Those homeschoolers who really want to fine-tune their child’s education often settle on the Eclectic homeschooling style. This isn’t a style that first-time homeschoolers usually choose unless they have done monumental amounts of research, or know someone who has been homeschooling for quite some time. That’s not to say it can’t happen, but it’s usually something parents stumble across after trying a few methods that don’t really work that well. Which is okay. Sometimes it takes more than one attempt before you settle into the perfect groove.
Sometimes, the Eclectic homeschooling style is spoken of as if it were the same as the Relaxed homeschooling method. Whereas there are some definite similarities, the Relaxed style focuses more on one specific style of homeschooling, whereas the Eclectic style relies on a mix of methods and resources. It could be said that this is a sub-genre we might call “Relaxed Eclectic homeschooling” but you can be the judge of that.
Why Use the Eclectic Homeschooling Style?
The Eclectic homeschooling style allows you extensive individualization opportunities that come as a result of combining a variety of different resources and homeschool methods. After taking careful note of your child’s interests, styles of learning, strengths, and weaknesses, you can better decide which approaches will yield a better academic result.
Some children are “seasonal learners”, meaning that they learn better in one season than they do in another. Winter months may make sitting and learning an easy feat, while summertime simply begs for open-air playtime and higher levels of energy. Catering to these changes in your child’s behavior in your child's school year can allow you to adapt without feeling stressed or feeling as if you’re not following some kind of unwritten “homeschooling law.”
Advantages of Eclectic Homeschooling
Eclectic homeschoolers combine their favorite aspects of any other homeschooling method you may have already tried or heard about. For instance, you might find out that your child absolutely loves grammar workbooks and excels at the subject through this medium. But they also might enjoy doing math on a chalkboard or at the kitchen table with beans or blocks. For science, you might find the Unschooling approach a more effective measure, and a Charlotte Mason approach to the fine arts and music.
This approach works very well to free your own mind from the guilt of not adhering to a strict or rigid lesson plan that comes with some other homeschooling styles. Although some children do poorly with such schedules, it’s sometimes hard for the parents too, especially if they weren’t homeschooled that way themselves. The truth is, it’s just as important to find a teaching style that fits YOU as it is to find a style in which your child will also excel. The trick is finding the balance that creates success.
For gifted children who seem automatically to busy themselves with educational hobbies like reading, writing, science projects, and more, you can easily count all these activities towards their homeschool hours. My own daughter quickly completed her English courses through her love of reading, writing, and sharing that information with her friends. She did the same with art, music, and home economics, as these were all a part of her normal everyday routine. When you allow your child to go as far as they want to in a particular subject, without capping their knowledge to fit a “routine” or “schedule,” they might amaze you with what they can accomplish.
Along the same line of thought, the Eclectic homeschool method works equally as well for special needs students. Tailoring a program for these children within a strict protocol can be very difficult, as I found through homeschooling my high-functioning autistic son. He absolutely flourished in music and speech, yet he lacked greatly in other areas where a ton of extra help was needed. Had I focused on “going by the book” with him, I’m afraid it would have very much resembled “failure” in the eyes of others.
Disadvantages of Eclectic Homeschooling
There’s a lot of work involved for you, as a homeschooling parent, long before the actual Eclectic homeschooling begins. You’ll have to review quite a variety of curriculum choices and other resources, and the amount of information you may find while researching can often seem overwhelming. Understanding this upfront can help a great deal as you set aside time for that research. If possible, start well in advance of the beginning of your homeschool year to make sure you have plenty of time for extensive research.
It’s easy to over plan in the Eclectic homeschooling style. Collecting a large variety of resources that might come in handy is great, but in the end, you may realize you’ve collected too much. Some of those items might be things that don’t really work after all because your child simply hates them. And all of this can lead to spending more money than you thought you would in the beginning.
Another disadvantage is that it might take a while to find your perfect style. As children grow, so do their interests and learning styles, which can mean you have to change everything when that happens. Some see this as a disadvantage; others simply see it as an opportunity to take a new path. No matter what you discover, try always to focus on the positive points and keep the element of learning your number one priority.
Is Eclectic Homeschooling Right for Our Family?
Eclectic homeschooling can fit into any family routine since it’s so easily manipulated. If you find that your work schedule is subject to change, or you decide to go on vacation, it’s really easy simply to change the plan to fit that time frame. It’s just as beneficial for homes with multiple children. In this situation, making use of lapbooks or unit studies can not only work for various age groups, but the older siblings can assist the younger so that everyone wins!
