Homeschooling has been around since antiquity. Schooling as we know it – ‘compulsory education,’ has only been around for around 150 years in the United States, with Massachusetts making the first law mandating it in 1852. Mississippi was the last state to pass laws requiring that children must go to school, and that was as recent as 1918. Even then, many of those schools in Mississippi weren’t exactly open to everyone. Originally in the US, children under seven didn’t go to school and girls only went part of the year, if their families let them go at all.
In the 1970s a new movement of homeschooling began with the introduction of John Holt’s book Teach Your Own (first published in 1981) and Dr. Raymond S. Moore’s book Better Late than Early (first published in 1975). To date, homeschooling is utilized primarily by two-parent households where both parents do not have to work full-time. The demographics of homeschooling in the United States are predominantly white, although the number of minority households that homeschool is growing steadily.
With so many schools being closed due to the COVID pandemic in the spring of 2020 and the uncertainty about the safety of reopening in the fall, more and more parents are considering homeschooling their children, at least temporarily.
Below are some resources to help get you started with sifting through the plethora of choices that are available to homeschoolers. Biblio is a fantastic place to find any book you’re looking for – whether its a math book for a certain curriculum (search by ISBN please!) or a classic children’s book to fill their private reading time.
Homeschooling 101: Basic Resources
When you’re starting to homeschool your children, the vastness of resources, and especially opinions, can be overwhelming. Here are a few books to get you started:
How Children Learn by John Holt was first published in 1967 and continues to be a classic in education. Holt’s pioneering book focused on the idea that children learn best when not pressed, but rather self-directed, as learning is as natural as breathing to them. It continued to be a popular and important resource for homeschoolers, and in the fifty years since it was published, it has sold more than a million copies.
The First Year of Homeschooling Your Child: Your Complete Guide to Getting Off to the Right Start by Linda Dobson is a comprehensive guide to developing your homeschooling philosophy and setting your curriculum. Dobson has multiple other homeschooling titles as well, such as Homeschooling: The Early Years and Homeschooler’s Success Stories.
The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling by Deborah Bell was first published in 1997 by Thomas Nelson and has gone through 3 editions with updates since. It is a manual for providing a quality education for children while maximizing family life.
So You’re Thinking About Homeschooling: Fifteen Families Show How You Can Do It by Lisa Whelchel was published by Focus on the Family in 2005 and deals with common questions in a story-based approach using real-life examples.
The Successful Homeschool Family Handbook: A Creative and Stress-Free Approach to Homeschooling, first published in 1994 by Thomas Nelson, is a low-stress, low-cost program written by two of the pioneers of modern homeschooling, Raymond and Dorothy Moore.
Homeschooling for Excellence by David and Micki Colfax was first published in 1988 by Grand Central Publishing. The Colfax’s homeschooled their 4 sons, 3 of who went on to Harvard and all of them growing to have distinguished careers.
Planning Curriculum and Ideas for Homeschooling
Deciding to homeschool is just the beginning, but finding the right curriculum and planning a schedule for the year (much less for the day!) is another story. Here are some popular resources that can help.
Plan Your Year: Homeschool Planning for Purpose and Peace by Pam Barnhill
101 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum by Cathy Duffy
The Complete Home Learning Source Book by Rebecca Rupp is subtitled The Essential Resource Guide for Homeschoolers, Parents, and Educators Covering Every Subject from Arithmetic to Zoology.
Types of Homeschooling
We’ve listed eight ‘types’ of homeschooling below, although there are many different variations of homeschooling, and decisions are made based on family beliefs and the individual needs of the child. While some people follow a single type, other families meld curriculums together or decide to throw them all out the window.
Classical has traditionally been the most popular type of homeschooling. This method of teaching has been employed for thousands of years and has created some of the greatest minds in history. Classical homeschooling focuses on the ‘five tools of learning,’ known as the ‘Trivium’: Reason, Record, Research, Relate, and Rhetoric. The first stage of Classical homeschooling is Grammar and learning how to learn. The second stage is Logic, learning how to think and reason. The third stage is Rhetoric, where all the learned skills are sharpened and focused. Some classical homeschoolers incorporate learning Latin and Greek into their curriculum as well. It is a very structured environment, and school time and assignments are completed according to a plan.
The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessi Wise was first published in 1999 by W.W. Norton and has gone on to be revised multiple times, the newest being the 4th edition in 2016.
