Compiled by Hanlie Wentzel on 2 April 2014. Updated 23 March 2021.
Make sure to match your child’s Learning Style and your Homeschool Philosophy 🙂
Homeschool Philosophy Reviews
These homeschool philosophy reviews will introduce you to the various philosophies that drive the homeschool movement. They are arranged in no order of preference, but rather on a scale from informal to structured school of thought. Many of the philosophies provide you a wonderful platform for life giving studies.
A homeschool philosophy is not a curriculum that you buy, it is more the underlying foundation of the way you will homeschool your children. The philosophy that you adopt, or the various ones that you blend, will be part of your ultimate vision for your family and children.
Most families have a blended philosophy taking the relevant or the best ideas from a spectrum. These homeschool philosophy reviews will help you choose your own.
To understand these philosophies better, you will need to read the books by the authors of the philosophy that most attracts you or fits your child’s learning style. Suggestions for books are found after each review as well as favorite quotes taken from the writing.
Some homeschooling families let go of all the external controls in the child’s learning, and dare to trust the child to direct his own learning. Unschooling is an American term which has come to describe this kind of learning. In unschooling, the learner determines his own program of learning in accordance with his needs and interests. Parents facilitate the child’s learning and provide a learning-rich environment. One of the key characteristics of Unschooling is the amount of autonomy given to the learner. The learner feels in control of his learning because he gets to make all the choices about that learning. The assumption that children are in fact persons, as complete and perfect in themselves as adults, has a major impact on one’s educational approach.
Unschoolers have a commitment to themselves not to teach unless the children themselves request teaching about something in particular. Rather, they try to work out what the children are learning and then facilitate that learning. The learning is owned by the learner, and the learner takes responsibility for it. Various types of Unschooling exist, from Unschooling where there is no use of formal curricula at all, to Unschooling in combination with formal curricula. Some Unschoolers use a pre-packaged/textbook maths curriculum for example. Some use Unit studies to give some structure to the day.
The child from a young age takes ownership of their own education. Learning is taken from life and the child’s own experiences.
There is no measurable way for a parent to gauge where there child is academically if one chooses to completely unschool and use no curriculum The philosophy has a stigma of laziness and chaos attached to it. But this is not necessarily the case, as a parent who chooses to follow this philosophy diligently (and balance it with Godly instruction) they can reap great rewards in their children’s lives.
John Holt, Mary Griffith
“”What children need is not new and better curricula but access to more and more of the real world; plenty of time and space to think over their experiences, and to use fantasy and play to make meaning out of them; and advice, road maps, guidebooks, to make it easier for them to get where they want to go (not where we think they ought to go), and to find out what they want to find out.”” John Holt, Teach Your Own
Books on Unschooling
Websites on Unschooling
Blogs on Unschooling
♡”Better Late than Early” or Delayed Academics
Here Dr Raymond and Dorothy Moore are the leaders in the field. Their many years of combined experience in the education field, lead them to believe that children are not generally ready for any formal academics before the ages on 8 – 12. They have some very thought provoking studies on eye damage due to too much exposure to close work as well as the timing of the development of neural paths for learning. The Moore’s believe that a child will “catch” up to their peers in a very short time if the academics are delayed. The first years are for the development of “head, heart, hand and health” and the reading of good literature and exposure to life.
Delaying academic disciplines allows the child to develop at their individual rate. Gives time for the parent to train the child’s character before introducing academics
It can be a harder path to take for the parent who is not able to let go of their own paradigms of peers whose children start schooling at the accepted ages of 6 and 7.
Curriculum providers and book titles
The Moore Academy. Better Late than Early, Successful Homeschool Family Handbook, Homegrown Kids, Mind your own business – all by Raymond and Dorothy Moore.
