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Practical Homeschooling® :
Dr. Arthur Robinson & Kids in 2008
Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine
Printed in Practical Homeschooling #81, 2008.

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The Robinsons
From left to right: Dr. Arthur Robinson, Matthew (20), Noah (29), Bethany (26), Zachary (31), Arynne (28), and Joshua (26) with his wife, Fama

Winning the most awards by far this year is the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine (OISM). OISM has been on our Reader Awards list since 2005. Their CD-ROM-based curriculum has also been on our Software Awards (now i-Learn Awards) list since 2000.

Those of you who have been PHS readers for a long time are already familiar with the founder of OISM, Dr. Art Robinson. Famed among homeschoolers for his "Robinson Method," which involves teaching children to learn independently as early as possible, Art was a PHS columnist some years ago.

Art's background is that of someone naturally drawn to academic excellence. After earning the Ph.D. in Chemistry from U.C. San Diego, he was immediately invited to join their faculty and taught there for a number of years while also working at Stanford. Nobel Prize winner Linus Pauling and Art founded a biomedical research institute, later named the Linus Pauling Institute. After falling out with Pauling (when Art's attempts to verify some of Pauling's wilder theories about the proper dose of Vitamin C for humans actually ended up disproving them), Art moved with his wife, Laurelee, to a farm in Oregon, to provide a better life for their children. In 1980 they founded their own small research institute, the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine. In 1988 Laurelee died suddenly of a rare disease, acute hemorrhagic pancreatitis, leaving behind a commitment to homeschool their children but no full-time teacher to do so. At that time, the Robinson children were 1-1/2, 6, 6, 8, 10, and 12.

Arynne with horses
Arynne with horses
The story has been often told of how, 11 years ago, Art's children "decided to clone their study system" by scanning their books and study materials onto 22 CD-ROMs. This became the famous Robinson Curriculum, which has now been used by more than 70,000 students, "an estimated 3 percent of all homeschooled students in the United States." (They also have since added CD-ROMs of out-of-print Henty books and newer products for teaching spelling and vocabulary.) What you might not know is that Art launched the first serious blow to the "deadly man-made global warming" crowd. In 1998, covering the first Kyoto meeting, the Wall Street Journal asked Art to write an editorial, which he did with the help of his son, Zachary. The response from those with a vested interest in the global warming scenario was vicious. "We realized their program had only three elements," Art says. "First, all scientists agreed with them. Second, they were trying to save the planet. Third, anyone who disagreed was just trying to make money. So we decided to show there wasn't a scientific consensus." First, Zach, two astrophysics students from Harvard, and the famous physicist Frederick Seitz wrote an article reviewing all the relevant atmospheric literature. Then the Robinsons started sending out petition requests, asking those in the scientific community who were not convinced of the man-made global warming scenario to stand up and be counted. (At http://www.petitionproject.org/ you can see the review article, petition, and list of over 30,000 signers.)

In spite of the furor it has created, the petition project was only a sideline for Robinson, His major interest is research into the biochemical "clocks" that are built into proteins, attempting to find the cause of aging. "In the last 7 or 8 years with Noah, Zachary, and the other children working on it, we've made a lot more progress," Art says. His proudest moment: co-authoring a scientific paper with all six children that was published in the Journal of Peptide Research.

Art also is the moving spirit behind Access to Energy, a newsletter founded by the late Czech refugee (and electrical engineering professor) Petr Beckmann. Originally intended for a scientific readership, in later years it also adopted an "explaining science to the layman" focus. Now about ? of the readership is scientists and 2/3 is laymen. Donations from a yearly appeal to the subscriber list allow OISM's work to continue without government or "big business" support.

Now, the big question. How have the Robinson children turned out?

"I'm not trying to suggest we're perfect," says Art, "but so far the six Robinson children have managed to remain solid Christian young people who are academically successful." That is a really big understatement. Consider this list of academic achievement:

  • Zachary, age 31, holds a B.S. in Chemistry from Oregon State University and a M.S. in Chemistry and D.V.M. (doctorate in veterinary medicine) from Iowa State University (ISU). He currently works part-time on OISM research as well as in veterinarian practice.

  • Noah, age 29, holds a BS in Chemistry from Southern Oregon University (SOU) and a Ph.D. in Chemistry from Caltech. He is employed full-time by OISM.

  • Arynne, age 28, has a BS in Chemistry from Bethel College and is now in her third year of work towards a DVM at ISU.

  • Joshua, age 26, and the only married Robinson so far, has a BS in Mathematics from SOU and is now in his second year of study toward a Ph.D. in nuclear engineering at OSU. His wife, Fama, is a homeschool graduate.

  • Bethany, age 26, holds a BS in Chemistry from SOU and is now in her second year of study toward a Ph.D. in nuclear engineering at OSU.

  • Matthew, age 20, is now completing his second (and last) year of study at SOU toward a BS in Chemistry. He is currently considering his graduate school options.

  • Zachary, Noah, and Matthew all skipped two years of college, entering as juniors and requiring only two years to complete their Bachelors degrees. Noah completed his PhD at Caltech in three years (it normally takes five years or more).

Over the years, I've spoken to just about every Robinson kid on the phone. They all speak fondly of their life on the farm, with all its chores, animals, and outdoors adventures. The 250-acre spread was a great place to grow up, with its sheep, cattle, horses, and dogs, not to mention the wild animals and birds. Inspired by the books of the late Jeff Cooper, when they got old enough the Robinson children all learned to "ride, shoot straight, and tell the truth" - from Cooper himself. Theirs was a genuine old-fashioned American childhood, with the "old" classic books you'll find in the Robinson curriculum, the old-fashioned farm life, and the "can do" American spirit of innovation always handy in their very own on-site research center.

Art Robinson on College Education

"In a homeschool, one can obtain a better education. The dilemma: how to handle college. First, the dangers are not in most math and science courses. Physics, chemistry, math, and engineering just teach truths about the physical world. America is desperately short of people who are graduating in those subjects. Biology, however, has a lot more propaganda.

"Second: spend as little time in college as possible. Two of my boys got their Chemistry degrees in two years. This can be done through taking Advanced Placement exams. Prepare well, as if they are SATs. With good scores on AP exams, an ordinary student should be able to skip at least one year of college and possibly two.

"Third: do not live in the dorms and dunk yourself in the environment more than necessary. Even Caltech, still one of the best places in the country, has degraded greatly. When I took Matthew to the dorms, I was repelled by the noisy, animalistic atmosphere. My children have either lived at home or rented a house near the campus. Having a good study environment is vital. Students should not always be in the midst of the craziness that will drag them down.

"I think what my children accomplished illustrates a point: stay away from the subjects that mostly consist of brainwashing, don't stay in college longer than necessary, and stay in a place where you can control the environment. You're there primarily to study."

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