What is eclectic homeschooling?
Eclectic Homeschooling is an approach to homeschooling in which parents pick and choose their favorite parts of all the different homeschooling methods and ignore what doesn’t work for their family. Eclectic homeschooling isn’t a homeschooling method itself, but rather a combination of homeschooling methods that work for an individual family. As such, no two eclectic homeschooling families will look alike.
Why Use Eclectic Homeschooling?
Eclectic homeschooling is extremely common because it is so versatile. It allows you to individualize every single aspect of your homeschool journey to your family, your kids and your own preferences. If you love the project-based learning of the Reggio Emilia approach for science, but you also love the nature studies aspect of the Charlotte Method — you don’t have to choose!
You can even change your method from month to month. Maybe you’re planning a beach trip and you want to learn about beach ecosystems, marine biology, and the layers of the ocean before you go. Go right ahead!
Combine aspects of Worldschooling and the Reggio Emilia approach, and make that trip fantastically educational, and when you get home feel free to return to the strict Classical method you typically use. The beauty of eclectic homeschooling is that you are in charge and you can do whatever you want to do!
You know what motivates your kids. You know what they find interesting and what causes conniption fits. Who better to create and customize and personalize and individualize the perfect homeschool method for your children’s exact personalities, interests and desires?
The students of Charlotte Mason, Louis Malaguzzi and Jacob Steiner lived in a different place and a much different world from the one your children live in. So their methods are unlikely to be exactly what your children and family need. The beauty of eclectic homeschooling is that you take the elements that are perfect and discard the ones that aren’t.
If this sounds ideal to you, you’re probably an eclectic homeschooler at heart. You have my permission (not that you need it, haha!) to build exactly what your family needs.
And I have to add that it’s actually pretty common for homeschoolers to gravitate toward eclectic homeschooling as they gain experience. The more you learn about homeschooling, the more you pick up beloved little tidbits from different homeschool methods.
The Benefits of Eclectic Homeschooling
- The flexibility. Of all the homeschooling methods, eclectic homeschooling is probably the most flexible.
- It’s guilt-free. If you don’t have guilt over something, are you even a mom? Luckily, your homeschool doesn’t need to be a source of guilt. I really wanted to teach my kiddos Latin, but life kept happening. So I ditched the Classical method. No more guilt. Ha! That makes it sound so much simpler than it actually was. We tried for about three years to be a Classical family, but it was like trying to pound a square peg into a round hole. We’re much happier now, and nobody is suffering over our loss of Latin!
- It’s convenient. As an eclectic homeschooler, you can change course as often as needed to accomplish your overall goals. I cram as much as humanly possible into fits and starts, and the rest of the time we’re very relaxed. We take Fridays off for field trips and travel for months at a time — and we call it all learning!
- You don’t have to settle. Eclectic homeschoolers can be as picky as they want to. There is no need to settle for one particular method or curriculum when you can pick and choose the best elements from everything available.
- You can tailor each child’s learning experience to his needs. Who says children should complete algebra in 7th grade? Why not let your 7th grader work at his own pace and individualize his education?
- It’s inexpensive. Packaged curriculum that includes everything you need for all the subjects can cost an arm and a leg!
- You can make family learning a priority. My eight kiddos range in age from 21-years-old to 5-years-old. They each do math on their own level, but the rest of our subjects are family style learning — of necessity. Can you imagine if I had to get through eight different grade levels of pre-packaged curricula?
- Interests are paramount. My children are strangely fascinated by the Holocaust at the moment. It might be because we’re headed to Poland (and Auschwitz) in a couple of months, so we spent some time learning Polish history, including WW2. They want to eat, live and breathe the Holocaust, which is okay, because as eclectic homeschoolers we can structure our learning however we choose.
- Great for all types of kids from gifted to 2e: Most gifted children seem to need less structure while most special needs or 2e children need more structure. Instead of employing (and trying to straddle) multiple homeschool methods for your different kiddos, try a blend of homeschooling methods, also known as eclectic homeschooling.
- Go ahead and discard any elements that aren’t working for your family. The project-based learning in the Reggio Emilia method really speaks to my soul. I want to wholeheartedly embrace it, and I tried. But I couldn’t handle the mess! Fortunately, I hadn’t spent much on supplies, and it wasn’t hard to try a new direction. We still do projects here and there, but they are relegated to the kitchen table and they must be cleaned up daily by 5pm.
The Drawbacks of Eclectic Homeschooling
- Additional prep time. Those pre-packaged curricula are nice in that you can just order them and you’re done. Assembling your own takes a little more time and research.
- It might take a while to find your particular style of eclectic homeschooling. There are almost unlimited options.
- Each child is unique. Eclectic homeschooling is all about creating an individualized course of study perfect for your child’s needs. Well what if you have eight very unique children?
- You might waste time and money figuring out your brand of eclectic homeschooling. I have a voracious appetite for books, and I gravitate toward books on education. So I’m always reading about the latest and greatest, and then the Rainbow Resource catalog shows up in my mailbox. Luckily, it’s pretty easy to sell our unused curriculum to other homeschoolers after realizing it’s not the right fit for us. Try not to overplan and overpurchase.
