As parents seek alternative approaches to traditional schooling, a plethora of homeschooling styles have emerged, each offering a unique approach to education, tailored to fit the individual child and family. In this article, we will delve into the main styles of homeschooling used in the UK, exploring the philosophies and methodologies behind each approach.
A note on language: In my posts, I refer to “homeschooling”. In the UK, the correct term for educating your child at home is “home Educating”, with homeschooling referring to a child doing work at home that has been set by school. I use the the term homeschooling in my posts because many people who are new to home educating will use the term homeschooling when searching online and I want to make sure they can find the information.
Unschooling, often regarded as the most flexible and child-led form of home education, places a strong emphasis on self-directed learning. It is in fact sometimes referred to self directed or autonomous learning. In this style, parents act as facilitators rather than teachers, allowing their children to explore their interests and passions freely.
Unschooling recognises that learning is a natural process that occurs organically in daily life. Children in unschooling environments often have the liberty to choose what they want to learn, when they want to learn it, and how they want to learn it.
While we have been conditioned to believe that children need to be “forced” to learn, unschoolers believe that children will be motivated to learn everything they need to know to live in society, by simply, living in society.
Unschooling now broadly the approach we take, having recognised that extrinsic motivation just doesn’t work for us. This post on how home education doesn’t have to look like school goes some ideas on how children can learn through life.
Structured homeschooling, at the opposite end of the spectrum, offers a highly organised and planned approach to education. Parents who adopt this style often follow a formal curriculum, set schedules, and establish clear academic goals for their children.
This approach mirrors traditional schooling in many ways, with subjects taught systematically, and progress measured through assessments. Structured homeschooling provides a sense of routine and rigour, ensuring that children cover a comprehensive range of subjects.
Some structured home educators will follow the National Curriculum, others will purchase curriculums or design their own. Semi-Structured Home Educating
Semi-structured home educating strikes a balance between the flexibility of unschooling and the structure of traditional schooling. In this style, parents provide a loose framework for learning while still accommodating their child’s interests and pace.
Subjects like mathematics and English may adhere to a more structured approach, while other areas allow for a child led approach This style allows parents the reassurance of giving some structured input while still allowing their child some freedom of choice.
I loved the idea of a semi structured approach when we first started home educating but it just proved too much like school for my son to engage with.
Wild schooling takes the classroom into nature, emphasising outdoor and experiential learning. Advocates of this style believe that the natural world offers a rich and holistic educational environment.
Children engage in activities such as hiking, gardening, wildlife observation, and survival skills. This style encourages a deep connection with the environment and fosters a sense of environmental stewardship.
This type of education is often facilitated via attendance at local forest (which my son does once a week) and days spent in nature.
Game schooling leverages the power of games to teach academic concepts and life skills. Board games, card games, and digital games become integral tools in the learning process.
These games not only make learning fun but also promote critical thinking, problem-solving, and teamwork. Game schooling can be a highly engaging and interactive way to supplement traditional subjects, but can also be the main learning method used by a family.
For many young people who have previously attended school and struggled, gaming is a way of coping. Parents may initially be alarmed by this but by talking to your child you will likely discover that a significant amount of learning is going on.
World schooling takes education beyond the boundaries of a traditional classroom or even the traditional home. Families who embrace this style often travel extensively, using the world as their classroom.
Experiencing different cultures, languages, and landscapes becomes an integral part of the curriculum. World schooling encourages a global perspective, cultural immersion, and the development of adaptability.
While some families world school, by travelling full time, other families incorporate world schooling into their home education style on a smaller scale.
Charlotte Mason Style Home Education
Rooted in the late 19th century teachings of British educator Charlotte Mason, this method has garnered renewed interest in modern education circles.
Charlotte Mason style education emphasises the recognition of a child’s innate curiosity and the importance of a well-rounded education. This approach encourages children to engage with a wide range of subjects, from literature and history to art and science.
One of the key components of Charlotte Mason style home education is the use of “living books”, these are books that are rich in narrative and written by authors with a genuine passion for their subject matter. These books are chosen to spark the child’s imagination and cultivate a love for learning.
Outdoor exploration also plays a key role in this method. Nature walks, known as “nature study,” allow children to connect with the natural world, fostering a sense of wonder and environmental awareness.
Charlotte Mason style education promotes short, focused lessons that respect a child’s attention span. This approach encourages children to form habits of attention, diligence, and self-discipline.
Steiner Style Home Education
Steiner style home education is a unique and holistic approach to teaching children, based on the educational philosophy of Rudolf Steiner. This method, also known as Waldorf education, places a strong emphasis on nurturing a child’s individuality and fostering a lifelong love for learning.
Steiner style home education recognises that each child develops at their own pace. It provides a flexible and child-centred curriculum that respects the natural rhythms of a child’s development.
One distinctive feature of this approach is the integration of arts and creativity into all subjects. Drawing, painting, music, and movement are woven into academic lessons, enhancing the child’s understanding and engagement. I have a friend who used Steiner education in the primary years and she found this approach very effective.
Steiner style home education also emphasises a deep connection with nature. Outdoor activities, gardening, and exploration of the natural world are an important part of the curriculum.
School at Home
School at home, sometimes referred to as “replicating school at home,” closely mirrors traditional classroom instruction. Parents who choose this style aim to recreate a formal school environment within their homes. They follow a structured curriculum, establish daily routines, and may even designate a specific room as the “classroom.”
School at home provides continuity for students who are transitioning from traditional schools to homeschooling. This can sometimes be helpful for neurodiverse learners (but can also be the worst option for them, depending on the individual).
Many online schools aim to replicate school at home with the teacher and classmates appearing on the screen rather than being in the same room.
Choose the Styles of Homeschooling that Suit You and Your Child
The world of homeschooling offers a diverse range of styles, each catering to different educational philosophies and the unique needs of individual children. Whether you lean towards the flexibility of unschooling, the control of structured homeschooling, or the adventure of world schooling, home ed allows parents to tailor education to their child’s interests, abilities, and goals. It’s important to remember that your styles of homeschooling may change over time and that’s ok. As I’ve learnt more about my son’s learning style we have changed our approach to better fit that. Children develop, their needs change and its fine to adjust your style in response to that.