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Blog Homeschool Styles & Philosophies

How Cyndi Lauper’s 80s Hit Guides My Approach to Homeschooling, Unschooling & Motherhood

July 24, 2016

This year marks our family’s 8th year of homeschooling/unschooling. It’s sort of strange to think about, calculate, or even put down that time period in words since we ‘school’ year-round. Learning in our family doesn’t revolve around a calendar. It doesn’t take holidays or have snow days. Learning happens everyday.  It’s also strange to see the look on people’s faces when they ask what grades the kids are entering and the grades don’t easily roll off their tongues. The kids usually look at me, then at each other, before replying with something like, “we don’t keep track of our year in school because we are homeschooled and the grade doesn’t really matter or have meaning for us.”

There is No Magic Homeschool Formula

If there is one thing that I’ve learned over the years, it is that there is no magic formula or ideal curriculum (or absence of curriculum) that will guarantee homeschooling success.  What is homeschooling success anyway?   Ivy League bound kids?  Academic scholarships?  Decent SAT scores?

I no longer spend much time worrying about homeschooling success–or what it is for that matter.  And, yes…in the beginning, especially in that first year, I worried about this a lot.  The more I’ve embraced unschooling over the years and let go of ideas and expectations of conventional schooling (and of myself and my kids), I’ve come to witness a love of learning within my children that I never experienced in school (even though I earned top grades and loved the experience of school itself).  I spend far less time now worrying whether my kids will turn out okay.

Instead, I spend my time focused on trying to raise children who are Wild and Free–children who are happy, well adjusted, balanced, self-reliant, and secure, who are passionate about learning, curious about the world around them, and appreciative of their roots, others, and experiences.  I spend my time helping my children fill their buckets with enriching and diverse experiences that will shape the way they see and interact with the world. I encourage my children to explore independently, guided by what satisfies their hearts, minds, curiosity, and interests, rather than stressing about what they are missing…what I’m not doing.  I focus on the positive and take the view that every opportunity, every moment, everyday is filled with learning possibilities.

My goal is not to see that my kids get top college admission test scores–though, if you ask them, they’ve carved out some pretty lofty goals of their own sans mama’s input.  Sure, I want them to have amazing academic successes, but what is more important to me is that they discover their True Colors…that they discover their own interests, goals, drive, and motivation to define their own successes on their own terms.

Cyndi Lauper’s True Colors Guides My Approach to Homeschooling, Unschooling & Motherhood

If there is any secret to success out there, I believe it is encapsulated in Cyndi Lauper’s 80s Hit, Time After Time.  Apparently, if you grew up in the 80s listening to music tapes played in a tape player (my kids can’t believe I listened to music this way as a kid) or on the radio (that also shocks them, “Sirius XM didn’t exist when you were a kid, are you joking, Mom?”), 80s music can have such a long-lasting effect.

My homeschooling, unschooling & motherhood approach is summed up in this song lyric mantra:

If you’re lost you can look and you will find me

Time after time

If you fall I will catch you, I will be waiting

Time after time

I believe the odds are significantly stacked in my favor–in any parent’s favor, really–for finding homeschool success, educational success, motherhood success, childhood success, you name it, whatever, by giving my kids space and freedom to be, to learn, explore, and live freely with loving support and encouragement.  If they get lost along the way, they can find me.  I’ll be there to help them find their direction, realign their bearings, to steer them back to where they think they want to go, or direct them back to where I believe they need to be if they can’t see it in the moment.  Time after time.

If they fall, I will catch them.  I will also do my best to role model how they can catch and trust themselves, as well as look to each other and to others to help them, should there be a reason that it’s impossible for me to be there for them.

I will be waiting.  Not expecting them to fall or fail in anyway, but should they need me, I will be waiting in the wings.

Time after time.

I want my children to discover their own true colors, so that they can best navigate the various shades that await them in life.

To me, that seems like homeschooling success.





Blog Homeschool Styles & Philosophies

10 Educational Approaches and Philosophies to Homeschooling

August 6, 2015

As the popularity of homeschooling surges in the United States and around the world, it may come as a surprise to parents and people generally curious about homeschooling that there are many different approaches and philosophies to homeschooling.

How a child is homeschooled can vary dramatically, depending on the child, parent, and family (background, values, income, access to resources, learning abilities, and reasons for homeschooling in the first place).  There is no one size fits all approach or philosophy when it comes to homeschooling.

There are popular approaches and philosophies to homeschooling.  Here are some of those approaches.


We’re a roadschooling, worldschooling, wanderschooling family.

Popular Approaches to Homeschooling

1. School at Home.  Sometimes referred to as The Traditional Approach, this approach to homeschooling resembles “school at home.” Parents might create a home classroom, complete with desks, chalkboard, workbooks, and the traditional wall-mounted pencil sharpener.  Parents might teach class each day on a schedule and follow a calendar that closely aligns with that of public or private schools.  Some parents who are new to homeschooling start off with some aspect of the school at home approach, if only because that is what they know based on their own educational experience, but often come to relax their school at home approach as they figure out what style of education and teaching works best for their child and themselves.

