When the two volumes of Cathy Duffy's Christian Home Educators' Curriculum Manual broke on the scene way back in 2000, home school families hailed it as the answer to all their deepest questions and needs, at least as far as selecting good textbooks and programs was concerned. Then the streamlined 100 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum debuted in 2005, and a good thing was made great.
Well, homeschool curriculum changes frequently, and as the movement grows, so do the number of new materials. Mrs. Duffy keeps abreast of these with admirable tirelessness on her website, but having her 101 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum in one accessible volume is priceless, especially with all the help she offers in the beginning chapters to those unsure how to proceed in selecting the curriculum that's right for their family.
There is no one-size-fits-all homeschool curriculum, for any or all subjects. Cathy helps parents identify their own teaching style and philosophy, their kids' learning styles, when to teach what (and to whom), and much more (including identifying whether a product is designed for independent, one-on-one, or group learning). A selection of charts and questionnaires makes all this information more navigable, and helps parents make reasoned assessments without going crazy.
The bulk of 101 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum, however, is comprised of 101 curriculum reviews covering the spectrum of core school subjects: Phonics, Reading, and Literature; Language Arts: Grammar and Composition; Language Arts: Spelling, vocabulary, and Handwriting; Mathematics; History/Social Studies; Science; Unit Studies/All-In-One Programs; Foreign Language; and, Critical Thinking and Art.
Each review is thorough, well-written, and impartial. The format of this book is open and clear, so you don't have to squint to read the text, or flip pages continually to find out where you are. A complete index helps with easy reference, though the table of contents is also easy to use. Overall, this is an incredibly accessible resource, both for those just starting to homeschool their kids, and for long-term, battle-scarred veterans.
And now, The Big Question: "If I own 100 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum, do I need to buy 101 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum?" If you're still homeschooling and still choosing curriculum, the short answer is, Yes. There are 44 new reviews in the 2012 update (with 42 reviews from the previous volume left out or adapted), reflecting advances in existing curricula and new programs introduced in the previous seven years.
We highly recommend this book, believing it gives parents just the right balance of guidance and choices so they can make well-informed decisions in their curriculum purchases. 101 Top Picks condenses much of the most valuable information from her two volume Curriculum Manual, updates her 2005 edition 100 Top Picks, and makes the information much more accessible. Her website is also an extremely valuable reference.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he's a husband and father who loves church, good food, and weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here
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