Eclectic, Charlotte Mason, Unschooling-

If you haven’t been in the homeschooling sphere long, there will be many terms that are confusing and unusual. Don’t despair, I will guide you through the many choices of homeschooling methods.

I have been researching homeschooling since my oldest was 3 months old back in 2002. I have become somewhat of an expert in the different genres of homeschooling, having attempted many myself. Sit back, relax and come along with me on a journey through the sometimes despairing vocabulary that is homeschooling.

Traditional / Classical Method

At the heart of classical homeschooling is what is called the Trivium. There are 3 levels of learning called the Grammar Stage (typically Grades 1-4), the Logic Stage (typically Grades 5-8) and the Rhetoric Stage (typically Grades 9-12).

There is a strong belief towards instilling a balanced approach to learning and with subjects such as History, Science, Geography and the Arts rotating on 4 year cycles, it gives the child a chance to go around the subject 3 times throughout their schooling.

The Grammar Stage is based around fact memorization. Young children are eager to soak up facts and the “building blocks” of grammar rules, mathematical facts, foreign language vocabulary and scientific truths. This four year stage is where the ground work is laid for future stages.

The Logic Stage is a time of change, of analyzing and reasoning the information that has been obtained in the earlier Grammar Stage. This is the time the student begins to question the why behind all the knowledge.

Logic is applied to all subjects, causing the student to dig deeper into the why in English (thesis development and essay writing), the why in Math (algebra and geometric theories), the whys of History (why were battles fought, what logical decisions and fallacies shaped the world) and the why of Science (where they learn the Scientific Method) and the why of Foreign Language (Latin and Green are often a staple of this method).

The Rhetoric Stage is typically the High School years. A time of self-expression, self-examination and learning how to communicate that to the world with clarity and purpose. This is a time to dig deeper into subjects that specifically interest the child.

Many people who are drawn to the Traditional or Classical Method are Christians who strive to base their child’s knowledge in a Christian Worldview. If you are interested in reading more about Classical Christian Education, I would encourage you to head over the the Well Trained Mind website by Susan Wise Bauer. There are books and encouragement to help you along the way.

Charlotte Mason Method

In the later half of the 1800’s into the early 1900’s Charlotte Mason was a British educator who’s philosophy was comprised in a series of lectures that became a 6 volume series called Home Education. Her belief was in creating a well rounded child through atmosphere, discipline and life.

The website  Simply Charlotte Mason, puts it as such, By “Atmosphere,” Charlotte meant the surroundings in which the child grows up. A child absorbs a lot from his home environment. Charlotte believed that the ideas that rule your life as the parent make up one-third of your child’s education.

By “Discipline,” Charlotte meant the discipline of good habits—and specifically habits of character. Cultivating good habits in your child’s life make up another third of his education.

The other third of education, “Life,” applies to academics. Charlotte believed that we should give children living thoughts and ideas, not just dry facts. So all of her methods for teaching the various school subjects are built around that concept.

The basis of any good Charlotte Mason education are “living books”, books that draw you into a story that puts your imagination in the middle of whatever subject you are learning. No dry textbooks or boring lectures. Children experience, feel, do the work.

Some of the important cornerstones of her philosophy are Narration, Copywork, Nature Study, Hymn Study, Art Study, Music Study, Spelling and studying foreign languages.

Montessori Method

This method was invented by an Italian physician and educator Maria Montessori who placed emphasis on independence, freedom within limits, and respect for a child’s natural pyschological, physical, and social development.

According to the Canadian Council of Montessori Administrators the Montessori Method would include


  • A carefully prepared child-centered environment
  • Mixed age (family groupings) per classroom
  • An opportunity to progress at his/her own pace
  • Activity-based learning
  • Freedom and responsibility
  • Co-operation, collaboration, not competition


     The basis of the Montessori Method is in having Sensory Materials, Practical Life Materials and Academic Subject Materials. If you would like to investigate this subject further please refer to Montessori Homeschooling.
Unschooling or Child-Directed Learning
    There are many misconceptions when it comes to unschooling. Much of the public that is unaware of this “unusual” method do not understand and assume the child is lazy and sitting around watching television all day, who will never qualify to get a job or “succeed” in real life. Nothing could be further from the truth.
     Unschooling refers to not having a “School-At-Home” philosophy. Meaning that learning happens all the time by curious and interested children, not just between the hours of 9 and 3 Monday to Friday, but learning happens whenever, wherever with whatever resources the parent provides.
     They do not follow an all-in-one curriculum method, but instead place interesting books, videos, field trips, experiments, craft projects and real life instances within the reach of their children. Often taking many trips to the library, local parks and local businesses to partake in real world situations, learning by doing, by getting messy and making mistakes (intended Magic School Bus pun).
     This method lends beautifully to Child-Directed Learning and Project Based Homeschooling.
Unit Study Method
    The unit study method helps the mothers of multiple child with multiple ages and stages, to incorporate all the subjects into one unit study.
     For example if you were learning about the War of 1812, in Language Arts you would read a story about  a child who lived during that time period, you could incorporate copywork, spelling words and grammar based on the topic. In Math you would count how many troops were in the battle and how much ammunition they would need or how to ration food, working on fractions. In History, you would read about the battle and with Geography you would study maps of the battle.
     There can be a varying degree of difficulty placed in the lesson for the different members of the family based on their level of understanding. After reading about the battle you may ask your kindergartner to draw of picture of what they heard, while encouraging your third grader to research a General’s life from the battle, and expecting a 200-300 word essay from your 7th Grader.
     Whatever the reasoning for choosing this method it is a fun alternative and teaches children that life incorporates all the subjects, all the time. If you would like to investigate this method further please click here , here , here, here and here. There are alot of links and alot of information just take your time and soak in the information listed within.
Internet / DVD Instructional Method
    This method can take on many faces. There are umbrella schools, all-in-one online curriculum both in DVD and online forms. There are specific subjects online or available to buy individually. There are teacher led classes and tutors. In certain provinces there may even be public school courses online. 
     For the parent who is unsure of themselves in a certain subject area, or who may not have the time to devote to a specific subject, then this method will work well for these situations.
     Many parents incorporate some form of online learning with the other methods that have been discussed. Look into the website She Knows for an excellent article on this method.
Eclectic or Relaxed Homeschooling
     This is another commonly misunderstood approach to homeschooling.  Eclectic homeschooling typically means that you do not use a one size fits all curriculum, but you piece together bits and parts of some or all of the above methods.
     For example in the 9 years of our homeschooling we have been Classical Christian, Charlotte Mason, Online Unschoolers. (If that even makes sense!) However; the best part of homeschooling is that you can customize your learning plan to your children, to your job(if you work from home or away from home) and depending on the season in life you’re in (pregnancy, moving, sickness, financial struggles), you may also find yourself bumping from method to method. And that’s O.K, momma!
     You need to do what works best for your family. No two families will be the same. With religious differences. Discipline styles, Learning Disabilities and Family Life, you cannot put yourself or your children into a box. Above all RELAX. I wish I had realized how important that would be at the beginning of our journey. I’m certain we all would have enjoyed it more, if I could have calmed down and realized the precious gift I was being given.