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Homeschool Curriculum Review: the Robinson Curriculum
Teaching the Philosophy of Self Empowerment
Our Decision to Homeschool
Two and a half years ago we made the leap. It didn't arrive without a good deal of consternation. Our oldest two children were in the local public school system and it just wasn't working out. What started out as two avid, interested learners when they had entered public school had deteriorated into tearful hysterics and a total rejection of the love to learn. This just wasn't an acceptable situation.
One evening, my partner and I were sitting up late and discussing our long-running problem. No amount of work with the school seemed to have an effect and things were only getting worse. One child was in Fourth grade and the other was in Third. Our conclusion was that if we allowed it to continue we would probably be facing a future of nightmares. My partner looks over at me and says, "What about Homeschooling?"
I didn't even hesitate. I got up and headed for the computer to research what was involved.
I was already a stay at home mom, working on the net. So there would be no conflict with a career to be concerned over. I spent a month laboriously pouring over curriculums only to find that the costs involved were far beyond our means. I had just about given up. By complete chance flipping through google searches I came across The Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine. There was a link there to a curriculum which it supported titled The Robinson Curriculum.
At the curriculum's website I read the story of the family which created it. The Robinsons lived a culture of lifelong learning like our family did, theirs steeped in the field of science. I could relate on many levels. Theirs was also a story of triumph over sadness for their experience with homeschooling was turned on its head upon the death of the children's mother who handled the schooling. The father Dr. Art Robinson was suddenly faced with managing not only his work at the Institute, the home, and the farm but also the education of their six children. You may read the rest of the story here.
Well back to our own tale. I was intrigued and ended up reading the entire site. Then to top it all off I found that they had placed the curriculum books & resources all on computer disks and that the whole 12 year curriculum would not leave us destitute if we purchased it. I made a summary list of the aspects and carted it off to show my partner.
We both agreed that the curriculum would fit our family. We espoused ourselves the importance of developing the self-learner which was a huge part of the curriculum's philosophy. So I purchased the set and followed through with the notifications to the school, in October of the year, that after Christmas the children would not be returning to public school.
The curriculum is comprised primarily of the three R's Mathematics, Reading, and Writing. Science is introduced later. All the usual skills and subjects like English, Spelling, Vocabulary, Grammar, History, and Science is enmeshed in the three R's mentioned above. Record keeping requirements were minimal both for the curriculum and for the state which we lived in. There was a form available from an associated website which worked well for keeping basic track of what had been completed each day.
The virtual books on the disks include a set of 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica and a 400,000 word Websters Dictionary as well as historical illustrations and current Caltech 101 Science Texts. There are also worksheets for vocabulary and a quizing program for practicing the words. It even has flash cards to print for phonics, addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.
Most of the language arts in the program is learned through study in the McGuffey Reader book series and through the extensive reading in some 250 high quality classical literature books which are all on the disks.
An Authors list includes: McGuffey, Arthur Scott Bailey, Laura Lee Hope, Sophie May, Victor Appleton, Alice Emerson, Arthur Winfield, Josephine Pollard, Mabel H. Beebe, Johann David Wyss, Kate Douglas Wiggins, Lewis Carroll, Joel Chandler Harris, Horatio Algier Jr., Rudyard Kipling, G.A. Henty, Louisa May Alcott, Henry C. Watson, Martha Finley, Arthur Conan Doyle, Charles Fletcher Allen, Jhnathan Swift, Samuel Langhorn Clemens, Ulysses S. Grant, James Fenimore Cooper, Washington Irving, Longfellow, Daniel Defoe, John Bunyan, Frederic Bastiat, Robert Louis Stevenson, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Oliver Wendell Holmes, David Crockett, Fremont B. Deering, Howard R. Garis, Frank V. Webster, Frank Gee Patchin, Roger Finlay, Oliver Goldsmith, L. P. Brockett, Vihjalmur Stefansson, Murray Rothbard, Henry Hazlitt, Leonard Read, Frank Leslie, George MacDonald, Jules Verne, R.L. Dabney, Dixie Lee Ray, Lou Guzzo, E.H. Shackleton, Theodore Roosevelt, Charles Dickens, William T. Sherman, Cervantes, Cicero, Alexander Hamilton, William Shakespeare, William Harvey, John Chamberlain, Winston Churchill, Alexander Stephens, Sir Walter Scott, Peter Beckmann, Jefferson Davis, Faraday, Andrew Diickson White, Julius Caesar, Abraham Lincoln, Admiral Sir Percy Scott, W.K. Clifford, Richard Henry Davis, John Milton, John Calvin, Niccolo Machiavelli, Julian Simon, Arthur Robinson, John Locke, Issac Newton, Olenick, Apostol, Goodstein, Foster Strong, Norman Davidson, Dickerson, Gray, Haight, Lewis & Randall, Cresson H. Kearny.
A short title list of Fiction includes among others: The Bobbsey Twins series, Dotty Dimple books and Tom Swift series as well as Ruth Fielding all classical childrens books. Also included are some of the very famous classics like Heidi, Uncle Remus, The Swiss Family Robinson, Jack's Ward, Little Women, Bob Son of Battle, The Pied Piper, The Hound of the Baskervilles, Gullivers Travels, The (both) Jungle Book, The Song of Hiawatha, Robinson Crusoe, Pilgrim's Progress, The Pony Rider series, The Vicar of Wakefield, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, Don Quixote, Oliver Twist, Ivanhoe, A Tale of Two Cities, King Henry V, Two Years Before the Mast, and The Prince.
