Prisma is the world’s most engaging virtual school that combines a fun, real-world curriculum with powerful mentorship from experienced coaches and a supportive peer community.
The mention of homeschooling once conjured images of children huddled around a dining table, textbooks in tow, as a parent droned on about algebra or ancient Rome. Fast forward to today, and homeschooling has undergone a magnificent evolution. There's an expansive buffet of choices, tailored to suit every learner's needs, and a vast array of resources to match.
Perhaps your child is currently enrolled in a public or private school, and you’re wondering “What if?” they could have an education more personalized to their learning style. Or, maybe you’re a seasoned homeschooling family considering switching up your current routine. Wherever you are in your homeschool journey, let's delve deeper.
You know, I’ve wondered if “homeschooling” is a misleading term. Although some homeschooling families do take what most people picture when they hear “school” and implement it at home (more on this below), for most homeschoolers, “homeschool” doesn’t necessarily look anything like school or take place entirely at home. Maybe a better term would be “family-led learning.”
In any case, homeschooling today might look like a combination of the following:
Each of the most popular homeschool styles has existed for a long time, and each has diehard evangelizers and fervent critics. Here’s a preview before we dive into them all in detail:
I’m guessing part of the reason you decided to start homeschooling was your passion for being deeply involved in your child’s learning. So before you pick any old approach, think carefully. What do you dream of for your child’s education, and by extension their adult life? Investigate your own educational philosophy: what kind of learning environments are the most meaningful and transformative in your eyes?
Before designing any homeschool program, ask the following questions:
Grounded in the ancient tradition of “classical education,” the classical method operates sequentially from the grammar stage (knowledge accumulation), to the logic stage (analytical thinking), and finally the rhetoric stage (articulate expression). Rooted in the traditions educating everyone from Thomas Jefferson to Leonardo da Vinci, it champions thorough knowledge of classical languages, arts, and sciences. Parents typically act as knowledgeable guides, leading children through structured stages of learning.
Classical homeschooling might be a good fit for your family if...
Classical homeschooling might not be a good fit for your family if...
Charlotte Mason (1842-1923) was a British educational thinker who believed children should be free to play and learn from immersing themselves in real life, which has resonated with homeschooling parents for generations. Embracing a philosophy of education engaging the whole child, the Charlotte Mason method leans heavily on literature and nature. Using "living books" (those written in a narrative or conversational tone) and regular “nature studies,” it encourages children to connect with the material deeply. As a parent, you'd play the role of a gentle facilitator, introducing your child to quality sources and then allowing their natural curiosity to take over.
Charlotte Mason homeschooling might be a good fit for your family if...
The Charlotte Mason approach might not be a good fit for your family if...
Thematic and immersive, unit studies intertwine subjects around a core theme. In education, this is known as “interdisciplinary learning,” which is a strategy backed by research for its ability to engage learners and given them real-world context for their studies. (Plus, it’s practiced everywhere from MIT to the London Interdisciplinary School to Prisma!) In unit studies, every subject from math to literature gets roped into the theme. This approach offers flexibility and real-world relevance. Parents here are like creative directors, weaving connections and crafting interdisciplinary learning experiences.
At Prisma, our curriculum team creates interdisciplinary themes at both the middle school and high school level. Past themes have included Unsolved Mysteries, Build a Business, World of Wonder, Wild Inventions, and Legend Has It. I wrote this guide to designing unit studies for Secular, Eclectic, Academic Homeschoolers Magazine last year based on our theme design process.
Unit studies might be a good fit for your family if...
Unit studies might not be a good fit for your family if...
(And if you like the sound of unit studies but don’t like the sound of designing them, check out Prisma!)
The school-at-home method is traditional schooling in a home setting. This method follows structured curriculums with regular assessments. Think workbooks, lesson plans, quizzes, and sometimes even bell schedules. Here, parents wear the teacher's hat, bringing the structure and routine of school into the home environment.
Some families do the school-at-home approach using pen-and-paper curriculum, and others incorporate online programs (see our guides to science and math and writing curricula to explore some of those options).
School-at-home style homeschooling might be a good fit for your family if...
School-at-home style homeschooling might not be a good fit for your family if...
Conceived by revolutionary thinker John Holt, unschooling is child-led learning unhinged from the confines of a classroom or curriculum. Unschooling advocates argue children are naturally wired to learn, and traditional school sucks the joy and motivation out of learning. The ultimate goal of unschooling is to create self-directed, curious, lifelong learners.
Unschooling might look like designing a learning space in your house with lots of interesting books, activities, and creative tools, and letting your child run wild; or enrolling them in a Sudbury School or other self-directed learning center. Some eclectic homeschoolers do a hybrid of unschooling and more traditional approaches (for example, using a structured math curriculum but allowing their kids to learn history and science in a self-directed way). At Prisma, we incorporate self-directed learning by encouraging each learner to design a self-directed Quest they work on throughout the year, from mastering piano to becoming an expert in different species of bugs.
