You know the story of Goldilocks.
She goes into the house of the 3 bears and tries out all their stuff. At first, the porridge is too hot, then too cold, and finally just right. Next up are the chairs: too little, too big, and again, just right. Finally she gets to the beds. The first one is too hard, the second is too soft, and as you know, she finally finds the one that is just right.
I tell you this story because I think we all need a reminder that it usually takes a few tries before we find the right thing.
This is certainly true in homeschooling. Most families I meet try several different methods, curriculum choices, schedules, and more. It’s hard to know if something is too soft, too bumpy, too hard, or too hot until you’ve tried it!
I think this is true about homeschooling methods. Generally when homeschoolers are new to this gig, they are told to figure out what method best suits their family. Most pick, but few actually stick with it. Why? Well, it’s hard to know what is going to fit with your family until you’ve tried it.
Click below to watch a light-hearted video where I nominate each of the homeschooling methods and host the Homeschool Method Academy of Awards. I promise it’s cute and inspiring.
I’ve literally tried every homeschooling method. Serious. I’ve done unit studies, Charlotte Mason, Classical, traditional textbook approach, and even some unschooling. My friend Sonya does an awesome job teaching you about each of these styles here. (She gives you in-depth info much better than my little award ceremony above, in case you aren’t familiar with them.)
Here’s the thing you need to know: none of these homeschooling methods hurt my kids. All of my kids are excelling academically, socially, and spiritually. (Isn’t that reassuring?!) In fact, I think we are better for the journey. We are better off having explored and found things that work than to have kept doing one thing that was a little too “bumpy” to be comfortable.
Why I Won’t Pick ONE Homeschooling Method
I’m not saying it’s wrong to pick a single method and stick with it. By all means, if you pick something that works for your family, please stick with it. (Remember, Goldilocks gobbled up the perfect porridge, sat in the perfect chair, and slept in the bed that was just right for her.)
This post is for homeschoolers who are still looking for the right fit. Don’t worry, we are not being sent to the island of misfit toys. In fact, it’s quite possible that MOST homeschoolers fit in this category. Here’s why I think this is true:
Kids aren’t all the same
Kids have unique needs, gifts, and interests. Charlotte Mason might be a great approach for one of them, while another thrives on colorful workbooks (yes, some kids do like those). It’s totally normal for kids with different needs to live in the same family! Allow your kids the freedom to be who they are. They will learn so much better if you do.
In our family, both of my boys were completely unschooled for kindergarten and much of first grade. My oldest boy was completely unable to sit still, so any form of book work was not at all a fit for him. In late first grade he moved into Charlotte Mason (a great fit for active boys). Despite “missing out” on the traditional learning style most try to force on young boys, he’s now poised and ready for middle school ABOVE the curve and excelling in all subjects. Both unschooling and Charlotte Mason proved to be great fits for him, wouldn’t you say?
On the other hand, my oldest is a traditional textbook lover. Give her a book and a lesson plan and she will learn it. She’s been like that since she was 4. Other methods don’t jive with her because they are too loose and don’t challenge her enough. She thrives on the reading and busywork.
Even though I don’t prefer that and her siblings aren’t big fans, it’s ok for her to continue using the method that works for her!
Over the 15 years I’ve homeschooled, our lives have been through many different seasons, dictating the need for different methods. When I first started with my nephew, we used very traditional textbooks. That’s what he was used to and I knew he’d be going back into the school system, so we stuck with it.
Next I started homeschooling my own children with unit studies featuring awesome literature, field trips, and all kinds of adventures revolving around a single topic. However, when their dad left and I was pregnant with #4, I had to back off of this method and find something less mommy-intensive!
We then moved into the Classical method, which we adored. However, a move 3 years later to a new town and my need for a steady stream of income caused us to leave Classical Conversations and find an alternative.
Can you see how seasons change the way we need to homeschool sometimes? Hopefully your life doesn’t transition quite as crazily as mine, but you still might need to be flexible. Whatever season you are in, it’s ok to make changes if your family needs them. Don’t be afraid! You might find that another method works even better.
Labels can be restrictive
Honestly, the biggest reason we haven’t stuck with one single method all these years is, I’m the restless type. I’m the girl who thinks it’s fun to rearrange the living room and considers moving to a new town to be a fun challenge. I’m ok with change and get a little restless when things are boring and stale.
