Robinson Curriculum Updates & New Plans

Robinson-Curriculum-UpdateSince I posted a couple of summers ago about our decision to use Robinson Curriculum in homeschooling, I’ve gotten a lot of questions and comments both here and via private email. I LOVE hearing from you guys and hope I’m able to answer your questions, but I thought a little update on how we’ve been doing and what we’re planning this coming year would be helpful.

If you’re new to Robinson and haven’t yet read our simple explanation of how we homeschool, this post might make more sense if you read Why We Chose Robinson Curriculum first. To summarize, RC is a self-teaching curriculum that strongly focuses on the three R’s: reading, writing, and arithmetic. 

The typical RC day starts with a self-taught lesson or two in math, which the student corrects themselves. This is followed by an essay, on any topic they chose to write, of various length depending on the student’s age, that is then corrected by the parent/teacher. They finish their school day by reading for several hours from the RC booklist.

That’s it. The reading list material is meant to cover all other subjects.

“Reading is the most important, since it is the primary means by which human knowledge is communicated.”~ Art Robinson, Robinson Curriculum

As mentioned in Why We Chose Robinson Curriculum, we decided to begin using Robinson Curriculum, but continued to use our English books from Rod & Staff. I felt that English had ‘rules’ that need to be followed, like math, and learning how to write properly needed more attention than what RC gave it.

So our typical RC day looked like this:
1. Math
2. English
3. Essay
4. Reading (for history, science, geography, health, etc.)

Overall the year went well, but about half way through the year we had an experience that gave me pause.

In the first post I exclaimed how one of our sons had gone from C’s to A’s and B’s. I was ecstatic his grades had improved so drastically and was totally convinced it was the self-teaching and the ‘don’t use mom as a crutch’ approach that made the difference. Can a 36 year-old-mom to five children still be naive? (My sisters are not allowed to comment.)

Yep.checkmark

Our son’s grades improved because he was cheating (this is shared with his blessing). It took me some time to catch on, and in reality I should have seen it sooner. But, I didn’t. However, dishonesty tortures the soul and it wasn’t long after I became suspicious that he confessed. The responsibility to self-teach after having mom’s help for so long made looking in the answer book a temptation he gave into. A heart-wrenching hour of soul-searching concluded with his acceptance of our punishment. He had to do the entire quarter of school over.

Every. Single. Lesson.

A harsh punishment? Perhaps. But how would he be able to continue in his lessons the following year? His cheating had cheated him out of understanding the concepts taught that school year and would only make the rest of the year, and the following years, harder.

But that situation made me ask myself: Was self-teaching helping or hindering our children?

In the end, we decided to continue with RC – with a few tweaks I’ll mention below – because of this simple truth: having students ‘self-teach’ prepares them for life as an adult. I can’t hold my children’s hands through college courses, and I can’t go with them to their first job. Self-teaching teaches responsibility and accountability. It teaches life-long study habits and forces them to think things through on their own.

What we’ve added and changed with Robinson Curriculum – and why

1. Oral learning

After the cheating incident, we changed our approach a bit. One of the ideas I’d forgotten about in the RC Course of Study (available with the RC disks) was oral learning.

In oral learning the student has to learn the subject (or lesson) so well that he’s able to teach it out loud to an imaginary class, or in our case, his teacher. Instead of having him read his Math or English lesson himself and working on the problems right away, I have him explain the lesson to me first. If he can’t explain it to me, I have him reread it. And if necessary, he rereads it several times. This helps us both know he understands the lesson fully before he begins.

There are occasions I do need to clarify the directions, but for the most part this is working very well and his grades (which I now correct myself) have steadily improved to the A’s and B’s we’d hoped for in the beginning.

school planning

2. Essays

Another area I wanted to change was the essays. RC has the students write an essay on the topic of their choice. They do this each day because there isn’t an English ‘curriculum’ as part of the program. But since we’d decided to continue using Rod & Staff English curriculum, I felt an essay each day was overkill. We changed it to once a week.

The photo above is the schedule I created last year in a simple notebook while helping Travis in the fields. As you can see, the topics were still fairly broad – for instance in February we focused on the human body and health. I listed ideas for them, but they were able to chose what part of the body or what health-related information they wanted to study and write about. The boys preferred having a set topic instead of carte blanche – and I felt better knowing we were covering specific topics.

school-book-shelves

3. Science

RC suggests that science consist of extracurricular books until they’ve learned enough math to understand science correctly. We continue to read the RC booklist and use our own library of extra curricular science books and encyclopedias to study and write essays in the months we chose to focus on science. However, we’ve also continued to use Switched On Schoolhouse (for Science only) at a leisurely pace.

