Homeschoolers have the privilege of choosing both what they teach (curriculum) and how they teach it (method).
School-in-a-box: Some families like to purchase a pre-packaged curriculum in which all subjects have been scheduled and daily lesson plans are provided. This choice of curriculum often corresponds with a choice to use the traditional method of teaching. When purchasing a pre-packaged curriculum, it is important to make sure that the curriculum covers all subjects required by your local laws; sometimes additional supplementation will be necessary.
Eclectic: Many families like to research the available curricula and for every subject select the materials best suited to their child(ren). This choice of curriculum can correspond to any teaching method.
Classical/Trivium: Sometimes confused with a method, a classical approach to homeschooling is a choice of subject matter, not a choice of how that subject matter is presented. Subjects are taught at the developmental age most suitable. In the early grades, emphasis is placed on learning facts (reading, writing, spelling, arithmetic, Latin, art, music…). In the middle grades, students learn logic to be able to reason with facts previously learned in the early grades. At the upper level, students study rhetoric to enable them to use language, both written and spoken, effectively. Any teaching method can be used with a classical education. It is possible to use the eclectic approach in selecting classical curriculum.
School-At-Home: Families can duplicate in their homes the approach traditionally used in a classroom setting. This method of teaching relies heavily on graded texts or workbooks. Students read, then write answers to questions about the material. Quizzes and tests are given to determine what the student has learned.
Unschooling: At the opposite end of the spectrum from the traditional classroom is the unschooling method. Unschoolers recognize that all people, including children, naturally are curious and want to learn, so provide opportunities for their children to learn about those things in which they are interested.
Unit Studies: Families study all subjects around a single topic. Commercial unit-study guides are available ranging from baseball to lighthouses to gardening and dozens of other subjects. Many of these take approximately five weeks to complete, then a new unit of study must be selected. It is possible for families to design their own unit-studies. For example, a unit study on meat rabbits could involve reading about rabbits; using language arts research skills to learn about meat breeds, their cost, and where they can be obtained; spelling words related to raising rabbits; math skills in designing appropriate living quarters based on rabbits’ need for space; woodworking (occupational education) in constructing rabbit hutches (also uses math skills); accounting in keeping track of the costs involved in raising rabbits; biology/genetics in breeding; Bible study in learning what God’s Word says about eating rabbit; anatomy/health in helping to dress out rabbits when they’re butchered; and writing about rabbits. We raised rabbits for three years, but the main study focus took a full year.
Charlotte Mason Method: Charlotte Mason was an educator who lived in the late 1800s. She gave children credit for having brains, and believed that they should be given the opportunity to use them. Families using the Charlotte Mason method do not rely on dry textbooks; they put students in direct contact with the material being studied and allow children to interact with it. This involves getting outdoors to observe God’s creation, trips to museums, and a study of art and nature, as well as spending time with good-quality, whole, living books.
Literature Based: The literature-based method allows children time to read an abundance of good literature about the subjects being studied. Often subjects are integrated, particularly language arts and history. This approach can be combined with any of the above-mentioned methods.