What are the different homeschooling methods? I feel so overwhelmed!
There are many different ways to homeschool, and having so many choices can seem overwhelming at first. Homeschooling methods range from a very structured “school-at-home” approach to a completely unstructured “unschooling” approach, with a lot of variation in between.
My homeschool guide, Homeschooling Essentials: A Practical Guide to Getting Started has detailed information about homeschool methods, schedules, testing, handling problems, keeping records, curriculum reviews, descriptions of typical days, and contains practical advice from hundreds of experienced homeschoolers who answered my surveys. (It’s also available as an audiobook.)
You can also learn about different methods by getting involved with a local support group. Find one that you feel comfortable with and ask the more experienced parents how they homeschool.
Your local library or bookstore is also a good place to learn more. Look for books that seem to share your reasons for homeschooling and fit your family’s lifestyle.
You may also want to subscribe to a homeschool magazine or visit websites that focus on different methods. Through trial and error, you’ll eventually settle into a method that best suits your family.
What curriculum materials are available? How do I choose resources?
So many companies market to homeschoolers these days that it tends to overwhelm new homeschoolers. Materials range from complete “school-in-a-box” curricula, complete with textbooks and tests, while other materials focus on a specific subject or learning method (unit studies, classical studies, Montessori, etc.). Other resources include your local library, educational television, documentaries and videos, experiment kits, local museums and zoos, field trips, etc.
Before making any purchases, talk to other homeschoolers who’ve had several years of experience and look at materials first-hand. Try to find parents who have several children with different learning styles, and who aren’t locked into a specific curriculum. They’ll be able to share what works with each of their children, and what doesn’t work, and why. If they’re willing, arrange a time to view their materials so you can see them yourself before making a decision.
You can find experienced homeschoolers at local support group meetings, or on the internet. My homeschooling guide (linked above) gives reviews favorite resources and curriculum. You can also view materials at a homeschool conference or used book fair. (Go in with an idea of what you want, though, or all the choices can get overwhelming – and expensive!)
Should I choose a pre-packaged, all-in-one curriculum?
Sometimes new homeschoolers feel more comfortable starting out with something that’s completely set up for them – textbooks, assignments, tests, schedules, etc. As they become more experienced, they tend to become less structured and more comfortable with being flexible.
If you decide to start out with a pre-packaged curriculum, remember to make the curriculum fit your children’s needs instead of trying to make your children fit the curriculum. You paid for it, so use it as a tool. If a certain aspect of it isn’t working, either tweak it to fit, or throw it out and find something else. Your children don’t have to do every assignment, complete every worksheet, or take every test. The publishers don’t know your children, so they can’t tailor it to their needs. But you can (and should). In many cases, burnout results from parents trying to make their children fit into a one-size-fits-all curriculum.
If you choose resources that fit your child’s learning style and ability level in each subject area, everyone will be happier, and your children will learn (and retain) more. For ideas on how to find these resources, read the “choosing curriculum and resources” question above.
I know a family who homeschools and they say if I don’t use “ABC” curriculum, then I’m shortchanging my children.
Their attitude reflects their own insecurities – the more people they can talk into using what they’re using, the more certain they become that they’re using the perfect curriculum. After more than 20 years of homeschooling four children with different learning styles, I’ve learned that there is no such thing as a “perfect” curriculum. Each family is different, and each child is different. What may work for one won’t work for another.
Many homeschoolers have gone on to college and started careers after using “ABC” curriculum, but just as many have gone on to greater heights using “XYZ” curriculum, or no structured curriculum at all. Trust me on this one. Choose your resources based on your own children’s needs, not someone else’s insecurities.