Some of the History and Science books include: The Life of George Washington, Boy Knight: A Tale of the Crusades, The Life of Lafayette, David Crockett-Scout, Up From Slavery, Picturesque America Vol 1 & 2, Personal Memoirs of US Grant, Diaries of George Washington, The Law, The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, Not Yours to Give, The Friendly Arctic, Environmental Overkill, The Heart of the Antarctic, The Autobiography of Theodore Roosevelt, Memoirs of William Tecumseh Sherman, Cicero's Orations, The Federalist Papers, Of the Motion of the Heart and Blood in Animals, The Enterprising Americans, My African Journey, Faraday's Lectures, Fiat Money Inflation in France, Caesar's Gallic War, Churchill's The World Crisis, Fifty Years in the Royal Navy, Common Sense of the Exact Sciences, Paradise Lost, Wealth of Nations, Paradise Regained, The Ultimate Resource II, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding Vol 1 & 2, Bellum Civile, De Bello Gallico, The Mechanical Universe, Statistical Mechanics, Answers to the Mechanical Universe, Beyond the Mechanical Universe, Chemical Principles, and many others.
A supplemental to the main curriculum is also available. This is the Henty Books Collection which can be used as Unit Studies. This is hard historical fiction in which the story stays true to science, engineering, and history with its drama and characters. The Henty Collection covers ancient history, the middle ages, the reformation and exploration, wars of religion and succession, and colonial disruptions and competition.
Mathematics is learned through the Saxon Math Series, which is the only exterior physical book that has to be purchased outside of the program which you receive on the computer disks. The Saxon Math Series begins with Saxon Math 54 - An Incremental Development . The books can be purchased through the curriculum source Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine for less than what Saxon charges since they order large quantities of the textbooks. You can also do as we ended up doing and finding a nice used set online at Craigslist for a fraction of the cost. EBay might be another source for the books used. We purchased ours that way for the Saxon Math 54 with the text forms booklet included for $14.00 (shipping included) whereas the new textbook would have cost us $55.00.
Testing with the curriculum is minimal. The testing which is included is not a factor of intimdation. It includes over 50 SAT style exams and answer keys and also advanced tests in essay form. The testing is included for convenience of evaluation and is not required.
One other happy aspect to mention about the curriculum is that there is a scholarship program available by inquiry at the Institute.
Computer Requirements are:
For Windows: System Requirements - Win95, Win98, Windows NT, Windows 2000, Windows XP, and Windows Vista- CD-ROM or DVD drive
- 5.5 MB of disk space
- Printer (See Printing Recommendations)
Current Cost for the Curriculum is:
For the Robinson Curriculum only $195
For the Robinson Curriculum & GA Henty Collection on CDs $275
Our first one and a half years in homeschooling was taken pretty slow. We worked out our routines with some experimentation. I allowed the children to relax from the stresses over learning by having both of them set their own pace and pursue their own interests. This is where they began the process of self-teaching which the Robinson Curriculum program is renowned for. It was remarkably enlightening. I immediately discovered an eyesight problem with my oldest which we promptly addressed with glasses. She soon stopped fretting over her reading. We explored the program and supplimented with books purchased from the resale stores in town. The physical books I mention here, are not necessary for the curriculum but to stimulate interest over-all thus I went ahead and began collecting a small library. Sometimes it is nice to stretch out in a comfortable place with a traditional book....then reading is not quite the initial chore it would seem.
I didn't include any tests our first year and a half except for spelling of the vocabulary words. The purpose of our first two school years to be a time of deprogramming and confidence building. It was remarkable how long it really took for them to stop worrying about and comparing everything we did to what they percieved as horrors in public school. And initially there was a lot of time spent babysitting their efforts due to a combination of paranoia to be without a teacher present and then the usual tendency to goof-off when the incentive to be self-disciplined about study time was absent. Our entrance into homeschooling required a lot of reassurances and freedom to build confidence back up. It would have been so much easier if we had never sent them to public school in the first place. We had many successes that first six months. The children each discovered hidden interests which in the homeschooling environment we had the freedom to a lot extra time to pursue. The program recommends spending 5 hours per day, six days per week study time with the first two hours devoted to arithmetic. Working math first in the day builds a mind which is accustomed to critical thinking and problem solving.
This 2009 school year is filled with expectation and excitement. We use the Robinson Curriculum as the primary curriculum and then suppliment with additional subjects of particular individual interest. Like my oldest is extremely interested in medical science and likes to read used college textbooks from the medical field purchased at resale stores. The younger of the two is an avid Dinosaur nut and loves his paleontology books, dinosaur bone models, and wants to tour a museum some day soon. Each of the two children, having participated in choosing some of their subject matter, are also looking forward to extended time upon the family computer where I allow them to supplement their reading with approved research projects. And their young siblings are beginning their own self initiated explorations this year.
To conclude this, I have to hold the Robinson Curriculum responsible for our successes over the last 2.5 years. Without its ungraded format, and classical/historical inspired library, its firm but simple rules, and the self empowered philosophy toward self teaching and depth, we would have been in a far, far sorrier state by this moment in time. Our family literally recovered from chaos and is back on track. A sincere thanks to the Robinsons.