Educational Philosophies Defined, Part II

Last week we explored four educational methods–giving a brief overview of each and providing links for further research.

So many methods exist that we could go on and on (& on!). For today, let’s cover five more and what they look like from a homeschooler’s perspective.

1. The Classical Method

Classical education has its roots in the classic civilizations–much of it is based on ideas with a Roman and Greek foundation.

This type of educational mindset doesn’t necessarily focus on getting the child ready for any particular vocation. Instead its goal is to form and shape the whole inner person, with the belief that doing so prepares a child for any number of jobs in which they can be successful.

The classical method focuses on the Trivium–three distinct stages children work through as they develop. Young children begin with the grammar stage, proceed through the logic/dialectic stage, and graduate to the rhetoric stage close to adulthood.

Key aspects of this philosophy include the importance of reading and discussing classic, living books and the study of classical languages like Latin or Greek.

Further Reading:

The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise
Classical Education–from A to Z Home’s Cool Homeschooling
The Well-Educated Mind: A Guide to the Classical Education You Never Had by Susan Wise Bauer

2. The Literature-Based Method

Photo of my family by Desirea Rodgers

Literature-based homeschooling families use high-quality literature as the backbone of their homeschooling curriculum.

Many of the philosophies we’ve covered address the importance of using living books as a vital part of the educational experience. Serious literature-based schooling advocates take it a step further and try to accomplish as many of their subjects as possible within the outline of a good story, believing this helps a child’s mind assimilate information.

Many companies publish reading lists by grade and age level. Other literature-based publishers organize the entire curriculum for you–making it easy to purchase and have delivered to your door an entire school year’s worth of learning and reading.

Further Reading:

Sonlight Curriculum
WinterPromise Curriculum
The Homeschool Diner’s Guide to Literature-Based Learning for Homeschoolers

3. The Workbox Method

The workbox method contains less of philosophy and more of practicality. It has gained popularity in recent years and many families seem to be finding success with it.

The method uses organization to help children become more independent, make the school day fun, and enable Mom or Dad to manage a house of students.

Each child has their own set of drawers, file folders, or containers. The homeschooling parent fills these with the child’s work for the day–each assignment in a separate drawer.

At the beginning of the school day, the child starts with drawer or container number 1 and completes the assignment. He or she then moves to the container marked #2. Some drawers may be filled with a fun task–like a coloring page or a playtime. If a child has a question, they attach a question symbol to the drawer and continue on to the next until Mom’s help is available.

Photo by whgrad

Many families find that they have fewer interruptions and distractions to their day after beginning this method–resulting in less conflict and more free time after work is completed.

Further Reading:

Sue Patrick’s Workbox System: A User’s Guide
Benefits of the Workbox System

Thinking Inside the Box: Using the Workbox System

4. The Leadership Education Method

Leadership Education has recently become more widely known as a homeschooling philosophy. Also called Thomas Jefferson Education, it centers around the idea that children learn differently at different stages of life.

Drawing on the work of Jean Piaget and other educational philosophers, three main phases of childhood learning are discussed and implemented: Core, Love of Learning, and Scholar.

Because this is more of a philosophy than an actual method, it’s easy to adapt many of the Leadership Education principles into any curriculum you may use. Our family has benefited greatly since discovering these ideas–they’ve brought great peace to our home.

Further Reading:

Introduction to a Thomas Jefferson Education
Leadership Education: The Phases of Learning by Oliver and Rachel DeMille
A Thomas Jefferson Education Online

5. The Eclectic Method

Few homeschooling families fit within the constraints of one method or philosophy–indeed that is one of the strengths of home education. My family has gathered inspiration from Charlotte Mason, Literature-Based, Leadership Education, and Interest-Led Learning.

The beauty truly unfolds as you find and discover what works for you and your children. Don’t be afraid to pick and choose.

Over the coming weeks and months at Simple Homeschool, we’ll take a look at these and other philosophies more in depth. Is there a method you’d like to learn more about? Let me know!

Has your family experimented with any of the methods covered in today’s post? Which ones connect with you as a parent and teacher?

austin limos

About Jamie Martin

Jamie is a mama to three cute kids born on three different continents. She is the co-founder and editor of Simple Homeschool, where she writes about mindful parenting, intentional education, and the joy found in a pile of books. Jamie is also the author of a handful of titles, including her newest release, Give Your Child the World.


  1. i appreciate your putting together these “how to” articles and references. i am seriously considering homeschooling our middle daughter (and maybe 3 y.o. son) for first grade. i need to figure out how to go forward with it all and your articles are quite valuable. thank you!

