Finding Freedom with Eclectic Homeschooling: A How-To Guide
Eclectic style homeschooling is a flexible and diverse method that allows homeschool parents to tailor their children’s education to their individual learning style and interests.
Many homeschool families start out trying replicate the public school curriculum and methodology at home – and quickly find out that isn't a good fit. The eclectic approach allows families to draw from a range of different educational philosophies and approaches to create a completely customized learning experience that works for different learning styles and each family's unique culture, schedule, and priorities.
Eclectic homeschoolers can also create an interest-led homeschool that can deep dive into a child's interests in a way that the traditional textbook approach just can't.
If you can't tell, we're big fans of relaxed, eclectic homeschooling! I believe it can be a great choice for any home education family. Let's talk about it!
What is eclectic style homeschooling?
Simply put, eclectic homeschooling is creating a unique learning experience for your children by pulling resources from different teaching methods, curricula, and experiences. This mix and match approach allows you to tailor every subject in a way that works for your child's needs and interests.
We are eclectic homeschoolers. We didn't start out as such – I'm a mom who loves having a list of what to do and following instructions, so at the beginning of our homeschooling journey, I was drawn to traditional school-style curricula, heavy on writing, worksheets, and all the school-y styles of teaching and conveying information.
Enter my AuDHD, dysgraphic, experiential and visual learner… my daughter. Her learning style couldn't be more different than my own. In fact, traditional curriculum choices put her squarely in the middle of her particular learning challenges, which is what made school a a traumatic environment for her. It wasn't any better even though my choices were more colorful, more “fun” or that we were at home instead of in a classroom.
It took me until well past our first year of homeschooling and trying different curriculums to really understand that my job wasn't going to simply be to sit beside my daughter and instruct her. My job was going to to be to pull together resources, bits and pieces of engaging curricula, books, experiences, documentaries, mentors, and create a learning path that allowed my daughter to be in her strengths and learn in a way that was meaningful and enjoyable for her.
In short – we became eclectic homeschoolers.
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What is an example of an eclectic homeschool curriculum?
Curious what that looks like? Here are our 7th grade eclectic homeschool choices. They are a mix of:
- More traditional online curriculum
- Trips to the library
- Field trips
- Private lessons and mentorships
- Getting together with other homeschoolers
I indulge my love of planning by pulling together subject areas and making lesson plans for my daughter. I'm not re-inventing the wheel. Our core subjects of language arts and science? We use Education Perfect, which is an online curriculum out of Australia. (They have a free trial! And use code EPKimLuker for 20% off if you want to give it a try.) Math? After lots of tries (and fails) we found Learn Math Fast.
But we have fun reading all kinds of books from library trips (it's a good thing we can check out lots of books at a time), learning geography with Letters From Afar as our unit study starting point, making history fun with the Yesteryear Gazette and Honest History, and enjoying weekly time with an art mentor and dance classes.
We're also big fans of field trips. This homeschool mom can turn anything into a field trip!
Eclectic homeschooling gives you flexibility
One of the biggest benefits of eclectic style homeschooling is the flexibility to choose different homeschool methods to fit your family’s needs. You can pick and choose from a variety of methods, so that your children can have a personalized, tailored education.
- pull natural materials and sensory exploration from Montessori,
- use a wonderful living book list from the Charlotte Mason method,
- study latin (a key component of the classical approach) to understand the roots of modern languages.
- create unit studies based on your child's learning style (mine likes hands-on, experiential learning, working with mentors, reading aloud, and videos).
You have the freedom to discover what works for your child's needs and their educational goals. You're free to dive into a rabbit hole of learning on a particular day when some idea or interest excites everyone! As a homeschooling parent, you can pull all the parts of a curriculum or educational philosophy that you resonate with and create something unique for your family.
Focus on your family culture, priorities, and philosophy
The eclectic homeschooling approach allows you to focus on your family's culture, beliefs and priorities. Every family has educational goals for their children's education. Every family has their own rhythm of living and working together.
Some homeschool families are on the go every day to sports practices, co-ops, and meetups. Some (like ours) head out to activities a couple of times weekly but love being at home more. Some take lots of outside classes. Some families have kids with special needs or medical conditions, and doctor and therapy appointments are the core schedule that homeschooling needs to fit around.
The beauty of the relaxed homeschooling is that it allows each family to create and exceptionally personalized approach to their children's education.
An eclectic curriculum also allows you to pour into your child's strengths. I'm a big believer in allowing strengths and interests to pull up struggle areas – as opposed to the school approach which focuses a ton of attention on places where kids aren't at “grade level” – as if all kids learn at the same pace.
Here's an example from our own lives. I believe my daughter is dysgraphic. I say believe because she wouldn't write enough during her testing to even get a diagnosis. In the school system she was already struggling with the amount of writing required as a first grader and would certainly have been given “remedial” extra help in the coming years (she already knew she couldn't perform like her peers and it affected her mental health).
I backed way off writing requirements for years. Years. Oh, yes, I worried about it, but I knew that pushing and forcing would do nothing but create resentment.
