Homeschooling 101: My Dining Room Table Isn’t a Schoolroom and Other Ways to Teach the Kiddos

Quick!  Let’s play a game.  I will write a simple statement and you, the reader, think of the first thing that comes to mind.  Here we go….


Now, if I had to guess, the picture in your head is a dining room or kitchen table with me sitting on one side and the children sitting on the other.  We have textbooks.  We have workbooks.  We have a Bible.

Did I nail it or what?

When I started homeschooling, this would have been accurate.  It is certainly how I imagined homeschool.  Breaking it down, home-school is a compound word containing home and school.  So….it should mean school at home.  Except that the corporate form of school is rigid for reasons that are nonexistent in my house.  I am not containing twenty little people, we don’t walk together in a line down the hall every time one of us needs to pee, an intercom is not necessary (though a panic button might be useful at times), there is not an administration giving tours to prospective students, and I am not confined to a nine week syllabus.  Besides, my dining room looks out into the rest of the house.  To pretend the couch doesn’t exist and that wooden chairs is the way to go is silly.  There are three people with a whole house at their disposal to utilize for school.  Not to mention a car, some sidewalks, a park, a backyard, lots of farms, and a giant city with more cool stuff than I can list here, all at our fingertips.

And so we use the tools we find accessible.  We do not sit at the dining room table.  (I will admit, I have turned the space into a study of sorts, and if you can imagine a professor’s office, you have a good idea.  The actual table is covered with projects and paper and all sorts of schooly things.  But it is way too cluttered to get any work done there.)

Now, with this little myth out of the way, let’s talk about the way people really DO educate their kids.

This part was shocking to me as we came out of the public schools and into our home.  I figured most people did things generally the same way.  What I found is that homeschoolers are fringe people.  People already living on the fringe of society by not putting their kids in a corporate environment.  Homeschoolers are terrible rule followers by nature.  Therefore, the only rules in how to school your kid(s) are set by the state.  And believe me when I tell you that mommas and daddos take these guidelines as a challenge for creativity.  That said, all of my close friends, while drastically different from each other, do an amazing job.  Really.

And so, without further ado….

Here is a list of the common homeschooling methods used, along with a brief definition made up by me:

School at Home – Traditional method that typically keeps to a schedule and covers all basic subject areas using textbooks, workbooks, etc.  May or may not be religious, but usually does have an element of faith, and might even start each day with devotionals.

Classical – Featuring traditional elements, with subjects such as Latin, Greek, Biblical history thrown in.  A popular form of this method is the co-op, Classical Conversations.  These students meet weekly for group lessons, then do the rest of the work on their own.

Charlotte Mason – A variation of the classical method, but typically considered less rigid and more activity based, with shorter lessons and lots of nature study incorporated.  Co-ops are also often formed for groups of families, and this group loves notebooks and sketching.

Eclectic – Exactly as it sounds, with the parent picking and choosing the best of various methods.  May use some curriculum, but is not committed to any one publisher or series.  Often less structured.

Relaxed/ Relaxed Eclectic – Same as eclectic, but much less structure.  Probably field trip/ life experience component fairly important here.

Child Led – Taking the child’s interest and learning style as a guide and planning around these components.  Montessori for homeschool would be a good description, though not all child led homeschoolers are educated on the Montessori methods.

Unit studies – Taking a subject, such as trees, and incorporating it into a unit that encompasses writing, literature, science, math, etc into the study.  This group loves lap books and notebooks.

Unschool – The idea that life is a stage for learning and that given time and space, each person’s natural curiosity will lead him/ her to learn all things necessary for life success.  It was started in the 1970’s by John Holt as the idea that learning should be natural and has evolved into the previous description.

Radical Unschool – This is unschooling to the extreme.  Equality and individual desire reigns.  In households, an instinct of respect for others as necessary for cohabitation is the main structure.

Again, these definitions are my opinion, and while I tried to be honest, I do have a natural bias towards certain methods.

Our first semester, we used school at home, burned out, went to relaxed/ unschool for the second half of that year, and now have found a balance. We use curriculum, but not for everything.  We like field trips, but too many can make life hectic.  The kids learn better when their needs are considered, so child led just makes sense.  I need flexible structure or I can be prone to anxiety attacks.  So, in the end, if I had to label us, it would be life learners using the electic/ child led methods of homeschooling.

If any of these methods are of particular interest and you’d like to know more, please feel free to use the contact tab in the top right of this website or simply leave a comment/ question below.  I’d love to hear from you!


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