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Thinking of Homeschooling? Part 3: The Types of Homeschools

by David Engle | Jun 04, 2020 | 6 min read

Deciding on how to educate your child is one of the biggest, most important choices you’ll ever have to make as a parent. Do you opt for the “traditional” classroom experience that public schools offer? Should you go the private school route? Perhaps a charter school? Or how about homeschooling?

If you’re reading this, you’re obviously considering homeschooling. In this blog series (be sure to check out part 1, part 2, and part 4) we’ll take a look at the world of homeschooling, from the decision-making process to enrollment. If you’ve decided that homeschooling is the best option for your child–great decision! But there are quite a few different kinds of homeschools out there…probably more than you realize. In the next two blog posts, we’ll discuss which types of homeschools are out there so you can determine the right one for your child.

Traditional/School-at-Home Homeschooling
This is the type you’ve probably heard about the most, and it is the most common kind of homeschooling. It’s a broad definition that encompasses different types of teaching and learning, but when you hear most people discuss homeschooling, traditional is probably what they’re referring to. Some of its traits include:

  • Similarities to public or private school instruction, such as lecture-based classes.
  • A relatively steady daily schedule.
  • Some alignment with the local school district’s curriculum, including the use of tests and quizzes for evaluation.
  • The use of textbooks, or a combination of textbooks and online lessons.
  • A somewhat-traditional classroom setup, with a desk, storage, wall decorations, a whiteboard, and other items you might find in a school classroom.

This is a popular method of homeschooling for families who are new to it, though there are some potential drawbacks. Many families who use this approach purchase a full-year curriculum, which can be quite expensive. Traditional homeschooling also requires a lot of work from the parent/instructor to ensure everything is organized, on schedule, and taught effectively–this can lead to burnout. If this is a path that interests you, but you’re a bit overwhelmed by the prospect of all that work, a partner or academy like Bridgeway can help you with choosing curriculum, handling paperwork, and even doing some of the actual teaching.

On the other hand, traditional homeschooling offers several benefits for newbies, such as structure, straightforward record-keeping and assessments, and if this homeschooling is temporary, it makes for an easy transition back to public or private school for your child.

This approach to homeschooling is about as far from traditional as it gets! But roadschooling is growing more and more each year, and it offers kids the most hands-on learning experiences they can get. The general idea behind roadschooling is, well, to take education on the road! And not by bringing books or computers along in the car (though that is a great way to spend time between destinations). Roadschooling is all about literal road trips (and lots of them!) to see and feel and smell whatever it is parents are teaching. For example:

  • Instead of reading or lecturing about the American Revolution, parents could set up a consecutive road trip to Boston and Philadelphia and Williamsburg to visit the historic spots where the real events actually occurred.
  • What kid would rather watch a video about national parks when they could visit a dozen of them across the country, in person, and ask the park rangers any questions they have?
  • Rather than read about the Civil War, a family could plot out a trip to as many battle sites as they can fit in!

You get the idea. The possibilities are literally as limitless as your budget. Not only do kids get to learn in a new way, they also get to see the world up close rather than through the print on a textbook page or on a screen. It’s really an amazing way for children to grow up and learn, but if you’re more of a schedule-oriented person, or you’re concerned about your children establishing long-term friendships with other kids, this probably isn’t the right approach for you.

Additionally, if you plan to roadschool, you need to establish a home state and follow its laws for homeschooling. The reason for this is, roadschoolers are either on the road often or permanently; in fact, many roadschoolers don’t have a physical home–they travel the country in RVs and mobile homes. The primary reason families roadschool is their love for travel and exploration, and the children are beneficiaries!

Anyway, there generally needs to be a degree of regulation around homeschooling, which is why it’s required that roadschooling families declare official residence in a particular state. If you maintain residence in a particular state, all you need to do is comply with that state’s rules and regulations (and some are more relaxed than others). If you are living and traveling in a recreational vehicle, you can choose which state will be your “home” and follow those laws accordingly. Which state you decide to make your domicile is entirely up to you, but here’s some helpful advice from the Homeschool Legal Defense Association:

“If you plan to live in another state for a period longer than a month during the time that public schools are in session, HSLDA generally recommends that you comply with the requirements for home education in that state. This general recommendation applies even if you and/or your spouse pays taxes, own property, and/or have employment in another state.”

