implementing the robinson curriculum: step by step

implementing the robinson curriculum: step by step

I have written previously about the curriculum we use for educating our children at home, known as the Robinson Curriculum.

In response, I had a lot of people writing me wondering how I implemented the curriculum.  It is so different from other methods that it is sometimes hard to “get.”  I know it took me awhile.  I think about six months before I actually “got” it.

Recently, I wrote a step by step implementation plan for a good friend of mine who is trying the curriculum this year.  I thought I might post it on my blog in the even that anyone is interested.

Before beginning, MAC users will need to know that in order to use the Robinson Curriculum CDs, they will need to install a program that can run Windows programs on MACs.  If you don’t understand it, Robinson Curriculum has excellent and personalized tech support.

So, without further ado:

STEP 1:

Course of Study

Both parents need to read “The Course of Study”. This is very important. We had to read it about two or three times before we really started to “get it.” If you need to take notes, take notes. Write down personalized goals or a plan on how you’re going to get there.  The Course of Study is outlined on the website and found in full on the Robinson Curriculum CDs.

STEP 2:

Go Sugar Free As Much As Possible

Go media free/sugar free as much as is humanly possible.

STEP 3:

Our Schoolroom

Set up a place for study. If it’s the kitchen table, that’s fine. Just make sure that books and things are nearby, and all the school supplies (which isn’t much!). They just need to be easily accessible so that when it’s time for school, it’s really time for school, not looking around for lost pencils, rulers, and books.

 STEP 4:

Saxon Math

Go to this website and have the kids do the placement tests for Saxon Math.

After that, you’ll be able to order the book kits you need from ebay, Amazon or half.com used for an excellent price. They each come with a student book, a tests and worksheets book, and a solutions manual.

For children who are not strong readers yet (usually under eight): All they really need right now is to memorize addition and subtraction facts up to twelve, and then start on memorizing multiplication up to 12. I used flashcards, and also found these very helpful:

Beginning Math at Worksheet Works

Just start with Visual Math worksheets, and then moved to the other sets. The addition to multiplication sheets were especially helpful.

If you decide to begin homeschooling before your Saxon mathbooks arrive (or even if they DO arrive), it may be helpful to spend a week or two with all the children reviewing and/or memorizing multiplication up to 12. You can use flashcards (you can find these anywhere like Target or WalMart…), or change it up a bit and print out worksheets:

 Basic Math Operations Worksheets

Also, completing a Multiplication Table or filling in the blanks is something you could let them do:

 Fill In The Blank Multiplication Worksheet Table

This is great because when they begin Saxon, they really need to have these in their heads!

STEP 5:

Bulk Composition Books

Buy some supplies you will need. I suggest the following:

  • Composition Books IN BULK! I make the kids do all their writing and math in these so they can’t lose it.
  • Pencil Sharpeners: In order to get these with free shipping, you have to buy it with other things (like the composition books above), but they are the best pencil sharpeners we’ve used. (My kids break the electric ones in about 10 minutes)
  • Rulers
  • Protractor
  • Compass (The kind for drawing circles)

 STEP 6:

Print out enough math worksheets to keep those children who are not yet in Saxon occupied for two weeks. Put these in a folder or something so you don’t have to worry about printing something off every day. If you are having the older children catch up on multiplication, make sure you print all their stuff too.

STEP 7:

Thesaurus and Dictionary: Important!

Get ready for vocabulary by taking a trip to Deseret Industries, thrift stores, or used book stores, to pick up dictionaries (Webster’s, as old as you can find—I would get two or three), thesauruses (I would get two or three of these as well—hardcover old ones are best), and other reference books (a set of old encyclopedias, etcetera).

Get ready for vocabulary by purchasing these blue folders:

You will be making vocabulary packets for each word list. Each packet will contain the following:

  1. A label on the front of the packet saying which book it is from.
  2. A copy of the vocabulary word list for the book.
  3. Two copies of the “Matching Game” to be used as a study sheet and one as a test for the vocabulary unit.
  4. Several double sided blank copies of Vocabulary Word Maps.

(These vocabulary lists are on the CDs or they can be purchased in book format at the Robinson Books website.)

These word lists are essential to the curriculum! However, I do not have the children do word lists that correspond with the books, because they read the books much faster than they complete the word lists. I just let them pick out whatever they want.

Make at least four or five packets so you don’t have to be busy with that in the first several weeks of starting the curriculum.  After that, just keep making new ones every week until you have quite a few.

STEP 8:

Print out the following booklists for your records:

Robinson Booklist

This is the list of all the RC books. Using this, you can cross off the ones you’ve bought, you have, or that you’ve downloaded.