For budget-minded families, the Eclectic homeschooling style works wonderfully, as you’re not spending money on an entire pre-packaged curriculum set. Picking and choosing your own books and resources is a very frugal way of homeschooling and helps the whole family. For parents who were previously public school teachers, and who already know how to create lesson plans, grade books, and portfolios, this method is perfect, as no teacher’s editions or planning resources are needed.
If your family is extremely “outdoorsy,” this style is a great option, as field trips can make excellent learning adventures. Always keep a journal, pens and pencils, art supplies, a digital camera with video capabilities, and more to record all those learning moments. It’s easy to cover every subject during these outings because sometimes the best learning happens organically and naturally.
Eclectic Homeschooling Curriculum
As you may have gathered from the information so far, there is no one set standard for an Eclectic curriculum. After all, this style works by combining the best of all styles, tailored specifically for your child’s strengths and interests. You can build your own curriculum using bits of other methods here and there.
For Language Arts, you might choose Charlotte Mason style Living Books. These are books about actual people and places. For science, you might pull from Abeka’s resources. History might include a Classical Conversations CD cycle, while math could be a combination of real-life learning and something like Teaching Textbooks. It’s just this easy to piece together all your favorites while never having to worry that you are leaving any gaps or holes in your child’s learning.
To create the perfect homeschool curriculum for your child, consider these steps:
- Discover your vision and jot it down on a piece of paper.
- Make an actual list of your child’s strengths and weaknesses.
- List successful learning styles, along with parallel challenges.
- List any life circumstances that could create a hindrance during the year. (Are you expecting another child? Is there going to be a job change? Are you moving from one home to another?)
- Carefully consider every curriculum course that seems to fit all the above.
Keep in mind that for some subjects, you may not even need a boxed curriculum of any kind. Some methods focus more on books, exploration of the surrounding environment, and field trips, along with the proper recording of the learning process, to achieve the best academic goal.
Eclectic Homeschooling Resources
The Eclectic homeschooling style is the perfect environment for language learning. Utilizing the massive variety of resources for this niche alone can be an adventure. Textbooks, apps, and games can all come together to quickly teach youngsters a new language quickly and you’ll learn something too. Here, you can draw from ancient languages such as Latin and Hebrew, to draw from the Classical homeschooling style.
Eclectic Homeschooling Groups & Co-ops
Co-ops are always a winning strategy in Eclectic homeschooling. For many families, this fun, social setting can be a breeding ground for abounding knowledge. Since there are so many available options for co-ops, clubs, groups, and other social structures, you can pick and choose which parts work for your child.
Here’s where some of your child’s special interests can come into play. You can choose to get involved with any group that offers whatever you’re looking for, including academically focused groups, interest-based classes such as cooking, sewing, or art, or any one of a hundred different opportunities.
Here, you might even consider a church-based group like a youth organization, Scouts, sports, or Trivia Team. Your home church could actually be a wealth of information, so don’t forget to keep your eyes and ears open for opportunities that could arise.
A homeschool support group could be a real game-changer with this particular homeschool style. There’s just something about joining in with other homeschooling parents that can truly set your mind at ease. If you’re new to homeschooling, you can learn from those who have been doing it a lot longer than you. On the other hand, if you’re a seasoned homeschooler, you can share your wealth of knowledge with those who are just embarking on the journey.
Special Considerations for the Eclectic Homeschooling Style
John Taylor Gatto said, “There isn’t any known way to bulk-educate; it’s all custom work.”
It’s important to remember that both you and your child are unique. So why shouldn’t you create an academic program for your child that meets those unique needs? You are likely to find that people around you are not always as open to the Eclectic homeschooling style as you are. Whereas that doesn’t always have anything to do with you personally, it is almost always a lack of knowledge of the particular style, and the ideology behind it, that fuels their opinions. If they turn those opinions into words, don’t let them deter you from doing what YOU know is best for YOUR child. Because that’s all that really matters.
Trying to come up with the perfect curriculum elements online can literally make your head spin. Seeing all those options in 2D can hamper your ability to understand how certain items or resources work, especially in the upper elementary or high school levels.
The best way to combat this is to attend one of our seven regional Great Homeschool Conventions. These regional gatherings welcome attendees from all over the United States, so be sure to find the one closest to you and register to attend.
We understand that those coming from out of state are going out of their way to be with us so we are happy to offer hotel discounts, military discounts, and free admission for active clergy members.
To find a list of Great Homeschool Conventions near you, CLICK HERE.
To register now, CLICK HERE.
To read additional content from our blog, CLICK HERE.
And remember, our Great Homeschool Conventions are: Equipping… Encouraging… FUN!