Learning Essay Writing Rod And Staff

These books are written by one group of Mennonites, not Amish. We have used the Reading 2 (including Phonics 2) and 4 as Bible while using something else for reading. I love the way most of the TMs have reduced-size student pages, either with answers overprinted, or with answers and teacher helps in the margins and at the bottom. This makes it very “open and go”. Tests are usually reproduced in reduced-size with answers in the back of the TM, and worksheets are too. All their books are “chapter” format, also referred to as “mastery”, but there is plenty of review as well, both within a grade level and from year to year.

I’ve found the English at grade 2 to be a little bit below level, but grade 3 and 4 are just about right for grade level. Grade 5 begins to move up toward advanced a little, and 6 and up are definitely advanced for grade level. Grade 8 would do for high school, and 9/10 are more like early-college level, IMO. It’s very easy to do much of the English orally, and the written exercises are “reduced writing” very often too — this makes it easier for students who have difficulty copying out large amounts of material into a notebook. By “reduced writing” I mean that the instructions might say to pick out a word or some words, a phrase, or the punctuation marks only to write on paper, rather than copying the whole sentence.

I have only used the second grade of Spelling, which would be just fine for a real second grader, but I was using it for an older student with learning issues and it wasn’t quite enough for him.

The 2nd grade social studies is in a workbook that is an introduction to world geography, starting in Canada, then the US, then Mexico, then moving on to other parts of the world. It is about right for 2nd grade, but it definitely needs updating. I have also used the 5th grade social studies and found it good for an introduction to history and geography of North America (Canada and US) but some may wish to incorporate living books alongside for more depth. The mapping exercises included are very good.

2nd grade Health, Manners & Safety is also very first-and-second grade appropriate.

I like the science very much. The textbooks are attractive, and would give a good foundation in science topics (including life, health, earth/space, physical science, and chemistry) for a non-college-bound student through high school. Or, a student could complete all of them, then still have time to focus on one or two lab sciences (from another publisher) for the last year or two of high school, as desired. Most have been fairly recently updated, except grades 8 and up, which are in process. There is also an older 5th-6th grade set concerned entirely with life science and the study of various representative organisms. In grades 3 and 5, there are comprehension questions with every lesson, and various activities and projects to choose from for each lesson and chapter, that can be completed with readily available materials. There are chapter reviews daily, or the comprehension questions can be graded as a quiz, and brief vocabulary quizzes which could be used as quiz or review orally.


UPDATE** Since writing this article, we’ve tweaked how we use Robinson Curriculum. Read this article first, but don’t forget to read Robinson Curriculum: Updates & New Plans too!


Do you remember when I shared that Travis and I had some really good talks while on our second honeymoon? Not only did we talk about changing the way we were raising the kids, we also talked about how our homeschooling life had to make some major renovations.

We read about The Robinson Curriculum online and immediately fell in love with the concept of “less is more”. The idea that we should focus on the three R’s and the rest will follow, really resonated with me. I sometimes felt that we were trying to make the kids so ‘well-rounded’ that we were covering too many subjects. They weren’t getting a really good grasp on any of them. They were getting overwhelmed with the work load and I was getting overwhelmed with the time it took to finish a school day.

We decided to try Robinson Curriculum for the last quarter of the school year and ‘see how it went’.

We’ve never looked back.

What is The Robinson Curriculum (RC)?

The Robinson Curriculum (RC) began when a father of six suddenly lost his wife to an illness that took her life within 24 hours. The children were now without a mother or a teacher. Mr. Robinson wasn’t willing to send them off to public school, yet there was no way he could continue to work and spend the same amount of time teaching the children as his wife had. Instead, he and the children pushed all of the varied school subjects aside except for the 3 R’s – reading, writing, and arithmetic. He focused on the essentials and RC was born.

The curriculum comes on a set of 22 CD’s. It covers K-12 and can be reused for ALL of your children. (Big homeschooling families – let’s give a cheer!) Cost is about $200.

What’s included in the curriculum?

RC is a 22 CD volume set compromised of over 250 books for the reading part of the 3 R’s.  Click here to see the full list.

