Buffet-Style Homeschooling (2012 Curriculum Fair)

One of the most common complaints I hear from new-to-homeschooling moms is, “There are so many choices! I just need somebody to tell me what to do and I’ll do it.”

Well, I’ve got news for you, Mamas. Choosing a curriculum is just the beginning.

Several curricula actually offer choices within their content. They provide a myriad of activities, books, and assignments on a topic and allow you, the teacher, to choose what works best for your kids.

It’s a veritable smorgasbord of learning! With these “buffet-style” curricula homeschooling is like a “choose your own adventure” novel in living color!

In preparation for using a buffet-style curriculum when my children got older, I used Before Five In A Row for preschool. Each week we read one book and then had several different activities to choose from that related to that book.  This gave me a chance to practice picking and choosing before I felt all the stress of “What if I pick wrong and they never learn the date of the Battle of Hastings and I ruin them forever????”

I loved the flexibility this type of curriculum offered. I’d read all of the options and decide what we were in the mood for that week. If I thought I could handle a craft without my head or the glitter exploding, we’d do that. If the science option looked more fun, we’d choose that. Anything I chose centered around our book of the week so it all tied together for my kids. I couldn’t make a WRONG choice.
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Mommy’s Unexcused Absence: A Day In The Life of a Bed Resting Mama

Written by contributor Lora Lynn Fanning of Vitafamiliae

My family, with our seven kids ages 7, 7, 6, 5, 3, 1, and Not-Quite-Here-Yet are currently in a season of Not Normal Life.

For the last 14 weeks of my pregnancy, I’ve been on various levels of bed rest and high levels of medication. This means that I have about an hour and a half of teaching and talking time in the morning before I head to the couch or my bed with a whimper.

We have just enough time to do our reading aloud for history and literature, a quick grammar and spelling lesson, and maybe some phonics with my early readers. Or, if it’s a math day of the week, I teach the new math lesson. My older kids do their book work in the afternoons while my little people nap.

Our situation is certainly unique, but it’s not unthinkable that homeschooling families will have Mom/Teacher sidelined on a long-term basis at some point. And when the children/students are home all day every day, this has an even greater impact on the family.

Here are a few tips for when Mom takes a long, unexcused absence:
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Creating a Candlelight Christmas

Written by contributor Lora Lynn Fanning of Vitafamiliae

One of the most important locations in our home at Christmastime is the dining room. This is where our real Christmas celebration occurs throughout the month. I make sure that even if I don’t hang an ornament in any other room, the dining room gets special treatment.

Back when my oldest children were babies, I read about a family who eats by candlelight every night in December. It made the whole month feel special, even if they were just scarfing down pizza. Candlelight makes everything more elegant, right?

We began that tradition in our own home with just big thick candles in the middle of the table. I’ve added a few candlesticks and hurricane lamps over the years. I’m always on the hunt for the “perfect” Christmas candelabras, although my crew is content with pillar candles and votives for now.

I’ve found that, in the hustle of the season, this was a great time to slow down, look our loved ones in the eye, and let them know we think they’re worthy of a candlelight supper. Turning off the lights also seemed to quiet the noise, allowing us to focus on the people in front of us, the magic of the moment.
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Lora Lynn’s Biggest Homeschooling Mistake: 2-for-1 Homeschooling

Written by contributor Lora Lynn Fanning of Vitafamiliae

My two eldest sons are pretty close in age. And by “close” I mean sixty seconds apart. Since I was pregnant with them, I’ve heard “Two for the price of one!” And later I heard, “Homeschooling must be easy for you. You can teach the twins together!”

First of all, I do have other children to teach. My twins were quickly followed by four (soon to be five) siblings. And I think we all know that homeschooling even one child isn’t really “easy.” But second, and perhaps more importantly, having twins or siblings close in age does not exempt me from teaching them as individuals.
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Confessions of a Reformed Preschool Drop-Out

Written by Lora Lynn Fanning of Vitafamiliae

I always believed that preschool was for over-achieving mamas. I tend to agree with my fellow Simple Homeschool writer that “preschoolers can learn everything they need to know from the school of life.”

I did “preschool” with my eldest children because we needed a routine of some sort to break up our days. But it was very laid-back. I chose a curriculum I could manipulate, pick and choose from, or not do at all.

And I usually went for option 3.

My third child learned by osmosis and jumped into first grade without any formal preschool. I have simply assumed that this tactic would work for the several other Littles I have coming up in the ranks.

And then came my fourth child… My highly opinionated daughter, who is driven by forces I do not understand. She pushed, cajoled, wheedled, and nagged until I gave in and agreed to “do school” with her. Because while she certainly doesn’t NEED it, who am I to argue with a child when she WANTS education?
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