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100 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum: Choosing the Right Curriculum and Approach for Your Child's Learning Style Paperback – February 1, 2005
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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!
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.