{SQT} My Homeschool Education: Seven Methods and Seven Lessons

Micaela’s got a neat homeschooling link up happening at her blog, and I’ve got a great post idea with seven points I can use, meaning it’s another post so nice I linked it twice. I always love it when my writing works twice as hard to bring in the readers.

I often get asked by new homeschoolers, what method I use. “ALL. OF. THE. METHODS!” is probably the best answer I can give them, but generally I don’t scream it in their face. We’re probably what you’d call an “eclectic” homeschooling family, meaning we use a variety of curriculum sources rather than following the lesson plans or¬†booklist of one provider or method. It’s almost always been this way. My husband and I always have this ideal vision of homeschooling that our children’s learning styles keep squashing. So we tweek and modify everything so that each child is getting a great education with minimal frustration and maximum understanding for their age and abilities. Today, I’ll mention several homeschooling methods, my favorite books by their respective proponents, and how each has informed our homeschooling journey.

1. Classical Education

Read my blogs tagline; it’s easy to see why we’re starting here. The first two books I read about homeschooling were ‘The Well-Trained Mind’ and ‘Designing Your Own Classical Curriculum’.

‘The Lost Tools of Learning’, an essay by Dorothy Sayers, also showed up early in my learning process. My husband and I still scan these books every year as well plan our goals. However, we don’t demand much of the work that especially The Well-Trained Mind requires. Our take aways are:

  • Children learn in stages, specifically Grammar, Logic and Rhetoric. We don’t introduce things like computer programing to our young children because it requires logical thought, a skill that comes later.
  • LATIN. Not only is it still the official language of the Church but it is the language upon which so many other languages are bases. Plus, the study of latin is shown to just make us smarter. Our children also learn basic grammar through their Latin program.
  • A four-year rotating history and science schedule. This is not a hard and fast classical education rule, but it is something we adopted from the get go and it works great for us.For history we study from Creation to Roman Times, the Fall of Rome through the High Middle Ages, the Renaissance through the discovery of America and then a year of American and world history up to the 20th century. Our science cycles order: Biology, Earth Science, Chemistry and Physics. My booklists and timelines share the specifics.
  • The purpose of an education is to cultivate the mind, not to gain admittance to a fancy college or get a job. A classical education lays the groundwork for a solid bank of knowledge and ideally inspires a love of learning and a love of what is true, good and beautiful.

2. Charlotte Mason

But admittedly, studying the daily schedule in ‘The Well Trained Mind’ is daunting. When I read Charlotte Mason, I realized we could introduce a classical education without three hours a week of textbook science in second grade. And within the last year, I’ve really been studying and trying her methods in training the will of the child. It’s an important lesson for school as well as life to be able to choose to do the right thing, even when it’s hard or downright unpleasant. Learning may not always be fun or entertaining but I do believe that children should be focused for periods of time during the day (which varies based on age) on work, be it school or another important skill, like music practice or chores. As someone who did not form a lot of great habits when I was younger, I want to try to help my kids see the benefit to “laying down the rails” sooner rather than later and how that can pay off decades down the road.

UPDATED: GAH! I almost completely forgot to mention Mater Amabilis. A Charlotte Mason resource all Catholics should check out.

3. Unschooling (or Child-Lead)

It would seem contradictory for me to be almost as big a fan of unschooling as I am of classical education, but I am. However, the insight I’ve gained from such authors as John Holt and the Moores, hasn’t made me cast aside my classical ambitious, but to be more flexible in my application of them. Children learn best, and easiest, when they want to learn. Beating a subject into a crying child works against my goal of instilling a love of learning. From unschooling, I’ve learned to take a break, step away and wait and see if the child will be ready later. It was through unschooling books I first realized that it wasn’t a huge deal if my child wasn’t reading at age five, or even seven. He, or she, would eventually learn to read and it would be with less frustration than by continually drilling them with phonics in Pre-K.

If my children really put up a fuss with a subject, I’ve learned to ask, does it matter? Does he/ she NEED to learn this right now with this material? Sometimes, it’s no, and we scrap it. Sometimes it’s yes, they need to learn the material but we try a new program or yes, to both program and material, but we shorten the time we spend on it or slow down the pace so it’s not so overwhelming.

Most unschoolers ¬†are not completely hands off when it comes to their children’s education. They direct and mentor and provide supplies for a variety of learning experiences. Their homes are filled with books and resources to spark a child’s curiosity or help a new passion evolve. I try to do the same. We do keep a set schedule of certain subjects, but I try to give my children enough time to pursue their own interests and projects. And if I see they’ve been writing lots of stories on their own, then I may lighten up their English work.The following books are just a sample of some that have helped me not stress about whether or not we’re meeting “state standards” or missing out on core subjects.

Also, check out Tidal Homeschooling at Melissa Wiley’s blog.¬†

4. Catholic School at Home

Sometimes, you just want to be able to throw a workbook or text-book at a child and walk away so you can tend to a crying baby. Many boxed curriculum try to imitate a typical school day at home and for many families, this works great by encouraging¬†independence on the part of the kids while taking a lot of the planning stress off of mom. It’s also easier to fill out a traditional transcript, keep grades, records, etc. Some families successfully use one curriculum with all their children for the duration of homeschooling.

