It can be quite baffling learning the homeschooling curriculum definitions when you first start learning about homeschooling. Chances are that you have landed here because you are thinking of homeschooling and in the research stage. This might be your first port of call or you have come across several terms as you do your research and you want to be clear what it all means.

Just before we get into all that, a very quick run down of our educational journey. I’m a Brit, I live in Japan with my Japanese husband and son. I’m Montessori trained and started blogging about our family journey back in 2007. We did Montessori at home, and my son went to a Japanese Shinto kindergarten from aged 4 – 6. He then went to the local Japanese elementary school but we still did Montessori at home with a good dollop of project based learning.

Junior High we homeschooled, the main curriculum online in Japanese but plenty of English study too and high school he attended a new(ish) hybrid school, N-school. One of the worlds leading schools in learning through technology. You can read more about our journey here, from kindy to junior high and about N-school here. He will be graduating school soon and then he is university bound.

Trying to decided what kind of educational program to follow. What will suit your kids learning style. If they have special needs to consider and what at the right resources to choose, can be a bit of a minefield.

Let’s break it down with a brief overview of they types of homeschooling and then I’ll share some things you will need to consider.

smiling black man and young smiling black girl, writing in a book. Homeschooling together and looking at a laptop

Homeschooling curriculum definitions:

Homeschooling

Is a flexible (usually) approach to education that allows families to tailor their child’s learning experience. There are many different homeschooling styles, each with its own philosophy and approach. Some follow the standard curriculum and others are more suited to children with unique needs. Having a clear idea of the type of homeschooling you will use and both parents being on the same page is really important.

Traditional Homeschooling (School-at-Home): 

This approach most closely resembles traditional classroom learning. Parents use a set curriculum and textbooks to teach their children core subjects like math, language arts, science, and social studies. 

Classical Homeschooling:

It emphasises the liberal arts and critical thinking. It’s built around the Trivium, a 3-stage learning process:

  • Grammar Stage (Elementary): Builds foundational knowledge through memorisation and recitation.
  • Logic Stage (Middle School): Develops critical thinking through analysis and debate.
  • Rhetoric Stage (High School): Equips students to communicate effectively through writing and speaking.

This method prioritises the liberal arts like literature, history, and logic, fostering well-rounded individuals with strong communication and critical thinking skills. It can be time intensive, but offers a rich educational experience.

homeschooling curriculum definitions, two white children studying a butterfly sitting on dandelions

Charlotte Mason Homeschooling:

The Charlotte Mason approach to homeschooling fosters a love of learning by using captivating literature (“living books”) instead of dry textbooks. Children engage with stories and ideas, then narrate (retell) what they learned, strengthening comprehension. Nature study is another pillar, encouraging exploration and a connection to the world. This method aims to cultivate well-educated individuals with a lifelong love of learning and appreciation for the natural world.

Montessori Homeschooling: 

Montessori homeschooling, inspired by Dr. Maria Montessori’s educational philosophy, prioritises hands-on learning and self-discovery. Children explore specially designed materials that stimulate their senses and ignite curiosity.  They work at their own pace, choosing activities that pique their interest and mastering concepts through exploration and experimentation. This method fosters independence, problem-solving skills, and a love for learning that extends beyond the traditional classroom.

homeschooling curriculum definitions montessori, small white boy in a t-shirt and shorts working with the colour tablets

Unit Studies or project based learning:

Unit studies and project-based learning (PBL) share a love of deep dives! Unit studies pick a fascinating theme, like ancient Egypt, and explore it from all angles – history, geography, science (pyramids!), and even art. 

PBL takes a central question, say “How can we design a sustainable home?” Students research, brainstorm, and create a project (model home!) that showcases their learning. 

Both methods allow kids to follow their curiosity, make connections across subjects, and become mini-experts on a chosen topic. I’ve put them together here because there is often overlap with the two models.

It was from teaching my own son using unit studies and PBL that led me to create the 193 Little Adventures Club.

