What is the Best Homeschooling Style for Your Family?

Family Matters on 03.30.11

Photo Credit: Bruce Guenter, Flickr Creative Commons Attribution License.

When you start looking into homeschooling, you start seeing all of these terms being thrown around: classical homeschooling, unschooling, Charlotte Mason, eclectic homeschooling, Montessori, unit study....it's enough to make your head spin. And that's before you even begin the actual teaching!

While I'll put together a post about picking the right style for your family, in this post I'd like to introduce some of the major styles of homeschooling, and provide links to learn more about each one.

Popular Homeschooling Styles

Classical Homeschooling

Classical homeschooling is a formal style that focuses on giving children a strong foundation in reading, writing, and math, as well as a thorough grounding in history. Science, the arts, and languages (particularly Latin) are also integral. Classical homeschooling, which has its roots in the Christian tradition, can also easily be adapted to a secular homeschool experience. The best source of information to learn more about classical homeschooling is the book The Well Trained Mind, written by the mother-daughter homeschooling team of Jessie Wise and Susan Wise Bauer. The Well Trained Mind website has tons of information about classical homeschooling.

Charlotte Mason Homeschooling

Charlotte Mason is a method that focuses on instilling a love of learning through the use of what Mason called "living books" (I.e., real books, not textbooks), nature study, and narration. It encourages parents to let kids be kids and provide plenty of time for play -- especially outside play. With its focus on short lessons and finding ways to make even the more mundane aspects of education more enjoyable, Charlotte Mason is a very popular method amongst homeschooling families. To learn more, you can check out Charlotte Mason's books (yes, books --- she wrote an entire series of books about homeschooling) or take a look at the site Simply Charlotte Mason for an overview.


Unschooling is perhaps the most controversial of the homeschooling methods. No formal instruction, no assignments, no required reading. Kids do their own thing, and learn everything they need through day to day living and the experiences they gain. Math is learned by cooking or building (and, if the child decides to pick up a math book and work for fun, that will work too!). Reading is learned by being read to, and reading whatever the child wants to read. Science is learned through active experimentation and observation. A good primer on the basics of unschooling is The Unschooling Handbook by Mary Griffith and via the many writings of John Holt. In addition, here is a quick FAQ on unschooling.


Developed by Dr. Maria Montessori in the early 1900s, the Montessori method is all about providing an engaging, interesting environment for children, then allowing them to choose those activities that most interest them. It is a very sensory, activity-based method. In fact the use of computers, video games, and televisions is strongly discouraged, due to the belief that chlidren learn best through experiential, rather than passive, experiences. Children are encouraged to do plenty for themselves, which develops their self-confidence. Learn more about Montessori homeschooling from an experienced Montessori homeschooler, or look for the book Teaching Montessori in the Home by Elizabeth Wainstock.

Eclectic Homeschooling

Eclectic homeschooling is basically what it sounds like: taking bits and pieces of other methods of homeschooling, and using them how and where they work best for your family. It might mean adopting the methodology of classical homeschooling for history, but following the tenets of Charlotte Mason for science and math, and unschooling the rest of the time. It's about flexibility and being able to "read" your kids to determine what's working and what isn't. You develop your own methods along the way.

I hope this overview of homeschooling styles has been helpful. I'll be expanding on this information in the future, hopefully devoting entire posts to each type of homeschooling experience. Which one of these styles appeals most to you?