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Homeschooling Methods 101

If you have been following our series, I first wrote about the 10 Steps to Start Catholic Homeschooling and then on Goal Setting in the Catholic Homeschool, now we are going to discuss the different homeschooling methods available to you.  So you’ve decided to Homeschool, you looked up the laws in your state, you contacted the local organization and even want to join a homeschool co-op.  Now what?  Well, now you need to decide what method you will use in your homeschool.  First, I would like you to learn a little bit about yourself as a teacher and a former student.

As you read through these available methods, please keep in mind four things:

1. TEACHING STYLE:  Your preferred teaching style, which you may or may not be aware of yet.

2. LEARNING STYLE:  Your child’s learning style. We will discuss this in more detail later but basically, this refers to how your child learns best. For example, some children are auditory learners as they capture things easily by just listening to a lecture. Other children are visual learners and need to read along, highlight, and follow. It is important as your child’s teacher to find their learning method. Which you will use often but not exclusively.

3. WHEN ALL ELSE FAILS:  There is always the eclectic approach which is a hodgepodge of all methods.

4. FLEXIBILITY.  Be flexible. You might begin using one method and later realize you need to shift gears.

Next, I’d like to explore all the methods available:

1.  Textbook-Based/Traditional Schooling Method: this is the method most of us were taught in traditional classroom settings using textbooks.

This method works well under the following conditions:

  • want your child to be studying material in a similar scope and sequence as other public or private schools,
  • value the style of a classroom school and want your child to experience that at home,
  • want your child to be able to do well and learn through fill-in-the-blanks and quizzes,
  • have definite ideas about what content you want your child to learn, and it matches well with the textbook you have chosen.

2.  Classical Homeschooling Method: This method depends on a three-part process of training the mind. The early years of school are spent in absorbing facts, systematically laying the foundations for advanced study. In the middle grades, students learn to think through arguments. In the high school years, they learn to express themselves. This classical pattern is called the trivium.

This method works well under the following conditions:

  • like structure,
  • desire to evaluate your child’s learning based on academic standards,
  • see the value of an education that places primacy on the written word, both in reading and writing well,
  • believe that developing good study skills fairly early on in your child’s life will benefit him greatly as time goes on,
  • want to concentrate on classics of literature as a tool to develop critical thinking,
  • do no’t mind being fairly involved in the process of your child’s education –discussing books, giving dictation, encouraging the reaching of academic goals,
  • have a child who is academically oriented.

3.  Charlotte Mason (CM )/Living Books Homeschooling Method: A method of education in which children are taught as whole persons through a wide range of interesting living books, firsthand experiences, and good habits.

This method works well under the following conditions:

  • want to create a learning environment that encourages your child to explore and appreciate the world around him, perhaps not rigidly sticking to a schedule,
  • see a value in evaluating your child’s learning on things other than formal written tests,
  • want to offer a well-rounded education, including enjoying art, nature, music and of course lots of books,
  • don’t mind being very involved in the process of your child’s education – discussing books, giving dictation, listening and encouraging narration, and enjoying poetry, art and music together,
  • have a child who is does no’t mind not having lots of boxes to check off.

4. Montessori Method: This method is best described as an “Aid to Life” rather than a specific method of passing on academic objectives. It prepares students to succeed in a world where technology is changing the way we live at a very rapid pace, and general life skills are far more valuable than mastery of an outdated academic curriculum.

This method works well under the following conditions:

  • want your children of different ages all studying similar subjects at their own level,
  • have enough time to interact with your children about the materials they are studying and how they relate,
  • see a value in taking the time to do hands-on-projects and group learning around a central theme,
  • or your child don’t not following a traditional scope and sequence.

5.  Unit Study Method/Notebooking Method:  Unit Studies, which typically tie in closely with Lapbooking or Notebooking.  Basically, it takes a central theme and builds lessons around that theme. One theme will include all or most areas of study by focusing on the main idea.