Robinson Booklist Sorted By Subject:

This list is helpful if you want to know what subjects the books would fall under in a public school type situation.

Robinson Booklist Vocabulary Word Map Checklist:

This will help you to keep track of which vocabulary packets the girls have mastered. Make a copy for each child. (It is important to note that although it says Grade “1”, it is not an indication of first grade—it’s more like Reading Level 1, which just means, this is where you start.

The Robinson Book Assignment List Sorted By Reading Level

This is important so you can see in what order to read the books. Print out a copy for yourself, so you know which books you have purchased or downloaded, and make copies for the children so they can keep track of the books they’ve read, too.

At this point, children who are already reading but not very strong readers yet would benefit from the book “Teaching Your Child To Read Using The Book of Mormon,” I LOVE this. It is great for children who already have the ability to read but are struggling. Plus, it uses the Book of Mormon, which is AWESOME! (you can buy that from the BYU Bookstore).

If you have children who need to learn to read, I recommend using “Teach Your Child To Read In 100 Easy Lessons.”

STEP 9:

Books!

Books!

You can find many of the printed RC books used online at Amazon.com or eBay, or half.com . Always try to find an older edition (usually pre-1950 is best). This is because the newer editions have dumbed down the vocabulary and abridged them.

If you will be using an e-Reader, most of the books are available for free download.  However, please keep in mind that many e-Readers don’t have very good parental controls regarding internet access (although they are getting better–Kindle, for example, allows a password to get on the internet and access archived books).

I still like the idea of e-Ink better than a backlit screen, but that is a personal preference, as I believe it mimics an actual page better than backlit, and is less straining on the eyes for long periods of time.  My favorite e-Reader is the Kindle Paperwhite, with the caveat that parental controls blocking the internet are in place for everyone’s safety.

Kindle Paperwhite

You can download many of the books free of charge via Amazon.com’s Whispernet, but for those that cannot be found there, you will find most of them at Project Gutenberg.  They have a page containing detailed instructions on how to get those books onto your Kindle.

Picture books like the McGuffey Readers or books with lots of photos (Soldier in the Civil War) are still better found in hard copy or printed out from the Robinson Curriculum disks.

To find the books available online, visit Rosegate Harbour’s Online Books Page.

If you would like to purchase inexpensive classics, Dover Publishing offers the Evergreen Classics Set for a very good price, as well as the Thornton Burgess Animal Books Set (which can be used in place of the Arthur Scott Bailey books).  If you google “dover coupon codes” you can often find a code that you can apply for a great discount, as well.

STEP 10:

Reread the Course of Study and begin your adventure.

If you get discouraged, re-read the course of study again. Remember, you are giving them the gift of being able to think for themselves. What an amazing thing you are doing!

Also, if you need additional support, the official Robinson Curriculum Facebook Page has a lot of great people who are willing to help.

A note about self-correcting the Saxon: For the first week or two, you may want to do it with them, in order to encourage them if they get something incorrect. Remind them that the only difference between a smart person and a dumb one is that the dumb person never admits they are wrong, even if they are. The smart person finds out where they are wrong, and fixes it. That’s what can help them progress.

Remember that you are doing something amazing!!!

34 Comments

  1. Well done, Misty! Thank you.

    Can you tell me more about the paperwhite? Are the parental controls to lock out of wifi completely or just the amazon store? I know you are strict on technology as are we, so I am interested in your commentaries on electronics, ect.

    One thing I have found helpful for me was to print out the entire Course of Study, the Booklist in order, and …there was something else, I know…and putting them all in a lseeve protected 3 ring binder for easy review. On my paper book list section, I have written next to each title that I own in book form “own”. I put “ereader” next to the books we have on our ereader. That way, I am less likely to duplicate books. If I have to print one out, I write “print” next to it so I now I have it in a printed format.
    Just something that helps me stay on track!

    Reply
    • The parental controls on the regular Kindle and the Kindle Paperwhite will lock out wi-fi, the Kindle store, and the browser, so there is no access to the store or the internet at all. I have been using the Kindle for about two months and have really enjoyed it. I am particularly happy that I can organize all the books from RC into collections by reading level.

      I agree. I need to have everything printed out in a folder for quick perusal and to keep track of what I have and don’t have or I can confuse myself very, very easily. :)

      Reply
      • THANK YOU for posting all of this grand info for this future RC user:)
        Am I understanding correctly that I can use a Kindle to read and organize ALL of my RC books?

