I remember well the days when the only homeschool reviewers were Mary Pride and Cathy Duffy. Mrs. Duffy is still actively involved in the homeschool movement and, in this, her latest offering shares 100 favorite curriculum choices along with in-depth reviews of each item.
There are thousands of potential homeschool materials available for sale from different companies - Rainbow Resource Center alone carries over 30,000 items! It might be surprising then, for Mrs. Duffy to limit herself to 100. Why so few? After witnessing new homeschool mothers overwhelmed with the myriad of choices available, she is hoping to simplify the process by highlighting a small number that she considers to be excellent.
Mrs. Duffy explores important topics leading up to her 100 Top Picks. Each chapter builds on the material from the previous chapters, so you will want to read them in order. It has a bit of an interactive feel with the questions and fill in-the-blanks answers to help you determine what methods and materials would work best for you.
After explaining the advantages of tailoring your child's curriculum to his needs rather than purchasing a packaged curriculum, the author strongly encourages you to consider your philosophy of education, the method of teaching that works best for your family, your child's learning style, the goals you hope to achieve, and your daily schedule. After compiling all of this information, you will have a plan of action and will be ready to consider whether a particular resource will work for you.
Each resource is covered with an "overview" (description and coded categories involving learning style, prep time, ease of use, and special categories relating to who these materials would be suitable for) as well as an in-depth review. This allows the reader to easily scan through and decide which ones are worth further investigation. Her actual list includes a brief overview of each resource, including a helpful chart of 14 categories and a page number reference for you to read a more in-depth review of the resource. Some of the evaluation categories include 4 choices for the style of learner, prep time, ease of use for teacher, teacher manual, and more.
One very useful category explains the resource's suitability according to religious belief. For the most part, I agree with her choices of suitability for Catholics. One I would quibble with is the Exploring Creation Science series (I believe some of the books need Catholic commentary).
Subsequent chapters group the resources by subject. There are some extra "nuggets" tucked away in these chapters, such as an interesting list of favorite history books from Ancient Egypt to modern times in the history section. While most of the books would appeal to a broad range of people and includes some excellent selections from Bethlehem Books, I would recommend avoiding a few titles: Some titles by G. A. Henty (e.g. St. Bartholomew's Eve) and books about Luther and Calvin.
Over the years, I have been impressed with the author's wisdom and thoughtfulness in recommending curriculum. This book is specifically directed toward new homeschoolers of any faith. There are many choices in this book which are unobjectionable - particularly the large quantity of "non-sectarian" titles such as the Institute for Excellence in Writing and Sing, Spell, Read and Write. There are, however, some important points for Catholic Homeschoolers to understand when considering recommendations from this book:
- Although Mrs. Duffy is a revert to the Catholic faith, the reviews are written more from a general Christian, rather than a specifically Catholic, point of view. Some resources are objectionable from a Catholic point of view (including some materials from Bob Jones University Press and A Beka). Although these are marked as suitable for Protestants in her overview, they may still seem appealing in the lengthier reviews. Approximately one-third of the resources in the 100 Picks are recommended exclusively for Protestants. For new homeschoolers or those not well-informed about their faith, I would recommend avoiding these resources entirely.
- Those looking for specifically Catholic materials won't find very much here - only five are specifically Catholic. As evidenced by this website, there are many sources of specifically Catholic materials, including Catholic Heritage Curricula, Seton Home Study, Mother of Divine Grace School, Kolbe Academy, and Neumann Press. I should note that the author does have some reviews of additional Catholic titles on her webpage.
If you are wondering how to evaluate your homeschool teaching style and your child's learning style, this book would be very helpful as a jump start (although this is a small portion of the book). Although you shouldn't blindly accept the recommendations of any reviewer, this book in particular seems to offer few choices for Catholic homeschoolers.