Although I use some “school at home” materials it’s probably the method I use least. I don’t keep grades or give traditional tests. And I’ve found my kids typically don’t retain information when they’ve just ‘filled in a blank’ for subjects like reading comprehension, grammar, history, science, and spelling. I’m also too particular. I can’t find a boxed curriculum that teaches exactly what I want in a way that suits each of my children. Currently, we use workbooks in Latin (along with other materials), textbooks for math, Edie has a spelling workbook (which I use to give words/sentences for copywork) and Addie has a handwriting workbook which I chose because of the Latin quotes it used.

Some examples of programs I’ve used would be Seton and Abeka.¬†

5. Thomas Jefferson

I just started reading about the Thomas Jefferson method recently but I love the focus it puts on being an inspiring teacher and encouraging parents to read the same books as their children to facilitate discussion. It seems obvious, but to encourage a love of learning, I need to model that behavior myself, not just pass out assignments and then proceed with my housework. I love history, science, literature, but do my kids know that? I could do better.

6. Unit Studies

Studying the Egyptians? Copywork, spelling words, literature, narrations; make it all Egyptian! I’ve done the very minimal in combing subjects but never got as gung ho as some books suggested because the kids could never stick with me for more than one Egyptian craft or Mediterranean dinner. Lapbooks can be created throughout a Unit Study. I’ve seen several beautiful examples. Darn if I have’t tried several lapbook experiments with horrible, horrible results. ¬†But I wanted to mention it because if mom has the enthusiasm, and can get all the kids on board, it (apparently) can be a fun experience. Some programs to try are:

History Links Unit Studies for Catholic Families – Unit One General Studies

7. Online Classes

Now that my kids are older, online classes are becoming something we’re considering more and more for subjects I’m not comfortable teaching. We’ve done some writing courses and Addie will be taking a basic Logic course in the fall. It’s nice to know that I don’t have to do it all. And it’s nice to have your children answer to a different teacher occasionally and become familiar with grades if you don’t typically keep them. I like that we can pick classes around our schedule, with or without a live class component, and there are options for eight weeks, half-year or full year classes depending on what you’re interested in. Ask older moms in your homeschool circle where their highschoolers take classes and chances are you’ll get recommendations for a variety of online schools.

Did you make it to the end? Not much of a “quick takes”, huh? ¬†I hope I’ve shown that you don’t need to feel confined by your chosen method. Take what you love and leave the rest. Remember that one of the best things about homeschooling is it’s flexibility, so there’s no reason for tears on anyone’s part.

If you haven’t already, be sure to swing back to Jen’s for quicker takes and California to Korea for more homeschooling posts¬†from women who could actually run the Lyceum.


  1. Perfect timing! We are deciding what direction to go for next year. It’s just 1st grade + littles for us, but all of this info is so helpful. Thanks for the recommendations. I have some summer reading to do!

  2. this is so helpful!!! We’re just starting to pray about homeschooling (which makes me feel like I’m outside my damn mind) and it’s so.over.whelming. And the idea of a set schedule to our days makes me break out in a cold, acidic sweat. So thank you. Thank you, thank you.

  3. I’m pretty sure I could’ve written every word of this, minus the venture into lap books because are you out of your mind?!? That sounds like my version of torture. so much work and materials for minimal results plus CLUTTER. Ahhhhh!!!!!

  4. Wow, some of those books look familiar. I describe myself at this point as a classical curriculum with a Charlotte Mason approach and large doses of unschooling. I occasionally try to justify Minecraft as a legitimate subject area. At least it has inspired my 11 year old to care about spelling correctly?

  5. What handwriting books do you use? I’ve very recently realized (I volunteer with nuns, okay?) that my handwriting is terrible and I’d like to try and fix that…even if I have to pretend to be 8 while I’m doing it.

    1. I currently use Catholic Heritage Curricula and Handwriting Without Tears. If you want to brush up on penmanship, try Abeka, Seton, CHC or HWOT, in the higher grades/ levels. It’s an easy workbook format you could go through at your leisure.

  6. Just left a long comment that got lost. Grrrr, iPad. Thanks for linking up, Kelly. This is super helpful, and I’ll be sending lots o’ peeps your way.

  7. This is great! I’ve been getting mildly stressed about starting “real” homeschooling next year (as opposed to the tinkering pre-school stuff I’ve done thus far), and I really enjoy reading how you combine so many different methods. I have several different ones to combine too, and this is a good reminder of just how flexible we can be. And I might be looking into teaching Latin. I had never thought of doing it before, but I like your thoughts and reasons for it. Thanks!

  8. Love this post! I’m a pretty eclectic home schooler, also. Thanks for the book lists–this is going to come in handy for my planning this year!

  9. This is where my family has landed also…it’s a different mix every year and with more kids added to game it ebbs and flows a lot. Sometimes it drives me crazy to try and a the best from each method any use it without erring into the pitfalls of each method but we’re doing day by day!

  10. Thanks so much for the post. My oldest is beginning public K this fall but I’m beginning to research HS for our family. I admit I feel a bit intimidated by the options but plan to use this school year to experiment and learn. Is that even the right approach to take? Also my husband is, let’s say, unenthusiastic, about the idea of homeschool – he imagines many stereotypes and also that my daughter and I will argue all day and no one will actually learn anything. This post will be a great start for me.

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