Posted in Curriculum & Reviews, Subjects

The Robinson Curriculum and Reading: Reflections After 3.5 Years with 3.5 Children

learning-old-old-storyThe Robinson Curriculum approach to reading and literature is very simple:  First, teach your child to read using the phonics program of your choice, and Second, have your child read through the recommended reading list provided with the curriculum.  The reading list contains many of the Great Books of Western Civilization recommended by various curricula.  It will take a child from Grade 1 all the way through Grade 12.

The books included with the Robinson Curriculum are provided on CD.  This means that a parent should print out the books and bind them somehow before a child reads them.  Alternatively, a parent could purchase copies of the books or put the books on an e-reader, at least for older, more responsible children.  In my house, I have done all of the above: Some of the books have been printed on half-pages and hole-punched to fit into small, 3-ring binders.  Others have been printed full-sized and then have been comb-bound.  Still others have been purchased secondhand or placed on an e-reader.  Any option is fine since the goal is to read the books, not have them in a particular format.

One of the advantages of the Robinson Curriculum approach to reading is the program’s flexibility.  Since students are simply to read the books, there are no set lesson plans that “must” be covered in order to complete a year’s worth of schooling.  That makes it easy to adapt the recommended reading list to a child’s needs and/or interests without having to worry about “messing up” the curriculum or the child’s school year in some way.  Also, each child reads at his own pace through the material, so no child has to wait for another to “catch up” before proceeding on to the next selection.

children-images-1874The “Reading” portion of the Robinson Curriculum is intended to cover all of a student’s subjects other than Math and Writing.  The reading list covers subjects such as American History, Economics, Literature, Geography, and Science.  The list need not be carved in stone, though.  For instance, because our family has chosen to incorporate more Canadian History into our children’s reading, we have skipped some of the American History selections.  Even one of Dr. Robinson’s sons went through a phase where he was fixated on one particular author and spent his time reading everything that author had written.  As such, the reading list should be seen as a guide that can be altered as needed to fit a particular family’s needs and goals.

The Robinson Curriculum also includes vocabulary exercises keyed to each of the books on the reading list.  i do not use these because I have found that my children learn and retain new vocabulary simply by reading.  Some children are able to do this.  For those who need a more targeted approach, the Robinson Curriculum vocabulary exercises and included computer program are more than adequate to assist with acquiring new words.

The Robinson Curriculum recommends that a student spend at least two hours a day reading.  In the Robinson family, these two hours were done all at once.  In my family, we have altered this requirement somewhat.  My children are much slower at reading non-fiction than fiction, so I will often set a required number of pages to be read during the day instead of a time limit on their reading.  They also do not read for two hours all at once during the day because they all like to read for a while when they go to bed.  Usually, they save the more enjoyable books for nighttime and do the less enjoyable books, sometimes under duress, during the day.

Here is how I have used the Robinson reading list with my children so far:

My Oldest Two Children, Gentle Giant and Spunky

school-clipart-1My oldest two children started the Robinson Curriculum at the beginning of their Grade 8 year.  As a result, there was not enough time for them to read every single selection on the reading list.  Instead, they read many of the books up to Grade 8, skipping the very easy ones and generally reading only one of each author where there were multiple books listed for that author.  We also skipped books covering American History and certain other topics that did not interest us.

After my children completed a book, I tested their reading comprehension using the tests included with the curriculum, available tests through other online sources, oral discussions of the books, or book reports or other written work on the books’ contents.

When Gentle Giant and Spunky began high school, we did not focus so much on the Robinson Curriculum selections for literature since we used the Puritans’ Home School Curriculum High School Literature Courses.  We did use many of the books from the reading list in other subjects, though.  I would have liked to have covered more of the selections with my children than I did, but overall I am happy with the progress they made.  Both can read university-level texts with ease and have intelligent discussions about what they have read, so I really can’t ask for much more!


I have homeschooled Delightful from the beginning of her education.  She learned to read using Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons when she was in K4 and from there branched out into easy readers.  You can see her K4 reading list here.  By the end of K4, Delightful was reading at minimum a Grade 2 level and asked to skip K5 and go directly to Grade 1.  We allowed her to do so because we felt she was ready for the challenge.

girl-readingIn Grade 1, Delightful read many books from the Robinson reading list and other sources.  You can see her Grade 1 reading list here.  The reasons Delightful did not stick just to the Robinson reading list are as follows:

  1. Some of the books were too hard at the beginning for Delightful to simply progress through the reading list in order, so she read other books at her reading level in order to improve on her reading ability before tackling further books on the list;
  2. Some of the books did not interest Delightful, so we did not require her to read them when we had other worthy books for her to read; and
  3. The amount of books provided by the Robinson Curriculum at each particular reading level is limited, and Delightful inhales books, necessitating us adding extra books to her reading plan that are suitable for her age and abilities.

When Delightful has finished a book, I test her comprehension by discussing the book with her, giving her a short test from the Robinson Curriculum or an online source, or assigning her a book report.

She is now about halfway through her Grade 2 year and is reading books mainly at a Grade 5-6 level.  I am more than satisfied with the progress she has made and expect that she will cover many more of the books on the Robinson Curriculum reading list than her older siblings did.

Feisty, My “Half” Student

girls-churchI call Feisty my “half” student because she is only four and is still learning to read.  As such, she has not used the Robinson Curriculum reading list at all.  She is, however, working her way through Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons and is about halfway through it.  I am very pleased with her progress.  Since she is not as academically-minded as Delightful is, I had to trick her into showing me that she knew all of her letters and sounds by letting her watch videos through Easy Peasy All-in-One Homeschool and listening to her sing along to them.  Once I was sure she was ready, we then began phonics.  I do not expect that Feisty will skip K5 like Delightful did because she is taking a more scenic route through her education.  This is fine with me because she is her own person.  I look forward to seeing her reading blossom as she gains more skills in this area.  By this time next year, I hope to see her reading at least easy readers and picture books.

As you can see, no two children are exactly the same and so no two children will work through the Robinson Curriculum reading list in exactly the same manner. The advantage of the Robinson Curriculum is that the reading list is designed in such a way that it can be individually tailored to each child.   I am so glad to have learned the Robinson approach to Reading and Math and to see my children blossoming under that approach.


4 thoughts on “The Robinson Curriculum and Reading: Reflections After 3.5 Years with 3.5 Children

  1. Thanks for your posts on RC. I love this curriculum and am planning to use it more fully this year but there is so much negativity about it, it is great to read about your experience. Thank you

    1. In most cases it seems that people either strongly dislike Art Robinson or detest the way he implemented the program with his own children. In my experience, the Robinson Curriculum has been one of the most freeing things I’ve ever done in my homeschool — both for myself and for my children. In fact, I tried to use a unit study at one point and my children begged to go back to the Robinson approach!

  2. I just want to reaffirm the power of the book list. We really haven’t made it but a the first 20 books on th RC list. My daughter in third grade started at a 4th gr. Vocabulary and finished with a 7 th gr vocab. She did nothing but read.

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