Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling Philosophies 

Last Updated on January 26, 2024 by Gabby Hatten

While there are truly endless amounts of different approaches to homeschooling, I’m going to cover seven of the most talked about methods. In this ultimate guide to homeschooling philosophies, we will take a look at the classical education approach, unit studies approach, Charlotte mason approach, Waldorf education approach, unschooling approach,  Montessori method, and the eclectic approach! These are popular homeschool methods, but they are not the only ones that exist. If none of these strike a chord with you, fret not! It is 100% up to you on how you choose to homeschool.

Classical Education

 The classical homeschooling method is based on the principles of classical education, which has its roots in ancient Greece and Rome. This approach emphasizes the development of a student’s critical thinking skills, logical reasoning, and a deep understanding of the liberal arts. It’s also most closely related to public school teaching and even some private schools. Here are the key principles and characteristics of the classical homeschooling method:

1. Three Stages of Learning: Classical education divides a child’s education into three stages known as the Trivium. These stages are the Grammar stage (elementary years), the Logic stage (middle school years), and the Rhetoric stage (high school years). Each stage focuses on different skills and subjects appropriate for the child’s cognitive development.

2. Language-Centered Education: Classical homeschooling places a strong emphasis on language skills. Latin and Greek are considered foundational for understanding the roots of English and other modern languages. Latin is often taught in the early stages, while Greek may be introduced later.

3. Great Books and Classical Literature: Classical homeschooling emphasizes the study of classic literature and important works of Western civilization. Students engage with timeless texts, such as those by Plato, Aristotle, Shakespeare, and other influential authors. These works are seen as a means to develop critical thinking, analysis, and a deep understanding of human nature.

4. Logic and Reasoning: The Logic stage of classical education focuses on developing critical thinking skills and logical reasoning. Students learn formal logic, argumentation, and how to evaluate and construct sound arguments. This stage encourages students to question, analyze, and think independently.

5. Integrated Subjects: Classical homeschooling promotes an integrated approach to learning, where subjects are interconnected rather than taught in isolation. For example, history, literature, and art may be studied together to provide a comprehensive understanding of a particular time period or culture.

6. Memorization and Recitation: Classical education places importance on memorization and recitation as tools for learning and retention. Students memorize poetry, historical dates, famous speeches, and other important information. Recitation helps develop public speaking skills and fosters a deep understanding of the material.

7. Socratic Method and Discussion: The Socratic method, named after the Greek philosopher Socrates, is often employed in classical homeschooling. It involves asking thought-provoking questions to stimulate critical thinking and encourage students to arrive at their own conclusions. Discussion and dialogue play a significant role in the learning process.

8. Cultivation of Virtues: Classical education aims to cultivate virtues and character development in students. The study of classical literature and philosophy provides opportunities for exploring moral and ethical questions, fostering a sense of responsibility, integrity, and good citizenship.

Unit Studies

The unit study method is a homeschooling approach that integrates multiple subjects into a cohesive unit of study centered around a specific theme or topic. This method encourages interdisciplinary learning and allows for a more holistic understanding of the subject matter. Here are the key principles and characteristics of the unit study method in homeschooling:

1. Thematic Approach: The unit study method revolves around a central theme or topic that serves as the focal point of the curriculum. This theme can be broad, such as “Nordic Vikings” or “Hurricanes,” or more specific, like “Marine Biology” or “Civil War.”

2. Integration of Subjects: Unit studies aim to integrate various subjects, such as history, science, language arts, math, art, and more, into the chosen theme. This approach allows for a comprehensive exploration of the topic, providing a deeper understanding of its different aspects.

3. Flexibility and Customization: Unit studies offer flexibility in designing and adapting the curriculum to suit the needs and interests of the child. Parents can tailor the content, activities, and resources to accommodate different learning styles and abilities.

4. Hands-on and Experiential Learning: Unit studies often incorporate hands-on activities, experiments, field trips, and real-world experiences to enhance learning. This approach encourages active engagement and helps students develop practical skills and a deeper connection to the subject matter.