  2. This is a great resource. Thanks so much for the details and the links. I have a lot of friends that are using the Sonlight curriculum. And while it interests me some, I can’t help but think that there’s a need for more than just great literature as resources. I’d love to know more about the way you incorporate the different philosophies into your day to day teaching.

    Thanks again.
    .-= Nicole at Burning Bushes’s last blog: A Lesson from Tigger =-.

  3. This is most helpful. My friends and I were discussing how much the face of homeschooling has changed, just in the past five years. So many of us are considering it who couldn’t have dreamed of it just a few years ago. Since I think a great deal of the beauty of homeschooling is the ability to custom-tailor an education to fit the needs of a particular child and/or family, I can’t imagine doing anything *but* eclectic homeschooling. I keep finding things that resonate with me in so many different approaches.

  4. We follow the classical outline with a literature-based curriculum and use workboxes. I also use some Charlotte Mason techniques and now you’ve got me interested in the Jefferson philosophy. I guess you’d call us eclectic! 🙂

    Terrific post!
    .-= Angela @ Homegrown Mom’s last blog: Routines, Rituals, and Traditions =-.

  5. We’re eclectic (like many families), but The Well-Trained Mind is what originally lit my homeschooling fire. I’d say we are relaxed classical, with some Charlotte Mason inspiration, and heavy on the literature (I purchase many, many books from Sonlight). I’ve been wanting to read A Thomas Jefferson Education. We might steer in that direction as the boys get older.
    .-= Heidi @ Mt Hope’s last blog: Field Trip #13 =-.

  6. Excellent post! It’s so nice to see the main points of various philosophies. Helps to simplify things.

    I think we dabbled in all the possibilities. My kids liked variety and so did I, so when we got tired of one way of doing something, we’d switch to something else. I liked having to-do lists for the kids and they liked checking things off. But probably 80% of our school life was free-form, with them exploring their interests and me keeping an eye on progress, offering suggestions and opportunities.

    Thanks for all the work you put into researching this, and for the great links!

  7. We’re discussing homeschooling our children, year round, right now they do homeschooling the summer & breaks to help them keep a routine (routine is really important to our kids). And so it helps to have more resources to as we move forward, we are thinking of a specific homeschool program right now (if we do this) but aren’t sure.
    .-= beth aka confusedhomemaker’s last blog: Defining a Movement: Mom 2.0 Video =-.

  8. I love the ideas of Leadership Education. The books helped shape my views on the importance of learning. We pick and choose bits of other methods to use, but my basic philosophies are those of Leadership Education, which is based on how many of the ‘Greats’ have been educated–through mentors and classics.
    .-= Emily @ Homespun Light’s last blog: Book Review: Pollyanna by Eleanor H. Porter =-.

  9. I haven’t heard of the workbox method but I think we do a mix of almost everything else (except classical education – greek, ack! Two of my kiddos can barely read English!) you covered in this post and the first one on educational philosophies. I just love the freedom to do whatever fits best for our family.

  10. Jamie, thanks for covering the different philosophies. I am familiar with many of them, but a few I just learned from this post, and am going to do some research. I’m a mama of an 18 month old, but it’s something that is already on my heart and want to figure out if this is the way to go for our family. Thank you!

  11. Wow, so many I’m interested in! I’d like to learn more about Charlotte Mason, Leadership Education, Classical, Unit Study and practical unschooling. Would love to read everyday vignettes from families using the different methods (or better, listen to a podcast).

    Also, I’d like to know how students transition from these different methods into the traditional model….are they prepared for a traditional college education?

    Thanks so much for these articles! With a 17 month old, I want to learn more about homeschooling well before she starts school and especially how I can enrich her earliest years now.

    • Great ideas, Mallory–we’ll be covering many of these in the weeks and months ahead!

      .-= Simple Homeschool~Jamie’s last blog: New on Simple Organic: Green Goal-Setting, Part 2: Home Life =-.

      • I’ll have to look for those follow-ups, the sound great.

        As for transitioning from homeschool to college…I’d say from my experience teaching homeschool children at the college level & looking at the sociological data that they do pretty well. I mean it’s not without some challenges, like college offers for everyone, but in general it seems most homeschool students are better at completing independent work & being more industrious at addressing their needs. Probably this is a result from homeschool offering more opportunity for self-direction & seeking out different avenues to meet needs than traditional school settings.
        .-= beth aka confusedhomemaker’s last blog: I’m A Mad Housewife =-.

