Seven popular methods of homeschooling include Character Trait, Charlotte Mason, Classical, Eclectic, Traditional, Unit Studies, and Unschooling.
Character Trait - This method is often faith-based and begins with a goal of teaching and training children for character trait development, i.e., courage, kindness, loyalty, putting others first and one’s self second. It incorporates subject area learning and combines the two so that children can learn about and gain both character trait development as they learn other areas of knowledge. Character trait education is typically combined with other methods such as unit studies, traditional learning, and eclectic learning.
Charlotte Mason - The Charlotte Mason method uses narration to verify learning. For example, to test their knowledge, a child will be asked to tell all he knows about a subject in an essay or narrative style. Instead of using textbooks or worksheets, the child will study a complete book like a biography. The Mason method’s purpose is to foster self-learning and focuses on what the child knows, versus what he doesn’t know. It is used in unit studies and primarily in the elementary grades.
Classical - Classical education has three parts, each of which coincide with human develoopment and are often directly related to the development of the child. Classical education focuses on learning how to learn, and “Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning.”
First, grammar, or primary education, is the “what” of education, teaching a child the foundations of learning and emphasizing facts and content.
Second, logic, or secondary education, frames learning, addresses the “why” of education, teaching students how to analyze and understand subjects, and make connections among them.
Third, rhetoric, or tertiary education, teaches students to “express” what they know, think, believe, and feel about subjects and themselves, through wirting and speech. Here students practice using what they know, to present their ideas to others, and to prepare for moving on to pursue study in more depth, or a career.
Overall, classical education is language and history intensive. Classical education demands the use of an understanding of words, not images.
Eclectic - The eclectic method allows parents to combine the ideas and methods that will work best for their children. One subject may be better taught from a classical point of view, another from an unschooling point of view. This tends to become the method of choice for many homeschoolers as they observe and adjust to the changing educational needs of their children.
Traditional (School in a box or correspondence) - This method is characterized by a pre-set curriculum from a publisher and often from a correspondence school. It not only provides the curriculum, but also guidance and evaluation help. Sources for this curriculum might be a private school which also offers correspondence courses or a school which offers a distance or virtual learning experience. Hallmarks of this method are textbooks, workbooks, compositions, quizzes and tests.
Unit Studies - Unit studies are theme-based and integrate a number of subjects. For example, a unit on listening might include science, history, literature, and the performing arts. Such a listening unit would include a study of the ear, listening and sound, the history of music and musical instruments, word studies form the topics of music and sound, activities such as constructing musical instruments, playing musical instruments, and field trips to a concert, an ear doctor, and a musical instrument repair shop. Or, a unit study on the Atlantic Ocean might have the child learning ocean spelling words, reading about sea life, learning a sea chantey, learning about pirates and ocean trade routes and might finish with an aquarium field trip. Hallmarks of the unit study method are multiple-aged children in the learning group, flexible schedules, time-intensive planning and preparation, and project orientation. Math and reading skills are typically pursued separately and in addition to the family’s unit studies.
Unschooling - Unschooling, or lifestyle learning, allows a child to lead his/her education. Unschoolers believe that pushing a child to pursue academic work too early is a waste of time at best, and risks extinguishing the child’s natural curiosity, creativity, and their joy in learning. The ultimate unschool experience would be completely child-driven. Parents who unschool tend to see themselves as facilitators, not educators. Skills such as reading and math are pursued by a child, and facilitated by a parent, when the child realizes they need/want to know them, typically to help them in an area of interest. If a child gains a love of chemistry, the child will realize he or she also needs to learn math and reading to pursue this interest.
Characteristics of unschooling are creating the home to be an interesting environment, filling the home with materials for hands-on learning, a loose schedule, an emphasis on the love of learning, pursuing one subject or interest at a time, minimal media in the home, plus travel and field trip experiences.