5. Cross-Curricular Connections: The unit study method emphasizes making connections across different subjects. For example, while studying a historical period, students may read literature from that era, analyze primary sources, create artwork inspired by the time period, and explore the math and science concepts relevant to that era.

6. In-depth Exploration: Unit studies allow for a more in-depth exploration of a particular topic. Students have the opportunity to delve deeply into a subject, conduct research, ask questions, and develop a comprehensive understanding of the theme.

7. Project-Based Learning: Unit studies often involve project-based learning, where students work on long-term projects related to the theme. These projects can include creating presentations, dioramas, reports, artistic creations, or even organizing events or exhibits.

8. Individualized Learning: The unit study method allows for individualized learning, as parents can adapt the curriculum to meet the unique needs and interests of each child. This approach promotes personalized education and encourages students to take ownership of their learning.

9. Integration of Life Skills: Unit studies can incorporate practical life skills into the curriculum, such as cooking, budgeting, gardening, or community service. This helps students develop essential life skills alongside academic knowledge.

10. Parental Involvement: The unit study method often requires active parental involvement in planning, guiding, and facilitating the learning process. Parents act as facilitators, providing resources, guidance, and support to their children.

Charlotte Mason Approach

The Charlotte Mason homeschooling method is based on the educational philosophy of Charlotte Mason, a British educator from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Her approach emphasizes the importance of a broad and liberal education that nurtures the whole child. Here are the key principles and characteristics of the Charlotte Mason homeschooling method:

1. Living Books: The use of “living books” is central to the Charlotte Mason method. Living books are high-quality literature written by knowledgeable authors who have a genuine passion for the subject matter. These books engage the child’s imagination, provide rich and vivid descriptions, and foster a love for learning.

2. Narration: Narration is a key component of the Charlotte Mason method. Students are encouraged to orally narrate or write about what they have read or learned. This process helps develop comprehension, memory, and communication skills, as well as encourages students to form their own thoughts and opinions.

3. Short Lessons: Charlotte Mason advocated for short, focused lessons to maintain the child’s attention and prevent mental fatigue. Lessons are typically kept to around 15-20 minutes for younger children and gradually lengthened as they grow older. This approach aims to promote concentration and efficient learning.

4. Nature Study: Nature study is an integral part of the Charlotte Mason method. Students are encouraged to spend time outdoors, observing and interacting with nature. This hands-on experience fosters a sense of wonder, curiosity, and appreciation for the natural world.

5. Habit Formation: The Charlotte Mason method places great importance on habit formation. Students are taught to develop good habits, such as attentiveness, obedience, and diligence. Consistency and repetition are key in establishing these habits, which are seen as essential for character development and a disciplined life.

6. Art and Music Appreciation: The Charlotte Mason method emphasizes the study and appreciation of art and music. Students are exposed to a wide range of artistic styles, composers, and musicians. They learn to observe, analyze, and express their thoughts and emotions about various works of art and musical compositions.

7. Foreign Language Study: Learning a foreign language is encouraged in the Charlotte Mason method. Students are exposed to foreign languages at an early age through immersion, songs, and simple conversations. The focus is on developing conversational skills and a love for languages.

8. Avoidance of Twaddle: Charlotte Mason emphasized the avoidance of “twaddle,” which refers to shallow, dumbed-down, or overly simplified educational materials. Instead, she advocated for exposing children to rich and challenging content that respects their intelligence and fosters a love for learning.

9. Outdoor Play and Physical Education: The Charlotte Mason method recognizes the importance of physical activity and outdoor play for a child’s overall development. Regular time for unstructured play, physical exercise, and exploration of the natural world is encouraged.

10. Parental Involvement and Atmosphere: The Charlotte Mason method recognizes the crucial role of parents as educators. Parents are actively involved in their child’s education, providing guidance, support, and a nurturing atmosphere for learning. The home environment is seen as an important factor in fostering a love for learning and intellectual growth.