4. History 

History is similar to Science. We continue to read the RC booklist while supplementing with our own collection of history books we’ve gathered over the years, including the history/government curriculum we’d previously purchased from Christian Liberty Press.

Again, by doing this I feel we’re covering the areas I want to make sure the kids read about. We take the chapter tests in the history curriculum books, and occassionally I have them write an essay at the end of each chapter.

5. Spelling

We use both RC’s spelling and Rod and Staff. The reason for this is because Mr. Robinson himself says spelling is an area he isn’t very strong, and like English, I feel there are definite ‘rules’ to grammar and spelling I want to cover.

For spelling, RC arranges it so that as your student is reading through the books on the booklist, he occasionally has a spelling list to study after finishing a particular book. The spelling list uses words from that particular book.

Not all books have spelling lists to follow them, however, so we leisurely continue to use Rod & Staff spelling, though we don’t do everything in their books either as I sometimes feel they have too much busy work in that regard.

Summary

For what it’s worth, we still follow RC loosely, but I’ve found that just like any other curriculum I’ve tried to follow, I still end up tweaking it to fit our family and what the kids and I prefer. I still highly regard his program, and as such we continue to incorporate a lot more reading than we had in the past.

If I could sum up our two-year journey with RC so far, I’d say Mr. Robinson is right. School should focus on the 3 R’s and everything else can be supplemented to follow. The way I supplement may not look exactly like his, but it fits our family.

That’s the beauty of homeschooling.

7 Comments

  • Jessica

    Reply Reply July 24, 2014

    Thank you for this update! We are going to be implementing Mr. Robinson’s ideas this year, while still continuing with the history and science curriculum we have been using-mainly because the children and I enjoy it so much that they asked to continue it! Not to mention my second grader asked if she could join in on it also.
    It’s nice to read about how other famililes are using and tweaking it to fit.
    Thanks again!

  • Heather

    Reply Reply June 4, 2015

    Hi There! Thank you so much for your two blog posts on the Robinson Curriculum. Honestly, until I read your posts, this curriculum was still a mystery to me, after lots of research. I didn’t understand why the website didn’t break down the grades or age groups and was confounded by what exactly I was purchasing, if I chose to purchase the RC curriculum. Perhaps I was distracted by all of the little humans swirling around me at the time, but the RC website didn’t give a clear explanation as to exactly what it is or how the curriculum works. I had a great view of what Robinson stands for and his family history, but no clue about what I was actually getting. This has been extremely helpful for me!

  • Stephanie Evans

    Reply Reply December 28, 2016

    Hi Paula,
    I wanted to thank you for your article/blog about the Robinson Curriculum. I am a seasoned ( I use that term loosely as I sometimes feel like I have no idea what I am doing) homeschool mom of four. We have graduated two of the four.
    I really liked your writing style and the info that you shared. It really helped me as I have decided to change our way of schooling mid-year. I started working from home and needed a simpler way of schooling. I had actually been praying for enough income to “hire” a teacher. I considered this the answer to that prayer.
    What prompted me to write this response was your bio. My oldest daughter (19) has Lyme (is us hopefully in remission) and so does my husband who is disabled with MS. Wholefood nutrition and gut healing became a passion for me which led me teaching classes about essential oils and proper nutrition. I would love to chat with you about your research and what you are doing to help your body get better. I am always looking for additional information! Again, thank you for posting this review! I am encouraged to try it with my own spin on it for our family’s needs. Blessings to your family! Happy Holidays

    • Paula

      Reply Reply April 19, 2017

      Stephanie, I’m sending an email your way! 🙂

  • Erin Compton

    Reply Reply January 22, 2017

    So the cd’s; are they mostly just the books? Is there a place to get a printout of what the books are?
    Would you say the curriculum, now that you’ve tweaked it, is worth the cost for you?

    • Paula

      Reply Reply April 19, 2017

      The CD’s are the books and the spelling. You can see the list of books here.

      I’ve always ended up tweaking ANY curriculum I’ve used so it should come as no surprise to me that I’ve tweaked this one even more since writing this post. 🙂 I would have to say that if I weren’t a ‘tweaker’ it would be worth it. But since I am a tweaker, it’s more the ‘concept’that I still use (focusing on reading, writing, and arithmetic) rather than the actual material.

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