        Reply
        • While a Kindle can hold all of the books on the RC list, some of them are just not readable on the Kindle–like the Soldier in the Civil War book which is oversized and full of amazing pictures. That one is much better printed. Also The Four American Naval Heroes Kindle version is full of typos and very difficult to read, so I would print that one out as well.

          We use our Kindle to download the serial books like Horatio Alger, the Rover Boys, and the Bobbsey Twins. But, yes, the majority of the books on the RC list can be downloaded to the Kindle.

          That being said, I would caution against relying on the Kindle for harder texts. In my experience, my children do not have the same retention with the Kindle as they do with paper books. Dr. Robinson also does not recommend using e-Readers.

          Reply
  2. Do you have to figure out what they are doing each day or is there a written plan or structure given? I really want my kids to have a literature rich education but still haven’t found one I like yet. But, I also need something with structure or things/life get in the way.

    Reply
    • The reason why I have continued with this curriculum for as many years as I have is because of the structure. I am kind of a free spirit–a flibbertigibbet–and I have never been good at structure. Especially with a very large family, I needed something that would work with life/babies/flu/crises/meltdowns/moving/morning sickness/etc.

      Dr. Robinson is extremely structured and extremely simple. Dr. Robinson is a scientist, and he refers to the curriculum as his “experiment” that yielded amazing results, so he basically says you must follow the structured guidelines in order to yield the same results…

      There is a video on his website that’s pretty long, but he explains himself the whole curriculum. I have found this curriculum is the only one that is simple enough for me to keep consistently structured.

      But, I am easily distracted and somewhat of an airhead who, if she wakes up to a sunny day, would prefer to say “No Math Today” and go outside with a blanket and ice cream and read The Taming of the Shrew.

      So, I need something simple and strong in the consistency department because I really would do that and the kids would never learn anything else but novels and plays and musicals…. :)

      Reply
  3. Thank you for outlining this. I have been thinking of starting this curriculum with my two older boys but was at a loss as to how to actually start. I don’t have any close friends that are homeschooling and I haven’t met anyone in person that has used this method. However, it does appear to be a good fit for my family. Right now my boys are doing a lot of playing outside, and while I love that they finally have time to do that, I want them to be learning at home as well. Thanks again, I’m saving this page to look at again with my husband.

    Reply
  4. Is it worth spending the money on this just for the Course of Study? I have A2, but it does not contain the elusive course of study. I have read everything on the Robinson website, and implemented as much as I can. We’ve had mixed results. I really wish he would just sell the course of study separately…

    Are there now parental controls on the Kindle? Can you steer me toward a website that explains them? We bought Kindles for my kids last year, and have since confiscated them. We set it up to forget wi-fi, but a new neighbor moved in and will not password protect their guest account :-( Thanks in advance!

    Reply
    • Erin, I think the Course of Study is really important to have, and I also like that the RC scanned in the original documents–the only books I have needed to print are also ones with pictures, like Soldier in the Civil War, and A2 just did text, I think. The CDs also have the vocabulary lists, which I think is KEY to the success of the verbal/English part of the curriculum. The Vocabulary Exercises are sold separately as a book for $80 on the Robinson Books website. The CDs also have a spelling and grammar book, and I love the grammar book. Those can also be bought separately. You can find used RC curriculum on eBay.

      Again, I think the vocabulary is a huge reason to love RC.

      Also, I can tell you that RC won’t work as well if you 1) add in any “extra” curriculum or substitute Saxon with something more “fun” , 2) if you only do five days per week. Math should be done six days per week, or you will not get the results Dr. Robinson did, 3) if you grade the kids’ math and they never learn how to do it themselves, 4) if your children watch television or play video games more than an hour per week, 5) if the kids are eating sugar during the school day.

      Ask me how I know. :)

      I have been pleased with the new parental controls on the Kindle. The parent password can lock out the wi-fi, the Kindle store, and the experimental browser, as well as archived books. I have tested it and am thoroughly satisfied. Another great feature is that the parental control locks out the ability to return the Kindle to its default factory settings (which, if the kids could do that, would disable the password–this happen on the Nook and the iPads, I think.)

      Reply
      • Thank you Misty!
        I just went ahead and bought it. I found it on Amazon used. My husband is very much on board, and we plan on spending some of our Christmas Holiday reading and preparing. Screen time and sugar are both culprits we will be working on eliminating…

        Reply
  5. Thanks for this post! So once you have everything set up.. How do you get your kids to actually do it? ;)

    Reply
  6. Hi Misty,

    Just catching up on my favorite blog, (that would be this one). I had to laugh about the pencil sharpeners. We have serious pencil sharpener problems too. Our’s break constantly and we have tried everyone we can find in every store and at every price. Thanks for the suggestion.

