Family of N

Cheap Curriculum and Free Booklists

Posted in Homeschooling by Laura on December 1, 2008

This post is part of my Links for Lena series.


Robinson Curriculum
The story behind the Robinson Curriculum is one of the most inspiring ones I’ve ever heard. The Robinsons’ homeschool journey was punctuated by the tragic death of Mrs. Robinson, the primary teacher. Mr. Robinson, who needed to continue to work to support the family, was unable to devote the time to teaching that his wife had. So the family responded by learning to homeschool without the parent as an active teacher. Mr. Robinson describes his role throughout the remainder of his children’s education as an “occasional coach.”

Today, his children are grown, and he sells twelve years’ worth of curriculum materials for under $200. (They’re all digital scans of non-copyrighted works, so either you homeschool on the computer or spend some time — and money — printing the materials.)

The Robinson Curriculum is where I found out about the McGuffey Readers. Unfortunately, I learned after I ordered the revised copy that the revisions are mostly (or all?) removals of Christian themes. What I should have gotten is the reprint of the original with all the references to God and Scripture left intact. (Oh, well. The books are still good for teaching reading!)


Great Books
Classical Homeschooling is a deeper topic than I can address in this post alone, but in short, it is an approach to homeschooling that is modeled after the educational traditions dating back to the Ancient Greeks. It emphasizes teaching the student grammar, logic, and rhetoric, and in large part accomplishes this through a systematic study of the Latin and Greek languages. A small selection of truly great literature is studied in depth, some of them even in their original languages. A list of books for this in-depth study, read late in the child’s education, are compiled in the 100 Good Books list. A longer list including books for the younger student to read can be found in the 1000 Great Books list.

If I were to teach Savannah only two languages, they would be Hebrew and Greek, and if I had to choose a third, it would probably be either Spanish or Korean. To teach enough languages that I would get to Latin seems unreasonable to me, but I do respect that a Classical Education tends to produce students with a gift for eloquent speech, and most would attribute that to the study of the Latin language. If you want to know more about why the Latin language is so central to the Classical Education, you probably want to read Climbing Parnassus.

Most classical educators would consider this heresy, but I am more interested in the classical booklists than in the classical language study. The books on those two lists are carefully selected works that are very much worth reading. I plan to take that list along with me when I go to the used bookstore and to the library so I will have a little help picking out literature that I can be confident is high-quality.


Ambleside Online
The Charlotte Mason philosophy is another that I don’t have time to go into today, but it is similar to the Classical Education. Wikipedia describes some differences:

* Some versions of the Classical education movement put less emphasis on the fine arts, especially visual art.
* Classical Education can be described as rigorous and systematic, while Mason’s approach is more gentle and flexible, especially with younger children.
* Classical introduces writing composition earlier and teaches it as a separate subject, while Mason depends on oral narration and a smooth transition into written narration in later grades without studying composition as a separate subject.
* Classical Education also introduces grammar at an earlier age than Mason does.
* Classical advocates more parental explanations and distilling of information than Mason does.

You can’t go wrong with a book from one of the lists at Ambleside Online, the best reference I’ve found for Charlotte Mason information.

Two of my favorite bloggers are Charlotte Mason educators, so I will probably come back to this again. In the meantime, check out both of these blogs for some more information on Charlotte Mason:


Edited to include Harmony’s suggestions for Google e-books and Project Gutenberg.

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2 Responses

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  1. Harmony said, on December 1, 2008 at 2:47 pm

    Korean, huh? Could it be you don’t want Savannah to feel left out at family gatherings with the cousins? 😉

    All three of your curriculums today are very inexpensive. Almost all the books on those three curricula are available in the public domain, which means you can download e-books from google books or the Gutenberg project. Nearly all are available from local libraries. And what’s more, they’re some of the best literature available in the English (or Greek/Latin) language. I just don’t see why anyone would approach the study of literature in a different way.

    I’m personally a fan of Charlotte Mason because I don’t like the Classical emphasis on the Greeks and Romans. My husband is especially against that, partly (I’m sure) because his heritage is Asian and he doesn’t want our children learning all about the Greeks and Romans and nothing about the Chinese and Koreans. Charlotte Mason uses a lot of the classics, but the method itself is easily applicable to whatever type of curriculum you choose to use. As you mentioned, teaching the Good and Great Books without teaching logic and Latin is akin to heresy in Classical Education. Doing so in Charlotte Mason is perfectly natural.

    Another great Charlotte Mason resource is http://simplycharlottemason.com/ . They have a full curriculum which is very different from Ambleside’s, but the methods remain the same.

  2. Laura said, on December 1, 2008 at 3:09 pm

    I’m hoping Savannah gets to spend *lots* of time with her cousins. I’d love it if she spent so much time around her cousins that learning Korean would be more practical than learning Spanish.

    I love Project Gutenberg. I keep a “Project Gutenberg” tab open in my browser so I can read Savannah poetry while I’m nursing. 🙂

    Thanks for the Simply Charlotte Mason link!


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