Waldorf Education Method

The Waldorf method is based on the educational philosophy of Rudolf Steiner, the founder of Waldorf education. This approach emphasizes a holistic and artistic approach to education, nurturing the development of the child’s mind, body, and spirit. Here are the key principles and characteristics of the Waldorf homeschooling method:

1. Holistic Education: The Waldorf method focuses on the holistic development of the child, addressing their intellectual, emotional, physical, and spiritual needs. It aims to cultivate well-rounded individuals who are capable of critical thinking, creativity, and empathy.

2. Age-Appropriate Curriculum: The Waldorf curriculum is designed to align with the developmental stages of the child. It takes into account the child’s natural growth and maturation, providing age-appropriate content and activities that support their cognitive, emotional, and physical development.

3. Rhythm and Routine: The Waldorf method emphasizes the importance of rhythm and routine in daily life and learning. A predictable and structured daily rhythm helps children feel secure and provides a sense of stability. Regular routines for activities like meals, play, and rest are established to create a harmonious learning environment.

4. Imaginative and Play-Based Learning: The Waldorf approach recognizes the importance of imaginative and play-based learning in early childhood. Young children engage in open-ended play, storytelling, puppetry, and creative activities that stimulate their imagination and foster a love for learning.

5. Main Lesson Blocks: The Waldorf curriculum is organized into main lesson blocks, which typically last for several weeks. During these blocks, a single subject is explored in depth, allowing students to immerse themselves in the topic and develop a comprehensive understanding. The main lesson blocks often include a combination of academic subjects, such as language arts, math, science, and history.

6. Artistic Expression: Artistic expression is an integral part of the Waldorf method. Students engage in various artistic activities, including drawing, painting, modeling with beeswax or clay, music, drama, and handwork. These activities are seen as essential for fostering creativity, self-expression, and fine motor skills.

7. Nature and Outdoor Education: The Waldorf method places a strong emphasis on connecting with nature and the outdoors. Students spend ample time outside, engaging in nature walks, gardening, and other outdoor activities. This connection with nature is believed to enhance the child’s sense of wonder, observation skills, and appreciation for the natural world.

8. No Early Academics: The Waldorf method discourages early academic instruction, particularly formal reading and writing before the age of seven. Instead, the focus in early childhood is on play, movement, storytelling, and developing social skills. This approach allows children to develop a strong foundation in physical coordination, social-emotional development, and imaginative thinking before moving on to formal academics.

9. Limited Use of Technology: The Waldorf method advocates for limited use of technology, particularly in the early years. Screen time is minimized, and electronic devices are generally not used as educational tools. Instead, the emphasis is on hands-on, sensory-rich experiences that engage the child’s whole being.

10. Teacher as a Guide: In the Waldorf method, the teacher plays a crucial role as a guide and facilitator of learning. The teacher observes and understands each child’s individual needs, strengths, and challenges, and provides appropriate guidance and support. The teacher fosters a nurturing and respectful relationship with the child, creating a positive learning environment.

Unschooling Method

Unschooling is a homeschooling method that emphasizes child-led learning and autonomy. It is based on the belief that children are naturally curious and motivated to learn, and that they learn best when they are able to pursue their own interests and passions. Here are the key principles and characteristics of the unschooling homeschooling method:

1. Child-Led Learning: Unschooling places a strong emphasis on allowing children to take the lead in their own learning. Parents act as facilitators and supporters, providing resources, guidance, and opportunities for exploration, but ultimately, the child determines what, when, and how they learn.

2. Individualized Education: Unschooling recognizes that each child is unique and has their own interests, learning style, and pace of learning. The curriculum is tailored to the individual child, allowing them to focus on their passions and strengths while respecting their individual needs and preferences.

3. Freedom and Autonomy: Unschooling values the freedom and autonomy of the child. Children are encouraged to make choices about what they want to learn, how they want to learn, and when they want to learn. This approach fosters independence, self-motivation, and a sense of ownership over their education.

4. Real-Life Experiences: Unschooling emphasizes the importance of real-life experiences as a valuable source of learning. Children are encouraged to engage in hands-on activities, pursue hobbies, participate in community projects, and interact with the world around them. These experiences provide practical skills, social interactions, and a deeper understanding of the world.

5. Learning Through Play: Play is seen as a fundamental aspect of learning in unschooling. Children learn through play, exploration, and experimentation. Play allows for creativity, problem-solving, and the development of social and emotional skills.

