Learn what you need to know to choose a homeschool philosophy. Includes an overview and resource suggestions of seven common homeschool approaches.

Preview: Learn what you need to know to choose a homeschool philosophy. Includes an overview and resource suggestions of seven common homeschool approaches.


Have you had any of these thoughts?

I find it difficult to narrow down what I want to use for our homeschooling when there is so much available!

Well…I think I temporarily gave up on trying to do Charlotte Mason full throttle. I just don’t think I can figure it all out.

There are all these ideas, but I want someone to tell me exactly how to do it, lol. I love the Charlotte Mason style but only use parts of it.

The above comments were sent to me by email subscribers when I asked them about their biggest struggle with homeschooling.

Choosing a curriculum and resources to use in your homeschool can feel overwhelming. Many homeschool parents worry they will make the wrong choice and fail their children.

Take a deep breath! In this article, you will learn what a homeschool philosophy is, if it matters which one you follow, and how to choose one. Plus, you can learn about the seven most common homeschool philosophies and find resource suggestions for each one.

Learn what you need to know to choose a homeschool philosophy. Includes an overview and resource suggestions of seven common homeschool approaches.

What is an educational or homeschool philosophy?

A philosophy is a theory underlying or regarding a sphere of activity or thought. An educational or homeschool philosophy is an underlying theory that guides your homeschool decisions.

Educational philosophies employ specific methods to help adherents achieve a desired outcome. A method is a systematic procedure, technique, or mode of inquiry employed by or proper to a particular discipline or art.

Methods are the practical day-to-day application of your chosen educational philosophy in your homeschool. Your philosophy of education influences the methods you use in your homeschool.

Does it matter what approach to homeschooling you use?

Many articles might lead you to believe that you must choose an educational philosophy to implement in your homeschool as soon as possible. This view causes stress and anxiety for many homeschool parents.

  • They might believe that they have to stick to the homeschool approach they choose.
  • They might feel overwhelmed trying to decide which approach most aligns with their goals and beliefs.
  • They might want to use a combination of approaches.

Choosing a homeschool philosophy to follow has many benefits, including:

  • It helps narrow down what resources and curriculum to use.
  • It can provide proven methods to use for teaching and child development.
  • You can join a community of like-minded homeschool parents.

But is what homeschool philosophy you should follow the right question to ask?

It is a good starting point. As you discern the answer to this question, you will learn more about home education and educational philosophies. You will acquire new knowledge and understanding about how children learn and how you can teach them at home.

Guess what? You do not need to choose one single homeschool philosophy to implement.

Whew! What a relief!

There are benefits and drawbacks to each of the seven most common approaches to homeschooling (you can read about the strengths and weaknesses of each one below).

The reality is that you will likely use aspects of multiple, if not all, of the philosophies at some point. You don’t have to a purist of a particular educational philosophy. You can employ a combination of approaches to best meet your needs.

You can also tweak or modify a curriculum or resource so it better meets your children’s needs. I rarely use a resource as it was designed to be used. (Psst…Want to know a secret? Traditional classroom teachers don’t either!) That’s one of the benefits of homeschooling that I love—I can customize my children’s education.

Want to dive deeper? Listen to episode 67 of the All in a Homeschool Day podcast to learn more about why it doesn’t matter what educational philosophy you follow. You will hear examples from our homeschool of how we use multiple approaches to achieve our homeschool goals and objectives.

How do you choose an homeschool philosophy to follow?

Instead of asking which educational philosophy you should follow, a better question might be:

What homeschool philosophy and resources will best help us achieve our homeschool goals?

Begin by identifying the goals and objectives you want to achieve in your homeschool. It may be helpful to write your homeschool mission statement as you think through your goals.

Next, read through the overview of homeschool philosophies graphic below and the summaries of the seven most common approaches to homeschooling. Narrow down your options to the one or two approaches that most appeal to you and that will help you achieve your homeschool goals.

Then, choose a homeschool philosophy that will be your primary approach. You don’t have to be a purist.

In this bonus episode of the All in a Homeschool Day podcast, I answered a question raised by an attendee of the Homeschool 101 Workshop of whether you had to strictly follow a particular homeschool approach.

Would you like to learn more about homeschooling? Check out this free on-demand Homeschool 101 masterclass.

