"I thought we'd have a little supper and talk some philosophy."
"I don't know a philosophy." ~ Lonesome Dove
Choose Your Method
Growing up, there was only one curriculum to homeschool with that my mom was aware of, and it was in the textbook genre. Fast forward 15 or so years and I assumed that same curriculum was my only choice for my children. My world was simple. Then I discovered the internet and all its research capabilities, and I immediately didn't have a clue what I was going to do for homeschooling. I felt the textbook method was a little boring and wanted a more interesting path. I dabbled with unit studies for the preschool years and did a year of eclecticism (what does that mean?!!). This was a bit better than worksheets and fill-in-the-blanks, but I still wasn't satisfied. One day I came upon a website that laid out several methods for homeschooling. An epiphany! I didn't realize there were more than two! Reading summaries of these different methods and seeing right away which one seemed to most fit our family was a breath of fresh air to my info-drowning mind.
A method of homeschooling is kind of its philosophy of education. It's the thoughts behind what you do. It answers the why questions. ("Why do we do it this way?") There are only a handful of educational methods that I'm aware of (and I'm not an expert, by any means). Most of us probably have very distinct thoughts on our preferred method and don't even realize it. We may recognize what we don't like, but have no guidance as to what we believe is good. Some of us just use a curriculum peers are using without thinking about it.
Choosing the right fit is important because school should be an extension of your life. If you love sitting on the couch reading with your kids, choosing a self-paced curriculum where your child sits at the table with little input from you will shrivel your spirit. Curriculum comes out of someone's thought process. So before you choose curriculum, choose your method.
So what methods are out there from which to choose? Some that I've heard of are Textbook or Traditional Method, Waldorf, Eclectic, Unschooling, Literature, Classical, and Charlotte Mason. There are many sites that provide brief summaries describing each method, but a few that I found simple to use were:
Be aware that any person who wrote these summaries will have a personal bias (as we all do) and may not represent all the methods adequately. But by reading several sites, you should get a basic idea of the methods. Read the summaries, see what clicks with you, and then do more research on your top two or three choices.
I right away recognized that the Charlotte Mason method was the fit for our family. I had never heard of her before, but I felt at home with her ideas. From there I read all I could about Charlotte Mason homeschooling and was able to narrow down my curriculum choices. Which brings you to the next step: Choose Your Curriculum.