Here is a brief summary of each of the six basic approaches.
Traditional Approach: Uses textbooks for the various subjects. Assigns a chapter in the textbook to be read and questions to answer from the content. Uses workbooks with fill-in-the-blank and multiple-choice questions. If you’re interested in the traditional approach, you won’t have any trouble finding publishers who produce that type of curriculum. (We often refer to it as “school in a box.”) Some possibilities include Alpha Omega, Bob Jones, and A Beka.
Unit Studies Approach: Takes a theme or topic and incorporates all the school subjects (Language Arts, History, Science, Music, Art, etc.) into that topic. For example, when you study Ancient Egypt, you read books about Egypt (history), make a salt dough map of Egypt (geography), explore how they irrigated their farm land from the Nile (science), read a historical fiction book set in Ancient Egypt (literature), build sugar cube pyramids (art), learn how to spell “pyramid” (language arts), etc. If you’re interested in the unit studies approach, you would probably want to look at curriculum from Konos and Amanda Bennett’s Web site.
Principle Approach: Emphasizes America’s Christian history and Biblical form of government. Uses the four R’s of research, reason, relate, and record to create a notebook full of Biblical principles and reasoned essays. More information on the principle approach can be found at The Foundation for American Christian Education’s Web site.
Unschooling Approach: Basically goes with the interests of the children. No set curriculum. If a child is interested in butterflies, you research and learn about them until the child is satisfied. If he develops an interest in racecars, you give him information on racecars. Materials for the unschooling approach can be gathered from just about anywhere, including local bookstores, libraries, and most online bookstores.
Classical Approach: Children are taught in three stages, called the Trivium. The Grammar Stage (ages 6-10) focuses on absorbing information and memorizing the rules of phonics, spelling, grammar, foreign language, history, science, math, etc. The Dialectic Stage (ages 10–12) emphasizes logical discussion, debate, drawing correct conclusions, Algebra, thesis writing, and determining the why’s behind the information. The Rhetoric Stage (ages 13–18) continues the systematic, rigorous studies and seeks to develop a clear, forceful, and persuasive use of language. If you’re interested in the classical approach, you would probably want to check into curriculum from Veritas Press and information on Susan Wise Bauer’s Web site.
Charlotte Mason Approach: Based on the educational writings of Charlotte Mason, a turn-of-the-century British educator. She believed in respecting children as persons, in giving them all a broad education by using a generous curriculum, and in allowing them to read “living” books instead of what she called “twaddle.” These tenets are further developed in the methods she used. Charlotte’s idea was to “spread a feast” before the child and let him digest what was appropriate for him at that time. She sought to nurture a love for learning, not just present a body of information. Living books can be found in many places from many publishers. If you’re interested in the Charlotte Mason approach, you would probably want to check out books distributed by Greenleaf Press, Beautiful Feet, and Lifetime Books and Gifts. Wonderful book lists are also available in All Through the Ages from Nothing New Press, the books from TruthQuest History, and Penny Gardner’s Web site, among others. And be sure to check out our own CM Bookfinder and Simply Charlotte Mason Curriculum Guide!