In some respects, there is comfort in the label that homeschool styles provide. We can quickly identify those who are most like us. We can quickly narrow curriculum choices within a particular style. And in some sense, we have our goals and vision defined for us within that homeschool style.
But then, there’s that small problem that unique humans don’t fit into neat little boxes very well. After all, many of us homeschool specifically to escape a particular box and have the freedom to be unique and to educate our children in a way that respects their individuality. So how do we blend homeschool styles and methods when our child’s needs aren’t sufficiently met with classical or delight-directed homeschool styles? Blending the values and methods of different homeschool styles allows us to create an educational canvas for our child’s specific strengths and weaknesses.
Know your own homeschool preferences.
Jot down a few of your own ideas first. Describe your perfect homeschool day. What does it look like? Are children at desks and computers working quietly or busily crafting with supplies and books scattered across the floor? Or, are the children piled around you on the couch as you read-aloud? Have an idea in your own mind of what this journey looks like for you?
Next, do some research. Read books or blogs, watch YouTube videos, discover how different people homeschool. There is value in variety, and we can learn much from those who educate differently. Then, narrow your search field to the homeschool styles that most appeal to you and take notes as you learn about those homeschool styles. What is it that appeals to you? Is it the short, direct lessons? Is it the focus on logic and argument? Is it the opportunity for your child to pursue his own interests?
As you discover more about different homeschool methods, you will find that some things fit your own values and vision and some do not. In one sense, you are shaping your own homeschool style by taking bits and pieces from different methods. Maybe you like the four-year rotation of teaching history, but you want your child to dig deeper into the topics of those eras that she is most interested in. Maybe you like the nature study of Charlotte Mason but want to take it a step further by bringing in the imagination and wonder of Waldorf.
Know your child’s needs.
It stands to reason that we can’t meet our child’s needs if we don’t know what they are. What are their educational strengths and weaknesses? What are the strengths of their personality and character? What talents and gifts do our children have and want to develop?
Finding the gaps in our child’s learning is perhaps the easiest to identify. You might be able to get a fix on this by just looking at the previous year’s work. Or, you can get a good perspective of where your child is at with a standards-based test that allows you to see specific results within each area.
But knowing what your child needs is largely trial and error. Try different approaches and take note of what your child enjoyed or struggled with. If your child struggled, was it because the method was the wrong fit for your child or because the method revealed an area of weakness that other methods hadn’t addressed? Not every struggle in learning should be eliminated; learning is, in one sense, overcoming struggles and weaknesses. The right method will help your child overcome.
Recognize that your child’s needs change. This is not a one-time procedure that sets you up for success from now on. It’s a continual process of refining and making adjustments.
Choose from the best of each homeschool method.
Once you have an idea of what you value about each style of homeschool and what your child’s specific needs are, you can blend the best of each homeschool style to create an environment of learning that suits your family.
For our family, we value the emphasis of logic and discernment from the classical homeschool style, and we recognize that the innate structure within this method is helpful for our ADHD family. We need structure. On the other hand, rigid structure smothers the creative strengths within ADHD.
So we blend elements of Charlotte Mason and delight-directed. Short lessons, an educational feast of opportunities, intentional outdoor time punctuate our week with the balance of structure and variety that my children’s busy minds need.
Within our studies, particularly within history and science, are opportunities for my kids to delve into topics that interest them. I allow them to choose the projects that suit their talents and interests, and I say yes as often as I can when they have creative ideas of their own.
- “Can I write my description about Mars instead of a castle?” Sure.
- “Can I make my own ice planet?” Yes!
- “Can we make our own trench-warfare with the couches and nerf guns?” Ummm…I guess.
Some homeschoolers would call this eclectic learning, which in one sense, it is. But whatever you choose to call your particular homeschool-blend, it’s important to remember that the label should help us identify and find what we need to succeed, not box us in or limit how we teach.
Education begins with our child. We teach our child, not a curriculum or a homeschool style. So when that curriculum or homeschool method is no longer meeting the needs of the child we are educating, it’s time to re-evaluate and make adjustments. It’s not failure; it’s just good sense.