    I love it when you talk about this curriculum. It gives me all kind of good ideas. Slowly but surely things are getting through my thick skull. It’s just really thick….

    My thoughts and prayers are with Noah, you and your family. Please keep us posted.

    I think we live closer to each other now. We should plan a visit. Have car will travel for lively conversation.

    Much love, Deanna

    Reply
  7. Thanks so much for providing additional information! I have been using a highly modified version of Robinson curriculum since we haven’t actually purchased it yet. I had been wondering whether it was necessary to buy Robinson or if I could get away with A2. I am trying to decide if I need to put more structure into our day since my daughter is only 7. I am one who has a hard time telling the kids to stop building a brick maze so they can sit down and do school.

    Reply
  8. I’m wondering if you would start everyone at the beginning of the RC reading list? I have a six kids from 13, 10, 9, 7, 5, 4, and I’ve been struggling with making the decision of where to start them all with the reading list. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

    Reply
    • Andee, here is what we have done for our little ones:

      4-7 year olds: We read aloud from Arthur Scott Bailey, but they generally read other books–picture books, and maybe some basic books. I like the DK series of board books…I have a list of picture books we like here: Pre-school Picture Books . After they graduate from picture books, then it’s on to Bobbsey Twins and Happy Hollisters, or whatever they decide to pick up and read from our home library. The Beatrix Potter books are good, my children like The Prince’s Diary by Elizabeth Dulemba, children’s nature study books, Charlotte Mason reading list books etcetera.

      At age eight, we generally start the Robinson Reading list officially. I generally have them alternate between the core books and the “supplemental reading” books for their Robinson reading time.

      The booklist by reading level is a huge help here! Also, we work up to one hour from the Robinson list each day, starting with about half an hour.

      Then we do one hour from our other books and book lists (we have liked the Ambleside Online reading list–Marguerite Henry, E.B. White, and others are great books and a bit easier to read–other books are The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede, A Wrinkle in Time Series by Madeline L’Engle, and James Herriot’s Treasury for Children).

      So, for your age 9, 10 and 13 year old, I would probably start all of them at the beginning. For the 9 and 10 year old, I would suggest starting with only half an hour and working up to one hour. For the thirteen year old, I would suggest starting at 45 minutes and working up to one hour, making sure that for all of them, the second hour is more “relaxing” reading.

      Reply
      • Thanks so much!!! I really appreciate you getting back to me so quickly. I am LOVING your blog!! I’ve been homeschooling for 5 years, found about about the RC about a year ago, and it rings true to me. Since I discovered the RC I’ve been trying to figure out how to really implement it. My kids have resisted to Saxon, but maybe I’ll try and get them doing them again. :) I pushed to hard I think, and we never did 6 days a week. I have the vision, now I just need to get really committed to it. They’ve each been reading for 1 hour a day (sometimes more), but I haven’t stuck with the RC list. I’ve let them skip around on the list or use the hour for books of their choice. I like how you divide it up. Any other suggestions you have would be very welcome. Thanks again!!

        Reply
  9. hello!!! I just purchased this curriculum!!! I’m so excited about starting this with my kids!!!! I was also nervous until I found this, thank you! thank you!!!! I love this post so much!!! God bless!

    Reply
  10. Cynthia, so glad I was able to help you. It is exciting to start something new and wonderful. Just remember that it may be hard at first, but it is so worth it. And don’t forget about the Robinson Curriculum Facebook Group. It is a closed group, so you just ask to join. I have found so much support and inspiration there. It’s a great resource!

    Reply
  11. This is an amazing resource!! Thank you for taking the time to organize the process with links and pics! We are starting the Robinson Curriculum for 8 of our kids in June and this is so helpful. He should totally link your page. Thanks again!

    Reply
  12. Thank you so much for sharing this information! I have been prayerfully considering this curriculum for my 6 children.

    Reply
  13. Hi!
    I’ve homeschooled for 6 years now, using Robinson for about 3 years but not to the letter. I am at the point where I need a fresh perspective, or encouragement or a helpful tip. I can’t manage our school to my satisfaction. Maybe, the problem is that I am trying to grab too much and never feel at peace. Here’s how it goes.
    I have five children:
    an almost 11 y/o boy who is in the middle of Saxon 76
    a 8,5 y/o girl who recently began Saxon 76,
    a 6 y/o learning to read Russian and English (Abeka), learning handwriting andher math flashcards. She receives individual instruction for about 30-60 min a day.
    a 4 y/o and a 1 y/o underfoot.

