Eclectic Homeschooling 101

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I’m not sure how we became eclectic homeschoolers. We certainly didn’t begin that way!

Our first year of homeschooling was straight out of public school with a 7th and 10th grader. Our days looked much like a traditional school because that’s what we knew and were comfortable with.

It didn’t take long to realize that recreating traditional school at home wasn’t going to work for us. That was over a decade ago, and our homeschool has evolved over the years into a well-oiled machine.

It didn’t happen overnight, and it couldn’t have happened without my embracing the idea of eclectic homeschooling.

Eclectic Homeschooling 101

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What is eclectic homeschooling?

In a nutshell, eclectic homeschooling just means customized education. You are picking and choosing only the best of all that is available to create a very individualized education.

In essence, your child’s interests and learning style take precedence over conforming to one method, and you become very adept at meeting academic criteria creatively. 

Why should I choose eclectic homeschooling?

Rather than tell you all of the reasons why we are eclectic homeschoolers, I’ll offer you some tips, and a little advice, based on my 12 years experience so that you can make an informed decision.

– Eclectic homeschooling provides you with a great deal of flexibility. You aren’t bound to a particular publisher or method. If conforming to one style, curriculum, or schedule feels stifling to you or your children, you’ll love the flexibility offered by the eclectic method.

– While homeschooling can get pricey, eclectic homeschooling gives you the option to choose from free materials, movies and TV shows, and other non-traditional methods. So in all, you have the option to reduce your homeschool budget with this method.

– We rarely get burned out because we have a wide variety of things to choose from. We can drop one thing for a while, move to something else, and then return to the original resource to keep things fresh. Homeschool burnout is drastically reduced when you’re so flexible!

– Eclectic homeschooling offers an endless choice of materials. If you find it challenging to make decisions between good and best, or get easily overwhelmed, eclectic may not be for you. But on the other hand, it may be a better option if you can’t go all-in with one curriculum!

– You must be willing to embrace change. How your children learn will change as they grow. What they are interested in will change (sometimes daily!). Your schooling, schedule, materials, and style has to change with them. When you don’t go all-in with one curriculum, method, or style, these changes become easier.

– Keep an open mind! Eclectic can feel very “wrong” to those with a traditional idea of what school should look like, causing them to second guess their choices. But remember, homeschooling looks different for everyone! 

– Sometimes, the curriculum that you choose ends up not working the way you thought it would. You have to be willing to drop it and find something else withOUT feeling guilty about it! You’ll do this a lot over the years.

How do you get started with eclectic homeschooling?

I don’t know that eclectic homeschooling is a “method” that a person chooses. More often than not, we eclectics just sort of find ourselves here after trying lots of different styles and curriculum, keeping what works for our children and throwing out the rest.

There is no step-by-step guide to eclectic homeschooling. Every path is unique, but I can provide you with some general guidelines and tips that will give you some direction.

Learn the homeschool laws and requirements for your state.

You MUST begin here. Laws vary from state to state. Some are more relaxed than others. Everything else you do in your planning must revolve around what is required in your state. HSLDA is a great place to begin.

Find your homeschool style.

That short little four-word sentence seems so simple, but this is a process that could take years. There are SO MANY different homeschool styles—Charlotte Mason, traditional, Montessori, Classical, unit studies, unschooling, literature-based, and more! A quick Google search of “homeschool methods” or “homeschool style” will get you started.

You’re likely to be drawn to at least one of them, but keep an open mind. Understand that your children don’t necessarily learn best in the way that you prefer to teach. I ADORE the Charlotte Mason method and would LOVE to use nothing but that in our homeschool, but my children simply do not respond well to that style of educating.

At this point, you are merely educating yourself, not making a decision. 

Decide what you’ll teach.

There are a couple of things you’ll want to keep in mind here. Number one, you cannot teach everything. You’re going to want to. It will be exciting to look at all these fantastic resources and topics and want to do all.the.things. You can’t. You will burn out. I promise.

Number two, there will be gaps in your child’s education. There just will (see number one). Relax. Accept it.

