Getting Started–Determine Homeschool Approach

If possible, it is best to decide on a philosophy of education before you decide on curriculum or methods. Your homeschool approach will be determined by your philosophy and family. At the end of our Decide section, you will find some of the most helpful books we have found over the years. They are a great place to begin developing your homeschool philosophy!

Some parents select curriculum which they feel comfortable teaching, while other parents let their children’s learning styles and interest influence which homeschool approach and curriculum they will use. Each of these approaches to selecting curriculum stems from your educational philosophy.

Pointers to Determine Educational Philosophy and Homeschool Approach

Here are some helpful pointers for you and your spouse to discuss when determining your educational philosophy and then your homeschool approach:

  • Try writing down what you believe about how children learn in general.
  • Now write down what you have observed about how your child learns in particular.
  • What are your goals in your children’s education?
  • What are your expectations of yourself, your spouse, and your children?
  • Have you discussed your expectations together as a family?

If parents are lifelong learners, they will model the joy of learning for their children. So be sure to sharpen the tools in your own toolbox–attend conferences, listen to podcasts, watch NCHE webinars, join a homeschool support group, and read! Take care of yourself mentally, physically, and spiritually, because a whole education is more than just learning facts about reading, writing, and arithmetic. A complete education nurtures your mind, body, and soul. You have what it takes to teach your children, and NCHE is here to help you every step of the way!

Different Methods from Your Homeschool Approach

There are many approaches to homeschooling. Below we provide a quick summary of six common approaches.

Charlotte Mason

“Living books” versus “textbooks”
short age-appropriate lessons,
Nature study
Discipline/good habits
Fine arts and music
Hands-on learning
incorporates unit studies

A Charlotte Mason Education,
More Charlotte Mason (Levinson),
A Charlotte Mason Companion (Andreola),
For the Children’s Sake (McCauley),
 Ambleside Online
Simply Charlotte Mason
Sonlight Curriculum (can be used with the Charlotte Mason approach)
Five in a Row,
Heart of Dakota,
Master Books

Unit Study

Integrated learning—learning centered around a common theme
Especially fits with the way a young child’s brain learns
The way real-life learning happens
Hands-on activities
Delight-directed learning
Phonics and math usually taught separately

Homeschool Legacy: Once a Week Unit Studies,
Valerie Bendt unit studies,
Five in a Row,
My Father’s World,
Tapestry of Grace (a classical unit study),
Sonlight Curriculum (can be used with or as a unit study),
Notgrass History,
Gather ‘Round Homeschool

Classical Method

Teach using the ‘Trivium’— learning divided into three stages of development
Grammar stage (grades 1-6)
Dialectic stage  (grades 7-9)
Rhetoric stage  (grades 10-12)
Great Books
Lots of memorization
Socratic Dialogues

Well-Trained Mind (Bauer),
Teaching the Trivium,
Introduction to Classical Studies,
Biblio Plan,
Memoria Press,
Veritas Press,
Classical Academic Press,
Classical Conversations

Traditional Method

The “institutional school model”
Each subject taught separately

Accelerated Christian Education, A.C.E.,
Alpha Omega Press: (LIFEPACK, Switched-On Schoolhouse, Monarch),
Bob Jones Press,
Modern Curriculum Press,
Rod & Staff,
Christian Light

Unschooling & Relaxed 

Unschooling: Often more child-directed
Relaxed: More purposeful and parent-directed
Loose or no schedule
Great consideration of a child’s interests and talents
Emphasis on a love for learning
Hands-on activities,
Rarely use textbooks

Teach Your Own (Holt),
How Children Learn (Holt),
Homeschooling for Excellence (Colfax),
The Relaxed Homeschooler (Hood), 
Joyful Home Schooler (Hood), 
Unschooled (McDonald)
The Unhurried Homeschooler (Wilson)
The Four-Hour School Day: How You and Your Kids Can Thrive in the Homeschool Life (Wilson)
Christian Unschooling


Most home educators end up in this category to some extent.
“A little bit of this, a little bit of that”
Choosing the pieces of different approaches that fit your children best

Decide on Curriculum and Resources

More resources are available for your family than ever before, and new resources are launched every day. What makes a curriculum a success for your family isn’t the package, the sales spin, or the success stories you’ve read on their website. The closer a curriculum fits your family’s philosophy and approach, the more successful you will be.

Most families piece together their own curriculum by picking and choosing the best for their family from different publishers. It is usually best to start small and add later. This is referred to as an “eclectic” approach. Frankly, this tailored style of education has always been one of the the most beautiful and beneficial components of home education.

  • For a lists of some of the most commonly used curricula and resources visit:
  • For a more detailed and comprehensive description, we refer you to the book: Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum, by Cathy Duffy, and
  • Finally, to get a firsthand look at the a large variety of materials, we invite you to attend NCHE’s Thrive! Conference each spring. Our conference features a huge vendor hall and thousands of materials.


One of the beauties of homeschooling is that each family can do it their way, in a way that fits with their life situation, style, and philosophy. The only thing the NC law says about how we must homeschool is that we must school on a regular schedule for at least nine calendar months each year. It doesn’t say how many days per week, which days per week, how many hours per day, or which hours of the day. As a homeschool teacher, you can structure your school any way that works best for you.

However, it is helpful to have a plan–even if that plan has lots of built-in flexibility. There are many personal factors that will affect your plan, but the ages of your children are probably the biggest. More than likely, the older they are the more hours you will spend on structured school.

Make a plan, and give it a try, but always be ready to adjust plans that don’t work. We learn what works for us as we try different things, so be creative!  NCHE is here for you. Our website and Facebook community are consistently terrific resources!