Many, many moons ago, my beautiful little boy came home from his first day at a new school, crying and asking me to homeschool him. Having had him in private schools since preschool, homeschooling was really not anything that was on our radar.
Two weeks prior, I distinctly remember telling some new friends who homeschooled, “I’m sure it’s a fine idea, but y’all are nuts.”
Well, back to that fateful day: my son was excited to start a new school, as we had just moved to a new city and state. He loved his old school and teachers and had no reason to think that he wouldn’t love his new one. Then, we walked into the classroom.
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The teacher was determined that he would learn at the same pace and in the same way as every other child, even though he already knew most of what she had planned.
He had learned it two years before!
I offered to send extra work and inquired about getting him moved to the next grade. Both of these were met with refusal.
Instead, she told me, in the middle of the classroom and in no uncertain terms, that my son was the “problem.”
“He’s an extreme problem child and severely ADHD. He will be medicated if he’s to remain in my classroom.”
No one could convince her that he was simply six years old and bored.
Needless to say, three days later I had taught him how to daydream without getting caught (yes, I was reduced to that).
I used that weekend to read through no less than a dozen books on homeschooling.
The following Monday, I dropped over $600 on homeschool curriculum for a 6-year-old because I had no idea what else to do.
Eventually, we figured out a rather eclectic combination of things that worked for us, but we encountered plenty of roadblocks along the way. Hopefully, I can help you avoid many of them!
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Our First Year
Being a teacher’s kid and having grown up helping and tutoring in my parents’ elementary classrooms, I thought I had a pretty good idea of how to teach a 6-year-old.
And I did, in a classroom.
I had no idea, however, how to structure a day for my newly-homeschooled son.
We scheduled out our day into dutiful little 15-minute blocks. (You can already imagine how well that one worked with an energetic 6-year-old boy!)
When that didn’t work, we tried block scheduling. (That lasted all of two weeks before it fizzled out.)
We tried everything I could find, since my training told me that he needed the structure of a definite schedule. None of them worked.
As far as curriculum went, we ended up going through four full curriculums before first grade was over…to the tune of around $2,500.
My husband told me that if I planned to homeschool for second grade, I was going to have to go back to work to pay for it.
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Our Journey to Eclectic Homeschooling
Well, I couldn’t really go back to work, at least not in the things I was trained to do, as I had a 7-year-old at home. (This was 2005, back in the days before much existed for work-at-home options.)
So, I started to ask questions. I went to a homeschool convention and found a whole new world of curriculum options.
And I figured out that all-in-one packages are not always the way to go. When they work, it’s awesome, but some kids just plain need to learn different subjects in different ways. Mine is one of them.
As I was finding new curriculum options, I was also researching all the different homeschooling methods.
For our first year, we pretty much stuck to the traditional text and workbook style, since it was the only thing I knew.
There are a lot of great curriculum options for this method, and I’ve used many of them over the years. Implementing the entire thing just didn’t work for us.
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Moving Through Different Methods
Then we moved on to Classical, which at the time (and as far as I could find online) often meant doing everything according to The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home (Fourth Edition)” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener noreferrer”>A Well Trained Mind.
The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home (Fourth Edition)The Well-Educated Mind: A Guide to the Classical Education You Never Had (Updated and Expanded)
After overdosing a bit on (what I thought was) the Classical method, we tried Charlotte Mason. I absolutely adored the gentleness, creativity, and, well, quaintness that I found in books like A Charlotte Mason Companion: Personal Reflections on The Gentle Art of Learning(TM)” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener noreferrer”>A Charlotte Mason Companion.
I even read Charlotte’s original volumes and absorbed everything I could. I went to Ambleside Online, downloaded the lesson plans, and hit the library.
And, overachiever that I am, I probably overdid it a little.
Not sure my rough and tumble kiddo was quite into hymn study, and he insisted on taking the lessons that he was interested in far past the 20-minute limit, but we did really enjoy the rest of it.
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A couple of years into homeschooling, we stumbled upon unit studies.
My son had asked to learn more about the Anglo-Saxons, as we ran across them in his Classical method history book, but I couldn’t find any resources.
So, I went online and found a unit study. Finding this was purely by chance, as the thought of unit studies scared the dickens out of me at the time.
But they ended up becoming a key feature of our homeschool throughout the elementary and middle school years!
I even became a convention rep and speaker for a company that made lapbook units for several years and helped produce or manage of their projects.
What Finally Worked
However, my son’s learning needs (profoundly gifted with severe learning ‘glitches’) required me to add quite a bit to most of the pre-published units that were available.
