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Homeschooling Methods, Explained

A Guide to the Top Homeschooling Styles, Philosophies, and Options


One reason homeschooling works so well is that families can try using teaching methods not usually found in the public schools. When you're just getting started, though, sorting through the different homeschooling philosophies may be more confusing than helpful.

And it's a bit of a balancing act. You have to keep your children's needs in mind. But you also have to find a style that works for you, the parent.

What If I Can't Choose?

Kathy Ceceri

No need to worry. If you have the time to research the methods that sound interesting, that's great. But if you don't, it's not the end of the world. You can simply adopt an open approach: try out ideas that appeal to you, follow your instincts, and feel free to drop what doesn't work.

Here in a nutshell are some of the most widely-used homeschooling styles, and the personalities behind them. Take a look and see what they might have to offer for your family:


Popularized by John Holt in the 1960s, unschoolers take a "child-led" approach to education. Unschooling also capitalizes on learning that happens in the course of daily life. Proponents say this is how children learned throughout most of human history. Radical Unschoolers expand this child-led philosophy even further, using it as a template for all aspects of parenting.

Read more about unschooling.

Charlotte Mason

In the 1800s Mason was advising parents to teach their children at home using "living" books, not textbooks, and drawing heavily on nature.

Read more about Charlotte Mason.


Rudolf Steiner’s early twentieth century philosophy prescribes the benefits of movement, art, handicrafts, music, and stories. It emphasizes storytelling and discourages the early use of technology. Oak Meadow is a popular homeschool curriculum based on Waldorf principles.

Read more about Waldorf.


Susan Wise Bauer, co-author of The Well-Trained Mind, introduced the Latin trivium -- grammar, logic and rhetoric -- to homeschoolers in 1999. Built around the study of history, this method stresses memorization, reading and writing.

Read more about Classical homeschooling.

Unit Studies, or Project-Based Learning

With the Unit Studies method of homeschooling, one topic or goal becomes the jumping-off point for every subject from math to literature to science to social studies. Project-Based Learning approaches learning in a similar way. Students select or are given a problem or goal as the focus of their studies.

Read more about Unit Studies.


Not really a style, this is a catch-all designation for families that borrow useful elements from several different approaches. Eclectic homeschoolers choose what seems appropriate for each child, and what fits best with a particular child's interests and abilities.

Read more about Eclectic homeschooling.

Multiple Intelligences

Howard Gardner's 1983 theory outlines strengths besides math and language, including spatial, physical, musical and naturalist. A learning styles approach presents material in a way that matches those strengths - for instance, giving a tactile learner letters cut from sandpaper to trace with his finger, or making a song out of the times table for a musical child.

Read more about Multiple Intelligences.


The goal of school-at-home is to do what schools do, only better. Families who follow this style may set up a part of their home just like a classroom, right down to the blackboard and flag. They generally use textbooks or programs, online or print, that closely resemble the ones used in schools. And they usually judge their children's progress using quizzes, exams, assignments, and standardized tests.
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