Simply Classical : A Beautiful Education for Any Child by Cheryl Swope
The Core: Teaching Your Child the Foundations of Classical Education by Leigh A. Bortins
The Charlotte Mason Method of Homeschooling
Charlotte Mason was a 19th-century homeschooling pioneer who believed that children were people in their own respect, not merely blank slates waiting to be written on. With Charlotte Mason, short periods of learning are broken up by nature walks, and learning revolves around observation, memorization, and narration. Children are given time to journey and explore, and journaling is also an important component. Books are central to this style, with the idea of ‘Living Books’ or book that teach through the ideas that they contain rather than facts, and their ability to come alive in the mind of the child.
A Charlotte Mason Education: A Home Schooling How-To Manual by Catherine Levinson.
The Living Page: Keeping Notebooks with Charlotte Mason by Laurie Bestvater
The Waldorf Method of Homeschooling
The Walford method emphasizes educating the whole child: mind, body, and spirit. Children do not use textbooks, but rather create their own. This method also discourages the use of devices such as computers or televisions. Students focus on one subject at a time, rather than switching multiple times a day. Learning by age is not used, but rather by ability. Early childhood focuses on creative play and hands-on learning, elementary introduces academic instruction and teaches students to increase imagination and manage emotions, and secondary education focuses on critical thinking, empathy, and community service.
Understanding Waldorf Education: Teaching from the Inside Out by Jack Petrash
Leadership/Thomas Jefferson Method of Homeschooling
A Thomas Jefferson or Leadership Education training is based on seven keys to of Great Teaching and the Phases of Learning: Classics (not textbooks), Mentors (not professors), Inspire (not require), Structured Time (not content), Quality (not conformity), Simplicity (not complexity) and You (not them) as the means to providing education. Self-Education is the focus, along with the goal of promoting and inspiring a life-long journey of learning. This method of homeschooling was popularized by the writing and teaching of Oliver and Rachel DeMille.
A Thomas Jefferson Home Companion by Oliver DeMille, Rachel DeMille and Diann Jeppson.
Montessori Based Homeschooling
Although generally associated with a separate school, the Montessori method focuses on free movement and unstructured time as catalysts to learning. Montessori emphasizes using real tools instead of toys and allowing students real-world situations in which to learn.
Teaching Montessori in the Home: The Pre-School Years by Elizabeth Hainstock
How to Raise an Amazing Child the Montessori Way by Tim Seldin
With Interest-Led learning, studies are structured around children’s interests. Sometimes called Delight-Directed, it does require parents to get a little creative with curriculum and move studies to follow whatever the child has grown an interest in. Some parents integrate Interest-Led with traditional curriculum work, and many Interest-Led homeschoolers may use the “Unit Studies” System, where a theme is picked, whether it be a holiday, location, place, or historical events, and students look at many subjects within that theme.
The Call of the Wild + Free: Reclaiming Wonder in Your Child’s Education by Ainsley Arment
Unschooling is loosely tied with Interest-Led Homeschooling. Unschooling focuses on experiential, activity-based learning. It is a rejection of traditional schooling and uses no curriculum nor does it set aside hours for schooling. The idea is that children will naturally learn all they need to know through their own curiosity and trust is put completely on them for the learning process.
There is also the Home-At-School method which utilizes a full curriculum either through a public or private school or company. Much of this is computer-reliant, although textbooks are integrated into the learning as well.
That said, many homeschoolers do what is called ‘Relaxed’ or ‘Eclectic’ homeschooling, merging multiple ideas into a style that fits the needs of their individual children.
Making Homeschooling Work
Books about Books for Homeschoolers
One of the central themes of all the homeschooling methods, including unschooling, is the importance of good books.
Integrating a love of reading and exciting books into any child’s life sets them up for success. Studies show that students who read 20 minutes a day have a 90% likelihood of scoring better than their peers on standardized tests. And one thing an overwhelming majority of very successful adults have in common is a love and active pursuit of reading. The following books are used by homeschoolers to provide guidance on picking books, but any parent and child can benefit from the information they provide.
Read for the Heart: Whole Books for Wholehearted Families by Sarah Clarkson
What other methods might we include in this list? What are your favorite homeschooling or classic books?
Amy C. Manikowski is a writer living in Asheville, NC.