“”The idea that parents should hurry reading, spelling, or math ahead of children’s normal development is not supported by a single replicable research study in the world or by any clinical experience in history. All history, research and common sense points in the opposite direction! We repeat: any who push the three R’s early deny the readiness the Creator built in – reasonable mature vision, hearing, taste, touch, smell, reason, brain growth, coordination – as clearly documented in our books Better Late Than Early and School Can Wait.”” Dr Raymond Moore, Successful Homeschool Family Handbook.
Also visit The Moore Formula for Homeschooling success! The Moores’ books are inspirational and filled with practical teachings that cover every aspect of raising happy, healthy and bright children. Learn to homeschool the low-cost, stress-free way! Visit them at Moore Homeschool.
Many parents work alongside their children to develop their own scope and sequence based on the child’s interests. Delight Directed learning enables the parent to help groom their child for their future purpose and hopes to enable the then adult child to work within their passion and interest. This type of learning philosophy requires the parent to create a productive and rich learning environment. It also requires that the parent validates a child’s interest whether it is spending time mixing solutions of sand and water at a young age or designing hundreds of paper horses or collecting a vast amount of rocks.
An example of a curriculum plan for a child with a love for horses could be:
- Literature: Black Beauty; King of the Wind
- History: Investigation of the use of the Horse through the Ages OR The Study of the Horse in War
- Natural Sciences: Study of the anatomy of the horse; classification of the horse; habitat of the horse; horse care and management
- Geography: Comparison of different types and breeds of horses and plotting on a map of the regions in which they are found
- Music Appreciation: Investigation of the paces of the horse and listening to music with beats (timing) that is reminiscent of those paces
- Extramural: Horse Riding
- Video: The Black Stallion, Black Beauty, Spirit, Racing Stripes or Sea Biscuit
- Outing: Visit to a working stable or horse show; trip to the stables when the Farrier is there to see how horses are shod.
Allows your child to develop in their natural bent. Gives your child an in-depth knowledge of their topic and interests. Lets the child be productively busy at home.
Parent can be unsure of herself as a lot of the onus is on the child to pursue their interest. The parent may be concerned about gaps in the child’s learning. If there are many children in the home, keeping track of what everyone is doing will be a challenge.
Marilyn Howshall, Barb Edtl Shelton, Heart of Wisdom
“”We all want to have something of consequence to show for the effort expended in our children’s learning process; not simply outward products, but more importantly what we want the product to represent – mature character and an educated mind. In our race to acquire the product, we may dangerously shorten the process itself, which is the very thing that will yield the vital inner growth we want to see demonstrated in our children.”” Marilyn Howshall, Wisdom’s Way of Learning.
♡Unit Study Philosophies
Unit studies are designed to let your child study a theme or period from all angles of language, history, geography, science etc.
Example: Medieval times
- Read literature like Usborne Time traveler, Door in the Wall, Minstrel in the tower (reading)
- Build a castle from cardboard boxes (craft)
- Plot the crusades on a map (geography)
- Written or oral narration to describe a castle (language)
- Make a bow and arrow or catapult (technology)
- Plan and prepare food and costumes for a banquet (cooking, sewing). Example: Space
- Read biographies of Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong
- Build a rocket (science)
- Visit the observatory or planetarium (field trip)
- Build a model of the planets (Technology)
- Create the planets of our solar system with paper mache (Craft)
- Write an essay on the first trip to the moon or development of space travel
- Watch “The Right Stuff” and “Apollo 13”
You can pursue your child’s interest in the topic for as long as the interest is there. You have freedom in choosing your topics and themes if you create them yourself.
You will need to invest time sourcing your materials and making lesson plans.
Many parents worry about creating “gaps” in their children’s education.
Weaver, Konos, Valerie Bendt, Five in a Row, Before Five in a Row, Footprints on Our Land, Little Footprints. Are you South African? Take a look at this page: South African Homeschooling Curriculum.
Books on Using Unit Studies
Blogs on Unit Studies
Unit Study Curriculum
♡Literature Based Philosophies
These homeschool philosophy reviews are almost all based on the Charlotte Mason principal of using good literature, called “living books” to teach all, if not many of the recognized school subjects.