I find that sometimes labeling myself ties me down and becomes restrictive in unhealthy ways. For example, one of my favorite parts of Classical Conversations is the memory work CD. The kids and I still LOVE to sing the timeline song for fun. We enjoy knowing the history and challenging ourselves to remember what comes next.
We haven’t stopped doing this simply because we aren’t in CC anymore. On the flip side, we love a little unit study action before we go on a family vacation or after we find something cool on a nature walk (which actually is a component of Charlotte Mason). Wouldn’t it be silly to drop these things just because of a “label?”
It would, which brings me to my next point. For us, our homeschool looks a lot more like a melting pot of all of these really great methods. We’ve taken our favorite parts, the strategies that worked best, and put them together to form the “Goldilocks perfect fit.”
The Melting Pot: Eclectic Homeschooling
You’ve probably already heard of the idea of eclectic homeschooling. By definition, it’s simple. The eclectic homeschooler picks the parts that work for them, even if it’s not all one method. Here’s a sample eclectic 4th grader’s curriculum:
Language Arts: living books (books about real people, places, things) paired with the Reading Journal (Charlotte Mason)
History: Classical Conversations CD Cycle 1 (Classical model)
Science: Apologia’s Flying Creatures with Journal (Combo of Traditional and Unit Study)
Math: Teaching Textbooks (Traditional model)
See how easy it is to combine different methods even within one day and one kid? The sky is the limit on possible combinations. The main idea behind the eclectic style is being able to choose the specific elements that work for your family. This might mean you all use the same kind of math, but not the same kind of language arts. Or it might mean you all use the same things for each subject, but they aren’t all the same method. Either way, you are an eclectic family.
Being eclectic in your homeschool choices DOES NOT leave you open to gaps or susceptible to “holes” in your child’s education.
Don’t fall into the trap of believing that. The truth is, your child is going to learn whatever they learn regardless of the method you use. Even if you stick with the same method and same curriculum for 12 years, you will find gaps in learning. It’s a natural part of the process.
Remember that education is more about the process than the product!
We aren’t looking for our kids to know a bunch of facts. We want them to understand how to learn things. The process we teach them is the key to this. It’s okay if they forget who the 31st president was. They can always learn that again or look it up. (And for the record- do you even know who the 31st president was? Yeah, me neither. And I have a master’s degree and a pretty good job/life. Trust me, they will be ok even if they forget some things.)
How to Create Your Own Eclectic Curriculum
The most common question I am asked is how to create an eclectic curriculum. I meet homeschool families who want to get out of the box and know certain methods aren’t working for them, but they are nervous to give it a try. Don’t give in to the fear that you aren’t qualified to know what your child needs or that the state knows better.
Start by knowing your vision and putting it in writing. Once you have that, inventory the strengths and weaknesses of each child. Consider their learning styles and challenges. Also consider your season of life and/or circumstances that may hinder your school year.
Next, simply select curriculum for each subject you wish to cover. Please note: we use a Charlotte Mason/Unit Study approach for history and science during the elementary years. Meaning, we don’t use a curriculum at all. We follow our interests, read living books, go on field trips, explore the nature around us, and record it all as we go.
So don’t get boxed in to needing to list a curriculum vendor under each subject for each child in your family. You don’t have to do that. You just need a plan for what you will do!
If this all seems overwhelming or foreign to you, I can help! In my course Organize My Homeschool we cover a step-by-step process for selecting curriculum that fits ANY style. (More info about that below.)
I pray this post is a blessing to you and that it frees you to educate your kids in a way that is a perfect fit for them (even if your way is too cold, too bumpy, too hard, or too small for others).
When you seek to meet the needs of each of the kids in your family, you’ll all live happily ever after. (Couldn’t resist the corny pun.)
Dig Deeper and Get the Help you Crave
If this post resonated with you, but you simply don’t know how to organize your homeschool for success, we’d love to have you in this year’s class! I’ll help you dig deeper into laying an excellent foundation for your homeschool. Click the image below to learn more about Organize My Homeschool, the tool that will help you figure out your vision, determine schedules, choose curriculum, and so much more.