This method works well under the following conditions:

  • want your child to have the freedom to follow her own interests,
  • have enough confidence in the process of learning that you don’t mind if not all of your child’s learning can be documented by a written test (see Unschooling),
  • see a value in having your child develop expertise in an interest, and are willing to let other activities take second place, at least for a season,
  • have a child who has interests, hobbies or collections they want to pursue,
  • you want to document their learning by a written record of a notebook,
  • your child is willing to learn to let his creativity out in his learning. Note: he doesn’t necessarily have to start off with skill, but at least willing to learn.

6.  Unschooling/Relaxed Homeschool Method:  allowing children as much freedom to learn in the world, as their parents can comfortably bear. The advantage of this method is that it doesn’t require you, the parent, to become someone else, such as a professional teacher pouring knowledge into child-vessels on a planned basis. Instead you live and learn together, pursuing questions and interests as they arise and using conventional schooling on an on-demand basis, if at all. This is the way we learn before going to school and the way we learn when we leave school and enter the world of work.

This method works well under the following conditions:

  • don’t mind not having a set scope and sequence and structure to your child’s learning,
  • want your child to have the freedom to follow her own interests,
  • have enough confidence in the process of learning that you don’t mind if not all of your child’s learning can be documented by a written test,
  • see a value in having your child develop expertise in an interest, and are willing to let other activities take second place, at least for a season,
  • have a child who has interests, hobbies or collections they want to pursue.

7.  Computer Based Homeschooling Method this method is exactly what you read, learning done via the computer either locally or online

This method works well under the following conditions:

  • want to have your child follow a set scope and sequence,
  • want to have step-by-step accountability for your child,
  • see a value in using modern technology and don’t have concerns for its over-use,
  • need to find a way to not be involved so much in the day-to-day process of your child’s education, though you would be available to give help and general guidance,
  • have a child who likes being able to work at his own pace and use the computer.

8.  Literature-Based Homeschooling Method this method uses literature as the core of the curriculum and pulls from the book to incorporate other subjects.

This method works well under the following conditions:

  • want to have your child follow a set scope and sequence,
  • want to have general accountability for your child,
  • see a value in having your child love to read by reading books he or she will love to read,
  • want to be involved in the day-to-day process of your child’s education, through discussion that will draw out what your child is learning and perhaps controversial issues raised through the books.

9.  Eclectic Homeschooling Method this is the combination approach.

This method works well under the following conditions:

  • don’t mind spending the time to find the materials that will suit your child’s unique interests and learning styles,
  • don’t mind not following someone else’s scope and sequence, and thus not mind the possible “gaps” in their learning that might come from jumping around from one curriculum to another,
  • see the value in using various curriculum and home school methods because through different methods, your child gets a more full picture of the subject at hand,
  • have a child who likes flexibility in her learning, who does not mind not using the same materials over again.

No matter the method you select make sure it is one you are comfortable working with or at least feel brave enough to attempt. Another thing to keep in mind is the type of Mass you attend and the theology program you select, this will help come Sundays at Mass.

Stay with us as we explore other factors in Catholic Homeschooling 101 next Saturday.

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10 Steps to Start {Catholic} Homeschooling

Recently, in a Catholic Homeschool group on Facebook, a mom commented about her doubts regarding homeschooling. My dear friend and blogger over at Totus Tuus Family, Allison, replied one of the sweetest and most perfect replies, she said,

“”If God leads you to it, He will lead you through it. I had MANY of those same doubts. I read lots of homeschool and Catholic homeschool books looking for those who had conquered the obstacles I perceived and that combined with prayer fortified me. Am I perfect at it? No, no one is…no education is perfect. Let God work on your fears, it sounds like He IS working on your heart.”

This got me thinking about my own homeschooling journey which is only four years young. How did I get here and what helped me stick with it? Then I wondered how many other moms out there on the fence about homeschooling and have not because of fear or lack of knowledge. Is this you? Have you ever thought about homeschooling your children? Ever wonder what it is all about? So you are considering homeschooling and wonder – what do I do next? Here is an easy 10 step approach to commence Catholic Homeschooling:

Step 1: Pray. Ask the Lord to help you and your husband discern if He is calling your family to the life changing decision to home educate. (note: praying about it might not ease that unsure feeling but it will help you realize if you even want to go to step two). You might want to go to Adoration, go to daily Mass, do a Novena as a family, and pray often until you clearly hear what the Lord wants of you.

