Core knowledge is not a pre-made, nicely boxed curriculum, instead it is a guideline/map of what education a child should receive each grade level. The Core Knowledge (not to be confused with Common Core) is not just a series of books, but an entire system of standardizing childhood education. It does share a lot of goals with Common Core, and just happens to line up with Common Core in many way. It does still allow for a significant amount of teacher control on how the material is introduced, unlike Common Core.
For each grade level from K – 8, Core Knowledge has a list of what a child should know at the end of that grade level. Their list covers language arts, mathematics, science, history, geography, art, and music. This list was designed for use in schools, but can be helpful for the home school crowd as well. The list, called the Core Knowledge Sequence is available on their website for free.
For all the information that the sequence calls for in one spot, the Core Knowledge Foundation offers a set of teacher’s handbooks. The Teacher’s Handbooks are $80 a level, and cover kindergarten through fifth grade. While the sequence might call for student to learn about ancient Egypt, the teacher’s handbook gives all the information that should be taught about ancient Egypt, tells the teacher how much of your school year to spend on it, gives some ideas about how to teach the information (including some activities), and comes with a few worksheets. No clear lesson plan is given in the book at all – it’s totally up to the teacher to build a curriculum.
These books are designed for teachers in a classroom setting, but they are very adaptable to home school. I use mine for science, geography, history, art, literature, and music. Though they do also cover language arts and math, I feel better leaving such complex and vital subjects in the hands of a professional. That’s not to say that I don’t check over my professional-made curricula to make sure it covers everything listed in the book.
Converting the raw information from the books into a day-by-day lesson plan takes a lot of work. I have to determine the pacing, the scope, the activities, the reading material, the worksheets, and so on and so forth. Needless to say, it’s quite a time investment. However, the Teacher handbook does make this considerably faster. I don’t have to sweat the credibility (minus a few small outdated facts), and any topics I’ve forgotten since my school days I can easy refresh myself on. Also, some of the activity ideas are very helpful and can inspire an entire class.
It is hard to review them fairly, though. The usefulness of these books depends greatly on how much time is willing to be invested. These are not easy, convenient boxed curriculum sets with everything gathered in one place, ready to go. These books are only the basic foundation for a curriculum. To their credit, if you wanted the ease of pre-made curriculum sets for all the subjects that are covered, you could easily spend ten times the price of this book.
So I’ll keep using these as the foundation of my homemade curricula. It saves untold sums of money and assures I know what the heck I’m teaching. Now I just need to get better at writing curricula.
Pros: Complete source for information, Loaded with ideas and resources, great price
Cons: Labor intensive in the extreme, success is totally dependent on the parent