And, your philosophy may evolve over time or your goals or need may change. I have many friends who have used different approaches at different stages of their homeschool journey. Be a student of your child and use the approach that helps you achieve your homeschool goals and helps your child learn most effectively.

In episode 26 of the All in a Homeschool Day podcast, Leah Martin provides an interesting perspective as she shares the process she went through of letting go of other people’s expectations of what her children should be learning and how their homeschool should look.

What we talked about

  • The shift from teacher to parent that had a profound impact on their homeschool. She learned that the early years require a different approach than the school years. We don’t need to avoid all learning. We can spread before them a feast of ideas and let them learn about what excites them.
  • Letting go of other people’s expectations will allow you to help your child learn successfully. You do you need to be a purist of any one philosophy. Instead, you need to have the confidence to believe you can learn and apply the principles on your own in a way that benefits your children.
  • The value of the art of narration for all ages. And how implementing this lost art in a book group benefited the ladies involved.
  • How “I am, I can, I ought, I will.” applies to learning styles. Our children may have a preference of how they learn, but similar to habit training we need to help them build the skill and fortitude to learn in different learning styles so they will be equipped for life.

What advice would you give to a new homeschool mom?

The longer you homeschool you learn what works best for each child. You need to let go of expectations and be flexible.

Leah Martin, My Little Robins

Connect with Leah

Above all, ease it. I frequently receive emails from homeschool parents wanting to know how to do it all. They are excited and ready to jump into homeschooling head first, but they just don’t know how to fit it all in.

You don’t have to, and you shouldn’t! Take it one day at a time and one year at a time. Start with the basics and as you feel more confident, begin to add more aspects a little at a time.

Overview Of Common Homeschool Philosophies

Below are key aspects of the seven most common homeschool philosophies. For each philosophy, you will learn:

  • Overview of the Philosophy
  • Strengths
  • Weaknesses
  • Who should consider the philosophy
  • Resource and curriculum suggestions

In addition, the graphic below presents a quick overview of key aspects of each of the philosophies to help you determine which might be a good fit for your family.

Graphic of 7 common homeschool philosophies

A few notes to keep in mind:

  • Some programs can be modified to use with different philosophies. 
  • A few resources are listed in multiple places because they align with multiple philosophies. 
  • Listing the suggested resources and curriculums does not indicate an endorsement for that program.
  • While we primarily follow the Charlotte Mason philosophy of education in our homeschool, we also incorporate aspects of the other philosophies.
  • I have tried to provide as unbiased information as possible, but I recognize that it is impossible to provide a completely unbiased resource.

Virtual / Distance Learning Homeschool Philosophy

Overview of the Philosophy

What is virtual or distance learning? Students receive instruction and assignments through an online learning portal. They have access to a teacher who monitors their progress and answers their questions. Some programs have virtual class meetings students attend live. The amount of personal interaction with the teacher varies by program. These programs could comprise all of a student’s learning coordinated through an accredited academy or public school district. Or, students may only take selected classes as needed to fill out their homeschool curriculum.

Strengths

  • Easy to implement.
  • Little to no planning is required from the parent.
  • The distance learning academy typically handles grading/assessment.
  • Students can usually work independently with minimal parental supervision.
  • Encourages the student to become an independent learner.
  • Typically follows a sequence of studies similar to most public schools.

Weaknesses

  • Some students will need more assistance than others to become independent learners.
  • Virtual learning is more challenging for younger students who have difficulty sitting still in front of a computer for extended periods.
  • Many distance learning situations utilize tests that are easy to grade instead of engaging in discussions, thus promoting a “pass the test” mentality.
  • Some distance learning programs are expensive.
  • Typically focuses on lower-level thinking (memorizing data and passing tests). May need to add discussions and logic training to develop higher-level thinking skills.

You might consider virtual or distance learning if…

  • You need your children to work independently with little or no assistance.
  • Your child is a visual learner.
  • If your children need to take standardized tests yearly.
  • You don’t feel confident in planning lessons on your own.
  • You don’t feel confident to choose the curriculum and monitor your student’s progress.
  • You plan for your children to return to a traditional classroom setting.

Resource And Curriculum Suggestions

Traditional / Textbook Homeschool Philosophy

Overview of the Philosophy

What is traditional or textbook learning? Students learn through textbooks that cover one subject each. They read a chapter of the textbook, complete exercises, and take an end of chapter test. For some subjects, they complete workbook pages as they work through the subject material. Students work independently on assignments, only getting help as needed from a parent.

