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Showing 1-10 of 63 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 113 reviews
on May 30, 2007
I purchased this book 2-weeks ago and have used it cover to cover! I will have a first grader and kindergardener next year. It is very helpful and has some great suggestions for curriculum. I have been doing kindergarden with my 5-year old daughter this year and we used an all-in-one curriculum (or "umbrella" as Duffy calls it). Snore! It is 3/4 workbooks and she "hates" it. That is not what I wanted for our start into homeschooling. So I went back to the drawing board.

The book begins with encouraging you to start with goal setting. Besides your state's requirements(if applicable), what do you want your child to learn? How do you want to run your homeschool? Then she explains the philosophies/methods of education such as, Charlotte Mason, Classical, Unit Study, Eclectic mix and traditional textbooks. She also covers "Umbrella" programs (those that sell complete curriculum packages such as Calvert). She leads you through detailed questions and charts to help you put together your philosophy of education so that you can narrow down your curriculum choices. The coverage of homeschooling methods is not as exhaustive as Mary Pride's Mary Pride's Complete Guide to Getting Started in Homeschooling book, but it still is very comprehensive. I already knew that I liked the Classical Method, along with Charlotte Mason, and Unit Studies methods and her guide helped me to find curriculum that incorporates all three!

Then she covers learning styles and learning modalities. I have a "wiggly willy" and a "sociable sue" (at least this year). As Duffy cautions, this may change as the children grow and develop. These learning styles are not meant to be labels, but rather to help you pick curriculum that will hold the interest of your child. She gives advice on teaching to your children's strenghts no matter what their learning style.

Duffy then puts all the information you've learned about yourself and your children into review charts and rates them by product. It's hard to explain on paper, but using a rating of 1 to 5, she rates products across categories such as learning style, whether parent instruction is needed, for one or multiple students, how much writing, how much prep time, whether it is grade-level specific or can be used for multiple grades (important if you have more than one child that are different ages and want to teach them at the same time), ease of teacher use, if a teacher's manual is necessary or not useful, whether it supports Charlotte Mason's philosophy, supports Classical education and whether it is suitable for Protestant, Catholic or Nonsectarian. Yes, it is comprehensive and it cuts to the chase! If you like Unit Studies, you want Christian curriculum, and you have a Wiggly Willy - look for 4's and 5's under those categories in the boxes beside each product. If you don't want a lot of prep time, look for 1's and 2's. I got my highlighter out and highlighted the 4's and 5's under the categories important to me and that weeded out the rest and showed the products that I needed to review.

The categories of curriculum covered are: Phonics, Reading and Literature; Mathematics; Language Arts: Grammar and Composition; Language Arts: Spelling and Vocabulary; History/Social Studies; Science; Unit Studies; Foreign Language (a few); Miscellaneous (like art, health, logic and umbrella programs). The chart also gives the page number to the review of that product.

The rest of the book is the actual reviews of the top 100 picks. In the reviews she tells you what is included with the product, which grade levels the product covers, some have how long the studies should take (especially in the unit studies), as well as what she likes about the product. She even tells you what she thinks the drawbacks of the product are if there are any in her opinion.

The bottom line, is this is a very useful book, but most especially if you are a Christian. The coverage is definitely more toward Protestant products, but there are Catholic and nonsectarian options as well. So far I have ordered Five in a Row unit studies and Media Angels science books. I'm very excited about this school year. We will keep the boring workbooks to a minimum this time! I chose a different phonics program (a vertical phonics program from TATRAS) but other than that, my picks will be from this guide. I also recommend reading Mary Pride's book and Rebecca Rupp's Home Learning Year by YearHome Learning Year by Year: How to Design a Homeschool Curriculum from Preschool Through High School. Happy Homeschooling!
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on November 3, 2011
When I started looking into home schooling, I asked veteran home schooling moms where to begin my research. They all recommended this book. It's been helpful not only in figuring out what I want to teach, but also how I plan to educate my kids. I appreciated the author helping me work through developing a philosophy of education in an easy and non-intimidating way. Plus her self-evaluations helped me confirm my own opinions on what my son's learning style and my teaching style would be. I have learned a lot from this book, but I bought it for my Kindle first and had to return it and get the ink and paper version. There are questionnaires to fill out that are necessary to get the most out of the book, so you need the paperback version. Also, there are tons of charts with helpful curriculum info that are impossible to read on the Kindle screen. The text itself is readable, but for the sake of the charts and fill-in-the-blank pages, get the paperback edition. I highly recommend this book for those getting started with home schooling. I think I will refer to it over and over again.
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on February 27, 2010
After reading about 12 books on homeschooling and homeschool curriculum, this was the FINAL and best book. I RECOMMEND THIS BOOK EVEN IF YOU ALREADY KNOW WHAT CURRICULUM YOU WANT TO USE! This book saved me from going completely insane. After deciding to homeschool, I immediately began to look at curriculum; this has taken about 9 months. Before reading, throw out what all of your 'friends' have told you that you need to use.
This book helped me evaluate exactly what I wanted to accomplish in my schooling. After determining this, Duffy helps you to determine what style is best for what you want to accomplish. For example, what was best for me was unit studies. Based on the questions you answer and the points assigned, you will have a ranking for each style of teaching. You evalute what type of learner you are. She gives non-meaningful names to the different types but it is easy to pick yourself from a list of traits. For example, I was a Wiggly Willy. You then evaluate what type of learner your child is/children are. I have a Wiggly Willy and Competent Carl #these are gender neutral names#. By evaluating this, you are able to determine which curriculum will work best for your child or children.
She then has a chart of the different curriculums divided by subject and areas. She gives a number ranking in several different categories for each curriculum. Basically, I had to look at my child's learning style and see which had 5's or 4's. It also tells if the curriculm has Christian teaches #Catholic, Protestant, etc# or if there is no Christian teaching. The other things she ranks: independent study or one-on-one, amount of writing involved for student, prep-time, grade specific or multilevel, ease of use for teacher, if the teacher's manual is 'really' needed or not useful, if it supports Charlotte Mason philosophy or classical.
Lastly, she gives her review of each of the 100 curriculums so you can actually read more about which curriculum you have decided is best for you. She even tells you what you really need and don't need plus the average price. This may sound a little complicated but it is not at all. It is very easy and laid out nice and organized for us novice homeschoolers. I wish I had started with this book first.
The only not so great thing I found about this book is it did not help me evalute pre-school programs for my almost 4 year old. So, if you are only looking for pre-school info, don't even bother with this one. Otherwise, it was fantastic!!!
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on February 10, 2011
When my husband and I made the decision to homeschool next year, I was daunted and not only a little nervous. I didn't know where to begin, let alone how to chose a curriculum. I contacted an umbrella school near my home and was given this book title as a must have for new homeschooling parents. I am so very grateful for this recommendation! This book gave me advice on things I'd never thought of, such as my teaching/learning styles versus my children's personalities and learning styles. It gave me great insight on not only what to teach, but how to teach it. After going over this book, I was able to pick out a full curriculum. I feel prepared rather than lost now.

