10 Educational Approaches and Philosophies to Homeschooling

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.

2 thoughts on “10 Educational Approaches and Philosophies to Homeschooling”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *