Homeschooling and Libraries

Things I'm thinking about and learning while working with homeschoolers and writing Helping Homeschoolers in the Library for ALA Editions.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

100 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum by Cathy Duffy

Here is another must-have for all libraries that seek to serve homeschoolers.

An active homeschooler and writer, Cathy Duffy has put considerable time and energy into helping homeschooling parents navigate the ever-growing world of curriculum options for their children. This book turns out to be much more than a simple listing of her top hundred picks. The first sixty pages start with the basics: introducing readers to the various movements and trends in homeschooling, helping parents formulate their own educational philosophies and goals for their children, and discussing the idea of learning styles. Duffy asserts that one can’t effectively pick a curriculum without thinking these things through, and she offers a variety of questionnaires and worksheets to make the task less intimidating for those lacking a background in education.

Duffy says that she wants to encourage readers to “become goal-oriented rather than ‘curriculum-driven,’” a goal I think she achieves. I love the way she talks about respecting and building on learning styles and the benefits of being flexible in one’s approach to homeschooling. She also offers suggestions for how to handle practical considerations such as the amount a family has to spend, how many children they have, and how much time a parent has to devote to homeschooling. Duffy writes from a Christian perspective but. at the same time, has respect for a variety of homeschooling options and includes many secular curriculum materials. Her bias is most evident her choice of science curriculums, but, then again, she also encourages families to eschew curriculum and try a “real books” approach to science (as she does for history). Many homeschoolers will appreciate Duffy’s commentary and suggestions on curriculums that incorporate Christian content.

From a librarian’s perspective, one of the saddest things about the book is that as many times as she talks about ways to save money and time and to use real books, she never suggests using the public library as a resource. When she talks about using real books to teach science and recommends Janice VanCleave’s books, when she talks about finding additional phonics readers for practice, when she talks about identifying historical fiction titles, I kept thinking, “The library! The library! The library!” It’s hard to imagine a public library that wouldn’t be a great place to find all of these things and more. Maybe we can convince Duffy to mention the library a little more if she decides to update the book in a few years. :)

In the meantime, Cathy Duffy updates and expands on the reviews in her book on her web site at It’s a great book and site to recommend to patrons, and it’s also worth a look if you’re trying to identify materials to purchase for your library’s collection.


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