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Customer Review

257 of 259 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THE book I have been looking for as a beginner!, August 16, 2006
This review is from: 100 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum: Choosing the Right Curriculum and Approach for Your Child's Learning Style (Paperback)
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").
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Showing 1-10 of 12 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Feb 29, 2008 3:47:43 PM PST
Where does your 50% statistic come from?

Posted on Jan 28, 2009 12:46:39 PM PST
S. Harrigan says:
Thank you for your review, as I too am overwhelmed by the choices of "pre-homeschooling" how-to books, and wanted one to give a great, general overview of what kind of homeschooling was the best for our family. Your review has helped me realize this book should be at the top of my "to read" list.

Posted on Jan 1, 2011 3:54:44 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 1, 2011 3:55:32 AM PST
Christopher says:
Helpful review, thank you. What book, program or other starting point do you recommend for people who want the least amount of religious/Christian in their child's education (i.e. zero religion)? Any study of religion we may do will be more of a compare and contrast.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 15, 2011 9:31:44 AM PST
sara says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 16, 2011 3:01:04 AM PST
Christopher says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 17, 2011 12:24:35 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Feb 18, 2011 8:21:56 PM PST
HSBookAddict says:

I find it somewhat humorous that you quoted beginning with "at least" rather than with the "probably" one word prior. It's just one word but an important one. Regardless, in a report from The National Center for Education Statistics in 2007, the second most cited reason for homeschooling was "a desire to provide religious or moral instruction." We could speculate about the ratio of religious to moral but I fear it would be pointless.

It might interest you (or not) to know that I'm agnostic. I don't have a horse in this race. I also value critical thinking. It allows me to take what I like and leave what I don't from any given resource. Regardless of the book and its author being unabashedly Christian, I found much useful information to take from it. I don't think there is a great deal of critical thinking involved in throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 17, 2011 12:45:44 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Feb 17, 2011 12:46:12 PM PST
HSBookAddict says:

Honestly, I'm no expert on "zero religion" resources because I believe there is something valuable in almost everything I read, religious or not. I read whatever I can get my hands on, taking what I like and leaving what I don't. I'm a Charlotte Mason homeschooler and it's virtually impossible to find secular CM books, as Christianity was foundational to her. I can disregard those aspects of her philosophy, but I have a thick skin and am not easily offended or irritated by differences in beliefs.

I would say read as much as you can, decide on a philosophy that resonates with you and keep going. Dig into the details until you reach your saturation point. Rebecca Rupp's two books are both secular and outstanding but they are getting a bit outdated. I would give anything for her to update her Complete Home Learning Source Book. She does have a column in Home Education Magazine, which I subscribe to (it appears to be secular).

For religious/cultural studies, we also do compare/contrast, using books on different religions from the library. One I particularly like is Mary Pope Osborne's One World, Many Religions: The Ways We Worship.

Posted on May 26, 2011 3:58:33 AM PDT
[Deleted by Amazon on Nov 24, 2011 9:10:14 PM PST]

Posted on Jul 5, 2011 7:11:36 AM PDT
Cheysie says:
My familiy has been an A Beka cirriculum family for 7 years now. In the past few years I have been questioning what I feel is the lack of material introduced to them and how some things are raced through too quickly. This has become evident from maybe the 4/5 grade on. 7th grade is where I am putting on my brakes. I need to mix curriculum or change altogether. Your reveiw really laid things out and saved me much time in research. Thank you!

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 18, 2012 8:23:40 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Feb 18, 2012 8:26:27 PM PST
Li* says:
Please understand that missionaries who give out food along with the Bible are doing so in line with what our Lord/"Leader" has instructed and modelled for us to do - which is first to love the Lord, Our God, with all our hearts, and then to love other people - especially those who are hurting for one reason or another. Hence, the Bibles and food. He is our hope, and why wouldn't we wish to share Him with the world? :)
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