Eclectic Homeschoolers

Eclectic Learning

Whatever the reason a family chooses to home educate their child/children, the reason(s) is very personal and unique to their family lifestyle or situation.

There is no right or wrong way to home educate, in terms of learning preference.  A family selects a home education method based upon their child/children’s education and lifestyle needs.

For my family, our learning style encompasses traditional home education and unschooling methods, somewhere in between. This method of learning is known as eclectic learning.

Eclectic learning is a combination of structured learning and unschooling. Parents select the method that best suits the subject to teach, the learning styles of the child, and the needs of the family at any given time. Methods often change as the home situation changes. –Maple Tree Publishing Glossary

We are definitely not traditional learners, but we’re definitely not solely nontraditional unschoolers. Most days may be more structured than others. Other days may be very laid back with more free time to explore.

A Typical School Day

Typically, our school day begins around 11 a.m., after breakfast time. During the midday time block the toddlers have free play time and the teens do some fun activities, too. For instance, my teen son likes to play a video game before starting school, while my teen daughter likes to watch a TV show or read a book.

We also use the midday time block to go out and do something fun. Sometimes we go to the lake, the library, or out to lunch. We also do our grocery shopping together as a family before school lessons. Yes, grocery shopping can absolutely count as school! 🙂 Between home economics, life skills, and mathematics there is so much to learn with just a simple grocery shopping trip.

We can also schedule dentist and doctor appointments in the morning, freeing up our afternoon for lessons.

School lessons begin in the afternoon around 2 or 3 p.m. This is when the teens begin working on their lessons for the day. The toddlers and I will work on a fun activity like art or a fun project. Sometimes the teens work on their independent lessons at the library.

In warmer months, we like to get out of the house more so Elijah and Michala go to the library at least twice a week for school time. This, of course, also becomes a great fun activity for my toddlers, as we like to hangout in the children’s library or attend story time events.

DAR HE: The Story of Emmet Till
I took the teens on a field trip to see the one-man play Mike Wiley Productions’ DAR HE: The Story of Emmet Till. | Photo by J. Hamra

More field trips, please!

We also LOVE to go on field trips! One of the things I wanted to do when we started homeschooling was take the kids on more field trips than what they (the teens) were used to in public school. I truly believe field trips enrich my children’s learning experience.

I always research events in Detroit and the metro area to see if there’s anything educational or fun coming up. Sometimes we create our own field trips! For instance, one time we had a spontaneous field trip day and went to the mall for lunch and to walk around. It was so cold outside, but the sun was shining. We didn’t want to be stuck in the house on a sunny day, but the weather wasn’t warm enough to enjoy the outdoors. The mall was a perfect spot for us to hangout and enjoy some time out of the house.

We are known to spend an entire day on a field trip. One time we attended the North American International Auto Show and Autorama (another car show) during the “regular” school day. We like to attend plays, visit museums, and so much more!

Homeschool Edition
Elijah learns about cars at the Autorama Car Show in Detroit, MI.
Sometimes a spontaneous field trip to get delicious chocolate chip cookies is cool school day!
Elijah checking out a new Tesla at the mall. He asked if it could be his first car. Ha! Keep dreaming, buddy!


Curriculum We Use

We do focus on core subjects for our homeschool: English, Math, Reading, Science, and Social Studies. We are currently using Time 4 Learning (T4L) for our core subjects. I like to use T4L as more of a guide, though, and not our primary curriculum. (NOTE: I do not recommend Timre 4 Learning as a primary curriculum. I have found too many flaws with the program which is why I like to use it more of a guide.)

Not all of our lessons come from T4L. As I mentioned in the above paragraph, I use T4L as more of a guide, not a primary curriculum. I like to implement supplemental reading and learning videos separate from T4L. I also pick and choose which lessons/topics for my kids to study in the T4L program.

We also like to use other online-based learning programs such as CK-12, IXL, and Khan Academy. We LOVE CK-12, IXL, and Khan Academy! I cannot give these programs enough praises; they are that good! At a later date, I will write blog posts on our experiences using T4L, CK-12, IXL, and Khan Academy.

For our Bible studies, we use Alpha and Omega Publications for structured learning. Sometimes I create our own Bible studies, for instance if it is a specific holiday we are celebrating like Advent.

Here are the links to the online programs we use:

Another great resource we heavily rely on is the LIBRARY! The library is our best friend. Seriously. You can find just about everything you need at the library, including books on homeschooling and teacher guides/manuals. I have found workbooks for preschoolers, too. These workbooks include reproducible worksheets which you can run off copies right at your library! I love it!


PIN THIS!Real Life Experiences

Another aspect of our eclectic learning is encompassing real life experiences with the learning experience. From going to medical appointments to learning how to cook, I strive very hard to make our “real life” a part of my children’s homeschool experience.

Life happens, right? And when life happens, you can turn your life events into great learning experiences for your children.

