Which of the Different Homeschooling Styles is Right For Your Family?
Whether you’re a veteran homeschooler or just getting started on your homeschool journey, you’ve probably heard that there is more than one way to homeschool your children. If you are new to homeschooling, you may wonder about the advantages and disadvantages of each of the different styles of homeschooling. If you’ve been homeschooling for a while you likely have tried several different homeschooling styles before settling on the one that works for your family.
What works for one homeschooling family may not work for another. This brief guide to the different styles of homeschooling will help you decide which homeschooling style is a good fit for your family.
Pros and Cons of the Virtual Academy or Online School
A virtual academy is an online school that allows children to learn from home. You can often do school at home with your local school system through a virtual or online school. Your child is taught by teacher in either a live streamed setting or with pre-recorded videos.
Advantages of a Virtual Academy
The advantages of using an online school or virtual academy are numerous. With a virtual academy, the parent knows that the child is being exposed to the same grade-level topics that he or she would be getting in a traditional classroom setting. The child is taught by licensed teachers in a manner that closely replicates a traditional school setting. Using a virtual academy may help to soothe parental fears about teaching one’s own children, keeping children at grade level, and covering the same subjects that the children would be taught in school. In addition, the parent doesn’t need to keep up with grades, testing, and attendance any more than they would in a traditional school setting.
A virtual academy is great for parents who want their children exposed to traditional education without exposure to the social and emotional pitfalls of the school system. Virtual academies are also helpful for students with illnesses that may prevent them from attending school in a traditional setting.
Disadvantages of a Virtual Academy
The disadvantages of a virtual academy include price and flexibility. Some virtual academies are more flexible than others, so be sure you understand the requirements of the virtual academy and your responsibilities before signing up. Since a virtual academy or online school provides the same education a student would receive in a traditional public or private school setting, the requirements for attendance are the same. If your family, like mine, enjoys the freedom of time that is possible with homeschooling, a virtual academy may disappoint with its lack of flexibility.
The virtual academy can be the priciest form of homeschooling. Virtual schools that are a part of the public school system may be a more affordable option, but if you are homeschooling in order to have more freedom in regard to your child’s learning, then this option may not appeal to you.
Pros and Cons of Structured School At Home
When a family chooses to do structured school at home, they typically purchase a pre-made homeschool curriculum and follow a schedule that allows them to spend a pre-planned amount of time on each subject. School-at-home is exactly what it sounds like. It takes the structure of the public school setting and brings into the home. The parent is the teacher, the children take tests and earn grades and the curriculum is followed as closely as possible.
Advantages of Structured School At Home
One of the advantages of structured school at home is that is replicates the school environment for families that prefer the routine of a traditional school day. Often, structured school at home takes less time than education in a traditional school setting while still covering all of the same subjects.
By following a set curriculum parents can be sure that their children are staying on grade level. By following a traditional school calendar the children can maintain the same yearly holiday schedule as public school siblings or friends.
Structured school-at-home is a great option for families who desire the structure of the public school system, want a curriculum that is ready-made and have the time and space to devote to keeping up a traditional school setting within their home.
Disadvantages of Structured School at Home
As with a virtual academy, structured school at home can be costly and inflexible. However, the parent has more choice in just how costly and how inflexible it becomes For example, curriculum and supplies can cost several hundred to more than one thousand dollars per child per year. A structured school at home family may choose a less expensive curriculum. As well, they may enjoy a shorter school day than one required by a virtual academy. Still, for a family who is looking for an affordable and flexible option, structured school at home may not be the best choice.
Another disadvantage of structured school at home is that it requires a lot of planning and execution from the homeschool parents. The parents must keep up with grades and testing instead of relying on the teachers provided by a virtual academy.
Pros and Cons of Relaxed Homeschooling
Relaxed homeschooling is similar to school at home in that the family might follow a pre-made curriculum. They differ from school at home because they might not follow the curriculum to a tee. Relaxed homeschoolers appreciate a curriculum that was compiled by an outside source but set their own schedule for completing the work. They may choose to work year around in order to have shorter school days, take more field trips for hands-on learning, or accommodate a child who is an athlete or performer and needs extra time to spend on those endeavors.