Waldorf Steiner:

Waldorf education, inspired by Rudolf Steiner, cultivates the whole child – mind, body, and spirit.  Unlike traditional methods that prioritise academics early on, Waldorf schools introduce formal subjects like reading around age 6. Instead, younger children engage in imaginative play, artistic activities, and storytelling.  This method fosters creativity, social skills, and a connection to nature.  As students mature, the curriculum integrates academics with artistic expression, fostering well-rounded individuals with powerful imaginations and a love for lifelong learning.

homeschooling curriculum definitions Waldorf: young white girl with braids dancing wearing a yellow dress and wings

Wildschooling and Forest School:

Wildschooling and forest school both focus on the outdoors, but is different ways. Wildschooling is like free-range learning in nature – anywhere goes! Kids explore, build forts, and connect with the environment at their own pace. Forest schools, on the other hand, are guided explorations in a forest setting. Here, teachers lead activities and discussions focused on specific topics like trees or animals. While both are awesome for fostering a love of nature, wildschooling is more free-flowing, while forest school offers a structured curriculum within the forest.

Homeschooling curriculum definitions forest school. 3 kids investigating a stream.

Unschooling: 

Unschooling throws out the traditional curriculum in favour of a child-led adventure in learning. Here, children’s natural curiosity is the compass. They delve into topics that spark their passion, be it building robots, mastering a new language, or composing music. Parents act as facilitators, providing resources, guidance, and opportunities to explore. Unschooling fosters a love of learning that’s self-directed and lifelong, with knowledge organically acquired through a child’s unique interests.

That said, unschooling has had a bad rap because of some parents taking it to mean ‘just let the kids do what they want with no guidance.’ This often leads to kids not really learning anything and the struggling when they have to fit into the adult world. Read more about how to do unschooling the right way here.

Eclectic Homeschooling: 

Eclectic homeschooling is like a learning smorgasbord! It borrows the best parts of various homeschooling styles to create a unique curriculum for each child.  

This means a family might use Charlotte Mason’s living books for language arts, incorporate Montessori hands-on activities for science, and throw in unit studies to explore specific interests.  Eclectic homeschooling allows parents to cater to individual learning styles and create a dynamic, personalised education that keeps kids engaged and excited to learn.

This often works well for families with more than one child as you can build your own curriculum to suit your family’s needs. Some kids thrive with a more classical education, whereas other might be better with a more organic educational approach. 

Roadschooling and Worldschooling: 

Roadschooling and worldschooling are both travel-based homeschooling approaches, but with key differences in scope and style:

  • Roadschooling: Think “mobile classroom.” Often focused on exploring a particular country or region, families travel by car, RV, or campervan, stopping at historical sites, museums, and natural wonders. They tailor their curriculum to their destinations, using them as living textbooks. It’s a great way to learn about a specific area in depth.
  • Worldschooling: Imagine the entire world as your classroom! Worldschooling families travel internationally, immersing themselves in diverse cultures for extended periods. They might volunteer in a rainforest, learn foreign languages in a foreign country, or study ancient history at archaeological sites. This approach offers a broader global perspective.

In short, roadschooling is more geographically concentrated, while worldschooling embraces a wider, more nomadic exploration of the world.

homeschooling curriculum definitions worldschooling, a dad and two kids sitting looking at the savannah in africa

Homeschool co-op:

Homeschool co-ops are like learning clubs for homeschooled kids. Families come together regularly, often at churches or libraries. Parents might take turns teaching different subjects like science, art, or history, allowing them to share expertise and lighten the load.  

This lets kids benefit from a group learning environment, socialise with other homeschoolers, and explore subjects beyond what a single parent might teach alone. Sometimes they offer extracurricular activities and organise group field trips. It’s a collaborative effort that enriches the homeschooling experience for both students and parents.

Distance learning:

Distance learning allows students to learn remotely, without physically being in a classroom. It uses technology like videoconferencing, online platforms, and virtual classrooms.  

Students access lectures, assignments, and interact with teachers and classmates virtually and usually in real time. This can be ideal for students in remote locations, those who for health reasons can’t attend school, or those who prefer a more independent learning style. While it offers some flexibility, it requires strong time management and self-discipline. As we saw in the pandemic, virtual classrooms are not the best environment for most kids, not as the main focus of their education at least.

After Schooling:

After schooling is when parents take an active role in teaching their kids outside of regular school. For example, my son went to Japanese elementary school, he did get homework, but he soon figured out he could just sneakily do it in class! At home, we would learn about whatever he was interested, following the child, but in English. In this way, I was able to make sure he had a great English foundation as well as Japanese.

