Do You Understand the Difference Between Homeschool Methods & Distance Education?

The overarching benefit of home schooling is that you have time to teach your children your values without the constant interruption of external demands such as school, homework and popular culture. As a homeschooling family you set the course. You are the major influence in the lives of your children, not their peers. However, it doesn’t take much reading about homeschooling to realise that there are many ideas on how it should be done.

Different methods have their associated dogma and when you are new to homeschooling it can be confusing trying to sort out which method is best for you. You do not have to.  It is not necessary to get bogged down into one style. Many ideas overlap and many curriculums are written with a certain style in mind but with a commonsense approach you can work out your own style of home education.

Whilst a label isn’t necessary, for there are a lot of labels out there, I thought I’d explain a little about some of the education labels or methods that people use about homeschooling.

Christian or Secular Homeschooling

Homeschoolers have many different reason and philosophies for why they choose to homeschool. In my local homeschool community we see our common bond as homeschooling and not our religious affiliations. Whilst Christian Homeschooling In Australia is a growing movement there are many groups that have no religious affiliations.

World View Of Homeschool Methods

Your personal worldview has more to do with your education philosophy rather than your method of homeschooling. All of these methods can be adapted to a Christian or secular worldview. When choosing curriculum you need to think about the worldview of the provider rather than the method. Do you want to teach Biblical creation? How do you feel about evolution? What about fairy stories, myths and fables.

My Homeschool offers an Australian Christian Home Schooling Curriculum.

A Little Bit About Homeschool Labels

You don’t have to subscribe to a method of homeschooling but the list below will give you a brief overview of all the different methods that people use and refer to. All the different methods emphasise a particular style of teaching which you may find you naturally gravitate towards.

1. Eclectic Homeschool Method

Eclectic is the label given to those of us who borrow freely from a range of different styles of homeschool philosophies and combine them to find our own personal approach, and hopefully our children’s learning style. Eclectic homeschooling allows flexibility.

2.Traditional Homeschool Method – School At Home

This approach tends to be a workbook and textbook approach. It is like setting up a mini school at home. Lots of pre packaged distance education/homeschool providers use this approach.

3. Charlotte Mason Homeschool Method – My Favourite!

The Charlotte Mason Method is a simple yet wonderful collection of delightful ideas and teaching opportunities. It offers children the keys to education through gentle instruction, living books and the formation of good habits. Her methods are perfectly suited to home schooling and are extremely popular. Many books and curriculums have been written and based on her methods and she also wrote a six volume series herself. Learning about the Charlotte Mason Method made me enjoy homeschooling and convinced me to keep homeschooling when I’d nearly given up. You will find many of her ideas suggested on this site. Her motto was “Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life.” Learn more about Charlotte Mason Homeschooling.

My Homeschool offers an Australian Homeschool Curriculum based on her methods.

4. Classical Homeschool Method

This method is based on the great books of the world and stages of learning. It upholds the Ancient Greek style of learning as its model and is very academic with a strong literature component.

“Classical education 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.” Susan Wise Bauer

  • The first years of schooling are called the “Grammar Stage”. During this stage children have a lot of memory work and drill.
  • The second phase is the “Logic Stage,” when facts are placed into their logical framework, and the relationships with different concepts and ideas are examined.
  • The third phase is the “Rhetoric Stage,” when children learn to express their thoughts with force and originality.

Classical education and the Charlotte Mason method overlap in many places but the Charlotte Mason method is a gentler approach.

5. Natural Learning

Natural learning seizes natural curiosity and learning opportunity. As parents we are well versed in the techniques of natural learning. We have watched our children learn to eat, talk, walk and scribble. We have worked with their maturity and curiosity. This method need not stop once our children get to school age.

6. Unschooling

“Unschooling is a trusting partnership, a non-coercive connection with an engaged, involved parent, a life of learning naturally without schoolwork or teaching determining the flavour of the days, a life where learning isn’t separate from living. It is learning by living, following interests and rabbit trails….. It is trusting that everything necessary for a life well lived with be naturally learned in the process of a life well lived.” Karen Ahern

Unschooling is another ideology people use to educate their children. It has no curriculum, no peer comparison, no timetables, no schedules and no schoolish materials. Parents and children are actively engaged in providing resources and experiences that support their child’s passions and desire to learn. Unschooling is very much a homeschool method that is lifestyle based. In fact they wouldn’t even call it a method. For more information see the Unschooling in Australia.

7. Unit Study Learning

Typically a unit study is a theme, or topic, based teaching method that incorporates a range of subjects and learning styles. It has a holistic approach to learning. Children can discover the many facets and deepen their understanding of a topic. Art, science, literature, social studies and more can all be taught using one core topic. Some homeschooling families use unit study as their primary homeschool method and others (like me) use unit studies as more of as a short term break to our regular homeschool routine.

8. Distance Education

There is actually a big difference between being a distance education student and being a registered homeschooler.
When you are with a school, or a distance education provider, you are accountable to the school. You send all your documentation in to them and they run the schedule and set the curriculum that must be done. Your child is actually still a school student and not technically homeschooled.
When you homeschool you buy the curriculum  but you still have the flexibility to run the schedule or even change around the curriculum if desired. You are not accountable to a school. You are responsible for your child’s registration and you make the application to homeschool to your state’s registration unit.  You are in control of your schedule and can take holidays whenever you want. If you like to follow the school term schedule you can but it is not compulsory. You don’t send any work to a school to be checked. You mark their work and keep their records.
Whether you are homeschooling or doing distance education, you will need to send paperwork off to someone. When you homeschool you apply to your state’s homeschool registration body.

And More Homeschool Methods

It doesn’t stop there; you can also use the Montessori Method, the Steiner method, the Robinson method and the list goes on.