Having just finished my fourth year using the Robinson Curriculum, I thought I’d share some thoughts about how the curriculum has worked for my family as well as what I think are its strengths and weaknesses. I will break down my comments in the way the Robinson Curriculum separates subjects.
- Some people have visited this blog looking for information on using the Robinson Curriculum for Kindergarten. I would not recommend using the curriculum that early unless you have an independent reader. In my opinion, the program works best with children who can work independently, although it could be tailored to include more parental involvement if desired.
- The greatest strength I see with the Robinson Curriculum is its flexibility. The method can be applied to any materials and not just the ones recommended by the Curriculum.
Math and Science
I have blogged about the Robinson Curriculum and Math here. I really like the Robinson approach to math and science. It worked exactly as recommended for my oldest two children and is working so far with Delightful, 7. Both of my oldest two children finished math up to high school Calculus as well as the Robinson science texts by the ages of 15 and 16.
I can see, however, that the Robinson method would not work well with a child who struggles in math. In that case, the child would likely not complete Calculus in order to be able to do the Robinson science courses before graduating from high school. In that situation, a parent would have to decide whether or not some traditional high school level science courses should be pursued in lieu of the Robinson math and science texts.
One thing that the Robinson Curriculum does not recommend or include is a laboratory component for science courses. My children did not do science labs with their courses since they are both not interested in pursuing anything science-related as a career. If I had a child that was very science oriented, however, I would consider adding in a lab to round out their educational experience.
I have blogged about the Robinson Curriculum and Writing here. The Robinson approach to writing is very similar to the approach advocated by Ruth Beechick in A Biblical Home Education: Building Your Homeschool on the Foundation of God’s Word. Basically, the suggestion is to do copywork up to age 10 and then a page per day of writing after that with little to no topic or structure suggested to the child.
I can see how the Robinson approach could work for some children, but it did not work well with my oldest two children. One area of frustration for me was that the Curriculum does not include a list of basic writing skills that a child should master or any instructions to the parent on how to teach writing. It’s all well and good to never suggest a structure to a child, but many children need assistance learning how to write essays, research papers, etc. in order to succeed at university. For that reason alone, I found the Robinson Curriculum to be weak in the area of writing.
In my family’s case, I ended up buying several different writing curricula to use with my oldest two children. One child mastered writing; the other did not. This taught me another thing: curriculum and effort spent teaching do not on their own guarantee educational success. The child must also be willing to put forth the effort to learn. In my family’s situation, one of my children flat-out refused to learn how to write and so now must learn the hard way. It’s not easy as a parent watching this happen, but learning is a co-operative process that only works when there’s…well…co-operation!
If I could improve upon the Robinson Curriculum, I would incorporate more classical and Charlotte Mason-type ideas into it. I would include oral and written narration and dictation in addition to copywork. I would also make a general list of skills to be learned that could be taught as a parent sees fit. And I would definitely include instructions to the parent for each of those skills (friendly letter, paragraph, essay, etc.) so the parent has some guidance teaching those skills. Given all this, in our homeschool I will be moving to a more Charlotte Mason-style approach to composition in the next year for Delightful, who is going into Grade 3. But that’s another blog post.
I have previously blogged about the Robinson Curriculum and Reading here. The Robinson Curriculum’s basic approach to reading generally works very well for fiction once a child can read independently. For non-fiction, however, all of my children have had an issue just reading through the books without being policed as to the number of pages read each day. Some didn’t even read the proper number of pages each day if I left the reading until their night-time reading time. As a result, I have found that it works best to cover some non-fiction during the day and leave literature until bedtime reading. This makes the Robinson Curriculum look like any other curriculum with science, history, etc. being done during school hours. These end up being treated as separate subjects even though the Robinson Curriculum advocates reading through one book at a time and not having separate “subjects” per se. Each parent has to do what works best for his or her family, however, and this is what works best for mine.
One thing the Robinson Curriculum does not do is allow time for a child to slowly digest a book over a number of weeks as is suggested by some curricula like Ambleside Online. I think there is a place for studying certain books in more depth and for taking more time to ponder their contents. As a result, I am choosing a few books for Delightful’s upcoming Grade 3 year to be done at a slower pace. Her other books, what Ambleside Online would call “Free Reading” will be read in Robinson Curriculum fashion.
A final observation to be made about the Robinson reading list is that some some users may need to supplement the resources provided. In my family’s case, I have supplemented Delightful’s reading with a lot of other books because there are a limited number of books in the Curriculum at each reading level and because many of the books on the reading list are more boy- or American-oriented and did not interest Delightful. I have found that the longer I use the Curriculum, the more comfortable I am with varying the reading list and applying the Robinson approach to other materials that also suit our family. I guess that makes our current program Robinson-like instead of strictly Robinson, but again, curriculum often has to be altered to suit a family’s particular needs and interests and that is what works for my family.
Where to Go From Here
Next year, my only full-time student will be Delightful, 7, who will be in Grade 3. She is not the type of child to enjoy sitting off by herself doing all of her work independently while her younger three siblings play. As a result, I am having to tailor our homeschool to account for our new situation. What I am basically planning on doing is combine the Robinson Curriculum’s ideas with a Charlotte Mason education. That way, I can do some “fun” subjects like nature study, art, etc. with all of my kids and also work in more academic subjects during our day in short increments that work well for our current lifestyle. I don’t think I’ll ever fully abandon the Robinson Curriculum’s ideas, but I am enjoying combining them with the wisdom of other homeschooling approaches. How we have been doing that, though, is the topic of another blog post that will have to wait for another day.