6. Flexible Schedule: Unschooling allows for a flexible schedule that accommodates the child’s interests and natural rhythms. Learning can happen at any time and in any place, whether it’s during structured activities, spontaneous discussions, or everyday experiences.

7. Trust in Natural Learning: Unschooling trusts in the natural learning process of children. It believes that children are naturally curious and motivated to learn, and that they will naturally seek out knowledge and skills that are relevant and meaningful to them. Unschooling encourages parents to trust in this process and to provide a supportive environment for learning to unfold.

8. Learning in Context: Unschooling emphasizes learning in context, where knowledge and skills are acquired as they become relevant and meaningful to the child. This approach promotes a deeper understanding of concepts and encourages the application of knowledge in real-life situations.

9. Self-Evaluation and Reflection: Unschooling encourages children to engage in self-evaluation and reflection. They are encouraged to assess their own progress, set goals, and reflect on their learning experiences. This self-directed evaluation helps children develop metacognitive skills and a sense of responsibility for their own learning.

10. Lifelong Learning: Unschooling aims to foster a love for learning that extends beyond formal education. It seeks to instill a lifelong passion for learning, curiosity, and a desire for personal growth and development.

Montessori 

The Montessori homeschooling method is based on the educational philosophy of Maria Montessori, an Italian physician and educator. This approach emphasizes hands-on learning, independence, and respect for the child’s natural development. Here are the key principles and characteristics of the Montessori homeschooling method:

1. Prepared Environment: The Montessori method emphasizes the importance of a carefully prepared environment that is organized, aesthetically pleasing, and accessible to the child. The environment is designed to promote independence, exploration, and engagement with learning materials.

2. Mixed-Age Grouping: Montessori classrooms typically have mixed-age groupings, allowing children of different ages to learn and interact together. This setup encourages collaboration, peer learning, and the development of social skills.

3. Hands-On Learning Materials: Montessori education utilizes a wide range of hands-on learning materials that are specifically designed to promote independent exploration and self-correction. These materials are carefully sequenced and progressively introduce concepts and skills in a concrete and tangible way.

4. Self-Directed Learning: The Montessori method emphasizes self-directed learning, where children have the freedom to choose their own activities and work at their own pace. They are encouraged to follow their interests and engage in activities that capture their curiosity and passion.

5. Individualized Instruction: Montessori education recognizes that each child has unique strengths, interests, and learning styles. Teachers or parents in a Montessori homeschooling environment observe and understand the individual needs of each child, providing personalized guidance and support.

6. Practical Life Skills: Montessori education places a strong emphasis on practical life skills. Children are taught everyday life skills such as dressing themselves, preparing food, cleaning, and caring for their environment. These activities promote independence, coordination, concentration, and a sense of responsibility.

7. Sensorial Exploration: Montessori classrooms provide a rich sensory environment that encourages children to explore and refine their senses. Sensorial materials are used to help children develop and refine their senses of touch, sight, sound, taste, and smell, laying the foundation for cognitive and intellectual development.

8. Respect for the Child: The Montessori method emphasizes respect for the child as an individual. Children are treated with dignity, their opinions and choices are valued, and their natural development is honored. The role of the adult is to guide and support the child’s learning journey.

9. Focus on Independence: Montessori education fosters independence in children. They are encouraged to take responsibility for their own learning, make choices, and engage in self-directed activities. The environment and materials are designed to promote independence and self-sufficiency.

10. Peace Education: Montessori education promotes the development of peaceful and harmonious individuals. Children are taught conflict resolution skills, empathy, and respect for others. The Montessori method aims to cultivate a sense of global citizenship and a commitment to making the world a better place.

Eclectic Homeschooling Philosophy 

Eclectic homeschooling is an approach to homeschooling that combines elements from various educational philosophies (like the ones we mentioned above), methods, and resources. It is a flexible and personalized approach that allows homeschooling families to tailor their curriculum and teaching methods to meet the unique needs and interests of their children. Here are some key aspects of eclectic homeschooling:

1. Customized Curriculum: Eclectic homeschoolers have the freedom to select and combine curriculum materials from different sources, such as textbooks, workbooks, online courses, educational apps, and hands-on activities. They can choose resources that align with their child’s learning style, interests, and academic goals.

