Homeschooling Methods, Terms, Abbreviations, & What They Mean

Homeschooling Methods, Terms, Abbreviations, & What They Mean

Homeschooling Methods, Terms, Abbreviations...…..What does it all mean? We often see terms used in forums or on group boards that may not be familiar to us. I am going to try and briefly explain some common homeschooling terms because these things were confusing to me at first and how I wish I’d had a simple explanation available to help me!

Homeschooling Methods and Terms

Mastery | Spiral

What does Mastery Learning mean?

What does it mean when a curriculum is “based on mastery learning”?  Mastery learning means that a person will master the knowledge of a topic before moving on to the next topic. This is most commonly seen in math programs. For example, if a student is working on a chapter for fractions, your child would need to have a grasp of fractions before moving on to the next chapter in the textbook. But how do you know they have achieved “mastery” of fractions? This is based on how you conduct your homeschool. You could test them and set a benchmark grade for what you think determines that they understand fractions. If they get a grade of 85% or higher, then they probably understand fractions good enough to move on to the next chapter. If you don’t test your child, then you could determine their mastery level based on how well they complete the exercises in the book on their own, without any help from you.

What does the Spiral Method mean?

The spiral method means that a student will visit the same topic or skills over and over again, with each visit increasing in difficulty. The spiral method is often seen in math, history and science, with the student learning small bits of information each time. For example, a student may study life science in 3rd grade and learn which animals live in different habitats, then again in 7th grade, they learn about the animal kingdom and its many levels and names, then once again in high school, they take Biology, dissect frogs and learn the inner workings of the animal. The same concept is applied in math. The student completes a chapter of math, along with previous chapter review exercises, then they move on to the next chapter. They will eventually cover the same topic again in later chapters throughout the book, while doing review exercises with each chapter.

Classical | Charlotte Mason | Eclectic | Delight Directed | Traditional

I am only going to give a brief overview of these methods here as each of these can take up an entire post of their own! I will write in more detail about each them later but for now, a brief statement.

Classical homeschooling involves teaching based on the three stages of learning: The Grammar stage, the Logic stage, and the Rhetoric stage. The Grammar stage involves a lot of memorization and gathering of knowledge. The Logic stage is when those memorized facts are sorted, compared and understanding is achieved. The Rhetoric stage applies the knowledge achieved through writing, speech and conversation.  Classical homeschooling also involves the reading of Great Books, living books and hands-on experimentation rather than traditional textbooks.

Charlotte Mason was a British educator that lived in 1842.  The Charlotte Mason philosophy is based on her beliefs that you should educate your child as a “whole” person and not just educate his mind. She believed that education was an atmosphere, a discipline and a life. Some of her methods include short lessons of 10-20 minutes per subject, narrations, copywork, living books, nature studies and habit training.

Eclectic homeschooling is just simply the combining of different methods to make your homeschool work for you. It is more of a relaxed approach, with parents fitting to the needs of their child instead of applying one specific approach such as the Charlotte Mason or Classical method.

Delight Directed homeschool focuses on each child’s learning styles and aptitudes as well as any interests they have that can be incorporated into their learning. It gives students a “real-life” education that makes learning enjoyable. You find teachable moments in every situation, when they are out exploring or when they help in the kitchen with cooking.

Traditional method of homeschooling is just as it says, “tradition” and it's the way most of us were taught in public school. A textbook and teacher guide with lesson plans is used to teach each subject followed by a workbook or list of questions and answers, discussion questions and tests. It is like bringing public school home and replicating it.

Living Books – we see this term everywhere now with homeschooling, so what does it mean?? Living books are just books written by authors that have a passion for the topic they are writing about. The books can be fiction, non-fiction, adventure, mystery, classics or Newbury winners or any other form. What makes them a “living book” is the way they are written, which is typically in conversation or narrative style, engaging the reader and drawing them into learning more about the topic. Living books involve emotion, so that the book comes alive, making it easier to remember facts and events about the topic. They have a sense of beauty and spark the imagination of the reader, inspiring them to want to learn more. They can provide a literature rich environment for your child.

Great Books – these books you will typically see as a suggestion for your high schooler to read. The Great Books are books that are the original works of the greatest minds of our time, both ancient and modern.  They are meant to be read and studied in a way that allows the student to distinguish and argue the truth about reality.  Some examples of Great Books include the original works of Homer’s The Odyssey, Aristotle’s Rhetoric, Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Dante’s Inferno or Beowulf and The Epic of Gilgamesh.

The study of great books allows the past to speak for itself, combining history, creative writing, philosophy, politics, and ethics into a seamless whole.    Susan Wise Bauer, The Well-Trained Mind (2008)

Primary Source Material- you will often see this term in your history study as well. A primary source can be a letter, a book, essays, journals….all having its origins in the actual time period under study. For example, if you are studying the Middle Ages and would like to read Beowulf, a primary source would be a good translation of this book (you wouldn’t be able to read the original manuscript!). If you were to read a book about Beowulf  that retold the story in an abridged form, leaving out some translations, simplifying it for the reader, this would not be a primary source because the original translations have been altered and simplified.

I have one more thing for you. A chart that will tell you what those abbreviations mean that we always see when people are chatting on forums and Facebook groups. These always confused me when I first started homeschooling but I was too embarrassed to ask what they meant. I hope this helps you!




Mystery of History SOTW Story of the World
CHOW Childs History of the World R&S

Rod & Staff


Christian Light Education AAS or AAR All About Spelling/Reading


My Fathers World HOD

Heart of Dakota

MCT Michael Clay Thompson TOG

Tapestry of Grace


Life of Fred LLATL Learning Language Arts Through Literature
ATTA All Through the Ages IEW

Institute for Excellence in Writing


First Language Lessons WWS/WWE Writing with Skill / Ease
CAP Classical Academic Press WTM

The Well-Trained Mind


Biblioplan SL Sonlight
CC Classical Conversations SOS

Switched on Schoolhouse


Handwriting Without Tears MUS Math U See
LO Little One DD / DS / DH

Dear Daughter / Dear Son / Dear Husband


Mother-in-Law / Father-in-Law SAHM Stay-at-Home Mom
GL Good Luck HTH

Hope This Helps


In My Opinion OP / PP

Original Poster / Previous Poster


I Don’t Know FWIW

For What It’s Worth


Be Right Back TIA

Thanks in Advance


Work-At-Home Mom


I tried to list as many abbreviations as I could think of, but if I missed any let me know and I will add them in!



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