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 102 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 102 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum, however, is comprised of 102 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, Geography & Social Studies; Science; Unit Studies/All-In-One Programs; and Selected Electives.
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 (or 101) Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum, do I need to buy 102 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum?" This isn't as big of an update as last time, so we'd wrinkle our nose and say maybe. Cathy has included 23 new reviews in the 2015 update (leaving out 22 reviews from the previous edition), and these do reflect advances and shifts in existing curricula and it does include programs introduced in the last three years. But she also simplifies and reduces the number of electives she covers. Foreign language curriculums, for example, are no longer covered here at all. To see what she's added and removed, click here.
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. 102 Top Picks condenses much of the most valuable information from her two volume Curriculum Manual, updates her 2012 edition 101 Top Picks, and makes the information much more accessible. Her website is also an extremely valuable reference.
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