2. Individualized Instruction: Eclectic homeschooling recognizes that each child has unique strengths, weaknesses, and learning preferences. Parents can adapt their teaching methods and approaches to suit their child’s individual needs. They may use a mix of traditional teaching methods, hands-on activities, project-based learning, or even unschooling principles, depending on what works best for their child.

3. Flexibility and Freedom: Eclectic homeschooling allows for flexibility in scheduling, pacing, and content. Homeschooling families have the freedom to adjust their daily routines, take breaks when needed, and explore topics of interest in-depth. This flexibility enables children to learn at their own pace and explore subjects beyond the scope of traditional school curricula.

4. Integration of Multiple Approaches: Eclectic homeschoolers may draw inspiration from different educational philosophies and methods, such as Montessori, Waldorf, Charlotte Mason, Unite Studies, or Classical education. They can integrate elements from these approaches into their curriculum, combining the best aspects of each to create a personalized learning experience.

5. Emphasis on Real-Life Experiences: Eclectic homeschooling often incorporates real-life experiences and practical skills into the curriculum. This may involve field trips, community service projects, internships, or apprenticeships. By connecting learning to real-world contexts, children gain a deeper understanding of subjects and develop valuable life skills.

6. Child-Led Learning: Eclectic homeschooling recognizes the importance of following a child’s interests and passions. Parents can encourage their children to explore topics they are passionate about, incorporating those interests into the curriculum. This approach fosters intrinsic motivation, engagement, and a love for learning.

7. Assessment and Evaluation: Eclectic homeschoolers have the flexibility to choose their own methods of assessment and evaluation. They can use a variety of tools, such as portfolios, projects, tests, or discussions, to gauge their child’s progress and understanding. This allows for a more holistic and comprehensive assessment of learning.

8. Resourcefulness and Adaptability: Eclectic homeschooling requires resourcefulness and adaptability on the part of parents. They need to research and evaluate various educational resources, adapt materials to suit their child’s needs, and be open to adjusting their approach as they learn what works best for their family.

Overall, eclectic homeschooling provides homeschooling families with the freedom to create a unique and tailored educational experience for their children. It allows for flexibility, customization, and the integration of various educational approaches to meet the specific needs and goals of each child. This is the method that I use with our children, and I wish I had known what I know now sooner!

What I Wish I Knew When I First Started Homeschooling

One of the most difficult things for parents when they transition to the homeschool lifestyle, is to wash their hands of what they think they know and what they think they’re supposed to be doing. It is so easy to fin yourself structuring your child’s schedule/curriculum based off a traditional day of school… but aren’t we shying away from that same schooling for a reason?

Truth is, when I started, I didn’t know 75% of these methods. I knew I didn’t want to send our children to school, but I didn’t know what I wanted their school days to look like. I tried to fit not only myself but my child in a box and it just wasn’t working. I’ve since come to learn that we are 100% on the eclectic homeschooling train. I like to take a little bit out of everything and mash it up into something that works for us. Every day is different, and I don’t allow outside pressure to rain on our parade.

If you’ve taken the time to read this, I hope it’s helped you on your homeschool journey. If one of these methods really resonated with you, great! If a little bit from here or there resonated with you, great! Take whatever you like, mix it up, and make it yours. Still have questions? Leave a comment below, find us on Instagram or TikTok to chat, or email us at hattenhomestead@mail.com. Get access to our free digital download library here.

Author Profile

Gabby Hatten
Gabby Hatten
Hello there, I'm Gabby! I am a mother of three, married to my wonderful husband Marco, and I have a deep passion for simple living, vintage homes, and cooking everything from scratch! Although I grew up in Las Vegas, my husband's military service brought us to the east coast, where we have now made coastal North Carolina our home. While I didn't grow up on a farm, I have always been fascinated by that lifestyle and have dedicated my adult life to learning and embracing those skills, which I am excited to share with all of you!

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