Styles of Home Education
~ Summary ~


  • Approaches learning in three stages (trivium): grammar, logic and rhetoric.

  • The model that was used by Aristotle, Plato, CS Lewis.

  • Children explore "Great Books" (classics) and masterpiece resources.

  • Focuses on depth of learning and understanding rather than breadth.

Project Based

  • PBL is inquiry-based learning or learning by doing and is led, directed and managed by the child's interests.

  • Exploration of real-world problems and challenges.

  • Children typically learn about topics or produce work that integrates multiple subjects and skill areas.

  • Learning is deep, complex and layered.

Natural Learning

  • Also known as "Unschooling", this approach to learning is simply a conscious decision that learning should take place in a natural manner without coercion.

  • Supportive home environment in which a child is safe to develop as they wish and at their own pace. 

  • Child led with access to a rich assortment of resources in the home and community.

Charlotte Mason

  • This approach is based on the philosophy that the child is a person and must be educated as a whole person, not just their mind.

  • Children must be respected and will learn best in real-life situations.

  • Utilises "Living Books", oral narrations and book summaries.

  • Nature and music studies are emphasised.

Unit Studies

  • Learning activities are tied to a theme. This can provide a hands-on approach that incorporates multiple subjects such as maths, science & language arts.

  • A topic is chosen by the parent, child or family consensus.

  • Popular with families who have multiple children in different ages or learning stages.


  • ​Borrowing from the different education styles , parents "mix and match" and put together their own approach and resources for their children's education.

  • Not committed to one particular 'school of thought' but tends to take a bit from each.

  • Often an exceptionally personalised approach for each individual child based on their strengths, learning styles, and interests.


  • This method of education that is personalised to each child's learning style, stage of development, and interests.

  • Emphasises kinaesthetic and sensory learning. 

  • Parents create a prepared environment that encourages students to explore and discover.

  • Discourages reward incentives for desired behaviours.


  • A philosophical approach to nurture a child's development by facilitating creative and self-directed learning.

  • Lots of arts, crafts, handwork, dance, drama and general creativity.

  • Focus is on experiential learning and opportunities for imaginative play.

  • Technology is generally not used until high school level.

Faith Based

  • An approach that stems from the philosophy that the child’s education should reflect, support, and extend from their religious beliefs.

  • Often many of the resources used come from a faith-based curriculum and learning environment.

  • The family's faith is the overarching influencer on educational foundations and imparting a world-view.

  • Parent led and structured by the parent or program.

Family Time

Different Approaches & Philosophies of Home Education

Home education involves parents and caregivers taking direct responsibility for the education of their child or children. Also known as homeschooling, it is a legal option embracing a wide variety of educational philosophies. People from a variety of backgrounds and educational levels are successfully home educating children of all ages.


One of the seven Objects of the HEA is to maintain a respect for the diversity of philosophies and methods used by home educators.

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The classical approach is a history-based, idea-oriented educational model that exposes students to the great minds of the past through literature, essays, philosophy, etc. It has been successfully used to educate students for hundreds of years and has produced many of history's great minds.

The term "classical education" has been used in Western culture for several centuries, with each era modifying the definition and adding its own selection of topics. By the end of the 18th century, in addition to the trivium and quadrivium of the Middle Ages, the definition of a classical education embraced study of literature, poetry, drama, philosophy, history, art, and languages.

In the 20th and 21st centuries, it has been used to refer to a broad-based study of the liberal arts and sciences, as opposed to a practical or pre-professional program.

Typical classical homeschools employ "Great books" (Adler, Hutchins, and Van Doren) and an "Applied Trivium" framework (Wise-Bauer). That means, the "canon" of Great Books (classics and masterpieces) get top billing, as students learn facts and data in grammar school, logic and critical thinking in middle school, and rhetoric and self-expression in high school. The Classical method often incorporates Greek and Latin learning, though these are not required. Biblical-Classical education will also place a heavy emphasis on the Bible and biblical worldview training.

The subject areas are, as much as possible, interwoven into a chronological reading plan so that students are studying the various subject areas historically. In this way, students are equipped to understand the consequence over ideas over time. This method is distinct from conventional schooling and other homeschooling methods (Unschooling, Unit studies, School-at-Home), which tend to "jump around" from topic to topic, or which reserve history for a separate subject area.

Another prominent feature of Classical learning is the use of Socratic dialogues. Socratic dialogues foster robust discussion and debate through open-ended questions, encouraging students go beyond mere "comprehension" or "skill training" in order to achieve enriching understandings of self and world. See also, and "Definition for Classical Ed."


Classical homeschooling is based on teaching children in three stages, called the Trivium. The Grammar Stage (ages 6-10) focuses on absorbing information and memorising the rules of phonics, spelling, grammar, foreign language, history, science, math, etc. The Dialectic Stage (ages 10–12) emphasises logical discussion, debate, drawing correct conclusions, algebra, thesis writing, and determining the why’s behind the information. The Rhetoric Stage (ages 13–18) continues the systematic, rigorous studies and seeks to develop a clear, forceful, and persuasive use of language.