They may not stick to a strict Monday through Friday, 8:00am to 2:00pm schedule. They may veer from the curriculum as the children’s interests dictate, but the curriculum serves as the guide for the school year. The costs associated with relaxed homeschooling are about the same as those with structured school-at-home.
Advantages of Relaxed Homeschooling
The biggest advantage of relaxed homeschooling is that it provides the structure of a pre-made curriculum. An additional advantage is that the family benefits from a flexible schedule. Because the family might decide to homeschool year around they might also choose to homeschool only four days per week. Since they set their own schedule they can take family vacations during off-peak times of year, as well. The relaxed homeschool family tends to have shorter homeschool days making it easier for the parents to work full-time and homeschool, care for a large family, or work from home while homeschooling.
Disadvantages of Relaxed Homeschooling
A disadvantage of relaxed homeschooling is that a lack of structure might not work for some families. While some homeschool families thrive on a daily schedule that differs from the norm, other families may find themselves falling behind on their homeschool goals.
If the relaxed homeschool family chooses to buy additional resources not provided by their curriculum, the cost of homeschooling increases. If they decided to use free homeschooling resources, the costs won’t exceed that of a pre-made curriculum.
Pros and Cons of Eclectic Homeschooling
Eclectic homeschoolers tend to be quite independent in their choice of learning tools. Eclectic homeschoolers may use resources from several different curricula or may use no pre-planned curricula at all. They make take information from different websites, books, and workbooks and incorporate field trips and other learning opportunities to create their own complete curriculum for their child. (Learn how to create your own homeschool curriculum.) They may also participate in co-ops for some of the subjects their child studies.
This form of homeschooling can be as inexpensive or as costly as the parent and child make it, depending on the child’s needs and learning desires. Eclectic homeschoolers tend to have some sort of structure about their home schooling and what they want to accomplish within a week or other set amount of time. Some make a plan for the school year that maps out the concepts they want to cover before their child moves to the next grade level. (Check out one season of our eclectic homeschool schedule.)
Advantages of Eclectic Homeschooling
Eclectic homeschooling is an extremely flexible and versatile form of homeschooling. It’s perfect for families who crave freedom in daily life and education. Eclectic homeschoolers pick and choose the parts of pre-made curricula, free homeschool resources, and even unschooling that are best for their family.
Eclectic homeschooling can be done for free, which is a huge advantage to this style of homeschooling.
Disadvantages of Eclectic Homeschooling
Eclectic homeschooling, like relaxed homeschooling, may not be a good fit for families who prefer a structured homeschool setting. For those homeschool parents who don’t want to creatively veer from a pre-made curriculum, eclectic homeschooling might feel overwhelming.
As with relaxed homeschooling, the goals are left up to the parents and the children which may not be a comfortable fit for some families.
Pros and Cons of Unschooling
Unschooling is the most relaxed form of home education. Unschooling operates on the premise that a child will naturally pursue learning on his or her own and in his or her own time. Parents who chose unschooling follow the lead of the child’s interests and provide learning opportunities based on what the child wants to study.
Unschoolers harness a child’s natural curiosity and desire to learn more about their world combined with the lessons of everyday life to provide a unique and complete learning experience. Contrary to the way it is sometimes reported about, unschooling is not synonymous with permissive parenting and does not support a lack of learning. Instead it encourages children to follow their interests and develop a life-long love of learning.
The Advantages of Unschooling
Unschooling is a wonderful way to promote a child’s natural desire to learn. Because unschooling is relaxed and follows the child’s innate interests the child doesn’t see learning as work.
Another major benefit of unschooling is that families learn together. For example, as one child’s interest in astronomy leads the family to the planetarium while another child’s interest in history takes them to the museum all in the same week. This provides the whole family with exposure to a variety of subjects.
The Disadvantages of Unschooling
As with relaxed homeschooling and eclectic homeschooling families who prefer a structured school day may feel uncomfortable with unschooling. Those who value formal education may feel that unschooling doesn’t provide enough education in all subjects or that learning moves too slowly.
Parents who prefer to have others teach their children and provide grades and testing likely won’t enjoy an unschooling environment where parents are responsible for providing their children with learning opportunities and exposure to various subjects so their children can “try on” topics to see what best fits their interests.
Each style of homeschooling has its merits and drawbacks. It is up to you to know your family’s needs and decide what type of homeschooling best fits your family.