When Laurelee Robinson, home schooling mother of six, died suddenly, her husband, Dr. Arthur Robinson, determined to continue home schooling. The children, ages 17 months through 12 years at that time, worked with their father to devise a plan whereby they could home educate themselves. Dr. Robinson reported that during a span of seven years he spent less than 15 minutes a day teaching his children. What the Robinsons developed out of necessity, presents an option for many families who lack the time or expertise to provide more traditional learning opportunities.
The program is fairly simple. The children learn to read using a phonetic method. Once children are able to read, they are introduced to a vast array of good books to read for history, science, and literature. Many of these books are classics, some are college level texts, some are non-fiction books, and some are old encyclopedias. The children each write an essay per day. The children essentially teach themselves, achieving high levels of academic competence with very minimal parental input and supervision.
The Robinson Self-Teaching Curriculum is not comprehensive in itself, although Dr. Robinson includes suggestions for rounding out your program to create a comprehensive program. The curriculum requires parents to determine which books to offer their children at which time. It also leaves it to parents to figure out how and if to supply specific instruction in areas such as beginning mathematics, writing, spelling, grammar, and science. So, while Dr. Robinson offers suggestions for many of these areas, you cannot rely on the included material to be a comprehensive curriculum. One of the most important subject areas where you will need to add something more is math. Dr. Robinson recommends the Saxon Math series from level 5/4 up through Calculus for mathematics instruction. (Saxon Math can be purchased from Robinson or other sources.)
The Robinsons spend five hours per day, six days per week, twelve months per year with occasional days off for special activities. As you might expect from such a schedule, the older Robinson children are tackling college curriculum ahead of schedule and taking advanced placement exams to secure college credit for those courses.
When you purchase the Robinson Curriculum, you get both a two-year online access subscription and a set of 22 CD-ROMs. Both require a computer running Microsoft Windows. The same material is included online and on the CD-ROMs, and the CD-ROMs are optional. It includes facsimile copies of more than 230 books, the 30,000-page 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica, the 400,000-word 1913 Webster's Dictionary (these last two resources include special on-screen reading software), a 6000-word vocabulary flashcard system, 2000 historic illustrations, progress exams for some of the books, and vocabulary/comprehension quizzes for some of the literature. You can print out copies of these books as needed, and, since they are facsimile images, they look just like the original. (The drawback here is that you can't search for words, select paragraphs, or otherwise play with the text in facsimile copies.)
Dr. Robinson also includes articles about teaching the various subject areas, creating a study environment, and other helpful insights. This has been expanded to serve as a more thorough course of study based upon feedback Dr. Robinson has received from many families who used the first version.
The books themselves form the core of a valuable library and might be worth the cost of the program on their own. Some of the titles in the curriculum are the McGuffey Reader series, Josephine Pollard's George Washington and Life of Christopher Columbus, Just So Stories, the Five Little Peppers series, Tom Sawyer, The Swiss Family Robinson, The Hound of the Baskervilles, Do and Dare by Horatio Alger, Two Years Before the Mast, Little Women, Little Men, Don Quixote, Diaries of George Washington, The Spy, Circulation of the Blood by William Harvey, Faraday's Lectures, The Prince by Machiavelli, Julius Caesar by Shakespeare, The Autobiography of Theodore Roosevelt, The Federalist Papers, Institutes of the Christian Religion by Calvin, and Paradise Lost. Version 2.2 also features complete science texts for high school, including advanced texts for students who need to work at more challenging levels.
To run the program from the DVDs, you will install the foundational programs on your hard drive, then access the various disks as needed. The program is easy to install and operate. If you choose the online subscription, you can access the program from most devices without any setup work.
I am thoroughly convinced of the value of reading worthwhile books as a major component of our homeschooling, and this is a very affordable way to obtain more than 120,000 pages to build a library. Dr. Robinson's approach to homeschooling offers a model that most of us can glean from even if we do not follow it exactly. It also suggests a much broader realm of possibilities for many families who are reluctant to home school or who consider it beyond their capabilities. While such an independent, reading-based approach to education might present problems for auditory (hearing) and kinesthetic (hands-on) learners, the Robinsons have proven it successful with their own children. The Robinsons welcome comments and recommendations.