Grammar consists of language skills such as reading and the mechanics of writing. An important goal of grammar is to acquire as many words and manage as many concepts as possible so as to be able to express and understand clearly concepts of varying degrees of complexity. Classical education traditionally included study of Latin and Greek to reinforce understanding of the workings of languages and allow students to read the classics of western civilisation untranslated. In the modern renaissance of classical education, this period refers to the upper elementary school years.


Logic (dialectic) is the process of correct reasoning. The traditional text for teaching logic was Aristotle's Logic. In the modern renaissance of classical education, this logic stage (or dialectic stage) refers to the junior high or middle school aged student, who developmentally is beginning to question ideas and authority, and truly enjoys a debate or an argument. Training in logic, both formal and informal, enables students to critically examine arguments and to analyse their own. The whole goal is to train the student's mind not only to grasp information, but to find the analytical connections between seemingly different facts/ideas, to find out why something is true, or why something else is false (in short, reasons for a fact).


Rhetorical debate and composition are taught to somewhat older (often high-school-aged) students, who by this point in their education have the concepts and logic to criticise their own work and persuade others. According to Aristotle, "Rhetoric is the counterpart of dialectic", concerned with finding "all the available means of persuasion." Students learn to articulate answers to important questions in their own words, to try to persuade others with these facts, and to defend ideas against rebuttal. The student learns to reason correctly in the Logic stage so that they can now apply those skills to Rhetoric. Traditionally, students would read and emulate classical poets in learning how to present their arguments well.


Classical/Principle Approach might be for you if...

  • You love the idea of studying the most influential books ever printed in English, the "Great Books."

  • You are generally unimpressed with a lot of "new-fangled" learning methods, and child psychology theories, that aren’t very time-honoured or well-proven.

  • You prize logic and critical thinking to the extent that you want your student to have focused study on these subjects.

  • You think history should be taught as a narrative and would like to see different subject areas aligned with chronological history.

  • You want your student to learn foreign languages, even classical languages, like Greek and Latin.

  • Instead of lots of tests and quizzes, you prefer guided intelligent dialogues and exercises in abstract thinking.

  • You don’t want to "reinvent the wheel," you just want an educational model that works.


A google search will reveal there is much information easily found about classical education. Parents can find many curricula and networks to power their classical homeschool. Also, don’t be afraid to sample outside sources, from other methods, and non-classical publishers. Most "classical" homeschools are really eclectic homeschools in nature, simply with an emphasis classical methodology.

The Well-Trained Mind materials from Susan Wise Bauer, coauthored with her mother Jessie Wise, are probably the best place to start, along with the accompanying website. It walks the reader through the basic theory of (modern) classical education, and gives straight-forward advice and recommendations for conducting a classical homeschool from pre-K to 12th grade. Each chapter has curricula and material recommendations most of which the authors have either created, or used extensively.

The site fully aligns with the Wise-Bauer

method, but is more distinctly Christian in its framing and recommendations.


For an article length treatment of Classical, see the landmark speech by Dorothy Sayers' "The Lost Tools of Learning". This article is cited all over the homeschooling world as a groundbreaking critique of modern conventional schooling and a call for homeschooling. 


You can then read Robert Harris' development of the liberal arts theme in his article, "On the Purpose of Liberal Arts Education". This 1991 article updates that conversation with a more modern answer to the problems Sayers saw in 1947.


The book, Liberal Arts Tradition, by Jain and Clark, advances beyond the Wise-Bauer method, utilising a "holistic" and traditional liberal arts method. This text is recommended for parents who are familiar with the modern classical method but would like to gain a deeper and richer understanding of the underlying liberal arts tradition tracing back through the ancient and medieval eras.

At the heart of the classical method is a list of Great Books. These great books are the time-honoured, vetted texts which have proven to be important contributions to the great conversations across the history of Western and global civilisations. Both of these lists are arranged by chronological order, but the Wise-Bauer list is comprised of roughly 100 books while the Adler-VanDoren list is much longer. Most of these books are in the public domain or can be found free at libraries (or cheap at used books stores).


The HEA has a Partner arrangement with

Classical Conversations Bookstore,

with our members receiving 15% off Books.

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The Charlotte Mason style of homeschooling uses rich literature and “living books” rather than textbooks or dumbed-down twaddle. Instead of worksheets or answering questions in the back of the book, this style asks the student to retell, or “narrate,” everything he can remember from the reading.

Charlotte was a British educator in the late 1800s and early 1900s who emphasised respecting each child as a person and giving him a broad education. Her approach works with the way children naturally learn and presents a generous curriculum, including nature studyart and music appreciation, and handicrafts, as well as the usual academic subjects. It seeks to “spread a feast” before the child and let him digest what is appropriate for him at the time. And it uses methods that will nurture a love for learning and reinforce good lifelong habits, not just present a body of information.

From Ambleside Online: 

Charlotte Mason believed that children are able to deal with ideas and knowledge, that they are not blank slates or empty sacks to be filled with information. She thought children should do the work of dealing with ideas and knowledge, rather than the teacher acting as a middle man, dispensing filtered knowledge. A Charlotte Mason education includes first-hand exposure to great and noble ideas through books in each school subject, and through art, music and poetry.