Perfect example: mom having a baby. My kids like to go to my routine prenatal appointments and ultrasound appointments. They love hearing the baby’s heartbeat and/or seeing baby on the ultrasound. Just my being pregnant sparked my teen daughter’s interest into midwifery. So she started researching more about what it’s like to be a midwife. She even had an opportunity to ask a midwife questions.

My teen son, on the other hand, was interested in learning more about the growth of a baby inside the womb. He started watching documentaries about how a baby grows in the womb. This went very well with his current Biology studies.

And as for my two toddlers, Zhen (age 4) loves watching the doctor at my appointments. Because of this she has learned named of medical tools such as a stethoscope and a Doppler monitor. She learned that both are used for listening to the heartbeat and what the differences between the two are.

Grocery shopping is a great learning experience for life skills, mathematics, and even health/nutrition studies! Grumpy babies are also great for learning how to handle conflict. LOL! 🙂

Other real life experiences the kids have learned are:

  • how to save money for a need/want
  • how to prepare for a big move (when we moved to Michigan)
  • grocery shopping
  • cooking lessons
  • how to read food product labels the nutritional value
  • life skills such as doing laundry and cleaning a home
  • routine car maintenance
Lincoln Street Art Park
Exploring urban art in Downtown Detroit

Unschooling Some of the Time

And of course, part of the eclectic learning experience is including unschooling. I find the concept of unschooling very fascinating and I am still learning more about it. The reason why we haven’t adopted unschooling as our primary learning method is because my children need routine and structure.

Aagghh! Don’t yell at me, unschoolers.

I’m definitely not saying unschoolers are not structured because I do believe unschoolers are very structured. It’s just for my kids, they need a more rigid routine and structure, if, at least, a very flexible routine and base guideline of structure.

Out of my four children, I would say my teen daughter would benefit most from solely unschooling. She doesn’t particularly care for routine schedules and having to learn subject material in a set order. I think this is another reason why eclectic learning works well for everyone because she can still have “the best of both worlds”, if you will.

Plus, it fits their personalities. Okay, and yes, it fits my personality, too. 🙂 I tried unschooling for a few weeks and the teens felt completely lost. Even after a week of our unschool trial period, Michala asked me, “What are we doing for school today? Are you going to make a schedule?!” Maybe that had something to do with attending public school for a few years before we started homeschooling.

Either way, we found our happy medium with the eclectic learning method where we can do both traditional learning AND unschooling!

Making their first garden!

Mixin’ It Up with Unschooling

So instead of completely unschooling, we mix it up. If one of my children show a great interest in a learning topic and want more time to explore the topic, I let them go for it! I don’t say, “No, we have to follow our school schedule.” Instead, I make it part of our schedule.

For example, our first year of homeschool, Elijah wanted to study neurology instead of a traditional science subject. So I bought an introductory neurology textbook/workbook for teens. He enjoyed the subject very much. Next year, he wants to study Forensic Science instead of Chemistry, a subject most seniors study in public school.

Michala loves reading! When she was in public school, it always upset her that she was forced “encouraged” to read from the Accelerated Reader’s list (a program the city/state implemented at that time). She was also scolded for choosing books which were not on the list. I even received notes home or phone calls from the teacher saying Michala was not choosing books from the Accelerated Reader’s list.

Although I understood the purpose and value of the Accelerated Reader program, I did not like that my daughter was being reprimanded for choosing different books– books she was most interested in reading. I felt instead, she should have been encouraged and praised for reading books. The constant reprimands and negativity eventually led to Michala not wanting to read at all!

So when we started homeschooling, I made it a point to let my kids choose books they wanted to read. I do include assigned reading from time to time, especially if it coincides with a current topic they are studying (i.e. reading the biography of Harriet Tubman while studying slavery). But I primarily let my kids choose the books they want to read.

I found by allowing this freedom of choice to read what they want, my children:

  • read way more than they ever did when they were in public school,
  • choose books on a higher reading level,
  • choose classical literature books on their own (that was a GREAT surprise to me!),
  • and their vocabulary has greatly increased.

The two above examples are just a snippet of how we unschool in our homeschool. There are so many other ways we unschool, such as not following a traditional daily schedule. Public school usually starts early in the morning. We start school in the afternoon. And so on.

Since giving Michala more freedom to choose the books she wants to read, her love for reading has grown immensely!

Yes, there is a conclusion to this post. 🙂

And you know, I could go on and on about my love for eclectic learning! It took us a couple of years to find what worked best for us. Once I realized eclectic learning was our jam, everything just seemed to fall into place.

We like the routine and structure as long as we leave room for flexibility. We like to have the freedom to explore other topics of interest which are not typically part of the core subjects, such as studying neurology and forensic science. And we like to include real life experiences as part of our home education experience.

And that, my friends, is how we homeschool as eclectic learners!


Got questions? Comments? Leave your response below or send me an email!





*All photos by J. Hamra.



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