Most helpful positive review
255 of 257 people found the following review helpful
THE book I have been looking for as a beginner!
on August 16, 2006
I've read a lot of homeschooling books in planning for my children's education and I learned something from each one, whether I liked the book or not! This book, however, is a planner's dream! It truly has you plan from the bottom up, applying thought to aspects of homeschooling that I had not previously considered.
Cathy Duffy begins by having you come up with your own philosophy of education. As she puts it, "If there were no laws requiring you to educate your child, what would you want them to learn anyway?" Wow! That question really gets to the heart of the matter for most people choosing to homeschool. Then, she has you consider your thoughts about how you want to teach and run your school (teach different ages together, work directly with your children or have them work independently, real books vs. textbooks, field trips, adhering to a schedule or remaining flexible, etc.). She has you take a sort of quiz about your preferred approaches to learning that shows which styles might appeal to you most. After leaning so heavily toward Charlotte Mason after all my reading, I was somewhat surprised to find that I have an equally high regard for unit studies and--gasp!--unschooling (a "curriculum" choice that petrifies me a bit)! She describes the various homeschooling methods (traditional, Charlotte Mason, classical, unit study, unschooling, independent study, eclectic, and umbrella programs). Then, she asks you to consider your confidence/experience level, time available to teach, finances, and religious beliefs. In addition, one of the most important differences about this book is that it addresses your teaching style and your child's learning style. This is such an important consideration when deciding what curriculum to choose. I'm sad to admit that I've been so gleefully planning what I want them to learn and what I think they'll enjoy that I've given very little SERIOUS thought to their perspective about things. Not anymore...
Finally, the discussion of her top 100 picks begins. The curriculum choices are introduced with a chart. The format helps you pick resources that are aligned with what you now know are your homeschooling preferences. Each curriculum is ranked for the following criteria: (1) Multi-sensory/hands-on (2)structure/rules-oriented (3) logical/analytical learners (4) social activity (5) amount of parent instruction (6) independent study vs. one-on-one (7) amount of writing (8) prep time (9) grade level specific vs. multi-level (10) ease of use for teacher (11) necessity for teacher's manual (12) supportive of Charlotte Mason's philosophy (13) supportive of classical education (14) religious affiliations. Using the chart, it was easy to look for a unit study or Charlotte Mason approach that would accomodate my Wiggly Willy and my Sociable Sue who work at different grade levels.
Some critics of the book feel that the author leans too heavily on Christian resources so I actually did a count for those interested. Of her 100 picks, there were 15 Catholic choices, 41 Protestant choices, and 54 were religiously neutral. (They don't add up to 100 because some would work for both Protestants and Catholics, some neutrals could add religious supplements, etc.) If you consider that probably AT LEAST 50% of homeschoolers are keeping their children at home so they can offer religious instruction, I don't think those numbers are in any way out of balance.
If you are looking for an umbrella curriculum (one that covers all the subjects) you should know that she really goes in depth into only two, Calvert School (neutral) and Sonlight (Protestant). However, some of the unit studies she discusses could be used as a full program with a few additional choices for neglected subjects. (Only one of the seven unit study programs, Five in a Row, is religiously neutral.) If an umbrella curriculum is what you're looking for, you would be better off requesting catalogs and information from companies offering that service rather than buying this book. Otherwise, the curriculum choices included in this book fall under the following categories: (1) phonics/reading/literature (2) math (3) grammar and composition (4) spelling and vocabulary (5) history/social science (6) science (7) unit studies (8) foreign language (9) miscellaneous.
Her picks definitely cover a wide range of methodology. Some will appeal to you and some won't. What I find is that in researching something that is appealing (usually on Amazon), I invariably follow link after link until I wind up reading so many reviews that I more fully understand the pros and cons of each curriculum choice I make. What a wonderful thing! I would rank this book with the top four homeschooling books I have read (Rebecca Rupp's "Home Learning Year by Year," Charlotte Mason's "Original Homeschooling Series," and Karen Andreola's "A Charlotte Mason Companion").