Sunday, May 17, 2009

Homeschool curriculum: the Robinson curriculum

As a busy mother who has homeschooled her ten children for eighteen years, I’ve always been interested in ways to teach my children to learn independently. Remembering my own public school experience, I wanted them to love learning, and not be bored by it, or dread it.
I began like most homeschooling moms, and bought and bought as I went to book fairs, thinking “Oh! I need this! I need that!” As the years went on, however, I found that just like myself, my children were bored with textbooks, and weren’t learning as happily as I wished they would. I thought about myself, knowing I learned easier after I had finished school by studying what I was interested in, than I did while in it, forced to study what the teachers put in front of me. Before long, I began to quit buying science and history books on a regular basis. Instead, I scoured library sales and garage sales, and bought novels, biographies, magazines and anything else I could find that I thought my children might just pick up and read out of curiosity, knowing they would retain the information a lot better than if I made them read it out of a text book. I subscribed to nature magazines. While we still had a TV (that was removed about eight years ago), I rented history and science movies and documentaries from the library. I got yearly passes to the local museums and the zoo, and took my children often. We visited state fairs and stock shows, and went on field trips with our local homeschool group.
I wasn’t totally sure how I was doing, since I didn’t have my children tested on a regular basis, but we seemed to be doing very well. This was finally proven when my oldest son, who had been totally homeschooled, passed his GED and SAT tests in the top 1 percent, and after two years in the local community college with a 4.0 grade average, was admitted into Georgetown University in Washington DC. Most of his friends there had been to prep schools, and were shocked that my son had done so well after living a very sheltered life. That son is now in his first year of law school at the University of Virginia.

Years went on as I homeschooled my ever growing family, and I amassed a large library of books for them to read. I tried to buy high quality books that taught good character building morals and a good work ethic. These books were always available to my children, when one volume got worn out; I just bought a new one. Sometimes I would buy a book that would set on the shelf for years before a child came along that was deeply interested in the subject and would read it. There were times when a child would tell me they had read everything we had, and couldn’t find anything else to read. That would spur me on to try and find new reading material for our library.
As our library grew, I bought less and less textbooks. I had many already on our shelves, but I didn’t force any of them on the children, except for Math, and some English and Grammar. I encouraged them to write, always keeping fresh notebooks and fun pencils and pens ready to use. As they got older, they were allowed to write on the computer, which would actually correct their work for them, thus saving me even more time.

After a while, people began to ask my how I taught my children, because they were smart, knowledgeable, and seemed to love doing school. As I explained one day, someone remarked that I used the “Charlotte Mason method”. I looked that up, and it did seem to line up with the way I was teaching them naturally.

One day, I read in a homeschooling magazine about the Robinson Curriculum, a self teaching curriculum. The father of a large family, a scientist named Arthur Robinson, had developed this for his homeschooling children after his wife died of a sudden illness. Using his method, children can actually teach themselves. It intrigued me. But having already accumulated a large amount of homeschool books, plus my large library, I hesitated to spend another $200, even though this set promised it was all you needed to teach grades 1-12. I soon discovered a site for it online at I read about it over and over, and learned how it worked. It seemed simple enough, and almost what I was already doing. The child was to start right after a large breakfast. They would do two Saxon Math lessons a day, write a short one page essay on anything they wanted too (which would be graded for spelling, grammar, punctuation, etc.), and spend another two hours reading a book from the list included with the curriculum. I thought I would give it a try, just on my own, and that’s the course we followed the next homeschooling year.
I loved it. I wanted the rest of the books on his list. I decided to buy it, and I did, online.

I received for my $200 22 CD’s. On these CD’s were 250 high quality books. I could either have the children read them online (not recommended), print them out at a cost of around $9 at most, or I could buy them on ebay or at the half price bookstore – IF I could find them. Some are out of print and a little harder to find. So I printed out the list and decided if I could find them for less than about $7, I would buy them; otherwise, I would print them and put them in three ring binders.
My children were thrilled with this, and eagerly looked forward to the mail or trips to the book store for their new books.
Also on the CD’s are the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica, the 1913 Webster Dictionary, Science texts for the older child, SAT style examinations, Language skills, Phonics and Math flash cards, 6,400 Vocabulary words, and a course of study.

This curriculum includes everything you need to teach your child from grades 1-12 except for the Saxon Math books, and they sell these at a discount. I also use the book “How to Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, a book I already had on hand, and really like to use.

This curriculum is not divided into grade levels. The child just moves ahead at his or her own pace. The child is usually finished by the age of 14.

Having used this method for almost two years now, one year without the actual curriculum, and now with it, I can’t imagine that I will ever do anything else. My children were already using Saxon Math, so I have most of those already on hand, and it’s familiar to me. I’ve enjoyed reading the essay’s they write, especially the ones of my 12 year old daughter, who is quite a writer. I am just beginning with my five year old daughter this year, and she loves the reading part!

I highly recommend this curriculum. If you are interested, there is a lot more information at the website, You can buy this curriculum used at the link on the left hand side of this page, also.


  1. Hi, I have been looking into the robinson curriculum for a while now. I am wondering if you are still using it and if you have tweaked it for your family or if you follow it the way it is designed to be? Thanks,

  2. I have tweaked it quite a bit, and am about to write a blog on how we are doing school these days!!


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