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.
The same held true when we did Five in a Row the next year, and as we’ve done Tapestry of Grace for the last two years. There are no WRONG choices. Just different choices. The curricula are designed with the understanding that you will not be able to do it all.
I found great freedom in knowing the curriculum I held in my hands was open to whimsy, to a crazy week, or to appealing to my children’s varying skills and talents. And knowing that I would never do it all gave me the freedom to do exactly what we needed.
Tips For Using Buffet Style Curriculum:
I begin each year with a specific goal in mind. I decide what skill or character quality I’m looking to build in my kids for that year. For example, our first year of Tapestry (first grade for my twins), I set a simple goal of just “following and functioning within a set routine.” If they retained nothing about the ancient Egyptians, I wanted my boys to be able to follow the routine for school.
Use these goals to help you narrow down your choices for each week. When you start to feel overwhelmed or indecisive, return to your goals to help you focus on what YOUR children’s needs are. Since I knew my focus was mostly on routine, I only chose the most basic of options and didn’t stray from it much.
2. Know your curriculum.
Once you know your goals for the year, spend some time getting to know the ins and outs of your curriculum. Buffet-style curricula tend to LOOK overwhelming even though they are generally well-organized. I spent a weekend just reading the introductions and playing with the columns and the lay-outs until I understood the way it was set up and had a better idea how to make it work for me.
3. Play to strengths.
Photo by jimmiehomeschoolmom
You know the things you are good at. I know I stink at crafts. I’m much less likely to pick a project that involves knitting on a loom or making things out of felt. I like writing, though, so I will often steer my children toward the activities that have more writing since I am most qualified to help them in that area.
However, your children have strengths that are not your own. My son is excellent at art. I see a cereal box, he sees a Viking long-house. Sometimes I pick projects or activities that I know my children are strong in and I watch them excel and grow in confidence.
4. Let your kids pick.
My children love to have a voice in how we spend our days. At the beginning of our week, I present them with one or two options for their weekly project. (I usually don’t give them every single option because I know I don’t have all of the supplies or the time for some of them. But I narrow it down to two or three that are doable.) They get to pick which direction to follow for the week. They get excited about their learning and are much more motivated to finish projects and activities when they choose for themselves.
How do you like your curriculum? Is buffet style more your thing or do you prefer a la carte? How do you decide how to use your time each week?