- So many choices can be daunting. New and inexperienced homeschoolers might find it easier to have fewer choices. The amount of information you may find while researching can often seem overwhelming.
- Okay, maybe it’s not guilt-free. You know those books, “What Your Child Needs to Know in ___ Grade”. Who says all 5-year-old children should know how to read? As an eclectic homeschooler, you’ll have to ignore all of that advice. It might be hard to listen to your inner voice of wisdom when you first start homeschooling, but you’ll get better at it.
How do I create an eclectic homeschool?
Eclectic homeschoolers don’t use a specific curriculum the way users of other homeschool methods often do. Rather, eclectic homeschoolers build their own curriculum using their favorite bits and pieces of the same curriculum used by other methods. You could think of eclectic homeschoolers as scavengers, but in the nicest way possible.
To create the perfect eclectic homeschool for your child, consider these steps:
- What are your child’s interests? What is your child passionate about? Look for curriculum or build your own unit studies to build on and encourage those interests, to further bring out your children’s innate strengths and talents.
- What is his learning style? Does he learn best by seeing things done (visual learner) or does he need to do it himself (kinesthetic learner)?
- Does he have specific needs? Are there areas in which he is weak? What are his strengths? If your child struggles in a certain subject, you may want to present concepts in multiple ways, using different senses. In a subject that is a strength, you might want to present material more quickly, so your child doesn’t get bored.
- Do you prefer online or book learning? I say you instead of your child, because always catering to your child’s preferences can be problematic. My kiddos would choose to learn online probably 100% of the time, and I would totally, 100% lose them to online distractions. So I prefer books.
- Never feel like you have to use the whole textbook or the whole curriculum. Use the parts you find appealing and helpful, the parts that resonate with you and your style. Leave out the rest. Easy, peasy.
- Don’t worry about getting off track. You’re not on a track!
My Experience With Eclectic Homeschooling
I’ve already mentioned that we began our homeschooling journey by way of the Classical method. I hadn’t ever planned to be a homeschooler — I was just thrust into this wonderful adventure. The first book I read was “The Well-Trained Mind” and it sounded great.
If you had asked me back then what my overarching goals for education were, I could’ve answered you in one word, “rigor”.
But if you’d pressed and asked me to define rigor, or paint a picture of it, you would’ve stumped me.
I hadn’t read enough, nor contemplated enough.
I probably would have signed up for anything.
Not that the classical method is bad. It’s actually wonderful. It just wasn’t right for us.
Luckily, I kept reading and learning and researching and thinking. While reading about Charlotte Mason, I though of Jo and Marmee and their gentle instruction of their children in a loving, prepared environment. I was inspired!
While reading about the Reggio Emilia method, I had visions of happy children creating beautiful projects and drinking deeply from the fountain of knowledge. It reminded me of Thomas Edison and his train car experiments. Chills, I tell ya!
As I researched the Waldorf method, I was incredibly impressed with the way they include meaningful, purposeful work, like cooking, cleaning and gardening as part of education and their emphasis on imaginative play. It perfectly described my own educational philosophies (the ones I initially called rigor because I couldn’t put them into words).
And then I fell deeply in love with aspects of the Montessori method, unschooling, unit studies and worldschooling, too!
How could I not embrace all of these beautiful things?
What kind of a homeschooler was I going to be?
Could I roll my favorite parts of all of the homeschooling method into one gigantic, beautiful mess?
What would I call it?
The cafeteria method?
Pick and choose the pieces you like and leave the rest.
Was that a thing?
Then I realized that it is a thing, but everyone else calls it eclectic homeschooling. And now I’ve been homeschooling so long (17 years!) that I’ve become a relaxed, eclectic homeschooler. It’s pretty normal for homeschoolers to become more and more relaxed as they gain experience.
Eclectic Homeschooling Resources
I’d love to give you specific suggestions, but really it’s so individual to each child and family. As an eclectic homeschooler, you can pick and choose from all the curriculum the other methods use.
We use Saxon for math, we read a holy ton of literature, and we use unit studies (mostly homemade by me) whenever we get the itch. Our unit studies cover history, geography, science and sometimes arts/crafts or writing. I also make sure that at least some of our literature covers history and science.
A couple of times a month, we’ll drag out geography games or puzzles, or a science game. And a couple of times a year we delve deep into particular science concept, (we use delta science kits) when my kids have questions for which they need answers.
Math is the only subject we work on every day (or at least every day we do school, because we take Wednesdays off). You might think that sounds like a really flimsy education. But my oldest three have graduated our homeschool with near-perfect college entrance test scores, associates degrees with near 4.0 GPA’s, and are attending prestigious universities on full scholarship.
Would you like to know more about the other homeschooling methods?
Click the links to learn more about each of the following Homeschool Methods:
Reggio Emilia Approach(also known as project-based homeschooling)
Unit Studies Approach
Are you an eclectic homeschooler? We’d love to hear about your favorite resources in the comments below!