Why every homeschooler should consider eclectic homeschooling? That title is about as controversial as I get. But having homeschooled for 20 years, I do believe in the benefits of eclectic homeschooling.
Whether you are already an eclectic homeschooler or you adhere to a particular approach such as Charlotte Mason, classical, or unschooling, I hope you will allow me a moment to share three reasons for my conviction and tips for becoming an effective eclectic homeschooler.
Why Eclectic Homeschooling Might Be Right for You
#1. Be an eclectic homeschooler because you will learn more.
The first reason I believe every homeschooler should be an eclectic homeschooler is that you will learn more using an eclectic approach.
I am a clinical psychologist who has not been practicing since I began homeschooling. But if I wanted to return to my practice, I would have to demonstrate eighty hours of continuing education for the past two years. I could look for continuing education credits that would reinforce my practice and experience, or I could take courses that would give me new ideas. I love learning new things, don’t you? Home educators should get continuing education too.
But if we participate in only Charlotte Mason forums, attend only Charlotte Mason conferences, and read only Charlotte Mason inspired books, we can become fully convinced that the Charlotte Mason way is the only way to teach our kids. Like people who order the same dish at a restaurant visit after visit, we don’t know what we are missing.
I remember the excitement I had when I first learned about unit studies, a Thomas Jefferson education, and Classical Conversations. I can’t imagine missing out on those great homeschool treats, however enthralling the Charlotte Mason approach is.
When we are willing to try different approaches to teaching our kids, essentially becoming eclectic homeschoolers, we enrich our own education. We become better teachers, and certainly better advocates for homeschooling, when we are knowledgeable of many different homeschooling styles.
#2. Be an eclectic homeschooler because your kids will learn more.
The second reason I believe every homeschooler should be an eclectic homeschooler is that our children’s education benefits.
I have homeschooled six children who have different personalities and different learning styles. I have seen even more variety in my friends’ children whom I taught in our home-based co-op. One of the greatest benefits of homeschooling is tailoring the teaching to the child.
If you aren’t willing to try new approaches, your children may not be learning as much as they could be.
Our tendency is to want to use a homeschooling approach that fits us. And there is something to be said for that. If momma ain’t happy, nobody’s happy. But eclectic homeschooling allows us to spend time teaching in a way we enjoy AND in a way our children enjoy.
My preferred way of teaching is through read-alouds. But when I had many young, active boys, I knew I needed to get out there and build a castle for a medieval study, even though I didn’t want to. They loved it and remember fondly so many of the hands-on activities I did with them in our unit studies.
Exposing kids to many different homeschooling styles gives children a better opportunity to find their best way of learning.
A bonus for me has been reducing rebellion in strong-willed students.
#3. Be an eclectic homeschooler to maintain your freedom.
The third, and, I believe the best argument, for becoming an eclectic homeschooler is freedom. I don’t know a homeschooler who did not have freedom as one of their reasons for pursuing home education. Whether a homeschooling family wants to be free of government mandates, ineffective teaching, or just a restrictive schedule, homeschoolers crave liberty.
For this reason, I am confused when I see homeschoolers trading their newfound educational freedom for the restrictions of a particular homeschooling style. Whether it’s rules like “unhomeschoolers don’t limit screen time,” “classical homeschoolers learn Latin,” or “Charlotte Mason homeschoolers study Shakespeare every year,” I don’t understand why we would trade one set of regulations for another.
I so appreciate the many advocates of homeschool styles who inspire us with their writing and teaching. And through a strict interpretation of a particular style, we can learn which of its attributes are best suited to our homeschool.
However, following a homeschool approach to the letter and making a particular teacher the ultimate authority in our homeschooling surrenders the very freedom we were seeking in the first place.
What does effective eclectic homeschooling look like?
In order to improve your learning, your students’ learning, and maintain your freedom, I recommend eclectic homeschooling.
The first task you have is to learn and embrace as many of the homeschool styles you care to focus on. Read the books, check the forums, and even embrace the philosophy exclusively for a time, so you can learn its advantages and disadvantages for you and your kids.
The second step to becoming an effective eclectic homeschooler is to take an honest inventory of your homeschool. Even if Charlotte Mason recommends that the kids be outside six hours a day, is that practical for you? We live so close to the police station that I’m pretty sure my kids would have walked there to complain if I had adopted that policy. During this period of honest evaluation, stay out of the forums. Stop reading the books. If a particular approach isn’t working for you, don’t assume it’s because you aren’t doing it right. Instead, ask why it isn’t working for you. I learned not to critique myself but to critique the method when I did a series of experiments called A Year of Living Productively. I learned what helped me to get important things done without the self-flagellation that wastes time. I encourage you to take that stance if a style doesn’t work. Your homeschool approach should fit you and not the other way around.
The third and final step to becoming an effective eclectic homeschooler is to experiment. The psychological research I did in graduate school began with a lot of research. I thought I knew, based on my study, what the results of my experimentation would be. But I was often wrong. You will be too. Here’s why: Human beings are the most unpredictable creatures. From your research on unschooling, you may be sure that it’s a perfect fit for your family, only to have Junior complain that he misses his math workbook.
You may love the idea of your child memorizing key information in a classical approach, but your child is having a tantrum every time you begin. Your kids made love unit studies, but if you hate them, there is very little chance that they will work for your homeschool. And you and your kids are always changing. What works this semester may not the next.
But when you are an eclectic homeschooler, you have many tools at your disposal. You can adjust to recapture your own and your kids’ enthusiasm for learning. Modify any approach to suit you. Do unit studies online (referral link), do Classical Conversations at home, or take a sane approach to Charlotte Mason homeschooling. As an eclectic homeschooler, you can easily create a homeschooling formula that works, even if only for now.
I do believe that every homeschooler ought to be an eclectic homeschooler. But I would never steal your freedom by telling you that you don’t have a choice. Eclectic homeschooling can be using many modified approaches at once or a series of them using a strict interpretation. However you choose to homeschool, I wish you joy in the adventure!
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