Step 2: Why Homeschool? Make a list of the pros and cons of homeschooling your family. Ask yourself questions like: Why do I want to homeschool? Do you like the choices you have available in the public, private, or Catholic schools in your area? If public schooling is not an option, can you afford the other two options (Catholic schools have scholarships if you cannot afford it, please look into those). What do you want your children to accomplish through their education? How long will you homeschool? What grades do you want to homeschool? (some families homeschool K-12, others just K-8, others just high school). Also, talk to your children (if they are old enough) about homeschooling, they may have some questions that you would want to ease them with. Don’t shy away from taking children homeward bound from regular schooling environments.

Step 3: Philosophy Statement. Take the answers to step two and write a mission statement for your family. State the reasons why you are homeschooling and how you want to accomplish this. Home educating is more than a full time job; it is a life-altering decision. When the schooling gets tough, this mission statement (which I also suggest you print and place in the room you will be homeschooling) will help you recall why you took on this beautiful journey. This statement should be written by both you and your husband (even if you are the main educator), and will help you stay focused on the ultimate goals for your family. Here are some examples of Homeschooling Mission Statements.

What Mary Kay Clark says about this: “An important first step is to write out a Statement of Philosophy, to make it clear to yourself, your spouse, and your children what you hope to accomplish. Why is a Home School necessary? What are your purposes? What are the values you intend to impart to your children? Your Statement of Philosophy should be in positive terms however, and not simply reflect your objections to something in the local schools. It is vital that you and your spouse agree on the Statement and, if you enroll in a Home Study School, their Statement of Philosophy should agree with yours. Your statement could prove vitally important as evidence to local authorities of your “religious convictions” and “sincerity of belief.””


Step 4: Research Laws. Find out what the laws and legislation say about homeschooling in your state are. Every state has different requirements from what the educator needs to have to what each child is required to do to what age you are legally bound to start. The Home School Legal Defense Association is a great source for finding these laws for home educating in your particular state. If your child has already been schooling, what do you need to do to register your school with the local district/state and unenroll him from his current school?

Step 5: Read. There are many wonderful books about homeschooling out there and particular to Catholic Homeschooling. The main ones that come to mind are these: Catholic Home Schooling: A Handbook for Parents by Mary Kay Clark (of Seton Homeschool), Designing Your Own Classical Curriculum by Laura Berquist (of Mother of Divine Grace), Homeward Bound: A Useful Guide to Catholic Home Schooling by Kimberly Hahn (yes, Scott Hahn’s lovely wife), Catholic Homeschool Companion by Maureen Whitman and Rachel Mackson, and A Haystack Full of Needles by Alice Gunther.

Step 6: Curriculum Approaches. You will need to decide which curriculum approach you want to take with your family. This depends on many factors including, but not limited to: the size of your family, the ages of your children, and what your budget is (but please don’t let money stop you!), your child(ren)’s style of learning, and your teaching style. Ask yourself, do you want to enroll your child(ren) in a program or do you want to keep grades and records on your own? Do you want to write your own lesson plans or do you want to buy them already done? Also, refer back to your mission statement to make decisions on curriculum approaches. Are you going all Catholic books, some Catholic books, all secular? You might want to also order catalogs from the different Catholic homeschooling providers to get an idea of what they are all about, what books they provide, etc. You can join Catholic Book Swap on Facebook or CathSwap on Yahoo Groups to ask questions about books and curriculum as well.

Step 7: Set Measurable Goals. Make sure you go child by child and set goals for each child. These goals should include the common core subjects in addition to extracurricular goals. Also consider the abilities of your child(ren) when setting these goals. Ask yourself: What do you want your child to learn and how will you track their progress? What are the state’s or district requirements of each child at their grade level? Make sure you divide the list into short-term and long-term goals. Please note that these are to guide you and not suppress you; they will help pave the road to a successful homeschooling experience. They may change in time but at the heart of it they should also mimic your school’s Mission Statement. Your goals should include: Cognitive Goals, Spiritual Goals, Social Goals, and Physical Goals. Goals should be written, challenging, measurable and specific, tied to a deadline (per quarter or semester), and not to conflict with each other. Having goals helps keep the children and teacher focused, motivated, and on track. Reaching goals will give you a sense of accomplishment. Not reaching goals gives you specific insight on what subjects need more attention and review.