The knowledge of God, as found in the Bible, is the primary knowledge and the most important. History is taught chronologically, using well-written history books, source documents and biographies. Literature is taught along with history, using books from or about the same time period.

Language arts skills are learned through narration, which consists of the child telling back a story, first orally and later in written form; copy-work, or the transcribing of a well-written piece of literature; and dictation of passages from their books. Memorisation was used by Charlotte Mason not so much to assimilate facts, but to give children material to meditate or "chew" on, so her students memorised scripture and poetry.

Science in the early years emphasises nature study with an emphasis on close, focused observation of creation as a means to knowledge of God. Charlotte Mason was very excited about science. She felt that all the new things people were discovering in her lifetime were part of God's revelation, including the theory of evolution which was accepted by many Christians at the time. Christians using her methods now can still identify with her emphasis on nurturing curiosity and a sense of wonder, although most will teach that from a creationist viewpoint rather than an evolutionary one.

There is some overlap in Charlotte Mason and classical schooling, especially in the upper years; but there are also differences in methods and viewpoint. CM is not unschooling, although it uses some informal teaching methods and does encourage a fair amount of free time, especially outdoors. It's not a back-to-basics approach, although the basics are not neglected, just taught in different ways. And it's not a unit study method, although history and literature studies are combined.

To read more about the Charlotte Mason method from an Australian Home Educator, go to

"My Homeschooling" - founder: Michelle Morrow.


The HEA has a Partner arrangement with

Living Book Press.

HEA members receive 15% off.

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A CM schedule would feature short lessons (10 to 20 minutes per subject for the younger children, but longer for older ones) with an emphasis on excellent execution and focused attention, whether that is in thinking through a challenging math problem, looking carefully at a painting and then describing it, copying just a few words neatly, or listening to a short Bible episode and telling it back.

Habit training is emphasised from a young age; children are taught the meaning of the CM school motto "I Am, I Can, I Ought, I Will." There are no gold stars or prizes, and competition with others is discouraged; each child is simply encouraged to do his best in everything.

Based on Miss Mason's writings, a CM education would include:

  • Narration, which consists of the child telling back a story. This takes the place of composition in the early years.

  • Copy-work, or the transcribing of a well-written piece of literature as handwriting practice.

  • Nature study with an emphasis on close, focused observation of creation as a means to knowledge of God.

  • Outdoor life is necessary to teach nature first-hand, which means plenty of time spent out of doors each day in all weather and in different environments for students of all ages. "School" for children younger than six consisted almost entirely of time spent outdoors.

  • Habit training as a discipline of the child's will and behaviour. Children are trained to develop the will, which is manifested in a strong resolve to act in a right manner.

  • Living books rather than textbooks to convey ideas. Living books, whether fiction or non-fiction, are more than just interesting books that make a topic come alive. A true Living Book has the best material, from the best minds, or at least the real story from someone who was there or has a real interest in their subject.There is a high standard in literary excellence and, while she advocated the use of many books, quality is to be preferred over quantity.

  • First-hand exposure to great and noble ideas through books in each school subject, rather than rote memorisation of dry facts. Besides books, children are exposed to great minds through art, music and poetry, which was read to the child daily.

  • Memorisation was used, not to assimilate facts, but as a means to have material to meditate on, so her students memorised scripture and poetry.

  • History is taught with primary sources and well-written history books.

  • Literature is taught along with history. For example, if one is studying the Civil War, one would at the same time read works of American literature written at that time. Once children are able to read fluently, they read the lessons themselves, except for books that need editing like Plutarch's Lives.

  • Reading instruction was primarily based on sight vocabulary, but did include use and teaching of phonics. Even beginning readers, she thought, ought to have something interesting to read, like nursery rhymes, rather than dull first readers, so she taught the sight words necessary to allow them to read real books.

  • Schooling is teacher-directed, not child-led, though the child can pursue any number of personal interests during their free time (and her students had all afternoon free.

  • Short lessons with an emphasis on excellent execution and focused attention and variation in the day's scheduled activities so as not to over-stress the brain on one task.

  • In the teaching of mathematics, the ability to reason is emphasised over "working sums", so emphasis is placed on story problems and working with numbers that are within the child's comprehension, therefore, a manipulative-based instruction is desirable.

  • CM encouraged proficiency in at least one other language, specifically French, as well as study in Latin.

  • Charlotte Mason set aside time each day for some form of physical fitness routine which included daily walks and a "drill" which included stretching, breathing exercises, calisthenics, dancing, singing, and games.

Popular Websites for more information on a Charlotte Mason approach to homeschooling:



Montessori is an approach to supporting the full development of the human being. The Montessori approach offers a broad vision of education as an ‘aid to life’. As an educational system, it has a long track record of success. It is a system of education for young children that seeks to develop natural interests and activities rather than use formal teaching methods. It was developed by physician Maria Montessori. It emphasises independence and it views children as naturally eager for knowledge and capable of initiating learning in a sufficiently supportive and well-prepared learning environment. It discourages some conventional measures of achievement, such as grades and tests.