Example of literature studies
- Learn about bacteria – read a biography on Louis Pasteur
- Learn about flight – read about the Wright brothers
- Learn about pioneers – read about the Lewis and Clarke Expedition.
Literature covers a broad range of ages which allows a simpler way of homeschooling, as most homeschool families have different ages they need to cater for. Literature is a non-confrontational way to learn. It presents information in an enjoyable format.
If the child or parent does not enjoy reading, this will be a hard philosophy to follow.
Sonlight, Five in a Row, Before Five in a Row, Footprints on Our Land, Little Footprints.
♡Charlotte Mason Approach
Charlotte Mason advocated using Living Books to spark the thought environment of children. She also believes that God is the source of all ideas and that He imparts them to those who will make the most of them. The role of the educator is to impart the right idea, or connect the child to the right book at the right time or at the moment of his interest. Her methods provide a liberal (generous) education incorporating the humanities, fine arts and great literature. She believed that education was a series of relationships with topics which the child needs to be connected with at their moment of interest.
Emphasis on living books, exposure to the arts, music and art appreciation, strong language skills, free time to explore nature, real life learning and the preservation of the dignity of the child.
Authors & Curriculum providers
Charlotte Mason, Sonlight, Karen Andreola, Susan Schaeffer Macauley, Ruth Beechick, Cindy Rushton, Clay & Sally Clarkson,, Footprints on Our Land, Footprints into the 21st Century, Ambleside Online and others.
“A child is a person in whom all possibilities are present – present now at this very moment – not to be educed after many years and efforts manifold on the part of the educator” Charlotte Mason, Original Homeschooling Series
You may also be interested in the following articles:
Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life.
Education is a Science of Relations.
Books on Charlotte Mason Education
Websites on Charlotte Mason Education
Blogs on Charlotte Mason Education
Charlotte Mason Education Curriculum
♡Textbook Based Studies
Using a textbook based system is a systematic and comprehensive way for your child to study. It offers the parent a way to homeschool their children without having to plan themselves.
Material is presented by subject and by grade. Parents can easily compare their children’s progress with the school system. Tests and exam papers are offered by some service providers. For many parents, since this has been their experience of education, it seems a “safe” way to begin homeschooling, until they find their family’s preferred system/philosophy of learning
The great weakness with this system is that it can replicate the school system. It uses snippets of information instead of getting the student connected with their subject matter and interests. Many text book based curricula have rigid schedules and require a lot of busywork which can potentially ‘burn out’ young students and take the joy out of learning, if not used selectively.
South African CAPS Curriculum, Bob Jones, A Beka, Alpha Omega, ACE, Christian Liberty, Rod and Staff.
♡Online Schooling / Distance Learning
Online schooling has gained a lot of popularity in recent years and has become a favorite option for many homeschooling families.
It is easy to incorporate it as part of blended learning, or eclectic learning where you combine it with living books and other delight directed resources. Some service providers combine online and offline studies, live lessons and prerecorded classes with access to tutors and tutor support as needed.
Some service providers include continuous assessments and exams online in the comfort of your own home; where others require exams to be written at external exam centers or under supervision of external exam moderators. We truly live in a global village today where the best of international education and curricula are accessible, affordable and available at your finger tips.
It is a very effective option once your child gets to the formal high school years and needs to work towards an accredited school leaving certificate in South Africa. Especially if your child needs matric exemption and wants to pursue tertiary studies at a South African university per USAf’s requirements.
There are many service providers and you can choose between different curricula based on either the US national curriculum (American High School Diploma), the UK national curriculum (Cambridge) or CAPS which is SA’s national curriculum (NSC/ IEB).
SwitchedOn, Brainline, Time 4 Learning, Power Homeschool, Acellus Academy, Teneo School, Cambrilearn, Wingu Academy, Wolsey Hall Oxford, South African Virtual School, Think Digital College, Clonard Education, Hatfield Christian Online School, Curro Online, Die Wolkskool, Virtual Schools and Khan Academy.