Step 8: Homeschool Conferences. If you can, attend a local homeschool conference. Local conferences are a great way to connect with others in your area that are also contemplating or those that are “experts” at this. Also, a great way to learn more about what home educating is really about (vs. what society thinks). Going to a conference? Use my Conference Survival Kit found on my personal blog. I find homeschool conferences revitalizing! The speakers are often experts in the field of homeschooling. If you can make it out to the Immaculate Heart of Mary National Conference sponsored by Seton Homeschool out in D.C., please do! Last year was the first year I attended. I got to meet many of the wonderful women that have taught me so much in the past years about homeschooling via their blogs or online. I also got to spend time learning more about our beautiful Catholic Faith and even to go to Confession, it’s like a mini-retreat of sorts! Plus, you get to go out to lunch and dinner with like-minded friends! Watch their video.

Step 9: Local Support Groups. Look for a local associations that will support your mission and curriculum style. You can learn so much from local homeschoolers! Look for Catholic groups in your area that will help you keep a familiar and similar vision for your school. Some of these groups have email lists on Yahoo Groups, you can start asking questions there. Some groups require you join their group before inviting you to their Yahoo mail list. Catholic Homeschool Support has a great search engine to find a support group in your area. If your group has a Co-Op, consider contacted them and asking if you can visit for a couple of hours or a day so you can see what they do. Co-Ops can be a great way to have encouragement the first years homeschooling. Sometimes local groups are not available, thanks to technology, we have online support groups available. On Facebook there is a Catholic Homeschool Moms group you can ask to join. In that group of over 600 moms, you can post questions and ask for advise whenever needed. Some of the Yahoo Groups are also online only such as Catholic Homeschooling. Find those available to you. You can also search Catholic Homeschooling Blogs for suggestions and advice. Just be careful not to overwhelm yourself with looking at ALL that others are doing!!!

Step 10: Get Organized. If you read through my list, you noticed I kept saying homeschooling is a life-altering journey; well it is. Homeschooling is not a schooling choice alone. Many people have used A Mother’s Rule of Life by Holly Pierlot to organize their homes and make the children managers of their homes along with mom. Personally, I love Laura Dominick’s book A Plan for Joy in the Home. Both books take you step by step on how to create a schedule for chores and schooling. You will love it!

Now, It is my hopes that after 15 years in the classroom and four years homeschooling, this little list will help others who are contemplating home educating their children. Will this be an easy task, you ask? NO. Anything good and fulfilling is not easy in life. Is it possible to homeschool? Absolutely, do not fear! My very wise friend, Nola, puts it best:

“Personally, I think anyone can make it [homeschooling] work. We are our children’s best teachers. No one starts out thinking it will be easy, or they’ll be “good” at it. It comes down to priorities and goals. And experience. I think if a parent thinks homeschooling is superior to away school then the only thing standing in their way is fear. Fear can be overcome!…The only thing you need is prayer. I struggle all the time with whether I should be doing this (and she’s only 6!!!). But those fears and doubts are not from God. No more than the fears and doubts in marriage, in parenting, in anything that is good. Pray for clarity and peace. He is always there for us.”




On a side note, some of the contributors of Catholic Sistas are already homeschooling and often we give each other support in this area of our lives. We have now created a team that will be presenting different topics on Catholic Home Educating. In our first series on Catholic Homeschooling we will cover different topics regarding this complex yet fulfilling decision for your family. Join us in this journey of Catholic Homeschooling 101 where we will cover the following tips, tricks, and ideas! I’ll be talking about:

  • About Goals
  • About Learning
  • About Life
  • About Growing Up
  • About Fun
  • About Sleep
  • About Letting Go
  • About Love
  • About Procrastination
  • About Time Management
  • About Work
  • and more…