Math is bought separately. Both Robinson and Travis (my math whiz husband) highly recommend Saxon for their clear instructions and repetition. In fact, Travis refuses to use anything else. I’m not saying he could never be persuaded that there’s another good math curriculum out there, but he grew up using Saxon and is convinced it’s worth its weight in gold. You can find used Saxon books via eBay and used homeschool book sales for a fraction of the cost of new.

What all this about ‘self-teaching’?

Self-teaching is the core of Robinson Curriculum. To self-teach, the children simply read their lesson plan themselves (provided they can read well) and complete their lesson – with very rare assistance from mom or dad.

I personally loved the idea of ‘self-teaching’. When we found the Robinson Curriculum we had three full-time students and another starting in the fall. I was spending a lot of time preparing/correcting lessons and it seemed all I did was move from one student to another, one question after another. I became frustrated when they’d came to me and say, “I don’t understand this” only to find out they hadn’t taken the time to read the lesson well. In essence I was teaching nearly all their subjects to each of them individually.

Having the kids ‘self-teach’, I believe, is one of the best ways to prepare them for adulthood – after all, they’ll continue to learn and study topics of interest all their lives. If I hold their hand, they’ll never learn:

  • independent study habits
  • responsibility
  • accountability
  • to think things out on their own
  • justified self confidence

It took a bit of adjustment for the kids to learn I wasn’t going to answer their questions anymore. My reply became, “go back and read the lesson plan again. This time read it slowly and try to focus on what they’re explaining.”

After answering this way several times, they finally gave up asking. It forced them to stop using me as a crutch and take the responsibility to read their lesson plan carefully or they’d be sitting at the table all day.

In truth, this was the one area I was hesitant to implement. Our second oldest, who was 11 at the time, was notorious for ‘not understanding’ a lesson, day-dreaming, and needing me to read the lesson plan out loud to him. He was also getting steady C’s. Amazingly, after several days of my refusing to help, he buckled down and pulled A’s and a few B’s for the rest of the year.

For the younger students, self-teaching is possible too. As long as your child can read, he can learn to read slowly and think through the directions. Our eight-year-old quickly learned that it might not make sense the first time, the second time, or even the fifth time – but if he continued to read slowly and think about what the directions were saying, the light bulb would click.

I want to quick note that this doesn’t mean you can never help your kids. But the less you do for them, the more they learn to do for themselves. They have much more satisfaction when they’re the one who figures it out.

How Does RC Teach the 3 R’s?

There are two main lists of books – those the students are required to read as well as a supplemental list with quality books. There is no “Grade 1, Grade 2” levels for the books. The student starts at the beginning of the required list and moves through it as their able. The books advance in reading level as they move down the list.

All the books on the CD’s are printable to put into binders. However, because most of them are older and do not have copyright anymore, about 80% of them are free to download onto Kindles or other e-readers. We bought a Kindle exclusively for this. The books we can’t download for free we print off. For a complete book list, click here.

The younger students start with writing letters, then copying sentences or verses, eventually (about 10 yrs old) writing a half page essay on any topic they like, and then gradually a full page or more as they get into the higher grades.

RC feels that between reading, writing, and the grammar and spelling books available on the CD’s, grammar and sentence structure are covered. Being the notorious grammatical-error-spotter I am :), I still like to supplement with the English curriculum we’d used before (Rod & Staff).

Essays are the only subject you’ll need to correct.

As I mentioned before, RC recommends Saxon, which you will have to buy separately. Robinson doesn’t recommend buying the first three grades of Saxon and in hindsight (and in planning for future students) I would agree. Get the flash cards out and learn +, -, x, and / forward, backward, and upside down until they are about 5 or 6, and then get them started on Saxon 54.

The students correct their own math lessons. This teaches them responsibility and accountability. I randomly correct their lessons (after they’ve corrected it) just to make sure they’re being honest and to keep them on their toes. 🙂

Wait! That’s it!? What about all the other subjects?

RC (and I) encourage having books about history and science readily available for your kids to read whenever they want. We’ve found gems at local thrift stores, garage sales, and used book sales at the libraries. The best way to learn any subject is to read, read, read.

