By Kathy Kuhl “What’s a good curriculum for my child?” people ask me.
“That’s like asking me ‘What’s a good shoe for my child?’” I reply. I’d need some measurements. I want to know what the child’s good at, what they like, what their goals are. Tap dancers, scholars, and fashion designers need different footwear. I wrote about this in an earlier post.
With those answers, I do give advice in private consultations. But it’s hard to keep up with hundreds of curriculum choices. Cathy Duffy is my favorite source of help, so today I want to recommend her book and her website to you.
Mother of All Curriculum Reviews
While there are other excellent curriculum reviewers, notably Karen Andreola, Cathy Duffy’s massive body of reviews makes her book and website my top choices for thorough, dispassionate, helpful reviews.
Homeschool veteran Cathy Duffy started reviewing homeschool curricula in 1984. By 2000, her one-volume book of reviews had grown to two volumes and over 1000 pages. When my son started seventh grade, I bought volume 2, her guide for junior and senior high curricula. It was thorough, clear, and to the point.
One year, though, the flood of new products became too many to keep up with in a print edition. So Cathy took a smart approach. While continuing to post shorter reviews on her website, she culled the print editions and her other reviews to create the Top 100 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum, published in 2005. She’s since inched her way up, first to 101, then 102 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum. She’s been holding steady at 102 since 2015. This resource is available both as a book and as an ebook.
Wonderful Collection of Reviews Online
A treasure house of reviews, Cathy Duffy’s website is easy to navigate. Cathy is thorough and practical. Her reviews give you lots of helpful detail, much more than I see on publishers’ websites. She writes more concisely—handy for busy parents of kids with challenges. She writes without puffery. As Cathy explains:
We do not sell the products we review and publishers do not pay to be reviewed.
This allows us to write more objective reviews. Many products are carried by CBD, Amazon, Rainbow Resource Center, or Homeschool Buyers Co-op…. We do receive affiliate marketing revenue from publishers, advertisers, and resellers, and those affiliate links are at the bottom of the page within the pricing area where they are identified as such.
I also recommend you sign up for Cathy’s newsletter. Even if you don’t read every email, skimming her subject lines and reading the reviews that catch your eye is the easiest way I know to keep up with what’s new.
Cathy’s newsletter will also give you a discount code to buy her ebook version of 102 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum.
So Why Buy this Book?
But if the website’s so great, why get the book? For several reasons:
- Chapter 1: How to use the book.
- Chapter 2: Great explanation of different teaching styles: traditional textbooks, Charlotte Mason education, classical education, unit study, unschooling, independent study, working under an umbrella program, or an eclectic mixture of approaches. Also features questions and charts that will help you identify which approach (or mixture of approaches) is best for you.
- Chapter 3: Examples of filled-in charts and sample answers to the questions in Chapter Two. This should give you a clear idea of how to proceed.
- Chapter 4: How to identify your children’s learning styles and figure out which features you should be looking for in a curriculum, to achieve the best fit for each child. Cathy eschews the traditional learning style categories, instead creating her own categories: Wiggly Willy, Perfect Paula, Competent Carl, Sociable Sue.
- Chapter 5: Setting academic goals.
- Chapter 6: This chart is the key to using the book. She also provides a separate PDF chart when you purchase the ebook. Print these four two-page spreads to mark up and ponder as you go. Chapter 6 also explains Cathy’s categories and definitions.
- Finally, buying the book is a way to vote for Cathy to continue this work by using your wallet.
You can see that these chapters are similar to my free goal-setting guide, which you get when you subscribe to my occasional newsletter here. Though Cathy’s is not geared to helping kids with learning challenges, these six chapters are worth getting, because they are much more thorough than my free gift.
Confession time: When I bought Cathy’s curriculum guide back in 2000, I just dove into the reviews. Feeling somewhat desperate, I neglected the resources in the front of the book until this year. Don’t make my mistake! They are incredibly helpful.
Want another way to support Cathy as she continues with this great work? Use her affiliate links on her website. Just as links on my site help cover my expenses, so do hers. Reviews as good as Cathy’s don’t just materialize out of the blue.
No financial connection here: Cathy and her helpers don’t even know I’m writing this.