When a family decides to homeschool these days, they find themselves swimming in a veritable sea of information and choices. There are as many philosophies out there regarding the best way to homeschool as there are families who choose to do so, and it can be difficult to determine which is best. Should they follow the classical method or Charlotte Mason's? Would the children learn best with lapbooking or should they focus on reading a lot of literature? Try unit studies or do their work online? Recently I heard a mom say, "I keep buying different types of curricula thinking this or that will be the perfect thing, but I always end up making changes to everything. Why do I have to do that?" She thought there was something wrong with her. Perhaps something different is going on here, though. . . Maybe she's just an eclectic homeschooler!
From the Merriam Webster dictionary
Main Entry: 1 eclec•tic
Pronunciation: e-klek-tik, i-
1 : selecting what appears to be best in various doctrines, methods, or styles
2 : composed of elements drawn from various sources
In light of the myriad of options available to homeschooling families, it follows that many of those families might find themselves confused. Studying the different methods and the curriculum choices they offer can clarify each one, but can also leave a parent not wanting to choose just one method of education for their children. And why should they, when there are so many great resources out there?
Eclectic homeschooling by definition is educating one's family at home using "what appears to be best in various doctrines, methods, or styles" and "elements drawn from various sources." An eclectic homeschooler uses what seems best to them in order to cover the subject areas they think are most important.
So, what does a day in the life of an eclectic homeschooler look like? Well, as you might imagine, it differs from house to house! The morning may begin with reciting parts of speech together at the breakfast table--a common classical education practice. After breakfast, the kids may head to their rooms to work on the next math lesson in a traditional textbook. When everyone is finished, they head back to the living room to listen to Mom read a chapter from Robinson Crusoe, which would be familiar to literature- approach users. Lunch is worked off with a nature hike, during which they draw leaves and wildflowers so they can look up their common and Latin names when they return home, as Charlotte Mason suggested. Foreign languages may be studied on the computer. When that's done, each child may pull out a stack of papers from the common shelf and sit down to work on a map they can glue into the next page of their history lapbook/notebook.
There are pros and cons to every method, and the eclectic method is no exception. The pros include the opportunity to tailor your day or year to your family's tastes, learning styles, and situations; to choose the tactic you find most useful to each subject; and the decreased likelihood of raising one-sided learners. Cons include the large amount of time necessary to gather ideas and materials, the possibility of leaving things out while you're creating your own plan, and the fact that the method that "seems best" to you today may prove to be a really poor one . . . long after you've used it.
When all is said and done, the fact is that most of us could probably be labeled "eclectic" for one reason or another. After all, the most traditional homeschool families with shelves full of workbooks also take walks in the woods; the ones who use unit studies might read all of the Anne of Green Gables books as part of their bedtime routine; and everyone loves a good art project. The truth about homeschool methods is that they're just that--methods. The important thing is that we make them work for us--whatever the end result looks like!
Misty Krasawski is mom to eight fabulous children whom she's enjoyed homeschooling all their lives--and most of hers. Otherwise, she's probably reading, gardening, cooking, or blogging. Misty can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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