What we learned about had nothing to do with the Japanese curriculum, we didn’t do bookwork; it was more project based learning. We never did ‘English lessons’ instead we learned about things that interested him, in English. Knights and Castles, WWII, Barbados (I’m not sure why that came about but it was the seed that grew the 193 Little Adventures Club), bats, Picasso, cooking… quite a mixed bag.

If you are raising a bilingual child, this is a great way to go, because no-one enjoys bookwork and grammar lessons!

Online classes:

Online classes for homeschooling offer a structured yet flexible way to supplement your child’s education.  These classes, delivered live or pre-recorded, cover a wide range of subjects, from core academics like math and science to electives like coding or creative writing.  

They can provide expert instruction from qualified teachers, address specific learning needs, and even offer opportunities for virtual interaction with classmates.  This allows you to customise your homeschool curriculum, fill knowledge gaps, and keep your child engaged in a dynamic online learning environment.

There are lots of places such as Outschool (get $20 off with my referral link) and Khan Academy where you can pick and mix the type of lessons you want to take. This post provides a list of all the places we have used over the years, some of which are free and some of which require payment.

homeschooling curriculum definitions mom and son working through math problems at home

Deschooling:

Deschooling is the decompression period when a child transitions from traditional school to homeschooling. It allows them to shed the rigid structure and rediscover a love of learning on their own terms. Think of it as a mental reset. They might sleep in, explore passions, or even resist academics at first. This is all part of breaking free from “school mode” and embracing the flexibility and freedom homeschooling offers.

The rule of thumb says to deschool one month for every year spend in traditional schooling. I have a post here that digs into this more and the importance of deschooling (as much for parents as it is the kids).

Extra-curricular activities

Extracurricular activities in homeschooling go beyond traditional sports teams and clubs. They’re enriching experiences that complement a homeschooled child’s curriculum and interests. This could include joining a local nature club for hands-on science exploration, taking online coding classes to develop tech skills, or volunteering at an animal shelter to learn about animal care. These activities often overlap with the homeschool curriculum rather than being ‘extra’.

Notice of intent form:

A Notice of Intent (NOI) form for homeschooling is a document you might need to submit to your local education department or homeschool authority to inform them of your decision to homeschool your child(ren). It’s not mandatory everywhere, but some regions/countries require it.

It’s important to check with your local homeschooling authority to see if a Notice of Intent is required and what information they need. They might have their own form available online or provide specific instructions on what to include in your letter.

Things to consider as a homeschooling parent

Now you have a handle on the homeschooling curriculum definitions, it’s time to start thinking about what homeschooling will look like for your family. Although I love Montessori, I don’t think it is the right fit for all homeschool families, we all have different approaches to schooling and different reasons for opting out of the traditional school setting.

Some questions to go through:

  • What is my reason(s) for wanting to homeschool?
  • Assuming you have a partner who is also responsible for the educational welfare of the child(ren), are you on the same page? This is really important and may take discussion and compromise to find a solution that you all agree on.
  • What are the homeschool laws where you live?
  • Can you afford educational materials and a good curriculum suited to your child(ren)
  • Do you have a support system in place?
  • Are you confident enough in your decision to homeschool to deal with the nay-sayers, because believe me, you’ll get them!
  • Which homeschool method calls to you? Will it be a good fit for your child – remember, you want to be following your child’s interests and needs not forcing your own on to them.
  • What are your long-term goals and educational goals?
  • What real world life skills can you bring to the table and can you support your child with specific subjects?
  • Socialisation – yes, I’m going there, people will ask you about this A LOT! So, how will your child(ren) get the socialisation that they need? TBH – as long as you leave the house at some point in the day, unless you live in the outback, your kids will get to socialise and with a greater variety of people than traditional school offers.

Wrap up:

Being home educators is both hard work and incredibly rewarding. My son is now a high school student but spends 2 days a week at home, working on the things that interest him. It has been a privilege to watch him choose his own path. I feel that the greatest benefits of homeschooling is that the child can take control of their own learning, become an independent student and by following their own passions and interest, find a field or study that will take them through to a rewarding career.

Looking for some free resources to enhance your homeschool journey, sign up for the 193 Little Adventures resource library and get a free world/geography/culture printable every week

193 free resource library with cover images from some of the free packs

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