Here’s an extra tip . . . one that is a little controversial in the homeschooling world, but I am a firm believer. You are not your child’s “teacher,” you are a “facilitator.” You don’t have to know everything. You are going to learn right alongside your children, and that is absolutely OK.

In fact, they will be excited that you’re taking part in what they’re doing. Do whatever it takes to remove the public school teacher standing in front of a student image from your mind. That is not what you are.  

Make a budget.

Make your budget, and then add some extra in case you change your mind. Don’t just include the cost of curriculum. You will also need general school supplies, experiment supplies, field trips, etc. 

Find your resources.

books stacked on a table outside.

Research, research, research! Know what you have to choose from. The more you learn about different styles and curricula, the more comfortable you’ll be choosing what will fit your needs.

There are many different methods, or philosophies, about homeschooling and an even larger variety of learning material. Eclectic can feel very overwhelming, especially to those who are brand new to homeschooling. Feeling overwhelmed can easily rob you of your confidence (which is usually in short supply in the beginning).

Ask your kids what they’d like to learn about. You’ll learn a lot about their interests by asking some simple, specific questions.

A tip for you in this area: be careful about asking for recommendations! There are hundreds of resources available, and you’ll get just as many suggestions. If you must ask, be very specific in your request.

Rather than asking “what math do you recommend?” ask “I am searching for a 6th-grade math program for a girl who is not very interested in math, has ADHD, and high anxiety. What do you recommend, and why do you think it would be a good fit?” The second question should result in answers that are actually helpful. 

Have a plan and a schedule, just don’t etch it in stone. 

Ideas change, children change, life circumstances and situations change- be ready to accept that. But being eclectic can be a little squirrly if you don’t have a plan. Even if you don’t set it in stone.

Don’t overthink this!

Don’t let uncertainty and fear of messing up your kids paralyze you. Just start. Have fun. Assess and make changes as needed.

Final thoughts on Eclectic Homeschooling

We begin our journey thinking that homeschooling is about academics, but it’s really so much more. We’re not ONLY giving our children the tools they need to learn academics, but also the things that ignite interests and passions and develop character and discernment.

Any curriculum you purchase was created by another person with that person’s ideas about how to learn the material and even what material to learn. They don’t know your child the way you do. They didn’t write the curriculum to fit your child. But, you can alter the curriculum to meet the needs of your child. 

Don’t fret about whether you’re covering everything. A boxed program may come with the confidence that you’re covering all the things you’re supposed to, but if your children aren’t learning and retaining what you cover, what good is it?

Know and believe that YOU are the best person to make decisions about your child’s education—not some scope and sequence chart (though those can be helpful), not the lesson plan for the curriculum you bought, not the state board of education, YOU.

Do NOT compare yourself, your children, or your curriculum choices to others. It is so easy to do, but it will strip the joy right out of your day. Instead of enjoying your time and your kids’ curiosity, you will always worry and try to “keep up with the Joneses.”

We thoroughly enjoy being eclectic homeschoolers. I love that my children are receiving an education that is both academically sound and interest driven. I love that their school is not a struggle, that they enjoy their schoolwork . . . well, most of the time!

There are still days that no one wants to do book work, but even those days are considered school days when we cue up a few science and history documentaries or play an educational game.

The joy of eclectic homeschooling is that it all fits—the book work, the unschooling, the living books, the games, the life lessons, the unit studies, the field trips—it’s all learning. It’s all eclectic homeschooling!

books on a blue background with the text overlay

This post was written by....

Michelle is mom to four children, editor, writer, lover of vintage books, and eclectic homeschooler of 12 years. You’ll find her at Life in the Nerddom where she writes about homeschooling, faith, motherhood, and balancing the daily chaos of life.

Connect at Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter.

This article is a part of our How We Homeschool Series; a collection of content from full-time, veteran homeschoolers sharing their own experiences on the versatility and diversity of homeschooling. You can read more about the series, and see all of the content, by clicking the image below. 

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