Once you’ve decided on a domicile state, you can then shape your curriculum and assessments. Since roadschooling tends to be somewhat spontaneous and adventurous, formal classes aren’t usually part of the agenda. But grade- or skill level-appropriate curriculum is a good companion to your road trips and can help reinforce learning. How you track grades depends on the requirements of your state, so make sure you know the laws before hitting the road!

A somewhat-unconventional method of homeschooling, unschooling essentially puts a child’s education into his or her own hands. Unschooling is driven by a child’s interests and desire to learn more–unschooling parents let go of the reins and allow their children to learn organically by discovering. Although it sounds like unschooling lacks any type of structure, it actually utilizes some of the same core characteristics as other types of homeschooling–the child’s learning style, personality, and interests. But this method certainly involves discipline from both the student and the parents.

So, what does an unschooler learn? Anything he or she wants, really. That’s why some families love the freedom that unschooling provides. It lets the child explore his or her interests and learn as much as they can about those topics from the world around them. Some unschoolers forsake curriculum entirely, while others use it for some subjects and allow their children to learn the others on their own.

While unschooling is not technically illegal (it is considered a legitimate form of homeschooling, which is legal in all 50 states), it’s best to check your state’s homeschooling laws for regulations that may be required (record-keeping, assessments, attendance, etc.).

Think of worldschooling as roadschooling to the extreme. As its name suggests, worldschooling is a type of education that encourages children to literally see as much of the world as possible.
There are many, many benefits of this type of education, but also a few potential drawbacks. Worldschooling can also be implemented in different ways.

For example, families may elect to move to a particular country for a period of time and have their child enroll in a local school to immerse themselves in a new culture and learn new history in a way that they never could in a traditional American classroom, since they’ll be experiencing the culture and seeing the history firsthand. Some families may opt to stay, others might move to another country and do the same thing all over again so their children learn as much about as many cultures as possible.

Others may decide to trot the globe, going from country to country for shorter periods of time so their child can learn about even more cultures and histories. This type of worldschooling more than likely would not involve enrolling children in local schools, opting rather to teach from home…wherever home winds up being.

As with roadschooling, this type of education is a pricey proposition. If it’s in your budget, you’re ready to go! If not, start saving now because the costs will add up quickly. Legality is another major consideration–be sure to check local laws in whichever state or country you’re looking to stay in. But worldschooling certainly has its perks–check out this very cool (and very tongue-in-cheek) article written by a teen who worldschooled throughout her childhood.

Montessori Homeschooling
Quick history lesson: the Montessori approach is named after Maria Montessori, an Italian doctor and educator who, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, researched and studied how young children learn.

Her findings led to the Montessori approach, which places value on each child as an individual with unique interests and curiosities that lead the child to understand the value of knowledge and take the initiative to seek it for themselves. A key point of focus in this approach is self-regulation, meaning that each child needs to learn the appropriate way to act depending on the environment and situation.

Montessori learning encourages hands-on learning, self-directed activity, and collaboration. It’s generally used with younger children, though Montessori education can continue into middle school. A few characteristics of Montessori learning include:

  • Mixed-age classrooms that are designed to support child development.
  • Teachers who facilitate more than instruct; Montessori teachers model the behaviors and values they want their students to learn and follow.
  • Hands-on, active types of learning.
  • Both individual and collaborative group learning and activities.
  • Focus on each child’s unique learning style.
  • The freedom for students to choose which learning activities they want to experience.
  • The importance of positive behavior and conflict resolution.

Montessori homeschooling, because of its teacher/facilitator and collaborative classroom structure, is best done in a group setting. Look for Montessori homeschooling groups or co-ops in your area if this is an approach that interests you. It could be worth the research, as Montessori learning focuses on preparing children for the larger world that awaits them post-education.

There’s obviously plenty to digest here when deciding which type of homeschooling is best for your family. Our next blog will take a closer look at the remaining types of homeschooling, from classical to Charlotte Mason. Stay tuned!

David Engle
Hello, and thanks for reading! I’m David Engle--dad, husband, sports fan, and writer/editor. As a father for the last 18 years (father of two for the last 14), I consider myself to be pretty well-versed in all things related to education, childhood, and parenting, and I'm thankful for the opportunity to share some insights and knowledge with fellow parents. I have been a professional writer and editor for a quarter of a century (it pains me to admit that) and have been writing in the educational space for a number of those years. I reside in southern New Jersey with my wife, two kids, two dogs, and three cats. Never a dull moment.
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