One of the aspects of homeschooling that I am most thankful for is the ability to customize a learning approach that fits my kids’ individual needs. It’s a beautiful thing to recognize that classical or Charlotte Mason or delight-directed or Montessori fits with your vision and goals for your family and your children. However, I know first-hand that it is also really easy to trap yourself within these labels. What once inspired and informed your choices suddenly becomes what’s strangling the life out of your homeschool. What do you do when one size doesn’t fit the whole family? Or what if you feel like a conglomeration of ideas is a better fit than a single approach? The answer is simple: blend homeschool styles into the custom-fit for your family!
Our Decision to Blend Homeschool Styles
Shortly after beginning to homeschool our kids, I read about the classical style of education. My husband and I loved it. The logic, the rhetoric, the apologetics, the Socratic discussion, the learning stages—so much of this style appealed to us, and I dove in head first.
Of course, that was before I discovered that I’d been blessed with a house full of ADHD. A couple of years in and the rigid structure and rigorous demands of a strictly classical education had just about killed us. Toss in a series of family health issues, and our life was chaos. As I sat in the waiting room of a medical office waiting for my husband’s second back surgery to be completed, I devoured Karen Andreola’s book Charlotte Mason Companion. Charlotte Mason was the breath of fresh grace I desperately needed.
While I wasn’t ready to abandon the premise of classical education we’d loved and identified with, I immediately saw how Charlotte Mason’s principles both complemented and embellished the starkness of the classical model. Charlotte Mason gave grace and beauty where I was in much need of it. Over the next year, I worked to blend the two styles together in a way that kept what we loved about classical but gave grace in the areas of ADHD distractibility where I needed it most. The result: a perfect fit for our family, a blend of knowledge and grace.
So how do you achieve this for your family? How do you take what you like, toss what you don’t, and blend what’s left together?
How to Blend Homeschool Styles
Identify what you love best about the styles you are considering. Every curriculum, every homeschool style has it’s strengths and weaknesses. As you read and consider the differences, make a list of what appeals to you the most.
For instance, I love the classical model of a 4 year rotation of history; I love the learning stages of grammar, logic, and rhetoric; I love the emphasis on classical languages and Socratic discussions of ideas. But the rigor of long lessons, drill, and grueling memory work was squelching the active, creative spirits of my ADHD kiddos, not to mention creating real obstacles for my dyslexic child.
From Charlotte Mason, I loved the short lessons, the variety, the incorporation of handicraft and creativity and beauty, the emphasis on the whole person, and the rich feast of ideas to engage their busy intellects.
Exchange principles you don’t like with ones you do. I replaced classical suggestions of 45 minute subjects with the Charlotte Mason principle of short lessons. I was stunned by how much my busy kids learned in only 15 minutes, and the rich variety kept them engaged without gimmicks or bribes. While the encyclopedias and information-rich texts of the classical style appealed to my son, the living books of Charlotte Mason were much more effective with my dyslexic daughter who could follow a plot to remember information better than she could remember random facts.
Embrace trial and error. Ideas that sound perfect in theory may totally fail in application. And that’s okay. Make adjustments. I loved the idea of Charlotte Mason’s approach to teaching spelling, writing, and narration. But in practice, the method was a total fail with both my older kids. Though I loved the open-ended CM concept of narration, my children did much better with the guided, structured classical narrations. Blending the two has been a constant work in progress, but the result has been a style of learning that captures the very best of my kids’ ADHD strengths rather than frustrating their weaknesses.
A couple of years later, and I’m still towing that line between these two styles, daily making decisions about which principles fit our family’s vision and personality best. It’s empowering to blend homeschool styles to what works best for us. It’s liberating to have something else to try when we fail. It’s inspiring to know I’m not trapped in a method that feels like the wrong fit.