Strengths

  • Easy to implement.
  • After choosing the textbook, little to no planning is required from the parent.
  • Usually, only one book per subject is required.
  • Assignments are usually easy to grade. Most textbooks have an accompanying teacher’s manual for purchase that includes the answers to problems and tests.
  • Students can usually work independently with minimal parental supervision.
  • Encourages the student to become an independent learner.
  • Typically follows a sequence of studies similar to most public schools.

Weaknesses

  • Many textbooks are not very interesting to read and only cover the facts of the subject.
  • Some students will need more assistance than others to become an independent learner.
  • Many textbooks utilize tests that are easy to grade instead of engaging in discussions, thus promoting a “pass the test” mentality.
  • Typically focuses on lower-level thinking (memorizing data and passing tests). May need to add discussions and logic training to develop higher-level thinking skills.

You might consider traditional or textbook learning if…

  • You need your children to work independently with little or no assistance.
  • Your child is a visual learner.
  • If your children need to take standardized tests yearly.
  • You don’t feel confident in planning lessons on your own.
  • You plan for your children to return to a traditional classroom setting.

Resource And Curriculum Suggestions

Charlotte Mason Homeschool Philosophy

Overview of the Philosophy

What is the Charlotte Mason philosophy? It is based on the philosophy of education developed by Charlotte Mason (1842-1923), an educator in England. She advocated that children are born persons and can make connections at all ages with what they learn and with authors whom they read. Homeschools that employ this philosophy focus on academics, character development, habit training, and spiritual discipleship. They utilize living books, source documents, hands-on experiences, and exposure to nature and the arts. Evaluation occurs through oral narrations and, later, written narrations and essays. 

Strengths

  • Trains children to think critically and to communicate their thoughts and ideas to others.
  • Provides a liberal arts education by Including enrichment subjects that bring joy and beauty to learning.
  • Encourages a child to achieve excellence instead of merely completing an assignment or passing a test.
  • Encourages a child to assume responsibility for his education.
  • Many lessons can be completed together as a family.
  • Encourages children to become lifelong learners who know how to learn on their own and learn for the sake of learning.
  • Advocates training the whole child—body, mind, spirit, and soul—to develop his character.
  • Rigorous academic training appropriate for a child’s developmental level.

Weaknesses

  • Unless using a boxed curriculum, it can be time-intensive to plan and implement.
  • Very few boxed curriculums are available, although more are published every year.
  • Difficult to provide “grades.” Most families employ a “mastery-approach” to learning and evaluation.
  • Can be difficult to record learning and meet reporting requirements in highly regulated states.

You might consider this homeschool philosophy if…

  • You would like your family to learn together for at least some subjects.
  • You desire to provide a broad and varied curriculum for your children.
  • You want to train your children to think critically.
  • You desire to raise lifelong learners who can learn on their own and enjoy learning.
  • You want to educate the whole child in a rigorous and developmentally appropriate manner.
  • Your child is a visual, auditory, or kinesthetic learner.

Books About The Charlotte Mason Philosophy

Resource And Curriculum Suggestions

Classical Homeschool Philosophy

Overview of the Philosophy

What is the classical homeschool philosophy? Student’s learning follows the trivium model with three stages of learning: grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric. The grammar stage (ages 6-11) focuses on memorizing facts. Examinations in this stage utilize daily/weekly drill and games, oral recitations, and oral narrations. The dialectic stage (ages 12-14) focuses on learning how facts are related and thinking logically. Examinations in this stage utilize discussions and written essays. The rhetoric stage (ages 14+) focuses on persuasively expressing the significance of the facts and relationships. Examinations in this stage use well-researched and clearly written papers.

Strengths

  • Focuses on acquiring the skills and tools for learning.
  • Emphasizes learning how to learn and becoming a lifelong learner.
  • Follows a logical progression of learning coinciding with children’s development.
  • Uses living books for many subjects.
  • Many boxed curriculums and resources are available.
  • Trains children to think critically and to communicate their thoughts and ideas to others.
  • Encourages a child to achieve excellence instead of merely completing an assignment or passing a test.
  • Encourages a child to assume responsibility for his education.
  • Provides a liberal arts education by including enrichment subjects that bring joy and beauty to learning.

