The Robinson Self-Teaching Curriculum: A Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide, Part II Understanding The Rules

RC rules are expected to help the child succeed extraordinarily.
RC rules are expected to help the child succeed extraordinarily. | Source

The Rules of the Robinson Self-Teaching Curriculum

1. No sugar in the diet

2. No T.V.

3. Schoolwork covers 5 hours each day, during the most productive hours of the day.

4. Phonics for teaching reading.

5. Collected books are essential reading.

6. The day begins with mathematics.

7. One-page essay must be done daily.

8. No computer until at least 16 years of age.

9. High school students complete college level chemistry and physics.

10. The children are self-taught, but are supervised and disciplined.

The Robinson Self-Teaching Curriculum emphasizes the 3 R’s: Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic, which is considered the formal schoolwork component. Everything else is extracurricular and may be done at the child’s leisure, but only after completion of the daily formal work. Dr. Robinson suggests keeping the subject list low, to “have time to give adequate attention to the fundamentally important subjects.” History, Geography, English, Economics, Social Studies and Literature are covered in the daily reading.

Aside from the curriculum materials, there are some basic rules that are to be followed. Dr. Robinson purports that these rules are not simply meant to be "suggestions" or recommendations; they are mandatory for ensuring the most successful outcomes. The rules function as an integral part of the program.

The Rules Explained

1. No sugar in the diet. Of course, sugar occurs naturally in foods, particularly fruits and vegetables. What Dr. Robinson is referring to is the extra added refined sugar. To be sure, as addicting as it is, refined sugars are just not good for us, and affects our bodies in many negative ways. Its bad for the teeth, immunity, excess is turned into fat, can cause insulin resistance leading to type II diabetes mellitus and raises cholesterol. There are other reasons too. If your interested in getting on the road to a sugarless diet, Dr. Robinson suggests grabbing a copy of Diane Campbell's book: Step-By-Step to Natural Food.

2. No T.V. Dr. Robinson's family did not watch television, only videos from time to time. Today, the rationale of this rule could also extend to video games and other electronic gadgets in general. We now know that television, especially for the young child, undermines brain development. Dr. Bruce Perry, child psychiatrist, author and senior fellow of the Child Trauma Academy suggests that relationships are most important to healthy development. Television and technology, more so now that ever before, interferes with our physical and emotional health. "Children are having at least one-fourth as many opportunities when they grow up to interact with people as they were two decades ago. We're taking 30 percent of the day and we're filling it with electronic interactions with television that don't involve human interaction. We are creating artificial human interactions in our schools where we have ratios of one adult to 30 children," Dr. Perry says.

3. Schoolwork covers 5 hours each day, which are the most productive of the entire day. This includes the morning and early part of the afternoon, when the brain is freshest and has been well-rested. As the day wanes on, we become less alert. As soon as the children wake up and have their breakfast, they are expected to begin their formal schoolwork for the day. Each day begins with 30 math problems. Younger children, of course, do not require 5 hours of work, but it is understood as a goal to work towards. The Robinson children held school 6 days each week.

4. Phonics for teaching reading. Phonics teaches sounds, rather than the “”look-say” reading method taught in most public schools. Learning by look-say rote word memory places the student at a disadvantage because phonics helps the child figure out words and teaches spelling. Phonics requires teacher involvement and is not included in the RC curriculum package, but there are several good instructional programs available such as Saxon Phonics, Hooked on Phonics and Happy Phonics.

5. The collected books in the curriculum are essential reading. Dr. Robinson suggests that most of knowledge is in books, so a "high quality library" is essential for the success of any homeschool student. All the books are of extraordinary quality and not just mindless dribble or "twaddle." Frequently referred to as “living books,” these classics bring subjects to life as opposed to reading mere texts. It is important to know that all the books on the RC list can be found online for free. So it is entirely possible to put this together without purchasing the complete 22 CD, K-12 curriculum.

6. The day begins with mathematics. This is in the morning when the brain is freshest and can do its best work. Young children are expected to learn all math facts before starting formal mathematics. Dr. Robinson recommends beginning with Saxon Math 54, a 4th grade level text after the young student masters all basic math facts. They can do a half lesson each day, working up to a full lesson as they get older. The older student should be given the Saxon Math Placement Test: Middle Grades, Algebra I, Algebra 2, or Upper Level High School Students. The Upper Level placement test, assesses the student's readiness for Algebra 1, 2, Advanced Math and Calculus. Some homeschooling families decide to use other math curricula like Singapore Math, Math-U-See or Horizons.

7. One-page essay must be done daily. This can be on a subject that interests them, or a book or subject they are currently studying. Proper punctuation and grammar is required. Young children under age 10 can do copywork, penmanship, grammar work and oral narration instead. At age 10 they can be expected to complete a half page of writing. The required 1 page composition is a goal that the younger child builds up to.

8. High school students complete physics and chemistry at the freshman and sophomore college level.

9. No computer until 16 years of age at minimum. This would be about the time the child is expected to complete mathematics through calculus. Dr. Robinson believes that introducing calculators and computers to children whose brains have not yet learned to do the work on its own, undermines the ability to think and do mental math. These machines become a crutch and the brain will tend to depend upon them before the child is able to do quantitative work manually. It is important to keep in mind that the Robinson Self-Teaching Curriculum was developed quite some time ago. However, besides the reasons he mentions for not allowing computer use until 16, there are many other reasons one might consider doing this, or at least restricting use of calculators and computers. How one would go about enforcing this rule today would seem quite difficult, given that computers are now everywhere: libraries, cell phones, homes, reading tablets, etc. Parents could restrict and monitor use, which is a great idea considering all that a child can find on the internet these days. Monitoring and limiting use of video games would also fall under this rule.


Albert Bandura, psychologist and Professor Emeritus of Social Science in Psychology at Stanford University.
Albert Bandura, psychologist and Professor Emeritus of Social Science in Psychology at Stanford University. | Source

10. The child is self-taught, but is to be supervised and must work in a disciplined environment. Independent learning does not mean complete lack of parental involvement and guidance. While the children are expected to do their work by themselves at their own pace with minimal help from parents, it is important to keep a reasonable sense of order, which is necessary for maintaining an environment conducive to learning and working. One essential thing to keep in mind though is that children do learn best by example. They learn best by modeling what they see and observe. This premise is based on Albert Bandura's Social Learning Theory which purports that there is more to learning than just positive and negative reinforcement strategies. He demonstrated how profound this is with children in his famous Bobo Doll Experiment (1961).

Albert Bandura's Famous Bobo Doll Experiment

Young children observe an adult behaving violently towards a doll. Upon being permitted to play with the doll, the children copied the behavior the adult displayed. Findings were especially remarkable with children of the same sex as the adult.



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