    The older ones work on their math 2 and 1.5 hr respectively
    take a 30-min break to play with baby sister
    writing 1h
    Russian reading 1 h (We are a Russian-speaking family and want our kids to read/write in Russian too)
    lunch break
    English reading 1 h
    Chinese 30 min (Rosetta-Stone self-directed. My husband insisted that Chinese is quickly becoming a necessary language to now)
    Well, my problems/concerns are these:
    I can’t imagine how kids all sit in a school room studying with Mom doing her paper work. Always baffled me. I see all the advantages and want them, but… what do you do with the baby who can be loud, distracting, hanging on mommy, getting into things… and a toddler who sometimes occupies himself, sometimes not. I don’t do budget/billing but certainly something on the computer or some reading. But not with the baby around and not for 5 hours a day… In reality older kids work at their desks in the office/school, read in the living room on a couch or even move outside in good weather. (I like them being outside, since when they finish it’s hot, when it cools down, it’s almost dinner time) But they way we do it is certainly not the best – children can talk and I need to come in and hush them, or they get distracted or even “forget” to do a daily test or a whole lesson. It wears me down.
    Self-checking. When they check their math they can be inattentive and miss their own mistakes or as my girl confessed she is tempted to cheat (she is a mommy-pleaser and wants a perfect score). I don’t’ have time to check their math and so it lack control.

    Reply
    • Hi, Oksana
      I am mom of six kids in my way to homeschooling. I am from Moldova, but we also speak Russian. I would really like to speak to you about this curriculum.

      Reply
  14. I am sorry, I am taking so much room here. I think there’s a better way to organize school.
    Another issue – writing. It’s totally not organized. Ok, fist it’s only copy work. But then, My sons comes every day with “What should I write about?” Sometimes a suggest an essay topic concerning something he read or a book report. Then I run out of ideas and give him copy work from the Book of Knowledge or some thing else. Some of his essays take a week to complete. Is it ok?
    Dr. Robinson says science/geography and history is incorporated but I don’t see much of it in the books we read (we left animal stories and Tom Swift far behind). So I fuss and bring more books. I like Truthquest History and Famous Men Of Greece, Rome
    etc. series, timelines and lots of historical fiction. A lot of fun, and a lot of my time too…
    How and when do you learn/check vocabulary?

    Thank you very, very much!

    Reply
  15. Thanks for writing this and giving the links to different things outlining the curriculum! I really appreciate it! :)

    Reply
  16. we have been doing RC for 2 yrs now and we love it. there is always something to learn from other families no matter how long you’ve been doing it. i am so glad i found your blog!
    j

    Reply
  17. Love how you shared this so effectively! beautifully done! just shared it on my blog. ;)
    ~Sheri

    *off to reread the course of study, lol

    Reply
  18. Thank you for this! We started RC just a few months ago. I have revisited this post several times. Thank you for the practical help. :)

    Reply
    • Glad to help, Amanda. I hope you’re doing well!

      Reply
  19. Hi, I so appreciate you putting this together!! I only would like to know where the matching game under the vocabulary section is. I do have this curriculum and did not see it. Thank you!

    Reply
  20. I would love to hear your thoughts on Oksana’s questions. I have been doing Robinson this year and can very much relate to her!! I love your post here and also want to thank you for spelling it out in steps. It’s very helpful!

    Reply
  21. Well done! I wished I had seen your webpage a year ago. We have found most what you said to true and correct. Very helpful and useful. Some other useful information I would like to add if I may. We use the papaerwhite kindles alot and print out anything that we cannot find for free or convert it to kindle by using calibre. It is easy to lock them down from internet use by the way. I have found that my 7 year old son is responding better to a physical copy more than the kindle for now. My daughter (12) is loving the kindle. You can also print the RC books to a print program called cutepdf then send the book to your kindle via email. Kindle paperwhites do not handle pdf well. Kindle keyboards do a much better job. I would also like to add we tried allowing some sugar…. it did not work…..we tried allow computer and TV time during the day or night….. It did not work. Those two are critical for being successful.

    Reply
  22. Hi Misty,

    Very helpful info! Thanks! Just wondering about the Vocab Packets… What is the blue folder for, and why should we buy it? I haven’t viewed any of the Vocab offerings, but I am gathering supplies. I know I will need to collect lots of Vocab flash cards up to where my kids are now, so do you intend one folder per book? Is the folder the packet?

    Thanks for the clarification.

    Reply
  23. This is wonderful. Thank you.

    Reply
  24. Thank you, Thank you, thank you for organizing this info and making it available. God bless you. :))

    Reply

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