This year – 7th grade if we're using those metrics – she decided she wanted to get better at writing. So I pulled out our Handwriting Without Tears book and off she went. Flying through as if writing were easy peasy. Yesterday, after her art mentor sketched out this cool mech (my daughter and husband play Battletech video games together) my kiddo spent nearly an hour straight inking those lines. AN HOUR. OF WRITING.
This kind of flexibility and the chance for my daughter to learn and grow at her own pace is one of the very best things about being relaxed homeschoolers. That art was her idea, in her way, and is her accomplishment – it's so much more than just the ability to write small lines correctly.
It's about her belief in herself as a learner.
Be creative, kinesthetic, and experiential in your homeschooling
Less sitting. More doing. Less workbooks. More experiences.
Look, here's the truth. If you, as parents, did the “normal school” thing and went to school K-12 + university you've been ingrained with very specific ideas about what learning looks like. It looks like sitting at desks and proving your work via writing and tests.
Learning is not confined to those modalities. I learn everyday by reading, watching videos, speaking to people about ideas, interacting in groups. I learn by trying things out, experimenting, failing, trying again, watching a different video. There's no such thing as going through a day and not learning.
Our kids are no different. They learn in a variety of ways and it's always happening. Eclectic homeschooling allows you to recognize and equip all those different ways of learning and the different ways your kids let you know that they're learning. They might be excited to teach you something; they might draw or write; they might talk about it with a sibling or a friend.
Break out of the box of thinking that learning = school style learning. There's so freedom in homeschooling! Take advantage of all of it!
What are the disadvantages of eclectic style homeschooling?
One of the biggest challenges of the eclectic style is that it's more work for parents to put together resources and plan out weekly, monthly, and yearly for their homeschool. The idea of eclectic homeschooling being lots of work for parents is somewhat true, although not as much as you might think.
I spend a couple weeks in preparation time during the summer, looking at what worked and what didn't for the previous school year, and looking through my bookmarked resources and ideas that I gather. I lay out general plans for each month!
Then on Sunday afternoons I do my homeschool planning for the week, pulling from my earlier planning, what my subscriptions delivered that month, our lesson lists from our online curriculum, what art my daughter is currently working on, and what field trips I have planned.
Putting together an eclectic curriculum can start, like we did, with core subjects that work well for your family. What has worked for you?
- Maybe your kids love a particular online typing game.
- Maybe there's a curriculum you like for a few subjects.
- Maybe you can watch documentaries at lunch.
- Maybe try a subscription science kit instead of a textbook.
- Maybe the math from your curriculum works but not the other subjects!
Start where you are.
Look at the different methods you've tried. What stands out in your memory? What do your kids still talk about? What are your favorite times of the week?
If you're just starting your homeschool journey, what do you love doing together with your kids? How do they learn? Do you have writers and drawers? Or active kiddos who want to build and climb and sitting still is impossible?
If you feel lost and don't know where to start, I have a gift for you. I write an article called “The 7 Secrets of Stress Free Homeschooling” that I'd like to share with you.
To go with the 7 secrets, I made a beautiful printable called Discover Your Homeschool Flow: A Guided Journal for Stressed-Out Moms.
I'd love to give you the article and the printable journal to help ease your worry and create a homeschool rhythm based on your unique family.
what about middle school and high school?
In a word – yes.
The middle and high school years are the perfect time to tailor curriculum and allow your kids to pursue their passions and explore different interests and ideas. Try stuff! By allowing your teens to deep dive into their interests, you can help them develop a sense of purpose and direction – and empower them to take charge of their education and become self-directed learners.
Aren't you supposed to be the teacher? I really don't think of myself that way, although sometimes I do directly teach. More often, I think of myself as an information and opportunity gatherer, providing the tools and resources my daughter needs to learn. She does the learning. I set the stage.
I put my energy into finding subscriptions, apps, online classes, mentorships, field trips, and experiences that align with her interests and allow us to fulfill our state requirements for homeschooling. My daughter loves art, so we have done art subscription boxes, online art classes, loaded up on different books from the library and from craft stores, and we found an art mentor while wandering through a local vendor event.
In addition to providing resources, the middle and high school years are the perfect time to learn solid research skills. With access to the internet and libraries, your child can learn how to find reliable sources of information, evaluate credibility, present research and defend conclusions. We homeschoolers call this “learning how to learn,” and it really is the most important lesson of all.
And again, one of the best parts of eclectic homeschooling is that you can pour into your child's strengths and give time for growth in challenge areas. This has been key for us, as our daughter's mental health is one of our top priorities and reasons for homeschooling.
Eclectic style homeschooling can work for you!
Don't be afraid to take the leap away from big-box, all in one curriculum for your family! You can change things up right now, or for the upcoming school year.
There is so much freedom in homeschooling – use it to your advantage and create a unique homeschool experience for your kids. Lean into their interests. Focus on building your relationships while they learn.
You can do this! I really encourage you to branch out from all-in-one homeschool curriculum and embrace the flexibility and freedom that eclectic homeschooling provides.