Weaknesses

  • Parents have minimal ability to customize lessons for their children.
  • The emphasis on memorization in the early grades may be difficult for some children.
  • Difficult to provide “grades.” Most families employ a “mastery-approach” to learning and evaluation.

You might consider the classical homeschool philosophy if…

  • You want to employ a planned, logical approach to education where the emphasis is on learning how to think.
  • You want to train your children to think logically.
  • You desire to raise lifelong learners who can learn on their own and enjoy learning.
  • You want to educate the whole child in a rigorous and developmentally appropriate manner.
  • If your children need to take standardized tests yearly.
  • Your child is a visual, auditory, or kinesthetic learner.

Books About The Classical Homeschool Philosophy

Resource And Curriculum Suggestions

Montessori Homeschool Philosophy

Overview of the Philosophy

What is the Montessori philosophy? It is based on the philosophy of education developed by Maria Montessori (1870-1952), an Italian physician. She initially developed the method for mentally challenged children and later transferred the ideas and practices to slum children and then the general public. The philosophy uses carefully designed equipment that has a singular purpose of helping children learn adult skills in a distraction-free environment. It seeks to help children explore their world and assume responsibility for themselves. 

Strengths

  • Hands-on learning is helpful for kinesthetic learners.
  • Teaches a child through a gradual progression of skill development.
  • Focuses on developmentally appropriate learning.
  • Trains children to use all of their senses.
  • Seeks to help children develop independence in learning and life skills.
  • Provides practical life training.

Weaknesses

  • Some learning situations are contrived.
  • Free play with learning materials is discouraged.
  • Few boxed curriculums are available.
  • Difficult to find resources for middle and high school students.
  • Utilizes specialized learning materials that can be expensive to purchase.

You might consider the Montessori philosophy if…

  • You want to provide practical training for your children.
  • You want to help your children develop into independent learners.
  • Your child is a kinesthetic learner.

Books About The Montessori Homeschool Philosophy

Resource And Curriculum Suggestions

Unit Studies Homeschool Philosophy

Overview of the Philosophy

What is the unit study homeschool philosophy? Learning is integrated and arranged around one theme instead of compartmentalized into separate subjects. Often, learning about one topic leads to new interests and learning about other topics. Evaluation occurs through narrations and completing hands-on projects. Unit studies are a great fit for active children since they can learn by doing.

Strengths

  • It is easy for the whole family to learn about the same topic while each child works at his level.
  • Abstract concepts are presented in a concrete manner, which aids in understanding.
  • Integrates learning to help children make connections between subjects.
  • It takes advantage of a child’s interests to make learning interesting and increase motivation.
  • Focuses on dialogue and investigation. 
  • Many boxed curriculums are available.
  • Encourages children to make connections with a wide array of topics and subjects.

Weaknesses

  • Can be time-consuming to plan and implement.
  • Often involves many hands-on projects which may be challenging for some parents.
  • Some learning situations are contrived.
  • Some curriculums may require a lot of prep work from the parent.

You might consider the unit study approach if…

  • Your family enjoys learning together.
  • You and your children enjoy hands-on projects.
  • Your children enjoy learning about a subject in-depth.
  • Your child is a kinesthetic learner.

Resource And Curriculum Suggestions

Unschooling Homeschool Philosophy

Overview of the Philosophy

What is unschooling? Parents present a learning-rich environment and encourage their children to learn about what they find interesting. They provide resources, guidance, and mentoring to help their children develop the skills necessary for lifelong learning. Learning is evaluated through discussions and projects. 

Strengths

  • Develops lifelong learners who are self-starters and enjoy learning.
  • Ensure a child is interested in what they are learning.
  • Encourages curiosity and investigation.

Weaknesses

  • Can be time-consuming to find resources.
  • Can be difficult to implement.

You might consider unschooling if…

  • You want to provide your children with opportunities to explore their interests in-depth.
  • You have the confidence to provide the necessary tools and resources for your children to learn about their interests.
  • You have a child who struggles in a structured learning environment.

Books About Unschooling

Resource And Curriculum Suggestions

Do you still have questions about homeschooling?

You can learn more about homeschooling and how to decide if homeschooling is a good fit for your family in the FREE Homeschool 101 Workshop.

Are you ready to homeschool with confidence?

Are you ready to start your homeschool journey, but you aren’t sure how to start? Check out the Homeschool Roadmap. It walks you through establishing your homeschool with confidence and joy, one step at a time.

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