Styles and Pedagogies

Charlotte Mason/ Living Books

Charlotte Mason was a British educator who lived in the late 1800s and early 1900s. She believed that children should be treated as people, and receive a broad education, including reading good literature that has not been dumbed-down, learning through real-life situations and through play/ exploration.

She promoted teaching basic reading, writing and math skills and then to expose children to the best sources of knowledge for all other subjects ie nature walks, museums, etc

“Living books” is a phrase that was coined to describe literature that made the subject “come alive” in contrast to textbooks that tend to be dull and dry and assume the reader cannot think for him/herself.



This approach recognises that children naturally want to explore and that will lead to their learning. A proponent of this style of learning is John Holt, American Educator.  

Parents do not set the curriculum and at times do not even set the hours of learning.

A child is charged with the responsibility of furthering their intellectual and physical learning.  Their parent supports and facilitates.


Thematic Units

A thematic unit approach takes an idea or theme and weaves learning around that, relating the many disciplines (subjects) back to the main theme. ie spiders, ANZAC day, Eiffel Tower.

The subject for the unit study may come from the student in daily conversation or from a current interest or long-term passion.  The parent then usually takes this and incorporates english, mathematics, science or whatever are considered their core curriculum subjects.

This approach is similar to unschooling from the perspective that it is child-centred and after a passion; but there is more structure and parental instruction.



This is perhaps the most familiar to us, being the majority attended state or private school.. A curriculum is simply a pre-prescribed path of study, using text books.

A child is set a target whether a chapter, number of pages, or some other milestone in each of the learning subjects.  Each text book has an answer key or is marked by the parents.

The child is usually required to reach a level of competency before progressing.


The Eclectic method

Being eclectic in education has the same meaning as in life in general - it is the piecing together of seemingly unrelated materials to produce a rich tapestry of learning.  This may be a mixture of different education styles or materials within one style.

Many find that a combination of text book and unschooling works for them.




This educational model:
  • Sometimes named after its founder Rudolf Steiner (1861 – 1925), a 20th century “Renaissance Man”.
  • Sometimes named after the very first school built for the children of the workers at the Waldorf Astoria cigarette factory in Stuttgart in 1919.
  • Seeks a balance between thinking, feeling and willing (action/doing) in the day-to-day work appropriate to the stage of development of the child.
  • Seeks to honour the child’s developmental journey in a holistic way.  Is protective of childhood – children have a right to be children, they are not very short adults.  It sees childhood development as corresponding to mankind’s development throughout history (for example, the 12 yo is like a Roman).  Steiner-Waldorf education uses developmental stages to inform it’s curriculum both in what is taught each year and how it’s taught (Roman history is taught around age 12).
  • Delays academic work until around age 7.
  • Uses stories and – later (from around age 11) – history to teach other content in a holistic way.
  • Uses the arts to evoke emotion and to engage.
  • Works from the whole to the parts.