Our Eclectic Homeschool

Throughout the homeschooling community, there are labels used to define specific homeschooling methods. There are those who follow the Charlotte Mason philosophy or the Classical approach, implement the Montessori, Waldorf, or Moore methods, use unit studies and/or lapbooks, unschool, school-at-home and many more options. Some homeschoolers use bits and pieces from all of these methods, designing their own style of homeschooling to suit their family. Those of us who do this are usually referred to as "eclectic homeschoolers."

These are just a few facets from the different homeschooling methods that we incorporated into our eclectic homeschool.

Charlotte Mason:

• Short periods of study on a particular subject– This was a big change in our classroom. Instead of trying to finish everything in one sitting, we focused more on grasping the concept and less on redundant practice. Once my children showed they understood something, we moved onto something else. We approached our learning in bite-size portions.

• Nature Walks and Journaling– This was a wonderful addition to our daily routine. My children love all things related to being outside. We used Anna Botsford Comstock's Handbook of Nature Study (which you can view in Google Books here) to guide our walks and recorded our findings with drawings and written observations in our journals.

• Copywork– We used this in every subject. Not only does it allow for handwriting practice, but we discovered that it also aided in the learning of facts, provided a better understanding and feel of an author's writing style, and helped them imitate writing structure in their own work.

• Book of Centuries – We also used this for every subject adding timeline entries not just for history but for just about everything from artists we studied to scientific discoveries to events in our own lives.

Classical Education:

• Chronological History Study– We chose not to jump around in our study of history but rather started at the beginning and moved progressively through the years. We went through the centuries twice, the first time using Susan Wise Bauer's Story of the World and then using the Mystery of History. Both fit our criteria of short lessons and interesting stories and kept history study from being dull while providing the understanding of how people, places, and events fit together.

Logic – I required my kids to take a logic course as one of their high school electives to instill in them to sensibly think through things in order to make good decisions in their lives. We used logic courses from Memoria Press.

• Classic books – We had a steady diet of literature classics.

Unit Studies:

• Topic-Based Studies– I put together several unit studies for my kids, focusing on a particular interest we had at the time. For example, our first year we did several unit studies on animals. We focused on one animal class at a time, learning about mammals, fish, birds, amphibians, and reptiles. We explored not only the science of each class, but incorporated math with measurement comparisons and population studies, language arts by reading books featuring an animal (think Jack London and Rudyard Kipling), exploring animals' place in history and learning geography about their habitats.

• Age appropriate activities– Even though there are 3 years between my younger two children, we were able to adjust the activities used in our unit studies to meet their grade level abilities and still study together.


• More topic-based studies– I think lapbooking was one of my favorite homeschooling tools because it appealed to the natural creativeness of my children and myself. We used some prepared printable lapbook kits from In the Hands of a Child and Home School in the Woods and created our own using the blank templates we found here on Homeschool Share. We would brainstorm together what things to include in our homemade lapbooks and would research the topic together. These were great for our "rabbit trail" days.


• Interest-led learning– It was an important goal I had to not only teach the things that my kids had to know, but to also let them pursue those things in which they took a deeper interest. In addition to the animal and nature studies we did all through our homeschooling years, we also incorporated some other things into our subject studies. For example, my children participated in Scouting, so there were times when we worked on their achievement badges as part of their homeschool days. Another interest they had was ice skating. Living in the south, skating on a lake really isn't going to happen, but we were lucky enough to have an indoor rink 30 minutes from our house. Once a week we headed to the rink for lessons and counted it towards our PE requirement.

While these are examples of some of what we used in our homeschool, this list is not inclusive. We also implemented the use of textbooks, manipulatives, and other curriculum to meet the needs of our classroom. We used what worked for us and what we saw brought the education results we desired. What worked for us may be off-target for you. I believe that any homeschool method is not a one-size-fits-all kind of thing and we each have to find what is best for us.