The most popular classical education model divides learning into three phases. In the Grammar stage, elementary-aged students memorize and recite the “building blocks” for later learning in a full range of subjects. The second stage, Dialectic, teaches its middle-school-aged students to think through knowledge they have acquired. The third stage, Rhetoric, guides its high-school students to understand the deeper themes of what they already know, communicate to others, and apply those lessons to their own lives.
Books on Classical Education
Websites on Classical Education
Blogs on Classical Education at Home
Classical Education Curriculum
This educational method was developed by Maria Montessori (1870-1952), an Italian physician. In a Montessori setting, older children and younger children learn alongside one another. Teachers are on hand to give guidance and support, while providing access to a large array of learning materials. Children choose their work activities and learn through seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, touching, and movement. Knowledge is internalized in a natural, self-paced way.
Books on Montessori Education
Websites on Montessori Education
Blogs on Montessori Home Education
Citing inspiration from Maria Montessori, American educational theorist John Dewey (1859-1952), and even Confucius and Aristotle, this educational method challenges students to solve real-life problems. These projects are not developed for the sake of “enriching” a student’s previous learning; the project itself is the means by which the student learns. Presented with questions such as “How safe is our water?” or “What can we do to protect a special place or species?” students research, analyze, and communicate their own work in a real-life setting.
Named for the Italian town in which this philosophy originated, the Reggio Emilia Approach focuses mostly on early childhood education. Although no “Reggio-inspired” classroom or home will look exactly alike, they are influenced by a few core ideals. Children are viewed as competent, curious, and interested in connecting to the world around them. Teachers document students’ work (through a variety of means including observations, video, or visual mediums like paint), then track what the students are learning and develop ideas for expansion. The Reggio approach focuses strongly on working in groups, giving equal value to all thoughts and ideas, and facilitating children’s search for knowledge.
♡Thomas Jefferson Education
This model is drawn from the writings of Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), author of the Declaration of Independence and third President of the United States. Thomas Jefferson Education (“TJEd” or “Leadership Education”) is designed to help each student discover his or her inner genius by fostering a deep love of learning and study. Students progress through lessons on morals, family values, and the value of work; projects, books, and lessons tailored to their interests; and finally, the rigorous study of classics and guidance from mentors, leading to a lifelong love of learning and knowledge.
Books on Thomas Jefferson Education
Websites on Thomas Jefferson Education
Blogs on Thomas Jefferson Education
The “traditional approach” to education, mirroring public school classrooms, views teachers as givers of knowledge, and students as receivers of it. The curriculum is designed to provide students with the foundation they will need in order to achieve their own personal goals in life. Parents use textbooks, workbooks, videos and computer programs, tests, and grading systems. A traditional method prepares students to flourish and compete in today’s economic and social culture.
Blogs on Traditional Education
Traditional Education Curriculum
Waldorf Education follows the ideas of Austrian philosopher and social reformer Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925). This model posits that children pass through the same developmental stages, and it’s the role of the teacher to guide learning during these stages. The earliest stage focuses on creative play and moral principles. The second stage spans childhood to puberty, and focuses on a child’s emotional development by way of creative expression and cooperation. The third stage guides students into independent thinking and their own personal way of interacting with the world.
Books on Waldorf Education
Websites on Waldorf Education
Blogs on Waldorf Home Education
Waldorf Education Curriculum
Oak Meadow (not completely Waldorf)
Quiz: Here is a Homeschool Philosophies Quiz. Find out how you score with Charlotte Mason Education, Classical Education, Montessori, Project-Based Learning, Reggio-Inspired Learning, Thomas Jefferson Education, Traditional Education, a Unit Studies Approach, an Unschooling Approach, and Waldorf Education.
For a list of available Curriculums, see:
(Sourced from: https://blog.hslda.org/2017/07/14/quiz-whats-your-homeschooling-philosophy/ , http://eclectic-homeschool.com/homeschool-philosophies-a-resource-list/)