We even managed to have to extend Konos units, which are pretty darn meaty.
When each of these methods proved to “good, but not great” for my son, we would go into Unschooling mode while I researched our next option.
Unschooling actually turned out to be a terrific method for him, but he likes me to plan out his resources and schedules.
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He can do it (and will) when he needs to. He would just much rather dig into the ideas, methods, and knowledge than spend time planning.
(And I love the research and planning, so it’s kind of a win-win.)
Enter Eclectic Homeschooling
Eventually, I figured out that while none of these methods was “just right” for us, a mixture that could easily shift to meet our needs was perfect.
I learned to become extremely flexible in my planning. We sat down a couple times a year to discuss and prioritize what he was interested in studying, and then I got to work.
I happen to love researching pretty much everything related to homeschooling and learning, so I would find resources that I thought would meet his needs.
Then, I would bring him along to the store or convention so he could check out each option and let me know what he wanted to work with.
We largely ended up with a Classical approach to history and languages and a Charlotte Mason approach to nature, the arts, and literature.
For math and science, we often switched back and forth between traditional textbooks and unit studies (or just combined the two).
We added in history and literature unit studies whenever they seemed to fit, and used an Unschooling approach toward electives (everything from Game Theory to Philosophy).
No two years looked the same…one year, he chose the Hard Drive program from BJU and mixed it with Sonlight. The year before, had been filled with unit studies that were chock full of everything.
Continuing on with Eclectic Studies
It’s a bit weird, but it worked for us. And it still does! My son is pursuing two majors and three minors in college. Even with this schedule, he still unwinds by digging into anything from political policy to Oscar Wilde.
Sometimes an assigned project in one of his classes doesn’t spark his curiosity. When this happens, he politely asks his professor if he can create an extended version. He knows that it’s on him to do it well.
For him, eclectic homeschooling is a method that taught him to live what he learns. And that’s part of the purpose of teaching our children, as far as I can see.
Which Learning Styles Does Eclectic Homeschooling Work For?
Good news! It works for all of learning modalities and learning styles. Eclectic homeschooling is incredibly flexible.
It allows you to tailor your curriculum choices and teaching methods to meet your child’s needs.
Whether your child needs structure or variety, worksheets or hands-on projects or movies and audiobooks, eclectic homeschooling has got you covered. (Our Audible Membership” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener noreferrer”>Audible Membership has come in very handy for this!)
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Implementing Eclectic Homeschooling
Eclectic homeschooling can be intimidating to many families. It requires you, as the parent, to understand several different methods.
You need to choose and implement the parts of each that work well for your family. This takes some work!
It also takes a bit more confidence to pick from among the different methods and combine the pieces that are most effective.
Honestly, it takes trial and error. It takes being willing to change things up when they’re not working and to forge your own path. But if it’s what will work best for your child, you can do it. Trust me. I’ve been there!
Beginner’s Guide to Homeschooling
We have been eclectic homeschoolers for about 15 years. My 3 oldest have graduated and gone to some college. Currently it is me and my 16 year old. It can be intimidating at times, hearing what everyone else is doing with their curriculum, but we have studied our children’s interests, for the most part and they have done well in classes they took at the high school and in college! We leaned toward a TJED (Thomas Jefferson Education) approach and always studied the classics, including Shakespeare (which is one of my favorites). Boxed curriculums aren’t for everyone.
Jen Duncan says
Hi jimvern, I love your perspective! You’re obviously doing something right 🙂 I agree, boxed curriculums aren’t for everyone. We have focused a lot on the classics as well, and I’m glad we did. It’s paying off in many ways now. Thank you so much for your comment!
It’s so great when you finally find what works!
Jen Duncan says
Hi Dana, thank you! I totally agree. The road might be long, but it’s completely worth it!
I think being eclectic means recognizing what each method has to offer your family and knowing how to streamline. It is a lot of work, but rewarding! We’re probably “eclectically Charlotte Mason” since I can’t say we follow CM exactly, but it works, and that is what is most important.
Jen Duncan says
Hi Brittney, I love that perspective! You’re right – it is a lot of work, but it’s so worth it. Thank you for your comment!
Annette Tinholt Vellenga says
it’s always interesting to see how people came about how they do what they do. I often find the needs of the children to be the driving force.
Jen Duncan says
Hi Annette, thank you for your comment! I feel the same way. The fact that we are able to tailor our children’s education to their needs is one of the things I love most about homeschooling!
What a joy to read your travels through learning together and the success that he has achieved due to those travels. Thank you for sharing about your journey and giving such encouragement. – Lori