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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Low-Maintenance Curriculum for a High-Maintenance Family (2011 Curriculum Fair)

Written by contributor Lora Lynn Fanning of Vitafamiliae

Ages of my children: 7, 7, 5, 4, 2, 1
Educational Philosophy Influences: Classical, Literature-based

With six kids ages seven and under, it was important to me that the curriculum I chose did the heavy-lifting, and not the other way around. We’re mostly Classical style homeschoolers with a dash of Charlotte Mason, just for spice.

Here is what works for our gang (currently schooling twins going into 2nd grade and a rising 1st grader, plus doing preschool as the mood strikes).

Core Curriculum

Tapestry of Grace (TOG) – Despite the density of the curriculum, once you get the hang of it, planning is a breeze. I plan by the week, so that if one day goes awry (as they tend to do with my crew), it doesn’t put us behind. We just fit it in somewhere else.

I like that as we add in more school-age children, we can all stay on the same subject and adapt it for everyone’s learning level. TOG mixes the classical concepts with learning through literature, which is especially helpful at this young stage.  No dry history textbooks for us! (My review)
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Resources for Early Learning (2011 Curriculum Fair)

Written by Jamie Martin, editor of Simple Homeschool and founder of Steady Mom

Ages of my children: 7.5, 6.5, and 6
Educational Philosophies I Pull From: Waldorf, Leadership Education, Unschooling

When I had two children, both still toddlers, I planned out their entire education for the next 15 years. I spent hours drawing charts, researching, thinking about socialization, and narrowing down curriculum options.

We haven’t followed any of it.

Since then I’ve found a better strategy is to plan for tomorrow, not next week or next year. I don’t mean you should never look ahead; I just mean that when stress or overwhelm kick in, that’s your clue to stop.

Today I want to share not only the resources we’ll be using in the upcoming year, but also what we’ve used in the past. Hopefully this will help those of you with younger children as well.
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Five in a Row: Enlarge your Preschooler’s World with Books

I love the eagerness, innocence, and curiosity of preschoolers. They have so many questions about the world, and their genuine interest in finding out the answers make them ideal candidates as natural learners.

Add to this my own daughter’s precociousness and voracious interest in learning to read, and I knew I needed to add a bit more to our day than my own ideas to satisfy her thirst (and my sanity).

So this past “school year,” my daughter and I learned together via Five in a Row. As a four and five-year-old who loves to read, this was an ideal format for her to explore the world in a sort of big picture way, covering a wide variety of topics while still living a super flexible lifestyle.

Five in a Row isn’t just for preschoolers — it can be done through high school, in fact. But I found it an ideal curriculum and learning style for our family’s lifestyle and my child’s temperament.

Here are some of my favorite things about FIAR.

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