To many, school-at-home style education conjures up the image of a schoolroom with children at desks and mum explaining maths on a whiteboard. This may have been an accurate reflection years ago, but traditional home educators these days are far more varied.

They fall loosely into three categories:

  1. Those who with to replicate the school curriculum
  2. Academic focused home educators
  3. Classical home educators

In some states, home educators are required to follow a mandated curriculum. In Victoria, there’s no expectation that we do so, but some parents choose this option. It’s particularly common with new home educators or those who are only intending to have their children at home for a short time. It can seem safer, and a way to ensure that everything is being covered.  

As with any method of home education, it’s about taking what works for you and discarding the rest. You could purchase ‘curriculum aligned’ products like Mathletics or R.I.C. books, and feel confident that your child will be covering the outcomes, without having to spend hours combing through the curriculum documents. Some areas of the curriculum are delivered very differently in individual schools, and outcomes are very broad. So PE, arts and languages could all be covered in any way you see fit, for example by attending a class/after school activity, or following the child’s interests. 

Just because you want to follow a curriculum, doesn’t mean you have to structure your week like a school.  You will find that with individual attention, your child will progress quickly, and that there’s no reason to be spending more than a couple of hours a day on ‘schoolwork’.  Some children learn best outside, or whilst moving, so following a curriculum does not mean sitting at a desk with the parent at the whiteboard.  Often sitting together on the sofa is nicer for everyone. Some people ‘do school’ for two or three days a week, and attend groups/excursions or visit friends on the other days,. Find your own rhythm. 

It’s common for those who start out with the school at home style to move towards a more eclectic approach. Because home education in practice is so broad, they may discover through joining an activity group, watching a child pursue their interests, or spending time discussing a topic, that for one or more topics or subjects, there’s no need for a curriculum. Equally, parents often discover that their children are at different grade levels for different subjects, and that all-in-one curriculum cannot meet their needs.

Academic focused home educators aim to cover most key learning areas in a structured fashion, but are not tied to the Victorian curriculum. Like classical home educators, they want their children to have a strong academic focus, and prefer individual curriculum options to those written by a committee. They might choose individual curricula for two or three subjects, join a foreign language class, and a science focused activity group, encourage their child to join after school dance and drama sessions, and cover health and PE through Saturday sport. Many who follow this style could also be considered eclectic, as that label covers everyone who identifies with more than one style.

Classical home education is split into three stages of learning. The Grammar stage (9-11) involves learning facts, memorization, and knowledge gathering. The Logic stage (12-14) is when reasoning and logic begin to be applied to the knowledge. The Rhetoric stage (14-16) completes the Trivium and is when the student learns the skills of wisdom and judgment. Classical home educators often use literature classics, Latin and Greek, specific curriculum, and explicit teaching. You can find out more by reading The Well-Trained Mind by Jessie Wise and Susan Wise-Bauer and reading this essay by Dorothy Sayers