it can look different for every family. With my kids, I built our schedule around topics I thought were important or interesting, keeping in mind things I knew they would like and find engaging. I adopted the techniques I thought were worthwhile and skipped over things that wouldn't work for us. The result was a homemade curriculum that suited us wonderfully. Here are some examples of how I put together an Eclectic Homeschooling experience for my family.
- Find a framework. I found that the Classically-inspired Well-Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer provided a handy guide for teaching history (a subject I struggled with), but other suggestions in the book either didn't work for us or took a different approach than I desired. So I adapted what I liked and simply left out the rest.
- Incorporate textbooks. For math, I wanted my kids to understand the "why" as well as the "how" of doing arithmetic. But again, I needed some help. So I sought out workbooks and textbooks that covered the material in the way I thought would work best for me and my children. Math turned out to be the one subject in which we more or less followed the purchased texts exactly -- although when one series stopped working, we would switch to another.
- Work with other homeschoolers. We joined informal parent-taught "coop" classes for a head start on French and science, as well as some socialization. And we traveled to a nearby art museum every week for their free open-ended sessions, where my youngsters could exercise their creativity with different materials -- and get a little art history thrown in, too.
- Design a personalized teaching plan. Writing by hand was tough for both my boys, so I designed my own penmanship teaching plan. I had my sons copy quotes from classic children's books I found on the internet, and let them write stories on lined notepads with blank space at the top so they could take a break from forming letters by adding their own illustrations.
- Let kids learn on their own. Reading was even more informal: "instruction" consisted of letting them borrow whatever caught their eye on our trips to the library, along with bedtime read-alouds of my choosing, so they would develop the ability to follow longer, more complex stories than they could read themselves.
- Build on their interests. I also paid attention to my kids' own interests and tried to help them along whenever I could. For the son with an interest in robotics, I sought out afterschool and summer classes and bought kits he could use on his own at home. When my younger son had a fascination with string instruments, we bought him a small guitar and took him to kid-friendly concerts and community dances where he could hear people play (and sometimes sit in with the band).
How Is Eclectic Homeschooling Different from Unschooling?
Unschooling, also called "Child-Led Learning," is a philosophy where the material covered depends on what the child wants to explore at any given time. The parent's main job is to find resources and seek out opportunities for the child to follow their interest on their own as much as possible.
Like Unschooling, Eclectic Homeschooling has a lot of flexibility that lets you cater to the needs of a particular child. The primary difference is that in Eclectic Homeschooling, the parent may be choosing some or all of the topics covered.
For families who aren't ready to "take the plunge" and become full-fledged Unschoolers, Eclectic Homeschooling can be the perfect compromise between a learning structure imposed by some outside source (such as a purchased curriculum) and no structure at all.
What Are the Advantages of Eclectic Homeschooling?
- Easily personalized. When you're not tied to a particular curriculum or method, you can tailor your teaching plan to your family's needs, circumstances, and preferences. You can even create a separate course of study for each child.
- Flexible. Veteran homeschoolers know that what works one day doesn't always work the next. Going Eclectic makes it easier to modify or change course entirely as your kids' needs change. There's no commitment and no pressure to finish a pre-packaged curriculum.
- Low cost. Finding your own resources can be a lot less expensive than buying a comprehensive all-in-one curriculum.
- Parents are part of the planning. Unlike Unschooling, Eclectic Homeschooling allows you to take into account your own preferences and interests when deciding what to teach.
What Are the Disadvantages of Eclectic Homeschooling?
- More time goes into planning. Pulling together your own materials and creating your own teaching plan can take a lot more preparation and oversight than using a boxed curriculum.
- It's all on you. You have to do the research and make the decisions on what to teach and how to teach it, rather than relying on the experience and expertise of others.
- One size doesn't fit all. Eclectic Homeschooling works best when it fits a child's needs, so you'll need to pay attention to what your child responds to and what grabs their attention when deciding what materials, techniques and topics to include.