The quizzes in the book are also very helpful in deciding what sort of approach to homeschooling you want to take. I broke it down from its general approach and did the quiz by subject for each of my two children to help my decision-making even more.

The only thing I might point out that isn't great about the book is that some of the curriculum is a bit dated. However, Cathy Duffy lists the websites for the publishers/authors. Knowing what interested me in her reviews, I was able to find new curriculum that closely matched what I'd read about. I also used her website,, to find a few things for subjects not covered in her book like teaching cursive handwriting, etc.

Overall, this book is an extremely valuable homeschooling aid for me and something I know I will use in the future. I am so glad I purchased it. I'm still nervous about homeschooling next year, but I am really excited now, as well.
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on August 20, 2011
Yes, the author is Christian and this informs her writing and curriculum choices. But, the majority of homeschoolers and publishers for homeschoolers are as well. I read this book for the first time when I was an atheist. I had absolutely no trouble looking past her personal religious views in order to use the excellent information she provides on figuring out what you want as a homeschooling parent, what kind of teacher you are, what kind of learner you have, etc. She has a companion website with more reviews as well that you can easily find with google. I recommend this book to everyone who asks me about starting out homeschooling and everyone has found it tremendously helpful.
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on September 19, 2013
I am not at all interest in considering curriculum with one iota of Bible in the contents unless it's comparative religion. The author knows her stuff but it's really coming from a Christian background. I'm not Christian, not interested. Also her system of matching the curriculum to kinds of learners was too cutesy and general for my taste. I am sorry I didn't research the book more before I purchased it, but someone will be happy to have my used copy.
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on July 5, 2009
I've wanted to get this book for a long time. I don't have anything new to add to the other reviews, except for this: don't buy this in the Kindle edition. The charts are very difficult to use because they span two pages (so, since the Kindle shows only one page at a time, you can't tell which product the lines on the second page refer to) and are printed in very faint "ink". The charts refer to the page number where you can find the entire review for each product, which is useless when dealing with Kindle "locations" rather than actual pages. Very frustrated with this product. May have to buy the print version as well.
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on October 28, 2007
We are very new to homeschooling, and I bought this book to help us sort out the vast array of homeschooling opportunities. It did not disappoint. Although some of the curricua/programs that we are investigating are not covered in Duffy's book, she helps the beginning homeschooler to methodically sort through what to look for and why - from developing a philosophy of education (what do you want out of this for your child? What are your thoughts and values on education?), developing and prioritizing specific goals, determing your learning style as well as your child's (and the significance of these), to looking at logistics such as cost, ease of instruction, how much time you have, and religious content. By the time I finished with the inital chapters and moved on to her chart of top picks, I felt much more comfortable about how to select and/or devise appropriate curriculum.
Duffy is clear about her thoughts on the importance of adding religious content, but she also clearly recognizes that this may not be on every homeschooler's agenda, so I was able to read those sections with a critical eye, or merely skip over them without missing significant points.

Her writing style makes the content very readable and very understandable. She provides excellent examples when they make her points easier to understand. Her step-by-step approach to figuring this all out was like having a big sister around to say, "Here, I did this before - I'll show you what works." I was very thankful for that!

My only disappointment is that I wish she had included additional complete curriculum packages, as there are so many out there. However, she does acknowledge that many new homeschoolers may wish to resort to these packages until they feel comfortable planning their own - and then that's where her chart REALLY comes in handy.
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on August 10, 2016
This is nice book for a beginner homeschooler, but I wasn't impressed by the info in here. It's outdated big time, which I expected somewhat. If you're not really sure on curriculum brands and so on, it would be ok. But it still leaves out ALOT of brands, a lot of which we use. We are currently starting our 3rd year homeschooling..
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on March 3, 2014
Easy to use, well explained guide to help choose course material for homeschool curriculum.
Helps evaluate your teaching style as well as your children's learning style.
The summary/review of 100 courses was insightful, however some reviews did not indicate an age rage.
Overall this books is a great resource to have, as a reference, giving clear direction towards our path to homeschooling.

Seller had faster than expected shipping & arrived in excellent condition.
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