  12. Wow is right! Thank you so much for posting this article. I love how reading each and every style gets me excited to try new things! What a beautiful community here where we can all learn and grow together. We are a Charlotte Mason fam, but I think that incorporates the literature- based as well as Classical styles too…so we draw from lots of different sources. I am so so thankful for some of these links! Off to shop now 🙂
    .-= Kristen’s last blog: Play for Little Hands =-.

  13. #5 is so true — I think the perfect approach is that special mix of methods that works for your family. The beauty of homeschooling is the ability to really know your children and how they learn best.

  14. I love many of the concepts that you’ve highlighted, but adhere mainly to Leadership Education principles. I have used them to home educate for 20 years. The beautiful thing is that the DeMilles have laid out simple phases and keys that can be applied to any life venue. It’s so freeing to know that it’s a more “organic” approach, in that whatever works within the phases and keys for your family still produces an end result of thinking, responsible individuals that can lead even in less than ideal circumstances.
    Partnering with the philosophy has produced well rounded, responsible, critical thinking young adults in our home…so far, at least! ;0) Having 5 boys I have a ways to go…so far so good!

  15. Thank you for posting this wonderful article. I’m a mom of 2 who will be embarking on the homeschooling journey this Fall. I could say I fall under the category of eclectic homeschooling as I’m inspired by the philosophies of Waldorf, Enki, Reggio Emilia and Montessori. I’m at a crossroad as to how to combine all these different philosophies into a cohesive method. Would love to hear from homeschooling parents on their challenges and benefits of combining different educational philosophies.

  16. It’s so fun to read everyone’s approach to homeschool. We got started on homeschooling with Leadership Education and use it to shape everything we do. But Classical and others have definitely come into our education. It’s been a great journey – taking us places we never dreamed we’d be going and having a great experience all along the way.

  17. Thank you for these summaries! I love the idea of homeschooling but get so overwhelmed when looking at all the options, ideas, and philosophies out there. Homeschooling just became legal where I now live, and I’m still not sure where we will go with it.

  18. Christyl Austin says:

    First, I want to say “thank you” for the very informative posts. I’m completely new to the thought of home-schooling but a few things in our family’s life has brought us to discovering the world of home-schooling. Oh, it is overwhelming! I am a mom to an inquisitive 5-yr. old boy and a super sweet 3-yr. old girl. With kindergarten right around the bend I’m forced to think about my schooling-and today’s public schools. Yikes!

    I want to teach my children. I’m excited at the thought of tailoring their education to their personalities and their interests. The freedom and flexiblity of homeschooling is a wonderful thought as well. But I’m scared to death to take on my chilrens’ education, but I’m not ready to GIVE-IN to my fears either. But I’m afraid that I’ve started this venture a little late (to say the least). It never occured to me that there would be sooooo much information and materials on homeschooling.

    As a child I hated school….hated it. Not that I didn’t like to learn but that I didn’t like the enviroment. I truely felt stifled as a child. I would do terrible on day-to-day tasks but would come out on top of the class during testing. I plainly remember sitting in class,on many occasions, bored to tears. I already see so many of my childhood characteristics in my son. I don’t want to stifle his love of learning by doing what “everyone else” does. So I’m trying to make up for “lost time”. I now realize that this is something I should have thought much more about. But I cannot reverse time and I need help. I need someone to help me and point me in a good direction. Everything that I’m seeing is religion based. I’m looking for an educational method/materials that leave that out. Something outdoorsey, hands-on, great reading books, flexible. Can anyone help me with where to start? Also I’m wondering if anyone can tell me how I tell the public school system that I’m homeschooling. Do my kids have to submit tests showing that they are being educated? I recently found out that there are co-op groups for homeschoolers. Can someone please tell me what exactly a co-op for homeschoolers is? How often should they go? Do you do a lot of community based sports/programs to get your children socialized? Etc. Etc. Etc.

    I have a million and one questions and I can’t keep bombarting my cousin 4 states away with all these crazy questions that keep popping into my head. Someone please help.

  19. Jennifer H. says:

    The Workbox method definitely appeals to me. My kids are 2 1/2 and 1, so I don’t know them and myself well enough to know which particular philosophy(ies) we’ll end up using, but as far as a methodology, I definitely see myself employing a workbox type of thing to organize their schooling day.
    This really resonates with me, since in my college educational classes, Harry Wong’s “The First Days of School” was required reading, and it helped me a lot during my student teaching and my brief time spent in the classroom since then.

  20. Interesting take on the work box method. Ive always considered it a useful and helpful tool and not a philosophy. Its great how you get people thinking past their original thoughts and on to knew ways. God bless your work.

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