Unschooling might be a good fit for your family if...
Unschooling might not be a good fit for your family if...
Still undecided? Dive into the eclectic homeschooling approach—a harmonious blend of styles, ensuring your child gets the best of all types of homeschooling. After all, when it comes to learning, sometimes the magic lies in the mix.
We’re fans of online learning, but it depends how it’s done. Here’s some pros and cons of different kinds of online homeschooling resources to consider, plus links to a variety of options.
Unit studies blend multiple subjects together to create real-world, interest-driven learning experiences. Steal the approach our curriculum experts use to create themes with a free downloadable unit study planner.
“The curriculum at Prisma allows learners to learn about their strengths and use their passions in an organic and interdisciplinary way. The kids have the freedom to choose by having differentiated projects, quests, enrichments, and clubs.”
You might be hearing from friends, extended family, and random strangers in the doctor’s office “there’s no way your kid will be able to get into a good college as a homeschooler.” Impolite, yes. True? Let’s figure it out.
“The amount of support and check-ins our learners have at Prisma is unparalleled compared to anywhere else I’ve ever worked.”
“What most drew me to Prisma was the chance to work with a fully project-based curriculum custom-designed for middle schoolers who are hungry for academic engagement.”
The best online school for your family is a question of priorities: More support or lower tuition costs? Traditional or project-based academics? Asynchronous or lots of interaction? We break it down in this post.
David Waitzer is the Founding Learning Coach for our first cohort in East Asia & Oceania. In this post, he describes how his background teaching and leading for innovative international education companies will help him accelerate the growth of Prisma learners.
Prisma has hundreds of learners across the Western Hemisphere. Along the way, we've gotten requests to launch cohorts in new time zones from families around the world who want to be part of what we’re building. Next up is East Asia & Oceania!
Middle School Curriculum Designer Lizzie uses her diverse experiences: studying Literature at Harvard, leading outdoor adventure expeditions, and teaching high school English, to help Prisma learners find their voices.
The pandemic has made homeschooling easier than ever before with a boom of online options from curriculum, to part-time programs, to full-time schools. But which is best for your family?
Prisma High School’s Launchpad Program will prepare learners to tackle their next phase, be it college, training, or an exciting career. Trevor Baker, our LaunchPad program designer, describes how he sets learners up for success.
You might have to jump in at first. But eventually, with the right modeling and practice, kids can develop the skills to make thoughtful decisions.
Middle School Curriculum Designer Gabe, an expert in interdisciplinary learning with a PhD from the University of Michigan, explains how he designs themes that blend together STEM and literacy.
One of the most fun parts of being a homeschooling parent is creating fun learning experiences for your kiddos! In this post, we share our favorite at-home activities and online resources.
Our Head of Middle School Curriculum explains how her team blends core subjects and real-world topics to design “hard fun” cycle themes.
One of the reasons our team wanted to develop a new kind of school was because we felt traditional schooling doesn’t put enough emphasis on developing emotionally intelligent kids. But what is emotional intelligence and how do you develop it?
"Carolyn is a miracle worker in math. Piper's attitude towards math has improved so much this year. It's never been her favorite subject but Carolyn's patience and encouragement has made such a positive impact." -Alexia A., Prisma parent
Media literacy is touted as one of the most important “21st century skills” for kids to master, in line with creativity, communication, and grit. Thinking through the amount of time most of us spend interacting with some form of media each day makes a good case for this.
“Lauren is fantastic and has struck a nice balance of connecting with Cooper and keeping him on task. I'm impressed to see real growth in Cooper around self awareness, reflecting on his “glows and grows,” and goal setting.” -Kym J., Prisma parent
“I've seen growth in my kids, and most importantly a solid relationship between them and their coaches. We feel so grateful for these amazing humans that have entered our kids' lives. My kids' words exactly: ‘These teachers actually want to be here. They really care!’ ” -Katie M., Parent in Kimberly’s Cohort
By introducing these concepts at home, you're setting your child up to be more financially responsible and savvy, giving them the tools to navigate an increasingly complex financial world.
“I’m so happy to have an opportunity to call out Javi. As a math educator myself I am really impressed with how he presents math concepts, differentiates for and challenges learners as needed. From a social-emotional perspective he is so kind, patient and invested in the kids as a whole. I am so happy he is Brynn’s math coach.” -Chandra S., Prisma parent
The ability to tolerate frustration is not merely about weathering the storm of the moment, but about instilling the persistence, adaptability, and resilience that set your child up for future success.
“We are eternally grateful for Prisma and the wonderful people who work there - especially the coaches - whose patience and expertise make our kids feel seen and heard and loved while also coaching them to learn knowledge and skills.” -Ashley S., Parent in Angie’s cohort