RC doesn’t have a Christian/Bible Time section per se, but there is nothing anti-Christian in the curriculum in any way. The booklist has old enough books that the characters still portray godly character and valuable lessons learned. We have our own family Bible study about once a week and we alternate between reading out loud in Egermeier’s Bible Story Book, several verses or a chapter from the Bible with a family discussion (the book of James is excellent for this), books about missionaries, and memorizing the books of the Bible and/or verses. This isn’t based on any curriculum, just our personal ideas.

What does a typical day look like?

Your children start the day with math – as this takes the most concentration. Each student does a set amount. For the younger ones it could mean going through the stack of flash cards a certain number of times. For middle-schoolers it could mean doing a half a lesson a day, depending on their ability. Older students can do one or more lessons.

When they’re finished, they correct their lesson and rework any problem(s) they had wrong.

After math is finished, the student moves on to essay writing. Again, they write for a set amount, no matter how long it takes. Usually students under 10 years old do copy work from the Bible, a science or history book, etc. and the older students write a half a page and then as they get older, a full page essay on any subject they wish.

The first day we started RC, our oldest son He wrote an essay entitled “Notable Men of World War II”. Our second son, wrote “How to Make a Weapon From a Stick”. 🙂 The point is to let them write about what interests them. You might learn a lot more about your kids than you know!

After the essay writing comes reading.

Your goal is to have about 5-6 hours of school per day for older students and less for the younger students, depending on age. Reading fills up what’s left of their day after math and essay writing are complete. They should read through the required book list as they can, and then spend the rest of the time reading good books.

This is where the other subjects come in. Let them read about lizards, the Oregon Trail, the solar system, and look at maps (geography). Let them page through Encyclopedia’s – something is bound to catch their attention. Do they like dinosaurs? Make sure you stock up at the library and get a couple books about dinos. Do they want to learn to knit? Find a couple how-to books and let them teach themselves how to make a scarf. The subjects and possibilities are endless!

What does a typical school year look like?

RC recommends school 6 days a week all year long (about 10 mths total).

The CD’s come with The Course of Study which explains things in more detail – it’s 150 pgs long and we really enjoyed reading through it.

We did, however, alter his plan a bit, as you are certainly free to do. We stayed to the normal 5 days of school a week and added math only on Saturdays. During the summer months we do 1 math lesson a day and 1 hour of required reading. This is the first year we’ve done school through the summer. Although there was a bit of groaning when we began, it’s going surprisingly well. It’s actually giving them something to do during the hot July weather when they don’t want to be outside and I won’t let them watch T.V. or play electronic games. I’m such a meanie.

Can you start RC with kindergarteners and young students?


Honestly, for each of my first three students I didn’t even start them in ‘school’ until they turned five, and even then we had very short days. For kindergarten, we sang the ABC’s and learned to recognize colors, numbers, and letters. THAT’S IT. We didn’t do anything else except get books from the library now and again.

Eventually we started having them write letters and numbers on lined grade-school paper and then as they learned to read they wrote their names, words, etc. I used Phonics Pathways to teach them all to read – I love it. I don’t know if it’s that book or simply that my kids like to read but they’re voracious readers!

RC does include phonics flashcards on the CD’s.


Whew. That’s a lot of information! Hopefully I’ve answered some of your questions, but if not, please feel free to leave a comment down below (you’ll be helping others who might have the same questions) and I’ll be sure to reply.


UPDATE** Since writing this article, we’ve tweaked how we use Robinson Curriculum. Read Robinson Curriculum: Updates & New Plans to see what parts of Robinson we’ve kept and what we’ve changed.


Shared with: Flour Me With Love, The Modest Mom Blog, Time-Warp Wife, Far Above Rubies, Growing Home, Women Living Well, Raising Homemakers, Our Simple Country Life, Creative Christian Mama, Comfy in the Kitchen, Christian Mommy Blogger,

Hi, I'm Paula - wife and homeschooling mom of six. Several family health issues involving candida, food allergies, and Lyme Disease have created a passion to better understand our God-created bodies. Today I share that enthusiasm by bringing you information on ways to improve your gut health. You can follow me on Facebook, and Pinterest.


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