Friday, 30 September 2016

Various Styles of Home Education - not my first choices, but you might like to know about them!

Some of my readers may be at the very start of their home education journey, and wonder about different choices available to them.

In this article I'll briefly introduce just three of the home education styles that some families choose.


This is basically buying a box/folder/set of instructions and perhaps workbooks containing pre-prepared lessons. Some include fiction/text books, others have book lists for you to source your own books. Buying books isn't as hard as it used to be thanks to the internet and sites such as Book Depository, Awesome Books, The Nile or the excellent little bookstore run by my friend Michelle over on Facebook called Homeward Bound (Michelle's book destash).  However, some families really appreciate the book-lists or supplied books with various curricula - trusting that the books chosen will be valuable additions to their home libraries.

Some curricula are teacher intensive, others are more self-teaching. Most have extremely attractive websites – often with samples of the curriculum, or overviews of content for each Grade. This information alone is very valuable for the eclectic home education system (discussed in a minute).

I am not overly familiar with pre-packaged curricula as this isn’t our chosen learning style, but I have consulted with other home educators on this topic to bring you some up-to-date information.

Using a curriculum can give a sense of “school at home” which suits some families. Of course a curriculum can be a spring-board for learning: rather than using it in the prescribed way a family may pick and choose topics or certain subjects from within a frame of a certain curriculum.
 At this point I'd just like to insert a very personal comment:  The above image is from the internet.  It is perhaps what people may think of as a wonderful environment full of "educational" things for children to ensure a great homeSCHOOLING environment.  Personally I don't like the message this sends to new home educators - making them feel they must buy and store (and keep neat) all these supplies.  The overwhelming message I hear from home educators is that many begin this way, but after the first few years of trying to gather all this stuff together they realise it's not necessary, and can cause more problems.  "What to have" for natural home education is a blog I will work on soon!

The word “curriculum” can be defined as the means and materials with which students will interact for the purpose of achieving identified educational outcomes.

Having said this, if you choose to have a pre-packaged curriculum you may feel you are short-changing your children as someone else has decided what “educational outcomes” are important. Nobody knows your children like you do. Once again, home education gives you the freedom to make your own decisions based on what works best for you all.

Some names to research on this would be Sonlight, Live Education, Oak Meadow, Math-U-See, ACE Curriculum, Christopherus, Weaver, ABeka, Saxon Math, Apologia, Tapestry of Grace, Rod and Staff, My Father's World, Christian Light Education, Robinson Curriculum (self-teaching), Ambleside Online (free) and Alpha Omega Publications.

I've heard that one of the hardest things about using a curriculum is being brave enough to get rid of it if it's not working. No matter how much a parent may love a particular curriculum/resource (and no matter how much it cost), if it doesn't suit the child's learning style/tastes then the child probably won't be able to absorb and retain the information presented.


There are two great resources I am familiar with for learning about Classical Education and the Trivium – The Well Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise - and Teaching the Trivium by Harvey and Laurie Bluedorn.

In Classical Education three stages are recognised:

The Knowledge Level (or Grammar Stage) – before birth to approximately 12 years old. These are the years for receiving and gathering information.

The Understanding Level (or Logic Stage) – approx 13 – 15 years old. This is the age that (typically) the world becomes more arranged and information is connected in a logical order.

The Wisdom Level (or Rhetoric Stage) – approx 16+ where gathered information is put into practical expression.


Unit studies can involves taking one subject (chosen by the child, or by the parent) such as “pirates”, “trees”, “pond life” or “the undersea world” etc or a book “Little House on the Prairie” or “Young Buglers” and forming a study around that. There is some cross-over here, where “unit studies” can also be used in “delight directed" learning.

Notebooking pages can be made by a child, or printed off and filled in by a child.

Lapbooks can be fun to make - lots of free templates are available on the internet.  Children also like to look back on lapbooks they've made in the past IF they have fond memories of making the lapbook.  NOT if it was a chore they were forced to do (take note!).


Eclectic learners take whatever workbooks/textbooks/fiction/non-fiction books/resources/videos/audios/community resources (library, parks, museums etc) they like the look of and use them as learning platforms. There is a lot of freedom in this style of learning.   However, this very freedom is the thing that doesn't work for some families.  Members of the family may feel lost without structure, or perhaps because of the season of life the family is in presently they want to keep track of where the children are "educationally".

Eclectic learners, on the whole, feel free to chop and change their style of learning as their journey progresses - they may do a bit of notebooking, make a lapbook, use a few textbooks ... whatever is right for them at the time.

Some names to research if you're interested in adding great ideas to your eclectic learning are:

  • Charlotte Mason education
  • Montessori
  • Pikler
  • Waldorf/Steiner
  • Thomas Jefferson Education
  • Democratic schools
  • Free/liberal schools
  • Enki Education
  • Reggio Emilia
  • NZ Government curriculum or other curriculum outlines
  • Christian Schools
  • Institute For Excellence In Writing
  • Freya Jaffke
  • Mary Griffith
  • Sandra Dodd
  • Ruth Beechick
  • Dr Jay Wile
  • Alan Thomas

Many of these styles/people have a lot to offer – but we tend not to agree with everything. Ahhh – the freedom of home education!

My next blog post will be on the topic that is dearest to me - the wonderful world of NATURAL LEARNING!

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