2.  Biblical/Religious.  Another approach to homeschooling may be shaped or strongly influenced by religion.  Homeschool assignments might include scripture work, memorization, dictation, or religious study or work.  It is sometimes assumed, although inaccurately, that all who homeschool do so strictly for religious regions.  Religion may be the inspiration or reason behind homeschooling for some families, however, it is not a blanket explanation for the homeschooling decision; some homeschool families are intentionally secular. Some families choose to integrate religious teachings into other homeschool approaches, such as a Christian Classical Education approach.

3.  Classical Education.  This approach to homeschooling, sometimes referred to as the Socratic Method, Liberal Arts Education, or a Three-Part (Trivium) Education, and popularized by Susan Wise Bauer author of The Well-Trained Mind, looks to shape learning into three phases:  concrete (K-6th), analytical (7th-8th) and abstract (9th-12th). This three-part approach to education reinforces learning that corresponds to stages in childhood development.

4.  Waldorf or Waldorf Inspired. A Waldorf approach to homeschooling encourages children to actively explore their environments, play, and be naturally active and curious at a young age, and later expose children to myths, artistic work, storytelling, and literature.  This approach emphasizes holistic learning, weaving together arts, humanities and sciences.  Waldorf Founder, Rudolf Steiner believed that the Waldorf approach would educate the whole child: “head, heart and hands.” Electronics are generally not encouraged, especially at young ages, and are typically considered to have a negative impact on learning and development.

5.  Montessori.  Homeschooling with a Montessori approach typical reflects the educational ideas and model created by physician, Maria Montessori, in the 1800s. This approach encourages interest learning, choice, movement, collaborative learning and learning in context, such as taking a field trip to learn about water pollution rather than just discussing it, while discouraging extrinsic rewards.  Some homeschool parents who apply the Montessori approach set up space in their home to reflect the Montessori method, such as activity stations, baskets with knitting supplies or blocks, and pencils/paper/scissors.

6.  Charlotte Mason.  The Charlotte Mason approach looks to the use of living books, rather than dry textbooks to teach children at home.  Charlotte Mason, a British Educator, believed that children were “not blank slates or empty sacks to be filled with information.” This homeschooling approach emphasizes learning atmosphere and home environment to shape the education of the child, discipline of good habits, and life.  The Charlotte Mason approach emphasizes literature, language arts skills, history, science, life experiences, nature, narration and dictation, knowledge of God, and short lessons.

7. Unit Studies.  Another approach to homeschooling is to build lessons around specific units or topics of interest, studying a particular topic at length, which might be for an afternoon or for an entire year.  For example, a family might choose to use an entire school year to build lessons around the book ‘Little House on the Prairie,’ studying everything from pioneers such as Lewis and Clark to how to make homemade candles from local beeswax.  Some homeschoolers create lapbooks to complement their unit studies.

8.  Technology-based education.  Another approach to homeschooling may involve using technology-based curriculum or pre-packaged ‘common core’ curriculum available online or by DVD/CD.  Homeschoolers may use online tutors, take advantage of virtual classes, such as those offered by K12, teacher-led support classes or curriculum, such as Calvert School or Laurel Springs, watch YouTube videos, or study math or learn to code at Khan Academy.

8.  Roadschooling, Worldschooling or Travel-Based Education.  Despite the word ‘homeschooling’ many homeschooling families spend much of their time away from home as part of the homeschool learning experience.  For some families, travel is the backbone of the homeschool experience, using travel experiences, locations, sights, and culture to inspire and shape the educational experience.  Check out Wanderschool, which is an example of roadschooling.

9. Eclectic Homeschooling.  Sometimes referred to as ‘relaxed’ homeschooling, eclectic homeschooling is a popular homeschooling method that sometimes resembles a myriad of approaches–a sort of patchwork quilt to education–to fit the individual child.  An Eclectic approach is somewhat of a custom approach to homeschooling, with a parent choosing subjects, materials, classes, extra-curricular opportunities, and classes that suit their child’s or family’s needs and/or interests.  A parent may choose to pre-buy curriculum for one subject, use a more child-led approach to another subject, sign a child up for a class for another subject, and choose library books to cover another topic.

10.  Unschooling.  Unschooling is another educational method and philosophy, sometimes considered a subset of homeschooling, that typically encourages child-led interest and child- initiated learning activities.  The term was coined in the 1970s by educator and homeschooling proponent, John Holt.  John Taylor Gatto, author of the book, Dumbing Us Down, and another proponent of unschooling, makes the case for homeschooling and unschooling (or free range learning). Within the unschooling approach, there is a full spectrum of approaches and philosophies to this method of education, ranging from strong emphasis on learning through curiosity, play, experiences, classes, or books to hands-off parental involvement, to radical unschooling, which may or may not resemble complete child-led learning.